Thought Leadership in Project Management: with Dr. Frank Lee Harper, Jr., PMP, CSM

Recognition that the most effective project managers to leading disruptive transformation programs/projects need leadership and strategic business management skills. The emphasis on technical skills is beginning to take a back seat to the previously mentioned skills.


Dr. Frank Lee, Harper, Jr., is the VP of Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Business Administration (Distinguished Lecturer of Agile Leadership/Project Management) at Cambridge Corporate University. He is internationally recognized Strategic Hustler™ and Teacher adept at influencing winning outcomes via strategy [corporate, business, technology] to execution discipline. A former senior IT executive/leader and global competency expert known for driving impactful transformations and turnarounds through strong IT governance, directing large diverse teams, and interacting with C-suite and entrepreneurs. Author-lecturer on AGILE LEADERSHIP with a GRIP™ Framework taught to scholar-practitioners and professionals in over 19 countries on 4 continents.

  1. How did you get started in Project Management?

My Project Management (PM) career started in 1982 as a Senior Programmer Analyst-Engineer and then as a Project Leader with the Sikorsky Aircraft Division of United Technologies. To prepare for these roles I received formal PM training from ATT and STRADIS (Structured Analysis Design of Information Systems). I then was employed as a Senior Technical Consultant for Keane, Inc. Their project management methodology was based on what they called the Six Principles of Productivity Management. The focus of the course was on people because according to Keane’s philosophy projects don’t fail people do. In fact, to this day these principles are essential to projects using traditional or agile project management approaches.

In 1998, as part of my preparation for my PMP credential, I was chosen to develop and deliver the first ever presentation at the PMI International Congress entitled “Making the Transition to Project Manager.” The response was unbelievable and this experience jumpstarted my volunteer leadership career with PMI. I was honored to work on the OPM-3 global standard program as the global Quality Assurance Lead. My colleague and friend, who was the global Quality Control Lead eventually became the Chairman of the Board of Directors for PMI Global! I also was able to complete my post-doctorate requirement as a member representing the United States on a joint research project between PMI and the ESC Lille School of Management in France. The published study was entitled, “Project Managers as Senior Executives”.

  1. What is your specialization as a Project Manager?

My specialization as a Project Manager is Organizational Project Management (OPM). For those of readers who may not be familiar with the term. This includes project management at the strategic (Portfolio Management), tactical (Program Management), and operational (Project Management) levels of an organization. At the strategic level this includes leadership and strategic planning and management. Since project management is the strategic enabler. An organization with a poor OPM capability is one that cannot/and will not achieve its strategic objectives. I have managed project portfolios focused on RUNNING, TRANSFORMING, and GROWING the business in various industries in excess of $10B. At the program level, I have managed the successful turnaround of a modernization program for an international oil and gas company with a budget of $2.2 Billion. The types of projects were construction (infrastructure and buildings), technology (infrastructure, ERP upgrades, information and communications technologies, enterprise data management). At the project level, I have managed applications development, information re-engineering, process re-engineering, project Improvement, enterprise IT governance, data management, infrastructure, network installation and maintenance, and global migration.

  1. What is your academic background, training and certifications as it relates to the industry?

My academic background includes:
BS in Computer Technology (Cum Laude) minor in Industrial Engineering
MBA in Marketing and MS in Industrial Engineering
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) with Distinction in Administration and Management – Dissertation Defense “Effective Leadership in Enterprise Commerce Management”
Doctor of Business Administration (In-Process) – Change Management and Business Transformation
Executive Education Strategic Execution

My training includes:
Earned Value Project Management
Project Management for Results
Project Management for Quality and Productivity
Structured Analysis
Structured Design
Analysis and Design using Structured and UML
Principles of Program Testing
Requirements Gathering and Writing
Managing Project Managers
XML Standards and Organizations
Scrum Master Certification
Product Owner Certification
Scrum Developer Certification
Scrum Fundamental Certification
Agile Master Certification
Six-Sigma Green Belt
Lean Six-Sigma Black Belt
ITIL Certification
Governance of Enterprise IT

