Changing Mindsets in the Classroom
Academia takes the reins in India to create a culture of project management
By Aradhana Pati Mohapatra
As countries around the world face troubled economic times, there is renewed focus on controlling costs and delivering on expectations. To ensure project success, organizations realize the importance of employing managers with project management expertise. A similar trend is visible in India. However, the country is far behind in terms of the number of skilled project managers that it produces as compared to the demand. The time has come for professional organizations like PMI to bring together the government, academia, and industry to work toward addressing this gap.
PMI India’s first Research and Academic Conference on Project Management was held on 9 and 10 December 2011 in Pune. The event was hosted by NICMAR (National Institute of Construction Management and Research) which offers many project management-related courses as a part of its curriculum.
As a long-term initiative to build a strong foundation of project management education in the country, PMI India set up the Academic Advisory Group (AAG) in 2009. The concerted efforts of PMI AAG, which consists of academicians from premier educational institutes from across the country, have shown results. Awareness about the need to introduce project management in the curriculum is growing among those in the policy-making, engineering, and other technical institutes. If it were to reach the maturity levels of fast developing countries like China, it still has a lot of ground to cover.
A study conducted by NICMAR for PMI India in 2010 found that the current state of project management education in India was “below par” when compared with existing global standards. The study revealed that unlike China, which started laying the foundation for project management education in the 1990s, efforts to promote project management education in a structured mode in India have only just begun. The NICMAR study concludes that in India there is a disinclination of academic institutions to introduce and attract students to project management. This has resulted in managers entering project-based companies with little or no prior orientation of project requirements.
Project Management as a Profession: India and Abroad
In 2008, a global survey of senior executives conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit identified project management as the single most important management skill. Based on a study by McKinsey in 2010, nearly 60 percent of senior executives believed that building a strong project management discipline is one of the top three priorities for their companies as they look to the future. In India, though the awareness in industry is also growing with the number of certified project professionals increasing with each passing year, project management education at the university level is still stagnant.
Dr. Mangesh G. Korgaonker, director general, NICMAR, and chairperson, PMI AAG, shared some research findings that revealed steps taken by other countries to promote project management education. “From 10 project management degree programs across universities in USA and Europe in 1994, the number jumped to 185 such programs by 2006. By 2010, China made project management certification mandatory in many sectors. This provided a push for project management education in the country,” Dr. Korgaonker said. To meet this new demand, 103 institutes in China have redesigned their masters of engineering curriculum to focus on project management. India is far behind in this aspect.
Dr. M. Rammohan Rao
Professor and Dean Emeritus,
Indian School of Business & member, AAG
“Universities in India are not giving importance to project management. It could be because of a misconception that there isn’t a unified body of knowledge to build a curriculum or simply a lack of understanding of its growing demand in the industry.”
He added that there are 65 accredited project management degree programs in 25 institutes around the world, whereas India has none.
Project management is not yet viewed as a vital profession in India, leading to the lack of project management degree programs in universities. Dr. M. Rammohan Rao, professor and dean emeritus, Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, and, member, AAG, said, “Universities in India are not giving importance to project management. It could be because of a misconception that there isn’t a unified body of knowledge to build a curriculum or simply a lack of understanding of its growing demand in the industry.”
Though the industry seeks graduates with project management skills, students are not well informed about the rising demand. Dr. Anil Sawhney, professor, department of civil engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, and, member, AAG, said, “The demand for project management among the student population is low because of lack of awareness and fewer educational opportunities for our students entering Indian colleges and universities.”
A Change in Vision Is Needed
According to Dr. Korgaonker, Indian educational institutes must have the vision to develop project management as a profession. But where will the spark come from to change existing mind-sets—the government, industry, or academia? “We need focused and large-scale efforts to see change; this has to start at the national level. Central government agencies that regulate major educational institutes need to push for a project management curriculum. Once these institutes make the change, the others across the country will follow,” he added.
Dr. Mangesh G. Korgaonker
Director General, NICMAR & chairperson, AAG
“We need focused and largescale efforts to see change; this has to start at the national level. Central government agencies that regulate major educational institutes need to push for a project management curriculum. Once these institutes make the change, the others across the country will follow.”
Dr. Sawhney also believes that change needs to begin at the top. “Educational institutes of national repute can begin as centers of excellence with the support of government and industry. A tripartite of academia, government, and industry is needed to attain project management success.”
NICMAR recently conducted a study for PMI to draw out the benefits of project management education. Participants in the study included executives, educational institutes, project management organizations, and human resources groups from various industries in India. The study established the need for project management training and the tangible benefits of such training for the organization. A large majority of the study participants believed that project management education would increase the employability of graduates in the country.
But what about qualified faculty to impart project management education? Dr. Korgaonker said, “We need faculty in large numbers dedicated to teaching project management. We need to provide stimulation at the national level for educational entrepreneurs to create degree programs.”
Dr. Anil Sawhney, Professor
Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi & member, AAG
“Educational institutes of national repute can begin as ‘centers of excellence’ with the support of government and industry. A tripartite of academia, government and industry is needed to attain project management success.”
Dr. Sawhney believes that creating more doctoral programs in project management would also help in this effort. “Not many students are engaging in PhD programs relevant to project management. This keeps the faculty pipeline for future project management programs dry,” he added.
PMI AAG: A Beacon for Project Management Education
Project management education can help close the gap between the rising demand for project managers and a steady supply. The country needs organizations that can provide a forum for academia and industry to come together to discuss the challenges and work toward bridging the gap. Such a forum is the PMI AAG.
AAG is an advisory group of senior academicians from premier educational institutes across India that gives direction to PMI India on ways to promote project management education in the country. Formed in 2009, AAG has been instrumental in developing a curriculum for project management education. On AAG’s recommendation, PMI India has instituted awards to recognize academicians who promote project management. It has also been a strong force behind the success of PMI India’s first Research and Academic Conference.
Project success is critical for a country like India that has set high targets for economic and social development. A vast pool of trained project managers can put the country on the fast track toward growth. Dr. Sawhney believes a threepronged approach—research, education and training, and consulting—can provide the much-needed momentum to build a project management culture in India. Academicians will play an important role in this transformation.