Interview with Ralf Müller


Soft Skills Should Be in the Center of PM

Interview with Ralf Müller

Editor-in-Chief, Project Management Journal
Professor of Project Management
BI Norwegian Business School

Interviewed by Yu Yanjuan
Journalist, Project Management Review: PMR (China)



Ralf Müller, DBA, MBA, PMP, is now Editor-in-Chief of Project Management Journal and Professor of Project Management in BI Norwegian Business School.

Dr Ralf Müller is also former Associate Dean at BI Norwegian Business School, Adjunct Professor at University of Technology Sydney, Haitian (distinguished) scholar at Dalian University of Technology, Honorary Professor at Tasly Pharmaceutical’s Project Management College, and Director Research Lab, European School of Governance, Germany.

Apart from teaching roles, he is also Chairman of the Academic Advisory Board of AIPMO (Association of International Project Management Officers), Switzerland; member of the Senate at ISM University, Vilnius, Lithuania; and member of the board at the Institute for Project Management at the University of Iceland.

He lectures and researches in leadership, governance, and organizational project management. These are also the subjects of his more than 230 academic publications, including 13 books. His accolades include the 2016 PMI Fellow of the Institute Award, the 2015 PMI Research Achievement Award (a life-time achievement award), the 2012 IPMA Research Award, and the 2009 Project Management Journal Best Paper of the Year Award.

Before joining academia, he spent 30 years in the industry consulting with large enterprises and governments in more than 50 different countries for better project management and governance. He also held related line management positions, such as the Worldwide Director of Project Management at NCR Corporation.



Project Management Is an Accidental Choice

Q1:      Why did you choose project management as your career? Do you enjoy this profession?

Ralf Müller (Müller): Well, I guess my “choice” is typical for many in the “accidental profession”. I was working as a UNIX specialist in the department for major clients in a large worldwide IT company. One day our department manager returned from a meeting at Corporate Headquarters and said, “All people in this department are project managers from now on.” We were hesitant to accept this in the beginning, but then decided to give it a try. Having led several projects of increasing value, I took over international and global projects. Later, during my time as worldwide Director of project management in this company, I travelled around the world to rescue troubled projects. I learned that my efforts could only help one project or project manager at a time, so I decided to change to academia to spread my word to many people simultaneously. I have never regretted being a project manager or switching to academia. Both are exciting and challenging roles.

Q2:      As a professor, editor-in-chief, editorial board member for a number of academic journals, contributor to some PMI standards, book author, researcher, etc., you have a busy schedule. Would you please share your secrets of time management?

Müller:     I do not know if there is some secret in what I do. As an academic, my schedule is first and foremost determined by the dates when I have to teach at the University. The gaps between these dates I fill with research projects, conferences, PhD supervision etc. When it comes to priorities, I try to balance the achievement of short-term deadlines with work on activities with long-term deadlines. Prioritization typically follows the old 2×2 matrix of urgent (high or low) versus important (high or low), where I prioritize high/high items but from both short-term and long-term perspectives.

Q3:      You’ve been awarded PMI Research Achievement Award and IPMA Research Award. What do the awards mean to you?

Müller:     Obviously it shows that my studies are seen as relevant and that the results are recognized as credible. It also tells me that my research topics are not only of academic interest, as the awards are primarily given by practitioner organizations. Besides the awards for specific studies, I especially value the lifetime research award. It gives a feeling that most of what I do is valued, not only one particular study.

China Needs to Focus More on OPM

Q4:      Project management is thriving in China. As a visiting professor at Fudan University and Dalian University of Technology in China, do you think so?


To read entire interview, click here


Editor’s note: This interview was first published in PMR, Project Management Review magazine, China.  It is republished here with the permission of PMR. The PM World Journal maintains a cooperative relationship with PMR, periodically republishing works from each other’s publications. To see the original interview with Chinese introduction, visit PMR at http://www.pmreview.com.cn/english/

How to cite this interview: PMR (2018). Soft Skills Should Be in the Center of PM: Interview with Ralf Müller; Project Management Review; republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. VIII, Issue I (January 2019). Available online at https://pmworldjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/pmwj78-Jan2019-Yanjuan-Muller-Interview.pdf


About the Interviewer

Yu Yanjuan

Beijing, China




Yu Yanjuan, Bachelor’s Degree, graduated from the English Department of Beijing International Studies University (BISU) in China. She is now an English-language journalist and editor working for Project Management Review Magazine and website. In the past, she has worked as a journalist and editor for China Manned Space Agency website and Student English Times. She once worked part-time as English teacher in training centers. For work contact, she can be reached via email [email protected] or Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/yanjuan-yu-76b280151/.