I have held over 20 globally recognized certifications during my career. The most current being:
PMP since January 1999 to January 2024
Holder of all Scrum credentials: Scrum Fundamentals, Scrum Master, Product Owner, Scrum Developer, Agile Master, Scrum Certified Trainer
Holder of Six-Sigma: Green Belt and Lean Six-Sigma Black Belt
Citizen Artificial Intelligence Engineer – Green Belt
FAC-P/PM – Federal Acquisition Program/Project Management
CGEIT – Certified in Governance of Enterprise Information and Technology

  1. What do you think are some of the emerging trends in the profession and the related effects on organizations?

Some of the emerging trends in the profession and the related effects on organizations include:
a. Recognition that the most effective project managers to leading disruptive transformation programs/projects need leadership and strategic business management skills. The emphasis on technical skills is beginning to take a back seat to the previously mentioned skills. PMI has come up with the Talent Triangle.
b. Organizations with high Innovation maturity have their project managers on track to become General Managers.
c. Project Management body of knowledge like the PMBOK are now being called “Frameworks” vs. “Methodologies”. Thus, organizations must now take on a tailor vs. prescriptive approach to using the PMBOK
d. Earned Value Project Management is becoming mandatory to managing projects. This was a mandatory requirement for government contractors. Now the corporate sector is beginning to request that project managers understand and can apply Earned value.

  1. What certifications in project management are industries most interested in and why? How should people prepare for these certifications?

The certifications in project management the industries are most interested in include: PMP, PgMP, Prince, Scrum Master Certified, and SAFe. Industries believe professionals holding any or all of these credentials have an understanding of the project management best practices in leading and managing portfolios, programs, and projects requiring traditional and agile approaches.

For those who aspire to earn any of these credentials, I suggest first find you a mentor. Someone who has the specific certification you are interested in. This person will be able to share their insights into what they did to prepare and pass the exam. There will be books, blogs, webinars, and courses that you can attend to help prepare you.

  1. With types of projects are becoming more global, what are the most significant lessons learned in working with multicultural teams?

The types of projects that are becoming more global are business outsourcing projects. These types of projects can involve education, application development, or call centers. Currently, I am a member of the international faculty (Associate Professor) and administrator (VP of Academic Affairs) for an online university based in Switzerland. The students attend live virtual lectures from over 19 countries on 4 continents. I am also a member of a telecom infrastructure and digital platform think thank with affiliates in 5 countries located on the continent of Africa. All developing and implementing of information and communication technology solutions are done in each country by the locals. In fact, any company, large and small-to-midsized (SMBs) that has transformed into being a software company probably outsources software development activities to places like India, China, Pakistan, Croatia, Canada, Philippines–to name a few. I am quite sure that if you are reading this you have experienced talking to a customer service representative located in a remote location outside of the US.

One of the most significant lessons learned in working with multicultural teams requires one of the world-class leadership behaviors I teach in my lectures and my book, “Respect Diversity and Inclusion.” Having a high EQ, or Emotional Intelligence is essential. For example, at the South African Federal Reserve Bank, the central bank of South Africa, technical expertise and analytical skills were invaluable but so were emotional competencies like self-confidence, flexibility, achievement, drive, service orientation, teamwork, cooperation, wielding influence, and high-performance team building.

The am-bition and aim-bition is demonstrate the ability and willingness to lead and manage people who look, think, and/or act differently contributes to the effectiveness and success of any person–professionally or personally.

  1. As a senior level project manager, can you please share your leadership style and how it directly contributed to the organization’s success?

My leadership style is based on three qualities. Be Flexible, Be Upfront, and Be In-Control. In other words, my leadership style is that I am adaptable which means change, the expected and unexpected, are embraced. I am a proactive leader and manager of resources using a 360 degree approach. And I ALWAYS control the situation by continuously inspecting what I expect.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: