We train the wrong people!
The other day I read an interesting blog post by Todd Williams titled "We Need Project Leadership, Not Management". I started reading the article because at first, based on the litle intro on Linkedin, I thought it dealt with the difference between a line/functional manager and a project manager. At first it did but then it slowly moved towards stakeholder management and how project managers need to actively work with supervisors and it ended with a cry for brave project leadership. All in all quite a journey!
One of the key points I would like to highlight, not that the other points Todd makes are not important (I will address those later), is indeed the fact that we all have dealt with senior executives, project sponsors and functional managers in organizations who have no or a limited clue about the management of projects and the role they (need to) play in it.
I have been saying for many years now that we train the wrong people. Individual project managers or soontobe (as opposed to wannabe!) project managers put a lot of effort, (time and money) into being great project managers by improving their skills, knowledge and attitudes. A lot of organziations put a lot of time into developing these project managers and creating excellent project management practices. The problem is, and this is one of the reasons why indeed quite a few projects fall behind and in a lot of cases fail, that projects and the management of these projects gets viewed in a too narrow view/perspective.
Projects and project managers do not exist in a vacuum!
We know that one of the key success factors for project (management) success is senior management support. My experience is that this support can and will only be effective when and if senior management understands what a project is, what a project manager is (supposed to do) and how they need to direct/support that project.
In other words, we need to train senior management. There is a reason why in Prince2 there is an all encompassing project process called Directing a Project. Obvious question that follows is how do you get these busy bees to understand they need training.
In his article Todd gives, although not directly an important clue.
Do not be afraid as a project manager to approach those managers and point out what in your professional opinion they need to do to make THEIR (not your) project a success.
I guess it starts by indeed pointing out it is THEIR and not your project.
I would like to end with a positive experience I had many years ago.
An organization I worked for had just finished supporting a very large organization with the implementation of Prince2 and the related training of all project managers. My role, as part of post training and implementation quality assurance, was to support one of the project sponsors on one of the first projects that was going to be run conform Prince2. This turned out to be very valuable for the organization. Although the executive had participated in one introduction session on Prince2 and project management in general, there was a lot he did not realize he was supposed to do. Sure, he had lots of experience with previous projects and that was beneficial but this one-on-one support helped him to better understand his role in the overall picture and how he could support the project manager and his team.
In other words, when developing training for organizations, training individual project managers or being trained as a project manager, do not be afraid to ask about senior management training!