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So you want to be a project manager

ENTERPRISE
By David Mwitari | March 13th 2019
Nashon Okowa (Right), Association of Construction Managers of Kenya Chairman

Many people are not aware of what project management really entails, even those in the construction industry where project managers are popular. Association of Construction Managers of Kenya (ACMK) Chairman Nashon Okowa speaks on what it takes to succeed in project management.

What does it take to be a project manager?

Project management is not a default profession, neither does it automatically come with experience. It takes training to be a project manager either at undergraduate or Masters degree level. I studied Construction Management at the University of Nairobi. There are about five universities offering the course.

How does a typical day of a construction manager look?

It is always a busy day. You are either visiting sites and attending consultants meetings, or reviewing of the various consultant’s drawings and costing or making follow-ups of the respective project statutory approvals. Every emerging issue is normally thrown at the project manager. It’s quite a demanding task.

How long have you been in this field?

Seven years now. I got into it right from the University.

Tell us about your company

Beacon Africa offers consultancy and advisory services in areas of Project management, construction management and development management including feasibility studies. It is three years old and is based in Nairobi.

What does it take to start a firm like this?

I think to start a consultancy firm, especially project management, requires you to have experience. There is no entrepreneurship here. Secondly, you need to have built a good network in the industry because that’s where the majority of the jobs will come from. Lastly, you need capital to set-up.

What challenges do you face?

Project management is still not appreciated in our industry, unlike a profession like architecture or engineering that has been around for some time.  

What are some of the mistakes project managers make?

The first rule of project management is; ‘Never assume’. The worst mistake a project manager can do is make assumptions. The second mistake is the failure to plan. Without a plan, everything becomes a deviation and that is a project manager’s worst nightmare. They say everything that can go wrong in a project will if you don’t have a plan.

What does ACMK do?

ACMK is a professional body for project and construction managers in Kenya. It is working to promote the profession of project and construction management in the country includes the pursuit of legislation.

What are some of the challenges in making project management difficult?

The willful refusal to accept change. Many people, especially professionals in this industry, still want to do projects the traditional way. It is laughable in 2019.

Why can’t an architect do the work of a project manager?

Because (s)he is an architect. There is no degree called Bachelor of Architecture and Project Management. As I said before project management cannot be automatically derived from other construction professionals. Project management requires training. Of course, an architect can be a project manager but after additional training. There is no profession acquired through experience.

What are the consequences of excluding a project manager from a project?

 A project manager provides leadership to a project. Outside of that, there are ten project management components namely; integration, time, cost, scope, quality, communication, resource, risk, procurement, and stakeholder management that is required on any project. I am sure many know the triple constraints of time, cost and quality. The wanton time and cost overrun in nearly every project are a glaring consequence of that exclusion.

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