What Makes a Project Manager? Planners Already Know!

Planning Management — or Project Management in the planning profession — is not a new concept. But it is rarely taught in academia or made readily available to practicing planners.

Project Management is an excellent tool to efficiently and effectively implement projects and is an underutilized vehicle that can help defend the importance of planning. So why do emerging planners have no idea what I’m talking about?

With the skills they've learned to include ideas and thoughts from multiple disciplines and opinions from diverse populations, planners know how to work with people. And, because project management is a “people” activity, planners are primed to be great project managers.

Being a project manager means having personal competence, or an attitude or characteristic of leadership that guides the project team while achieving project objectives. It means setting an example to encourage teamwork that positively impacts team performance and client satisfaction. 

However, entry level planners do not realize that the interpersonal skills they need to be a planner are also the skills needed in a planning manager.

Leadership, team building, trust building, conflict management and others are just a few shared skillsets.

Overall, Project Management is the “art” of leadership and the “science” of management.

Because planning is a profession that includes knowledge of many disciplines, planners already know how to balance the arts and sciences (leadership and management). Planners not only have technical and conceptual knowledge of urban spatial structure or physical design, GIS software, the ability to analyze demographic data, but planners must also work with the public and act as a mediator and facilitator using their interpersonal skills.

Planners should recognize that their skills can be easily applied to planning management practices. By being great project managers, planners can deliver high quality projects to their clients, which not only enhance their own interpersonal skills that will doubly help them become great managers in their day-to-day planning duties but also defend the importance of planning to their clients.

APA and its chapters, as well as accredited planning programs, should take advantage of this apparent overlap in skills and offer more project management resources to planners. Doing so will aid in the advancement of individuals and the profession.

Check out APA’s Job Skills page for more planner skills.

To learn more about Planning Management, check out Terry A. Clark’s book, “Project Management for Planners: A Practical Guide” and for more information on Project Management, check out the Project Management Institute (PMI) for project management standards and professional Project Manager (PM) certification.

About the Author

Nicole Venezia, is a recent graduate student from the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers and a staff planner at H2M architects + engineers located in Parsippany, New Jersey. She is a member of both APA and PMI.

Top image: Photo in the public domain.

October 4, 2016

By Nicole Venezia, AICP, PP