The Centrality of People in Modern Project Management:

Issues, Competences, and Feelings from PM Community



By Massimo Pirozzi and Marco Sampietro

Rome and Milan, Italy




This paper focuses on the centrality of people in modern project management, on the consequent importance of their relationships, on the relevant competences that are needed, and on corresponding feelings that project management community has. The evolution of these concepts, their acknowledgment and their applications in current international standards, including relevant reference texts and policies in terms of certification examinations, definitively highlight the crucial role that people-related issues have in order to reach projects’ efficacy, efficiency, and, ultimately, success. The results of a specific research that has been realized by SDA Bocconi (Sampietro et al, 2019) are a key part of this paper, and, on one side, do confirm the major importance that relationships have in the perception of project management community, while, on the other side, do show in detail the feelings – in some cases the concerns too – of PM professionals about the relevant competences that are needed.


Projects are made by people to be delivered to other people; this statement confirms very clearly people’s centrality in all projects, since stakeholders are both the doers and the beneficiaries of each project, and, then, they have a primary role of actors, and not just a subordinate role of participants. In general, stakeholders influence the projects through their behaviors, i.e. their relationships, and their impacts are evidently different whether they act as doers, or as beneficiaries, of project results; however, in both cases, their impact is higher the greater complexity of the project becomes.

In the domain of complex projects (Pirozzi, 2019), projects are large, and/or highly innovative, and/or means to achieve the customers’ business goals, and/or projects’ results are service-oriented and/or intangible (e.g. in software projects), and/or stakeholder requirements are not well-defined and/or are evolutionary, and/or not all stakeholders cooperate effectively; all these projects are essentially value-driven, rather than plan-driven as traditional complicated projects are, and relationships with stakeholders are primary, since the stakeholder satisfaction is their critical success factor.

Therefore, which relational competences are needed? In the stakeholder perspective (Pirozzi, 2019) of doers, a relational issue that is of extraordinary importance is teamwork, since it is not only the major factor for creating value, but it is also the major factor of destruction and removal of endogenous complexity, so generating a huge regaining and/or increase of productivity in the project; main relevant groups of competences as leadership, teaming, conflict management, negotiation are then necessary. On the other side, in the stakeholder perspective of beneficiaries, the group of competences that are of major importance are those relevant to both stakeholder relations, and communication, management, since they are the most appropriate to target and monitor stakeholder satisfaction, which is the critical success factor in projects of all size and complexity.

Table 1.  Last PM References and Groups of Relational Competences

Do International Standards and Best Practices recognize the essential role of relational issues in modern project management? Nowadays, fortunately, the answer is positive – in some cases, after a complex journey that took decades, although there is for sure still a long path to follow in the direction of reaching better results in achieving project goals by satisfying properly stakeholder expectations (Pirozzi, 2019). In Table 1, there is a synthetic map between some of last references in Project Management and groups of relational competences.


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How to cite this paper: Pirozzi, M., Sampietro, M. (2020). The Centrality of People in Modern Project Management: Issues, Competences, and Feelings from PM Community; PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue II, February.  Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/pmwj90-Feb2020-Pirozzi-Sampietro-centrality-of-people-in-modern-project-management.pdf



About the Authors


Massimo Pirozzi

Rome, Italy



Massimo Pirozzi, MSc cum laude, Electronic Engineering, University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Principal Consultant, Project Manager, and Educator. He is a Member and the Secretary of the Executive Board, a Member of the Scientific Committee, and an Accredited Master Teacher, of the Istituto Italiano di Project Management (Italian Institute of Project Management), and he is a Senior Examiner for Certifications in Project Management, and for Professional Project Managers, too. He is Certified as a Professional Project Manager, as an Information Security Management Systems Lead Auditor, and as an International Mediator. He is a Researcher, a Lecturer, and an Author about Stakeholder Management, Relationship Management, and Complex Projects Management; in particular, he is the Author of the Book “The Stakeholder Perspective: Relationship Management to enhance Project value and Success”, CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, October 2019.  He has a wide experience in managing large and complex projects in national and international contexts, and in managing relations with public and private organizations, including multinational companies, small and medium-sized enterprises, research institutes, and non-profit organizations. He worked successfully in several sectors, including Defense, Security, Health, Education, Cultural Heritage, Transport, Gaming, and Services to Citizens. He was also, for many years, a Top Manager in ICT Industry, and an Adjunct Professor in Organizational Psychology. He is registered as an Expert both of the European Commission, and of Italian Public Administrations.

Massimo Pirozzi serves as an International Correspondent in Italy for the PM World Journal. He received the 2018 PM World Journal Editor’s Choice Award for his featured paper “The Stakeholder Management Perspective to Increase the Success Rate of Complex Projects”.

E-mail: max.pirozzi@gmail.com

To view other works by Massimo Pirozzi, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/massimo-pirozzi/



Marco Sampietro

Milan, Italy



Since 2000 Marco Sampietro has been Project Management Professor at SDA Bocconi School of Management, Bocconi University, Milan, Italy. SDA Bocconi School of Management is ranked among the top Business Schools in the world (Financial Times Rankings).

He is Associate Professor of Practice at SDA Bocconi School of Management and Director of the EMBA China. He is Faculty Member at the SDA Bocconi Asia Center, the Indian subsidiary of SDA Bocconi School of Management.

Since 2001, he has been Adjunct Professor at Bocconi University where he teaches Project Management and Project and Team Management. He is also Adjunct Professor at the Milano Fashion Institute and he had been Visiting Professor at the University of Queensland, at the International Hellenic University and at the Anton de Kom University.

He had been member of the Steering Committee of IPMA-Italy.

He is co-author and/or editor of 12 books on project management.

Finally, he is author of internationally published articles and award winning case studies. Dr. Sampietro can be contacted at marco.sampietro@sdabocconi.it 

To view other works by Prof Sampietro, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/marco-sampietro/