IPMA International Project Management Association
16 December 2019 / 9:00

Why do we need more diverse project managers? A report from the 3rd Diversity in Project Management Conference by IPMA in October 2019 in Helsinki, Finland

Today we see that formerly male-dominated professions like project management become more diverse. Why is this so? The reason is that every project is different, and therefore there is a need for more different, diverse project managers. This is the basic assumption of the Project Manager – Project Fit Theory. It is a relatively new theory developed by Malach-Pines et al. in 2009. The theory is descendant of the general Person-Environment (P-E) fit theory. The P-E fit theory states that organizations want to select those persons who best meet the demands of the job and who best adapt to the changing job demands. But also the employees want to find organizations which make the best use of their abilities, recognize them and meet their specific needs, and which provide the best perspectives for their future development (Caplan, 1987). If this is the case the employee will stay, remain loyal and be committed to the organization. The P-E fit theory is about the compatibility of a person to her/his environment in form of the organisation, and the job she/he executes, but also about the compatibility of the person to other persons and the group which should fit to have harmonious relationships and to be successful. A further premise of the P-E fit theory is that stress arises by the non-fit of a person to the environment (Edwards et al, 1998).

that a project manager will be attracted to projects that fit their personality and will, therefore, be more effective. They assume that “project managers are attracted to and more successful managing projects that fit their personality and that this is manifested in the relationships among project profiles, project managers’ personality characteristics, and project success” (Dvir et al, 2006, p. 40). As a consequence Malach-Pines et al. developed the Project Manager-Project (PM-P) fit theory (Malach-Pines et al, 2009). They demonstrate the importance of the fit between the project manager’s personalities and the “personalities” of their projects for achieving project success.

The program of the 3rd Diversity in PM conference in Helsinki showed again the richness of the various aspects diversity contains: starting from a speech from a Group CEO from Hofstede Insights about Diversity, Inclusion and Project Management, to the journey of a foreign employee to becoming a naturalized Finnish senior project manager and his experiences on managing individuals in a project, and not managing the project. Another interesting case study about words, their meanings and consequences were presented in a market research project in the pharmaceutical industry between the US-American headquarter and their Russian subsidiary. A further speech showed how diversity impacts the organizational culture, as organizational culture refers to the fit between people and goals. To succeed, teams, projects and organizations need to be aware of their cultural blind spots and diversity. But diversity is also about diverse thinking: the method of organisational constellations offers the much needed “upgrade” to the way in which we view problems and construct their solutions. The systemic approach is a solution-centric method for solving multifaceted problems. Particularly complex projects can benefit a lot from this diverse problem solution approach. The conference ended with a look at empirical cases from the two very different countries Iran and Iceland which both teach how diverse approaches can lead to a big difference. The Feminization of Project Management in Iceland shows that Icelandic women have not only started their career in project management but become the key players in moving the profession forward within the country and their significance for the future. And finally the case of Saideh Ghods who started in 1991 her vision of providing full-cost treatment and rehabilitation for children with cancer in Iran. Today her charity has grown into one of the largest NGOs in Iran, helping 20,000+ children and dropping the mortality rate among children with cancer from 80% to less than 20%. She has become a role model for young Iranian women who want to take an active role in society.

Maybe the IPMA´s Diversity Conference in Helsinki was the last prove the decision-makers needed to elect Sanna Mirella Marin on Dec 10 as the first female prime minister of Finland and the youngest state leader worldwide?!

Berlin, December 12th 2019
Yvonne Schoper

Literature sources:
Caplan, R.D. (1987). Person-Environment Fit Theory and Organizations: Commensurate Dimensions, Time Perspectives, and Mechanisms, in Journal of Vocational Behavior, Vol. 31, p. 248-267
Dvir, D., Sadeh, A., Pines, A.M. (2006). Projects and project managers: the relationship between project managers’ personality, project types and projects success, in Project Management Journal, Vol. 37 No. 5, pp. 36-48 Edwards, J. R., Caplan, R. D., & Harrison, R. V. (1998). Person-environment fit theory: Conceptual foundations, empirical evidence, and directions for future research. In: C. L. Cooper (Ed.), Theories of organizational stress, Oxford, p. 28-67 Malach-Pines, A., Dvir, D., Sadeh, A. (2009). Project manager-project (PM-P) fit and project success, in International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 29. No. 3, pp. 268-291

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Yvonne Schoper

Author of this post

Dr. Yvonne Schoper is Professor for International Project Management at HTW University of Applied Sciences Berlin.
Dr. Schoper holds a BSc in Engineering Management, an MSc International Business and a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering.
She worked as a project manager for BMW where she was responsible for several international automotive development projects in USA and in Germany.
Since 2009 she is associate Professor for Project Management at the Tongji University in Shanghai (China).
Her research interests are intercultural project management, future trends in project management, women in project management and the further development of the profession of project managers.
From 2012-2015 she was Executive Board member of GPM Germany where she was responsible for research. Since 2015 she is the delegate of Germany at IPMA´s Council of Delegates. Since 2016 she is member of the Presidential Advisory Board of GPM.

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