Is Higher Ed project management an art or a science? This is a question that’s been asked many times, with varying conclusions. Both sides have their merit, but we, at Optimal Partners, still lean towards one side over the other. Before telling you which that is, we want to give you a little bit of background, to remind you why this is a debate in the first place.
Why Some Vote for Science
Logical thinking is necessary to be a great project manager.
Those who support the stance that project management is a science certainly have a case. Much of the work involved is technical, frequently requiring the use of logic and other skills. Strict systems and techniques must be used to do our best work, creating documentation, planning based on dependencies, organizing tasks, etc. Order is key, and we know that order is a fundamental characteristic of a science. Technical thinking is no small part of being a project manager, either. It is fundamental to the job as a whole, and it’s the basis on which all other parts are built. Logical thinking is necessary to be a great project manager. Since we can acknowledge that, we can also see why some would consider project management as a whole a science.
Why Some Vote for Art
We mustn’t forget that while logic and organization are a large part of the job, they aren’t everything. Being a project manager, especially in Higher Ed, calls for much, much more. A project manager is a leader, and cannot use science alone. As a leader, one must build relationships and adapt to the needs of those around oneself. This ability to change and grow, as well as the ability to satisfy everyone’s needs and to lead, are all qualities of an art. They are not clear-cut or formulaic. These abilities require artful thinking and acting. If that’s not quite artsy enough for you, remember that a project manager must also be creative. In order to bring a project together, the project manager must have the ability to build, to create. In Higher Ed specifically, one must have emotional intelligence in order to connect and work with the people around oneself. Relationships are one of the most important parts of working as a project manager in Higher Ed, and the ability to form these relationships in order to make the project the best it can be is certainly more an art than a science. This, as well as the creativity and leadership skills mentioned above, is more than enough to cause someone to fall on the side of art.
What Do We Think?
It’s all about meeting people’s needs, adjusting to culture, and utilizing emotional intelligence.
Here at Optimal Partners, we believe that project management in Higher Ed has aspects of both art and science, but is mainly an art. When working in Higher Ed IT project management, it’s all about meeting people’s needs, adjusting to culture, and utilizing emotional intelligence. Higher Ed deals with so many different people that it would be impossible to approach project management in the field purely scientifically because culture simply isn’t scientific. Following rules isn’t enough in our field; we need to go above and beyond to get the best work done. In order to be the best project manager you can be, you need to understand how to work with the scientific aspects, but above all, you need to be an artist.
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