Winning with Talent Management: Three Real-Life Examples

The wrong person in the wrong role costs real money.  Studies suggest bad hires cost 250% of the role’s salary. In other words, a bad $100K hire will cost you $250K! And when it comes to  the cost of a bad project manager, look at it this way: , what was the size of your last failed project: $1 million, $10 million, $100 million?

You win the talent game with the best talent. But how do you identify “best”? PM College has a tried-and-tested Competency Assessment Program that helps you find and develop the best project managers. Three of our leading clients are using it to get a competitive edge:

“We want to offer learning and development that our talent really needs.” Talent development and training are two critical drivers of job satisfaction, loyalty, and engagement.  These are the sweet spots for our assessments: to develop and sustain superior project management performance.

PMO leaders at a long-time client need to target their training, thereby eliminating unnecessary training programs. The PM College assessment program will do this, ensuring more return from their learning investments. They also want the assessment to  not only discover project managers with the most potential, but also to inform job assignment and development opportunities.

“We need to make sure that new hires can deliver our projects.” Bad hiring decisions drive eighty percent of employee turnover. Another PM College client requires absolute on-time delivery for every project: a hour late is a crisis; a day late can be a national disaster.  Their project managers need to be the best of the best … from Day One. Catching a single bad hire before the offer letter will provide a huge and immediate payoff.

We are working with this client to develop a profile of the ideal candidate, based upon assessments of their current staff. PM College will also use this profile to develop a set of interview guidelines to evaluate candidates on the most critical personality and knowledge topics, in order to target development plans for current project managers.

“We work in an emerging, fast-growing industry.” Organizational agility defines today’s most admired and innovative project-driven organizations. We are working with a global client to extend our standard assessment to cover two additional competency areas: industry and organizational knowledge. Just as PM College can deliver custom learning, we can also create custom assessment packages at a great value. This client will use the results to verify that its current – and future – project managers can keep up with its explosive growth and unique culture.

Are you ready to find, develop, and hire better project talent? Contact PM College now

Are Organizations Hiring for Leadership and Business Skills?

I am continuing with my series on the PM Skills Webinar we just held (the webinar recording itself is here, registration required). My first post discussed how to hire for the right project, leadership, and business skills. That is the essence of our research findings: how do we make sure that we have the right skill mix. The second answered a natural follow-on question: do job descriptions really address this skill shift?

Today’s question carried this line of thought into the hiring decision itself.

“Do you see any significant shift in hiring skills from the practitioner skill set to leadership and strategy?”  

First, I believe that our findings strongly imply this is happening. Senior leaders and practitioners differ on both the relative importance of these skills, as well as the skills that need improvement. It makes sense that leaders will – or at least, should – hire for these skills.


This question hit on why PMP continuing education requirements will soon change. The requirements for the PMP have always included the kind of experience that would bring leadership and strategy to the table. That may have been true 15 years ago. However, where the PMP used to signify total project management excellence, it now signifies tools and techniques mastery.  Project managers who simply run projects without reference to their larger leadership and business environment are becoming a commodity. As I related during the webinar, even PMI recognized that the PMP – and by extension project management skills – was only “table stakes.” It allows you in the game, but nothing more.

A Global Executive Council counterpart of mine told a story that laid out the problem in terms of experience. He had to counsel a project manager who was very itchy to advance but was perplexed that his PMP hadn’t taken him further.  The council member put it to him bluntly: “A PMP is worth about two years of experience in our organization, which is something … but it isn’t equivalent to leading and delivering a multi-year project or program.”

Speaking for myself, when I interview a candidate, I most of my time probing about whether he or she understands how to think about business. I will, of course, ask a few questions about key project management topics. Even then, I focus on the areas where I believe leadership and business savvy come most into play. For example:

  • How do you think about the different elements of the triple constraint and their relative importance? Provide an example where you had to drive tradeoffs among time, scope, and resources.
  • How do you go about evaluating scope elements and how they fit into the strategic intent of the project? Tell me about a project where you or your team had to navigate a dispute about project or product scope.
  • Describe the last change control process you ran on a major project. What were the most challenging aspects managing change control on that project?

I found that the best candidates could give solid and convincing discussions around these three topics. A solid grasp of the leadership and business issues involved bring clarity to the tradeoffs, negotiations, and communications inherent in project management. As we have found in studies of project failure, beware the project manager who seals himself off in a room with a MS Project schedule or dives into issue resolution. Those activities are never – at least in my experience – the root cause of project success or failure. Poor leadership engagement, ignorance of key contracts, or misunderstanding the strategic framework behind the project are much more likely causes.

Note: This is adapted from a post originally posted on the PM College blog. This is the third of a series of posts based on questions asked during our latest webinar covering the newly released research report, Project Manager Skills Benchmark 2015.

