As a practice leader in the project management arena for 10 years, I’ve seen companies invest tons of energy, time and training effort in ramping up their project teams. Each organization has its own approach, but most novice project managers get handed a survival kit that comes with foundation skills and knowledge, a common language, a set of starter tools and PMP® credentials.
The next logical step is always “Now what?” Organizations predictably want more—from their talent, their training investment and their projects. What’s less clear is what “advanced project management” looks like. It’s a million-dollar question that’s been known to keep executives up at night.
Getting to the next level
Two very different client experiences gave me some insights into how to decode the mystery around advanced project management. Recently, I was working with a large global company that wanted to take their project leaders and teams to the next level. After some exploration, we zeroed in on the need to work on “soft skills” like communicating with sponsors and stakeholders…influencing…and problem solving. Another client company, which does large-scale IT projects, would have shrieked if I had suggested their project managers needed advanced support with problem solving. It was a fundamental for them. So, at this organization, advanced project management took the form of aligning projects to organizational goals and faster innovation.
The simple answer? There isn’t one.
My takeaway from these two client examples is simple enough (I like to keep things simple): Advanced project management is as varied as the company. Organizations want to improve their project management practices whatever their starting point. With this in mind, our new Project Performance: Accelerating Your Results suite is designed to give organizations the freedom and flexibility to choose what’s next based on their business strategies, talent pool and project goals. The modularity of our Fast Ramp program, for example, makes it easy for companies to go deeper into content that is mission critical at the time. They can define their own path, and that includes the ability to customize the delivery format, the specific topics and the tools.
The sustainability equation
Once you’ve pinpointed the right content, we all know it’s vital to apply new knowledge and skills to real projects. Ideally, the learning and the application happen close together or even simultaneously. That’s what it takes to accelerate the adoption of advanced skills and achieve a whole new level of mastery. Sustaining the learning is also crucial for project managers to realize the benefits of a certification, whether it’s PMP or an internal certification. And, of course, it’s also critical for the executive team to see a solid return on the company’s investment in training and development. But now I’m getting ahead of myself—the ROI on training is a whole other topic to chew on. More on that, later…
As a Senior Account Executive in the Southeastern Region for Paradigm Learning, Russell Pruden has 10 years of experience advising and consulting with Fortune 1000 companies in the key business areas of business acumen, project management skills, leadership accountability, and employee engagement.