The architectural, engineering, and environmental industry is quite hungry for knowledge and very attracted to innovation. That’s a good thing for lots of good reasons. The industry is so intent on pushing this envelope that practitioners are required to prove they are learning by submitting education units, credits, and all other sorts of measured bits of wisdom.
Investments in training and professional development were among the first expenses to be slashed when our industry was hard hit more than three years ago. No one wants to train just for training sake — and when serious money is on the line to instruct a large group of employees, scrutiny of the program increases.
We can debate what training topics may take priority over others, but since project managers direct the professional services you deliver for a living, let’s discuss that. As you consider training — either in-house or an external program — keep the following points in mind:
Determine where the firm is — If you are at the ground level of the Project Management Maturity Model, where systems are non-existent and everyone is managing as a renegade, chances are good training will not have a big impact — or even a small one. Attendees want better tactics on survival, not new ways to manage a client’s expectations. Training is never a solution to fix a poor system.
Group versus individual — We deliver both open enrollment and customized in-house programs. There are certainly pros and cons to both scenarios. Many people think a group session is cost-prohibitive and steals potential billable time away from a larger set of employees. I encourage every member of the firm to attend — from the principals to the technical staff. Gathered in the same room, it’s enlightening and therapeutic for everyone to discuss issues and establish some guidelines for working better together.
Understand what project managers need — Not surprisingly, there often is a disconnect between what senior management believes should be on the training agenda and what the team wants to learn. I ran a survey for a client recently that revealed that project managers were begging for time management tips and tricks. Leadership was under the impression they needed better communication skills. Both were right: Project managers were so overwhelmed with work they forgot to look up and talk. They believed that learning time management practices could alleviate the overload.
Reference the training often — Just as principals openly discuss marketing efforts, outstanding proposals, financial performance, or the strategic plan, relevant and useful aspects of project management pulled from training should be a regular conversation piece. Firms that approach knowledge sharing and improvement on this level are more likely to see very pleasing results.
Go to training prepared — Whether internal or external, the group or individual should go prepared with a purpose, an outcome, and some good questions that address their personal trouble areas. Leaving the session prepared is also important — be ready to implement some ideas back at the office, sharing with others and building these habits so they stick. It also means returning with some good questions for others, such as asking why sending out weekly updates is optional and not a standard firm practice.
Improving project management practices is always a good thing. Whether garnered from self-study, free information in the public domain, or through an established program, gaining knowledge and building better habits in this area should be applauded — whether credits are required to be submitted or not. As you scout available programs or design a program to be delivered by internal leaders, make it a better one by starting with these considerations.
Read this and more articles about project management at www.aectechstrategies.com/project-management.html.
Christine Brack, PMP, is a principal with ZweigWhite specializing in business planning and project management best practices. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.