EDSIGCON Proceedings 2019

Cleveland, Ohio

Conference Highlights

2019 EDSIG Proceedings - Abstract Presentation

Emotional Intelligence and Alpha Skills for IT Project Management

Amy J. Connolly
James Madison University

Daniel Rush
Boise State University

Thanks to Kathy Schwalbe, anyone who uses her textbook to teach IT project management has heard the concept of alpha project managers (Crowe, 2016; Schwalbe, 2016). This concept came from a popular press book by Andy Crowe in which he discusses surveying over 800 project managers and identifying the top 2% most successful. He then interviewed these 16 or so project managers and their teams, clients and supervisors to see what they were doing differently versus the other 98%. Crowe concluded that alpha project managers plan and communicate significantly more than other project managers. What’s not discussed in Crowe’s book is how to train the other 98% to be more like the alpha project managers.
Furthermore, we know that a breakdown in communication increases the likelihood that a project will fail (Marr, 2016), and communication requires connecting and empathizing with others, whether team members or clients, etc. One way to measure how well people connect with others is their level of emotional intelligence. In a different popular press book, Anthony Mersino theorizes that, based on his personal experience, project managers cannot succeed without learning emotional intelligence (Mersino, 2013). Mersino offers personal advice to project managers in general to become more successful, but little guidance for training students. What’s more, there is little to no rigorous research to corroborate either of these popular press authors’ assertions independently, much less together, despite their popularity. The concepts of alpha project managers and emotional intelligence used as material in the project management course, but empirical evidence is lacking in this area. Therefore, this study proposes to bridge the gap between practitioner and industry research and theory.
To that end, we are working on a larger project to improve the way IS faculty teach IT project management. We previously test piloted a study to measure students’ emotional intelligence before and after specific classroom interventions. The interventions were active learning exercises designed to sharpen students’ emotional intelligence, which we believe will lead to improved communication on project teams. The exercises were primarily roleplaying exercises followed by class discussions wherein students acted out then identified varying emotions and behaviors. However, the pilot was too small to identify statistically significant changes in students’ emotional intelligence after the class interventions.
Therefore, we would like to find better measures of emotional intelligence, to learn what if anything other project management instructors do to address emotional intelligence on projects or how they address these concepts in the IT project management course, and to solicit feedback on this project. For example, as stated, Crowe and Mersino are popular press books. How might we use empirical research to prove or disprove their assertions without sacrificing rigor in the classroom? Or are the class activities themselves more valuable for our colleagues than statistical significance, for example?

Recommended Citation: Connolly, A. J., Rush, D., (2019). Emotional Intelligence and Alpha Skills for IT Project Management. Proceedings of the EDSIG Conference, (2019) n.5016, Cleveland, Ohio