It all comes down to desired results. People are willing to pay for the outcome they want, according to Donna Baba.
Baba, president of Delegate Business Services, spoke about project management skills and what will land a six-figure salary at the Project Management 2000 Symposium in Toronto.
Baba said heroic efforts do not mean much in this business; it’s regularly delivering results which determines what you’re worth as a project manager (PM).
“They’re not willing to pay for heroic effort, even though we bust our guts working weekends, and working very long hours to bring a project in on time.”
According to Baba, the paying executive or customer is not willing to dole out for best intentions or best excuses, even when it isn’t the fault of the PM.
“They’re willing to pay for the result, which is why we’re doing the project in the first place,” Baba said. “Reward, meaning high compensation, the big perks, the big bucks, comes with delivering bottom-line results.”
There are four key elements, according to Baba, that will drive value or importance to the customer. They are project importance, project job scope and responsibility, lifecycle (designing vs. implementing), and managing – people vs. things.
Project importance deals with how significant the project is to the corporation, to the executive, and/or to the customer. The famous question to ask yourself as a project manager is, Does the project contribute to the bottom line?
“That is the absolute driver. Either it’s strategically important, in that it’s going to give you a competitive advantage in terms of the customer, or it’s going to give you some kind of market share or growth potential,” Baba said. “Those are the key drivers that will determine whether a project is important and how much you’ll get paid to work on that project.”
Also important to compensation is lifecycle management. Baba stated projects that tend to deal further upstream in the company right from the conception will be compensated more generously. “Further upstream, it tends to pay more.”
And, according to Baba, management of people always pays more than management of things. “You can be a brilliant engineer, a brilliant technician, but the fact is the fundamental bottom line pay scale is going to end shorter than for a position that manages people.”
Another speaker, J. Davidson Frame, outlined project management competencies, pointing out there are three fundamental families of skills that are needed to define performance. They are PM knowledge and skills base (according to PMBOK), social and people skills, and business knowledge and skills base. Frame says these three competencies make up project management competence.
“If we look at project management in terms of progression and development of a career in project management and were to create a progression ladder of PM skills, we probably all started near the bottom of the pyramid. As you progress up the skill chain, the skills build up.
“If what you were thinking or hoping or dreaming is that all you needed to do is become a real guru at earned value analysis, become the best at PM scheduling and that you could have six figures, I hate to dash your dreams but they’re dashed. People will not pay six figures for just that.
“[Success] requires working with people, the need to influence the situation, the need to do the ugly word called ‘politics.'”
The top-level of the PM pyramid is general management skills, where Baba said six figure salaries are found. In order to fall into this group, social people skills and business acumen need to be very strong. PM skills aren’t dominant anymore.