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.

Become Focused by Failure

Great WSJ article by Prof. Ken Bain that takes the Cub Scout motto of “Do Your Best” to the next level. 

It also hits home personally.  I was often praised for being “smart”, which is like being congratulated for being “lucky.”  The implication is that I didn’t have much to do with it.  That approach wasn’t too “smart” it turns out.  As Prof. Bain notes, for about 25 years social scientists have developed:

key insights into how successful people overcome their unsuccessful moments—and they have found that attitudes toward learning play a large role from a young age.

The most important attitude is a “growth mind-set”: the idea that knowledge comes from trying, learning, and yes, failing at, new things.  

Prof. Cain also references research that our brain makes more and stronger connections after exposure to novelty.  While he presents the research obliquely — as part of a psychology experiment about priming learning attitudes  — my understanding is that there is real neuroscience to support this insight.

I wouldn’t rely on the priming approach solely.  If you believe in priming, whatever you do don’t read this Nature article by Ed Yong on the problems with social science experimental design!

The Tsunami and Knowledge Management

Talk about wisdom of the ancients… this CBS News article highlights the Japanese village of Aneyoshi, which heeded the warning of an old stone marker:

“High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants,” the stone slab reads. “Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point.”

The east coast of Japan has these scattered about, but apparently not all of the warnings were heeded.  Or perhaps the warnings weren’t so clear.  Another interesting tidbit is that awareness of the tsunami danger didn’t persist simply by word-of-mouth:

“It takes about three generations for people to forget. Those that experience the disaster themselves pass it to their children and their grandchildren, but then the memory fades,” [Fumihiko Imamura, a professor in disaster planning at Tohoku University in Sendai, a tsunami-hit city] said.

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PM Quote of the Day — Carol Burnett

You have to go through the falling down in order to learn to walk. It helps to know that you can survive it. That’s an education in itself.

Embedding Employee Engagement in your processes

Mike King at Learn This has a fairly long post on promoting employee engagement (here) — one last Hat Tip to the PM Blog Carnival (here).  I liked the thoughts in this passage especially:

Make it Part of The System … In order to ensure that employee engagement is something that gets attention, is measured and has various methods contributing to it, its important that it is part of a system. Not many things work on their own in business and its important to look at ways to embed it into the business practices….  [T]here are always examples where individuals do things right, but unless its fixed at a larger scale, it doesn’t become cultural or lasting…  The more ingrained it is into the system, the more likely employee engagement will expand and retain itself as part of the culture in the workplace. [emphasis mine]

This insight is often missed by human resources and other professionals focused on employee development.  Too many of these colleagues see their practices as somehow set apart from the rest of the business or they don’t have enough commercial experience to do so effectively.  Line managers and HR partners should collaborate to embed employee engagement practices into the way their firm works.

Finally, I should acknowledge Jose DeJesus’s post on employee motivation (here).  One could do worse than to pay heed to his five steps:

1. Listen to your employees.
2. Acknowledge your employees’ achievements.
3. Help your employees develop their own communications skills.
4. Encourage your employees to grow into new roles and take on additional responsibility.
5. Set a Good Example.

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