What are the best options to increase your Project Manager’s capability?

Project managers require a diverse set of skills to successfully deliver projects, and more often than not, most will invest time and effort in continuous learning to ensure they stay abreast of new project methodologies, to enhance their skill set and to grow their knowledge.

In 2011, researchers from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, conducted a study of technology PMOs to understand why PMOs are established and the scope of their responsibilities.

The study showed that PMOs could deliver better projects, save time and money – and possibly the sanity of many stakeholders – by investing in project-related competence and cross-project learning for their PMs.

It begs the question: if you want to increase the capability of your project teams, specifically project managers, what are the best options available to a PMO?

Define What a Project Managers Skillset Should Be

The PMBOK 10 Knowledge Areas are a good reference to ensure the basics are in place with your PMs and a good yardstick to assess their capability. The 10 knowledge areas are:

  1. Integration Management
  2. Scope Management
  3. Time Management
  4. Cost Management
  5. Quality Management
  6. Human Resource Management
  7. Communications Management
  8. Risk Management
  9. Procurement Management
  10. Stakeholders Management

The first 9 areas are essential skills for a PM to have. The 10th knowledge area has been added in the latest (5th) edition of the PMBOK Body of Knowledge.

Stakeholder management (the soft skills of project delivery) is a most welcome addition because if you get everything else right but fail with the stakeholder management the project will suffer.

Whichever options you consider with regards to capability uplifting of your PMs, stakeholder management – and specifically people skills – is a vital component that should not be overlooked.

Let’s explore some of the options available to PMOs when considering how to build capability within their project teams.

Formal Offsite Training

For junior PMs or BAs that show interest and capability to become a PM, getting fundamental knowledge of a project methodology can be very helpful. The specific methodology is up to the PMO and should be referenced against what is required within your organisation to deliver projects successfully.

Each methodology (Prince II, PMBOK, Agile etc.) has its place and provide structure, tools and a disciplined approach to project management.  However, steps should be taken to ensure the fundamentals of the selected training course will align well with the organisations delivery approach.

Bespoke Company-specific Training

Engaging a specialist training organisation to come in, assess your needs and build a specific course or series of courses can often deliver greater value.

Bringing outside training skills in means the organisation can use and enhance existing templates, cover company specific examples of lessons learnt and review internal successes, which add relevant context and can be applied directly to the project delivery environment PMs find themselves in.

Bringing in Senior (External) Capability to Mentor and Guide PMs

Bringing in a guru as a program manager/ project director with extensive experience in successful delivery is a great way for PMs to learn by osmosis.

As great as training courses can be, there is nothing quite as educational as being a part of a difficult situation and seeing how someone else deals with it successfully first hand. Even better? Allowing a team to fail first then receiving supportive and constructive feedback to ensure success a second time will help PMs learn from failure as much as successes.

Gradual Increase in Complexity of Projects

Larger organisations that have a steady stream of projects of different sizes and complexity have an opportunity to progress and stretch their PMs as they grow and evolve.

Selecting the rising stars to take on a bigger and more complex project will not only enable them to develop their skills but also give them challenges so they don’t go stale and leave the company.

Similarly, the organisation can support and mentor those that are not evolving as quickly by “safely” exposing them to how program managers and project directors manage complexity.

Stakeholder Management Capability Uplift

The 10th knowledge area of PMBOK (Stakeholder Management) is arguably the most important area to develop and grow an organisation’s PMs. Empathy, communication and imagination are all the staples of effective stakeholder engagement. Stakeholder management development is not straightforward and formal training can help, as well as working alongside seasoned PMs.

However often the best way for PMs to learn stakeholder management is on the job. Particularly partnering them with challenging stakeholders and then monitoring and providing support and feedback as required.

Key Attributes for Successful PMs

Certain attributes are essential to maximise the success of your PMs, not least of which is self-belief and the ability to cope well with uncertainty. These are not easy skills to teach and are often the result of a well-rounded personal and professional life.

PMs who strive to possess an appropriate level of self-belief – to back themselves and their team – can go a long way. Those needing a little inspiration might find it in an oft-quoted prayer of St Francis of Assisi: “Grand me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

The ability to cope with uncertainty is also critical – which is a trait developed over time and often coupled with the development of resilience. Coping with uncertainty requires the ability to make sense of different and often complex options, articulate complicated ideas in an easily understood manner and the flexibility to adapt the approach, behaviour and planning whilst keeping an eye on the agreed final outcomes.

Enablement and Empowerment – Developing Soft Skills

Soft skills are usually life skills that aren’t taught as part of a formal project management course. It’s these areas that PMOs can get creative in how they develop their project managers.

Non-project management courses can round out a PM and provide real benefits, such as building confidence, learning how to develop rapport, enhancing writing and communication skills and self-awareness. Most important are the courses and training that enable PMs to be transparent and have the confidence to deliver news, irrespective of whether it is good or bad.

One of Quay’s key mantras is that ‘… there is no good news or bad news – only news.’ It takes a strong, experienced and well-supported project manager to live that mantra.

As project specialists, we develop fit-for-purpose strategy.  Contact us here to find out more about how we work with your teams or call 02 9098 6300.

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Quay Consulting is a professional services business specialising in the project landscape, transforming strategy into fit-for-purpose delivery. Meet our team ...