If you didn’t answer something along the lines of “a specified skill set that can help individuals and organizations achieve success with both their projects and their strategic goals,” you wouldn’t be alone. Many individuals and organizations do not see the value of project-management skills. How unfortunate.
This oversight often results in organizations assigning critical projects to staff members who are not trained to effectively lead such efforts. I often wonder why organizations continue to take this approach and have, in fact, asked the question many times. Among the typical responses:
“We don’t have a Project Manager, so we try to absorb the project internally.”
“We usually ask our ‘best’ people to take on projects because we know that they will get them done – somehow, someway.”
“It’s just a project; they can take care of it.”
Implicit in such approaches to project “management” is an expectation of success from the “best” people in the organization without providing those people with the training and resources they need to succeed. No project-management framework. No documented best practices. No tools such as checklists, process maps, or templates.
As a Project Manager with over 25 years of experience, I can certainly understand how overwhelmed a newly identified Project Lead might feel upon learning about a new project that just landed on her desk.
Take the example of “Marie,” a Customer Service Manager with a team of 4 people at a small company. One day, the company President surprised Marie, a stack of paperwork in hand: “We need a new phone system for the company. It needs to connect the headquarters with the 6 branches and the warehouse. This probably falls best into your role as Customer Service Manager. Please keep me posted on your progress.” He then handed Marie a myriad of brochures on new phone systems, which he had been collecting for several months.
Does this scenario sound familiar to you? Have you ever found yourself in Marie’s position? Or have you ever played the part of the President with your staff members?
In such scenarios, the newly identified Project Leads still have “day jobs” that they are currently working full time. In my experience as a Project Manager, I have worked on projects that require a couple of hours a week, as well as projects that require 35 to 50 hours a week, or more! The difference is that I am a full-time Project Manager. It’s my role. I don’t have to juggle my project-management activities with, for instance, my role as a Customer Service Manager, a logistics specialist, an HR representative, or a financial analyst. Expecting your already fully occupied staff to do so without the proper support is a recipe for project failure and personnel burnout.
The ideal way to resolve this conundrum and establish a foundation for organizational success is to hire a skilled Project Manager. If you can’t do that, however, at least provide your staff with project-management skills training. Among the benefits of such training is consistency in practice, which, in turn, enhances understanding of the project lifecycle among team members. The end result? Fewer unfinished projects or projects that do not meet their objectives.
But wait, there's more! Beyond the scope of any given project, project-management skills training holds benefits for your staff - and, therefore, your organization - by strengthening abilities in the following areas:
Team and resource management
Collaboration with vendors and partners
Risk assessment and response planning
These skills are enduring; once attained, they can be transferred to any role at your organization. Now that’s valuable!
By establishing a core foundation of strong project leaders throughout your organization, you will be preparing for a future where projects and initiatives will be the fundamental work products driving your revenue, growth, sustainability, and success. Especially in this time of increased complexity, disruption, and unpredictability in various market segments.
Take the time to set your team up for success; get them the project-management skills training they need. These skills will help them not only professionally, but personally, in the community and at home, with the myriad of projects that surround us every day.
Go for it. You won’t regret your decision.