Selecting the Next PM


The Future Project Culture


By Dr. Harold Kerzner

Senior Executive for Project Management
The International Institute for Learning (IIL)
Florida, USA


Dr. Al Zeitoun, PgMP, PMI Fellow

Global Future of Work Executive
Siemens DISW
Maryland USA

Introduction _________________________________________________________

Today’s literature, whether in textbooks or journals such as PMWJ, abounds with great articles about current and future developments in project management.  Sometimes, the articles focus upon the mistakes made by project managers and how we can make corrections so that project managers do not repeat the mistakes.

What the literature usually does not discuss are the project management mistakes or actions taken by management that led to problems.  In this article, we will look back in time to the early years of project management growth, which is something nice to do occasionally, and look at some of the decisions made by management.  Some of these situations still exist today.

Excellence of leading in the future cultures, requires us to learn form those past situations and adapt the profile of the next generation of program and project managers to respond to the societal demands for the mega change and transformation initiatives that will shape tomorrow’s landscape.  The level of transparency, intense collaboration, and high degree of innovation and creativity that tomorrows’ PMs will have to bring to the table, is a critical quality.  Engaging leadership matters and true cultural excellence for delivering value in projects and programs will rest on the shoulders of this new generation of leaders.

The Journey of Selecting the Project Manager ________________________________

In the early years of project management, the heaviest users of the discipline were construction companies and the aerospace and defense industry contractors.  Almost all of the project managers were engineers, as expected, since the bulk of the projects were technical.

In the aerospace and defense industry, most PMs had advanced degrees.  A vice president for engineering in an aerospace and defense contractor was asked who they assign as PMs.  She responded that the best PMs are engineers with advanced degrees, and especially those that also possess good writing skills.

Not all engineers had good writing skills.  The aerospace and defense industry contractors solved the problem by creating technical writing departments.  Whenever a PM was required to write a technical or status report, a representative from the technical writing department would assist the PM in transforming the words the PM used into expressions that are easily understood and grammatically correct.

While it seemed like the right thing to do, assigning engineers with advanced degrees to the high technology projects, there were risks.  Some of the engineers viewed the assignment as a PM as a chance to increase their image and reputation by trying to exceed the specifications rather than just meeting requirements.  The result was often a significant increase in the budget due to scope changes.

This occurred frequently on Department of Defense (DoD) contracts where the DoD decision-makers were military officers.  The military officers also viewed exceeding the specifications as enhancements to their career, and knowing that their replacement after their tour of duty ends would be responsible for explaining the rationale for the increase in the government’s budget.

Today, just about anyone can have the opportunity to serve as a project manager if they are educated properly in project and/or program management.  In many cases, some of the best PMs don’t come from the classical engineering background.


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Editor’s note: This series of articles is by Dr. Harold Kerzner and Dr. Al Zeitoun, the co-authors, along with Dr. Ricardo Vargas, of the textbook Project Management Next Generation: The Pillars for Organizational Excellence, published by Wiley in 2022. Learn more about the authors in their profiles at the end of this article.

How to cite this work: Kerzner, H. and Zeitoun, A. (2024). Selecting the Next PM, The Future Project Culture, PM World Journal, Vol. XIII, Issue IV, April. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/pmwj140-Apr2024-Kerzner-Zeitoun-Selecting-the-next-PM-future-culture-series-2.pdf

About the Authors

Harold Kerzner, Ph.D., MS, M.B.A

Senior Executive Director for Project Management
International Institute of Learning
New York & Florida, USA


Dr. Harold Kerzner is Senior Executive Director for Project Management for the International Institute for Learning (IIL). He has an MS and Ph.D. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Utah State University. He is a prior Air Force Officer and spent several years at Morton-Thiokol in project management. He taught engineering at the University of Illinois and business administration at Utah State University, and for 38 years taught project management at Baldwin-Wallace University. He has published or presented numerous engineering and business papers and has had published more than 60 college textbooks/workbooks on project management, including later editions. Some of his books are (1) Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling and Controlling; (2) Project Management Metrics, KPIs and Dashboards, (3) Project Management Case Studies, (4) Project Management Best Practices: Achieving Global Excellence, (5) PM 2.0: The Future of Project Management, (6) Using the Project Management Maturity Model, and (7) Innovation Project Management.

He is a charter member of the Northeast Ohio PMI Chapter.

Dr. Kerzner has traveled around the world conducting project management lectures for PMI Chapters and companies in Japan, China, Russia, Brazil, Singapore, Korea, South Africa, Canada, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Poland, Croatia, Mexico, Trinidad, Barbados, The Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Venezuela, Columbia, United Arab Emirates, France, Italy, England, and Switzerland. He delivered a keynote speech at a PMI Global Congress on the future of project management.

His recognitions include:

  • The University of Illinois granted Dr. Kerzner a Distinguished Recent Alumni Award in 1981 for his contributions to the field of project management.
  • Utah State University provided Dr. Kerzner with the 1998 Distinguished Service Award for his contributions to the field of project management.
  • The Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute gives out the Kerzner Award once a year to one project manager in Northeast Ohio that has demonstrated excellence in project management. They also give out a second Kerzner Award for project of the year in Northeast Ohio.
  • The Project Management Institute (National Organization) in cooperation with IIL has initiated the Kerzner International Project Manager of the Year Award given to one project manager yearly anywhere in the world that demonstrated excellence in project management.
  • The Project Management Institute also gives out four scholarships each year in Dr. Kerzner’s name for graduate studies in project management.
  • Baldwin-Wallace University has instituted the Kerzner Distinguished Lecturer Series in project management.
  • The Italian Institute of Project Management presented Dr. Kerzner with the 2019 International ISIPM Award for his contributions to the field of project management.

Dr. Harold Kerzner can be contacted at hkerzner@hotmail.com


Dr. Al Zeitoun, PgMP, PMI Fellow

Global Future of Work Executive
Siemens DISW
Ohio & Maryland USA


Dr. Al Zeitoun is a Future of Work, business optimization, and operational performance excellence thought leader with global experiences in strategy execution. His experiences encompass leading organizations; delivering their Enterprise Digital and Business Transformation; guiding fitting frameworks implementations; and using his empathy, engineering insights, and collaboration strengths to successfully envision new business models and execute complex missions across diverse cultures globally.

In his current role with Siemens, he is a Senior Director of Strategy responsible for driving the global program management practices, Master Plan governance, and enabling the Strategy Transformation processes and priorities.

In his position, as the Executive Director for Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, Abu Dhabi, UAE, he was responsible for creating the strategy execution framework, achieving transformation benefits, governance excellence, and creating the data analytics discipline necessary for delivering on the $40B complex country energy mission roadmap.

At the McLean, USA HQ of Booz Allen Hamilton, Dr. Zeitoun strategically envisioned and customized digitally enabled EPMO advisory, mapped playbooks, and capability development for clients’ Billions of Dollars strategic initiatives. Furthermore, he led the firm’s Middle East North Africa Portfolio Management and Agile Governance Solutions.

With the International Institute of Learning, Dr. Zeitoun played a senior leader and global trainer and coach. He was instrumental in driving its global expansions, thought leadership, and operational excellence methodology to sense and shape dynamic ways of working across organizations worldwide. He speaks English, Arabic, and German and enjoys good food, travel, and volunteering. Dr. Al Zeitoun can be contacted at  zeitounstrategy@gmail.com