Why so few project courses for such a key group?

Last week I ran a workshop specifically for project sponsors. Every person in the room was a senior manager, they sponsored projects and yes, managed them as well. 

On my travels to the training venue, I sent a Tweet that read: 

Running project sponsor workshop today. Why are so few courses run for such a key group? Any suggestions? 

Not surprisingly, I had no takers. 

So, why so few development opportunities (courses and workshops) for this important group? 

In February this year, Arras People published a report called Arras People Project Management Report 2010.   In their report, they found that senior managers lack of support contributed to project failure. 

Scouring the internet as I frequently do and looking at back copies of magazines shows there are articles about  this topic – not enough – but sufficient to give you a feeling that the training and development of senior managers is an untapped area. 

In my 16 years as Director of Project Agency we have run  courses for sponsors (see http://bit.ly/dcOXjX ) but, very few compared to courses for project managers. This is not for the want of trying. Much energy and effort has been put into convincing and influencing senior managers of the need for this type of training. 

So, what can be done to try and develop such an important group? I clearly do not have all of the answers however here are a few suggestions: 

  1. Pressure from project managers – on a couple of occasions a few project managers have returned from a training course and debated the topic with senior managers with a workshop for them resulting 
  2. There are many competency frameworks in use and maybe there is a link to one for sponsors. Clearly the performance appraisal process will need to identify development needs based on the framework 
  3. Critical incidence – projects do go wrong! However, how many companies really examine what went right and what went wrong? If the Arras survey is to be believed then some of the errors will be down to a lack of senior managers’ engagement. This would need to be rectified by some training and development activity 
  4. Conferences – I speak at a variety of conferences and this is one way of attracting attention of senior managers to the need for training in this area 

I believe the project management industry has not made the progress that it should have done. So, what suggestions do you have for engaging and influencing and ultimately developing this group of staff?



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7 Responses to Why so few project courses for such a key group?

  1. Pingback: Twitter Trackbacks for Why so few project courses for such a key group? | Ron Rosenhead's Project Management Blog [ronrosenhead.co.uk] on Topsy.com

  2. This relates to my own experience. I often say that if I had a pound for every time a delegate comments that his business manager needs training in PM and PM governance I would not be doing this job anymore.

    Interestingly, I have just been commissioned by a client to put together a workshop on project management and governance for their senior management. Perhaps the message is starting to get there.


  3. Ron says:

    Thanks Mike for your comments. Yes, I wish I had a pound for everyone who says it’s my manager….!!

    I only wish the message was getting through. Interestingly, I feel it is an organisational issue. By this I mean if the company is looking to develop higher level financial skills of its staff then senior managers should be trained as well. It’s the same with project management, governance and the role that senior managers play.

  4. Jed Simms says:

    Project governance is not so much ‘misunderstood’ as not understood. Few in the project industry really understand the true role of the Sponsor and governance team. Many existing definitions have been created by the project community and are poor.

    Recently, of five companies bidding to provide project governance training to a large government dept, only one could actually define it!!

    The impact of effective project governance is significant. Over the past 11 years of delivering project governance training I’ve seen many a project ‘saved’ as a result of active business management intervention once they knew what to do, and many a project manager overjoyed with a governance team who are now on his or her side

    But, step one, is to truly understand project governance – and this is a rare thing

  5. Ron says:

    Jed, I have no problem with what you are saying. The issue is even worse when you consider that people in companies do not link company governance with project governance!


  6. Andrew Kydd says:

    Senior managers have got where they are because they’re good at managing and directing things – at least that’s often what they think! So they don’t believe they need this kind of education. I well remember a programme director passing my desk and spotting my PRINCE2 manual. ‘My’ he said, ‘there’s a whole book about it is there?’. I thought ‘There’s a whole section in there just for you, called Directing a Project’ – but he obviously didn’t think such formality was for him. I have known governance education to be sneaked in under the guise of leadership coaching or similar – perhaps that’s another possible avenue, but still quite a difficult sell. Something has to have happened to make them realise that they they do need it – you have to create the need first, a preparatory stage before being able to sell the education or coaching.

  7. Ron says:

    Thanks Andrew for your comments. You are quite right that some sort of preparatory stage needs to take place before any education or coaching. We are trying and trying to engineer this with several companies however. Inevitably, it is a slow process.


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