Project Management: The post-election new dawn

On 22 May 2019, Mr ‎Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa was elected as President of the sixth democratic parliament of the Republic of South Africa.  Two days later, he was inaugurated as President at an elaborate ceremony at Loftus Versveld in Pretoria. 

Mr Ramphosa's election as president was preceded by an election in which a definitive shift in voter sentiments was observed.     

Leading up to the election, the media covered various Commissions of Enquiry into matters of state capture, illegal tendering and the problems within state-owned enterprises.​ However, with his election, Mr Ramaphosa became the personification of a “new dawn" where he urged South Africans that we should put all the negativity that has dogged our country behind us and work together in building a better South Africa.

The proof of the pudding lies in the tasting.

Looking forward, the economic realities of low growth, massive unemployment and investment apprehension as demonstrated by the international rating agencies, will not improve without a concerted effort of the new executive, industry, the public sector and labour. From a project management perspective, I would argue a few principles to contribute positively towards the post-election new dawn.

Professional standards and ethical codes for practitioners

Various occupations in South Africa require professional registration where practitioners have to demonstrate relevant academic, practical and ethical proficiency in order to be allowed into the profession.  Between 1998/99 and 2016/17, the public sector spent more than R2.7 trillion on infrastructure.  Of this amount, a vast percentage was spent on projects.  Given the monetary quantum involved and the consequences of inefficient expenditure on public funds, serious consideration should be given to formalise career pathways and establish professional and ethical standards for the occupation.  

Renewed investment in project management training

It is common knowledge that Program and Project Managers were identified in the National List of Occupations in High Demand as published by the Minister of Higher Education and Training.  On 21 September 2018 at the launch of an economic stimulus package the (then) Minister of Finance, Mr Nhlanhla Musa Nene, stated the following:

“…it is more especially about the execution of our plans. Because what we have actually had in the past was that our plans perhaps were good, but with little aptitude to execute, not being able to do that."

This remark was symptomatic of a reality that can be demonstrated in various projects, which repeatedly reach the front pages of the media.  It should be a national priority to capacitate project managers with knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to eradicate the notion of “learning while busy failing".  

Focus on project sponsorship

Project sponsorship is crucial for project success and proper leadership in this project domain will substantially contribute towards the objectives of the National Development Plan Vision 2030.  The sponsor “owns" the project and is responsible for ensuring success.  When Ed Naughton predicted the merging of project management with general management, with project management competence for top managers becoming a necessity for organisational survival, he must have anticipated the required project sponsor skills, experience and knowledge of executives to guide project managers and projects on the route to success.  A vast vacuum exists presently in the capacitation of sponsors to manage decision gate reviews and approvals, execute project oversight and do performance assurance.

Project management as a life skill

We are faced by an increased unemployment rate of young people in our country.  The knowledge of project management is a life skill that can facilitate career opportunities and entrepreneurial initiatives.  It should become a standard and integral element of “new dawn" projects that learning institutions participate in projects to ensure that skills enhancement is properly applied and managed from the perspective of entrepreneurial project management for the youth.  Team members must not only have attained technical skills, but should have been schooled with an entrepreneurial mind-set.  They must become the next wave of job creators.

A “new dawn" has been promised and the South African community is in anticipation.  I firmly believe that success in the NDP Vision 2030 will be equal to success for South Africa.  We, as the project management community, have a firm role and responsibility to contribute towards what South Africa should become.

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