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Project Management

Should we train our people in Project Management?

I’ve run a number of workshops with senior managers where they recognise that projects quite often aren’t that well run. I’m invariably asked if I think they should train their people in Project Management, or to be Project Managers. While that might sound like an appealing quick fix, in reality it’s probably not going to have the desired impact.

I say that because these organisations are usually what I would describe as “immature” in their approach to projects. For example, they often don’t have any of the following:

  • An agreed way of selecting and prioritising which projects to do
  • A staged approach to managing project lifecycles
  • A centre of excellence staffed with people who can coach or support in-house projects (e.g. Project Management Office)
  • Clearly defined roles for senior people who are sponsoring projects
  • Adequate governance mechanisms to help ensure the right projects are being worked on and are making acceptable progress

In the absence of these (and more), training people to be Project Managers is likely to lead to frustration as they try to apply their new-learned skills in an unreceptive organisation.

So, what do I advise? It depends!

Generally, in a project-immature organisation, senior managers are not going to sign-up overnight to adopting a more rigorous, or structured, approach to PM that will be applied across the organisation. So, finding some quick wins is usually a sensible starting-point. these might include:

  • Identifying some upcoming projects that would benefit from some more effective leadership and management, and coaching the relevant people in how to do that
  • Running “clinic” sessions for current projects that may be stuck or struggling and showing how PM can benefit them
  • Running some “masterclasses” for senior people to given them insights into PM approaches that could benefit them

Often, my overall theme is to help the organisation improve its Project Thinking, rather than Project Management. Most of these people don’t need PRINCE2 (or any other qualification) because they don’t have the ability to adapt and scale it to their needs. They need some simple tips and guidance on how to:

  • Kick-off a new project in a way that gets clarity and buy-in
  • Engage the right people in the right way to ensure benefits are clearly identified and an appropriate approach can be adopted to achieve them
  • Think through timelines and resourcing, so that activities start and finish on time and key milestones are hit
  • Identify what might go wrong, or knock the project off-track, and how to avoid these situations

Project Thinking could require them to learn new skills in any of the three circles here:

Project 3 Skills

The three sets of skills required for successful project management

In summary, you may not need to train your people in Project Management; but helping people to improve their Project Thinking may well be a good starting-point.

More of my articles on Project Management.

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