Project Management: the Italian Way



By Ugo Micoli

Project Management in Italy is related to the same structure of economy in this Country, obviously.

It is not so easy to understand and models from elsewhere may not be useful here.

We have world class player companies in almost every industry: aerospace, defense, construction, engineering, plants and architecture, mechanics and automotive, telecoms, energy, finance, food, tourism, transports, services and so on.

In this environment the state of project management is no different than any other highly industrialized countries. This means the discipline is strictly connected to production in technical based industries, while it is almost a fashion badge in many services, with all the nuances in between.

Then there are two very interesting specific elements.

The first differentiating factor with respect to many average western countries is the fact we have an enormous quantity of small and medium-sized companies.

The second factor is very characteristic: the existence – typical of latin countries – of the so called “free professions” (architects, lawyers, doctors, engineers and so on) who act as independent, holders of VAT, once they get a license after a state examination and under control about ethical and education requirements by special Ordini (Orders). Orders are something completely different from associations – so, not self referential but reporting to Ministry of Justice.

Associations, abroad, are sort of unions or corporative supporting centers, while in Italy they don’t exist in represantative forms for the given category.

So, if anglo saxons refer to professionals as any person with a job, the situation here is different.

I’ll refer to engineers  as a clear example, and because they are the most involved in Project Management usually.

You may find here what in anglo-saxon tradition are “firms” that is – in example – engineers with a Masters’ degree working as simple employees without direct responsibility, in architecture Studios structured as companies.

But the normal meaning here for libero professionista (free professional) is the single independent (Masters’) engineer working on his own, having a zero to many persons staff.

He has the direct final responsibility for signature on design documents or whatever act he does as a direct assignment from clients.

In Italy when we say “profession” we refer to

  • Masters’ or PhD education
  • very high education skills, bacause our Univerities are among the best in the world (and the first ever built in history)
  • controlled (ethics and education) by Orders, one for every profession, whose Councils are composed by elected colleagues members, referring to Ministry of Justice in the end
  • a state examination
  • power and obligation for direct responsibility, by signatures
  • income proportionate to ability, specialist skills and organizational approach

Free professionals are the heritage of the ancient technical artist  (techne means art in ancient greek) of the old. Highly skilled, highly independent, highly educated, socially accountable.

You can imagine that the idea of a Project Management Professional, as in the context of certifications delivered by associations following the anglo-saxon pattern, is ridiculous in Italy if only vaguely compared to these kind of free professionals as above.

This status (PMP in example) may be looked for by

  • lower levels in companies, normally with a lower education
  • when requested by companies as their legitimate choice

A PMP certificate has not the appeal it may have, say, in the US.

Like everywhere, it attracts technicians looking for better status and career capabilities. But an italian  Masters’ engineer has much more skills to play with, hard and soft, and a certificate like that has not much value added. It may be requested for project oriented roles in some big companies. No chance in little  entities.

In small or medium-sized entities, owners take project management roles on themselves or they choose adequate technical personnel among their resources for getting specific competence.

The small/medium sociological productive layer has always made the italian economy strong, even more than big corporations.

The specific mentality is based on:

  • Extreme flexibiliy
  • Traditional development from family enterprises
  • Strong networking on the territory and intersection with social identity and traditions
  • Openness to international markets
  • Great work ethics
  • Rejection of bureaucracy and central powers, continental included (as the EU in example, normally identified as tecnocracy and source of financial issues)

Those who know history may see in these features and, as well, in those of the elite liberi professionisti category, the strong tradition of italian spirit and industry and his inherent strenght, that made this People, across dramatic events recurring in centuries, always rebuild itself for further progress. This due to the ability to stay clear and simple, open and ready to adapt and innovate.

A by-product is distrust, as I said, of central powers and structures perceived as cohercitive, financially parasitic, using bureaucracy as unfair sort of competition or exploitation against enterprise efforts.

In the present state of western economy after US crisis some years ago, you can get the feeling of hostility against whatever bureaucratic and money wasting.

On the other side, as ever, financially virtuous enterprises can see fine results bacause they are rooted in the wisdom of the old: do it in family, debts are absolute evil. This supports Italian economy in fact, whatever the general difficult context may be.

Whoever works in Project Management in Italy as of today has to take in account these elements – at consulting, coaching, training, outsourcing, supply levels as well as companies internal resources.

You must be smart. You can’t tell fluff. Your certifications are seen in the end maybe. You must solve problems immediately just as soon as you get in. You must be onboard or better somewhere else.

This in mind, please don’t go to sell management fashions.

Leave Agile production methods to IT. Your average clients are more than agile and they are teamwork skilled since they were born. They need effective tools and approaches that can be inserted into a feet-on-the-ground mentality: neat, stable and simple organigrams, help to keep responsibilities structured in changing-as-usual environments and frequent redefinitions of resources and ventures.

Good and REAL project management. True project management in its essence as a discipline. This is what italian companies and professionals want.


About “#PMFlashBlog – Project Management Around the World”

This post is part of the second round of the #PMFlashBlog. Over 50 project management bloggers will release a post about their view of project management in their part of the world. Beginning with North America then followed by Europe & Australia bloggers will post their view each Monday for several weeks until we have gone around the world

The complete list of all participating blogs is found here

2 Comments on “Project Management: the Italian Way”

  1. Ugo Micoli – Alejandro Serralde was so kind to leave a long comment.
    I report here just the beginning and final part, having explained why to him privately.

    Alejandro Serralde – “Interesting approach. I have found methods, methodologies and frameworks … to make a Project organization have a common language approach, especially if they do not have a PMO….
    I have found that the individual needs to think about the end-output of the project and question if that project is going to lead into the expected outputs – maybe that is the next level in project management. The framework is not sufficient and you can run a project on time, quality, and cost and at the end have a nice project with no end-result. (be effective vs be efficient)”.


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