Now THIS Is What I Mean By “Advanced” Training

We’ve had a ton of discussions with clients after the Project Management Institute (PMI)announcement that it would soon demand business and leadership training from its certification holders. Some organizations wanted just the facts – who, what, where, when, why, and how — then were on their way. A few weren’t interested for personal reasons: their organizations don’t require or reward PMI certification.

The most interesting talks, however, were with customers who didn’t really focus on the requirements at all. The original blog post or email had merely crystallized needs that they already had. We heard it again and again: “We’ve already had the basics, we’ve already put everyone through the curriculum. How do we get better, how do we advance?”

These kinds of conversations are music to my ears, because it means that we’re going to talk about building new and differentiated capabilities. In other words, these clients aren’t just thinking about industry standards and compliance. They now think strategically about how their staff’s strengths and weaknesses match up to their organization’s opportunities and threats.

So how does this play out in practice? Each firm or agency is different, but we believe there a few useful questions that help focus on the learning that your organization needs to advance.

  1. Knowledge and Skill Gaps: These are items that were simply missed in previous training or need formal reinforcement. Example course topics that address gaps:  How to Lead a Team;  How to Model, Analyze, and Improve Business Processes.
  2. Knowledge and Skill Mastery: Here’s where one truly goes beyond the basics and gets command of a subject. Courses like Project Cost & Schedule Management; Project Risk Management; Strategies for Effective Stakeholder Engagement; and  Vendor Relationship Management take one to the next level.
  3. Behavior Change: Here’s the real opportunity to breakthrough performance: ensuring that skills manifest themselves in behavior. Our simulations — for example, Managing by Project; Managing by Project: Construction; and Leadership in High-Performance Teams — move participants from mere understanding of skills to application of these skills back in the working world.

As always, if your organization would like discuss these ideas and how it will impact your project management training curriculum, please use the contact form below. We are happy to review your current curriculum, your upcoming learning plans, and make recommendations.

PMI Requires Business and Leadership Training

NOTE: My colleagues at PM College passed along the news that PMI is changing its PDU requirements. This post is adapted from our email to our customers.

Well, it’s now official: the Project Management Institute (PMI) demands strategy, business, and leadership skills from its certification holders. Its change to Professional Development Unit (PDU) requirements formalizes the shift away from the “project managers just need to know project management” mentality that used to pervade the profession. As we’ve noted: people skills and domain knowledge are essential to initiatives’ success.

If you or your staff are pursuing or renewing your PMP – or your organization wants to develop well-rounded, competent project talent — you will need to understand how these changes affect you.  Why?

As the global business environment and project management profession evolves, the [certification] program must adapt to provide development of new employer-desired skills…. The ideal skill set — the PMI Talent Triangle — is a combination of technical, leadership, and strategic and business management expertise. (PMI 2015 Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) Program Updates)

Feedback from high-performing organizations drove three changes to certification requirements that PMO, learning, and talent leaders should be aware of:

The technical, business, and leadership juggler.

The original technical, business, and leadership juggler.

  1. The education professional development unit (PDU) requirement has changed. 60% of the PDUs must come from education (e.g., PMPs must have 35 of their 60 PDUs come from education )
  2. A new requirement is that certification holders must get education in all three skill areas:  Technical Project Management, Leadership, Strategic and Business Management.
  3. Additionally, a minimum of eight (8) PDU’s must be earned in each of the three skill areas; the remaining eleven (11) can come from any area.

PM College proactively recognized this need, and designed its course offerings to align to the three skill areas, so you and your staff can earn the PDUs required in each skill area. For example, among our most popular offerings:

If your organization would like to schedule time to discuss these changes and how it will impact your project management training curriculum, please use the contact form below. We are happy to review your current curriculum, your upcoming learning plans, and make recommendations.


PM Quote of the Day — Anonymous

If one person tells you that you have a tail you can ignore it; if two people tell you, turn around and take a look. 

PM Quote of the Day — Harold Geneen

It is much more difficult to measure nonperformance than performance

Hat tip: Jonathan Becher at Manage By Walking Around.

Project Management as “table stakes”

Regular readers know that I’ve been harping on the increasing importance of program management, especially when it comes to realizing the benefits or value of projects.  Project managers who simply run projects without reference to the larger business environment are becoming a commodity. 

During the recent Global Corporate Council forum, I heard two thoughts that illustrated the challenge for PMs:

  • Greg Balestrero, the CEO of the Project Management Institute (Greg’s blog is here), calls project management “table stakes”.  In other words, PM has become so widespread that it is no longer differentiating for an organization or person to be good at PM.  In Greg’s opinion, PM-only lets/keeps you in the game…no more.
  • One council member quanitified the value of the PMP in terms of experience.  He had to counsel a project manager who was very itchy to advance but was perplexed that his PMP hadn’t taken him further.  The council member put it to him bluntly: “A PMP is worth about two years of experience in our organization, which is something…  But it isn’t equivalent to leading and delivering a multi-year project or program.”

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