Building Project Management Capability

4 Jul 2016

Building Project Management Capability

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In this age of disruption companies are transforming their operating models to be more competitive, adaptive and lean. At the heart of this transformation is the need to build project management capability, the fundamental link between strategy and delivery. So how does an organization go about this?

The first step in building organisational project management capability is to get buy in from your project management community. Indeed, you may need to foster a sense of community in the first place, as distinct to isolated practitioners adrift in the organisation.

“Winning hearts and minds” means motivating project personnel at all levels and getting them to want to not only participate, but to invest personally in their own professional development as project managers and to see project management as a desirable and highly valued career path.

Once they are excited about project management and feel a part of a project management community, they will be far more likely to “lean into” subsequent capability uplift activities.

1. Strategies for “winning hearts and minds”

To want to learn about project management, people need to see it as:

  • Valuable – meaning that being better at PM will benefit them in some way (e.g. make them better at their job; reduce their stress; improve their reputation; help them get promoted; make them a more valuable employee; etc.
  • Valued by others – meaning that the people they respect, respect project management – e.g. their organization, manager, colleagues, mentors, peers, industry bodies, role models, and even family and friends, value project management and consider it a capability worth developing. It is also important that there are defined paths for pursuing this training internally and management support for professional development
  • Practical – meaning they will learn things that they will actually be able to use in the workplace
  • Enjoyable – meaning that learning about project management needs to be seen as fun and engaging (or at least not boring or unpleasant) – especially for Gen Ys and Millennials.

Making it valuable and valued using communication & change management

The first two points are about making project management seem valuable and valued by others can be achieved through traditional change management methods such as advocacy/positive messages from the CEO and executive around the importance of project management. This is where your change management strategies are going to be most effective.

Vodcasting is a relatively new method of delivering these messages. This involves broadcasting short videos with key messages to some/all personnel. For example, a link to a private You-Tube channel may be emailed to all employees and contractors to deliver key messages in a visually engaging manner that can be consumed on any digital platform (mobiles/tablets/PCs).

Making it practical and fun using gamification & simulation

The buzzword of the era is ‘engagement’. The benefits of any change management or training program rests on the quality of its content and its power to engage, interest and excite staff. One popular format to drive training engagement is by incorporating game mechanics into your training event, or using lay words, making learning fun!

Gamification can also be used in a range of formats, such as:

  • Mock game-shows (e.g. “who wants to be a millionaire” based on PM theory/methodology)
  • Points-based reward programs and ‘digital badges’ that encourage behaviors/performance outcomes
  • Jigsaw puzzles to teach the steps in the approved methodology
  • Adventures/treasure hunts based on pop culture – e.g. The Da Vinci Code, The Hunger Games, The Amazing Race, etc.

Simulations are at the leading edge of adult learning as they provide a fun, safe environment in which to:

  • Acquire new knowledge and skills in project management (particularly for accidental and aspiring PMs)
  • Bridge the gap between theory and practice, particularly for kinesthetic learners who ‘learn by doing’
  • Learn about their organization’s particular PM methodology, tools, templates, processes, support, etc.
  • Network, socialize, develop a cohesive team dynamic, and build relationships with other project personnel through fun shared experiences
  • Reflect on and talk about project management concepts, issues, and competencies (both technical and behavioral) in a safe, apolitical forum

Elemental Projects runs a 1 day project management simulation called The Game, which is based on a hit TV show and is a great way get people excited about project management and aware of basic project management concepts, frameworks and tools. The Game combines basic project management education, team building and game-mechanics to provide a playful and unforgettable learning experience. We also offer a short, 2-hour compressed sample of the simulation, called The Pitch, where participants can’t spare a whole day. Learn more about our sizzling project management simulations.

Invite Staff to be part of the change or training by sharing their expertise

All training formats can be complemented with other work-based elements that support the transfer of knowledge and skills to the workplace, such as:

  • “Show-and-tell” lessons learned workshops where PMs showcase one project, it’s challenges, opportunities, risks, treatment strategies, benefit mapping, stakeholder engagement strategies, etc.
  • “Project Show reels” – short videos profiling project management excellence by spotlighting one project, interviewing staff, pulling out lessons learned, explaining program logic, etc.
  • Micro-blogs and collaboration platforms (e.g. yammer) to support ongoing networking and knowledge sharing

2. Strategies for uplifting capability

The four ‘pillars’ of project management capability are:

  1. People – this pillar is about building the competency (knowledge, skills, experience, EQ) of project team members, project managers, program managers, and sponsors, through training, coaching and mentoring. It is also about actively driving their level of motivation, engagement, and networking within and outside the organisation.
  2. Process – this pillar is about having an appropriate project management methodology in place, with clear and accessible guidance so that people know how you want them to apply their knowledge and skills on each project.
  3. Tools – this pillar is about making sure that people are adequately equipped with the technology and templates that meets their needs and is of an appropriate scale, complexity, and functionality.
  4. Information & Communication – this is about ensuring people have access to project information and historical data when they need it.

All four pillars must be developed – and more or less at the same time. Problems arise when people are fully trained, but have no tool to apply their skills, or no clear or agreed process to follow. Focusing just on process can be frustrating for project managers if they don’t understand the terms, tools, techniques, or processes that your methodology is asking them to employ. And rolling out a project management tool without the others is like giving someone a Ferrari without teaching them to drive.

Elemental Projects specialises in the first pillar – people. Here are some strategies for uplifting this aspect of your organizational project management capability:

  • Classic Classroom Training – select a project management course that is aligned to your preferred methodology and framework (e.g. PMBoK 5th Edition, GAPPS Global Level 1, AQF Level 4/5, AIPM RegPM certification)
  • Customised Training – focused on select components of project, program or portfolio management or that emphasizes the organizational methodology, tailored case studies and industry particulars
  • Qualifications & Assessment – such as Certificate IV of Project Management, and the Diploma of Project Management
  • Recognition of Prior LearningRPL and Spot Training to target knowledge gaps
  • Online competency tools – these can be used to identify individual gaps in knowledge, skill and experience for baselining purposes and to design outcomes focused training based on priority needs
  • Professional development – defining and establishing a professional development pathway for resources
  • Video content – Incorporating video content in communication or training programs. This can support change management, individual learning, self service, blended learning, online learning, e-learning, bite-sized learning and learning on the go via mobile technology. Digital badges can also be awarded to users to recognise and encourage professional self-development and enhance corporate culture using game-mechanics. Elemental Projects has a mobile film studio and can provided end-to-end video production services to support these initiatives and based on your needs.

So to uplift your project management capability you first have to uplift your corporate vision. Leadership and culture change are essential tools to achieve results. Engage, empower and develop your project staff along with developing a broader professional development pathway for staff at all levels, that is designed to rectify knowledge and skills gaps and create a learning community. Methodology and tools can then be developed and embedded via training sessions; together working to raise project management organizational maturity and overall capability.