Does it help or does it do harm?

I simply can’t hear it any more. I am repeatedly told that project managers need domain know-how, i.e. expertise beyond project management and leadership. This is also practically always a requirement in job advertisements. 

If you are looking for a job as a project manager, avoid the companies that place such ads. You are very likely to encounter an unhelpful idea of project management and employees there.

The role of project management is generally described as a leadership and coordination task. Terms such as planning, controlling, stakeholders, leadership and social competence are mentioned in this context, and professional competence in project management. So if domain knowledge is not mentioned in the common standards, where does this widespread opinion come from?

There are several reasons. One reason is mistrust. Namely, mistrust of one’s own employees. Only if the specialists in the project team are not sufficiently qualified, is it necessary to have their work outcomes monitored by another authority. Quality management or similar organisational units could also take on this task, but for the sake of simplicity, project management should do it. Another possible cause is that the appropriate technical knowledge is not actually available in the project. The reason for this is either that there is not enough knowledge in the specialist departments – or that it is not deployed in the projects. Both speak volumes.

In discussions it is then often retorted that in small projects, however, project management often has to take on content-related tasks as well, which may be true, but suggests even more ignorance, because in such a case it is the same person, but two different roles.

But now my headline also asks if it could do any harm? Yes, it can. And it always does when the project manager or project leader concentrates on the technical knowledge instead of the project management. And this always happens when they feel more confident in the technical aspects than in the project management tasks.

In summary, I think it can be said that where domain knowledge is required in project management, things are in a bad way. There, the deficit is administered and not much reliance is given to further training, which is reflected in (partly justified) mistrust.

Just ask at the next job interview why domain knowledge is required and share the answer with us. It’s bound to be exciting and fun.

Original text: RGE
English translation: BCO

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