“Train them, and train them fast!”

My company, Project Agency walked away from the contract that was on the table. Train several groups of project managers to ensure that a large number of departmental projects would be delivered.

I met some of the senior managers who were concerned that little or no progress was being made by the project managers. Delivery is too slow; “train them and train them fast” was the message they gave me.

Warning bells rang and I asked a number of questions. I established:

  • the project managers reported into the Departmental Management Team of around 8 people
  • there were 10 projects each with a project manager however there were no project sponsors
  • there was a dotted line relationship with a small departmental group to the Management Team. Upon further questioning, no one could tell me the exact role of this group or the link with the projects underway
  • the Director would in the words of people present go ‘walk about’ – he would go to a project manager and change the scope – on the move

Train them, and train them fast

Hardly surprising that projects made little or no progress.

I suggested they rethink what was needed and structures and governance issues need to be addressed and quickly before any progress could be made with the project managers. More embarrassed silence. I asked how they felt about this. “We want you to train our project managers,” was the response.

Sometimes, you have to be up front and tell people how it is. I said that the training would make a difference however the real focus should be on what we had ‘discovered’ in the meeting.

You could feel the meeting go downhill from there.

I said that I would not be prepared to train the project managers first. There was some interesting tension in the room and I even suggested holding a two hour session with SMT but this was a lost cause….

I never heard from this potential client again. The lessons of that meeting some 8 years ago have remained with me and I have used them many times since then:

• the structure for delivering projects should be as simple as possible. Management of projects by committee as in this case does not work
• project management roles need to be clear and this includes levels of authority
• training of senior managers is as important as training project managers and project team members and in some cases (such as the one quoted) more important
• you can have all the project management methodologies in the world however nothing beats straight forward common sense!

Why not take a look at your project management structures. How effective are they to supporting delivery of projects? If they do not support project management then its action time!

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3 Responses to “Train them, and train them fast!”

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  2. Dan says:

    Rapidly over quality, it appears. The mechanisms weren’t in place, so in essence you could do the job, but you couldn’t do it effectively and professionally.

    Having learned those four bulleted lessons 8 years ago, Ron, have you made it a point to introduce these guidelines before taking on any training measures?

  3. Ron says:

    Thanks for the comments Dan

    Yes, we do include the bulleted points in the training. It is an important part of the overall governance process that we address throughout our training.

    Regards, Ron

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