Is Project Management a skill or a technique?

Shim Marom wrote a nice piece titled Project Management – Technique or Discipline? where he asks a question that’s been gnawing at me for some time.

That question: is project management a skill or a technique?

Before continuing, let’s take a few minutes to look at the definition of skill & technique to better understand the distinction between these often mis-used words:

  • Skill is defined as: an ability that has been acquired by training
  • Technique is defined as a practical method or art applied to some particular task.

Are project managers using abilities that they’ve learned from training and/or experience or are they applying procedures & methods to tasks?

I’m pretty sure that the folks at the Project Management Institute and PRINCE2 would argue that Project Management is a skill learned through training and years of experience.

I know a few people who think project management is nothing more than applying best practices to specific tasks to get something done with very little thought to the skill behind that application.

My opinion?

Project management is a discipline that requires real skill, abilities and experience. Sure…you can use project management techniques to get things done, but project management as a whole, is a discipline with a real honest-to-goodness skill set.

What’s your thoughts….is Project Management a skill…or just a set of techniques? Or as Shim wrote…Technique or Discipline?

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  • http://www.quantmleap.com Shim Marom

    Good summary mate, thanks for referring to my article. I feel this is an important issue that needs to be tackled in order to take our profession one step higher. It won’t happen overnight but having a discussion around it is an important first step.

    Cheers, Shim.

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  • http://cuberules.com Scot Herrick

    I’ve been a project manager before there was much of a methodology and am currently doing a project manager consulting role with methodology behind it. Having the methodology is a great way to promote transparency, consistently deliver the change with the project, and help determine what went well or could have been improved during the project.

    Consequently, it’s a skill. You can’t cookie-cutter in the work to the methodology, you have to use the methodology as part of the skills for project management.

    Now, I’m not a big proponent of certifications equaliing great project management. Just because you have a PMP after your name doesn’t mean you now how to project manage.

    But if you have the soft people skills, good organization, an ability to grasp when stuff is going right and going wrong, plus use the methodology knowledge to run a project, you’ll be a good project manager. Those qualities are learned skills, not copying and pasting stuff into some technique.

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