The original podcast can be found at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/mentisor/2010/11/29/soapbox-12.
Now, for the record, we were referring to ongoing professional development activities within an organization or pursued by an individual; we intentionally left formal “advanced” training out of scope of the original discussion – although we revisit it at the end of this article.
Through the discussion that followed, 4 main training/development areas were identified:
- Practical Application Training & Advancement
- Soft Skills & Finesse
- Technical Professional Skills (and Refreshers)
- Lessons Learned
Practical Application Training & Advancement
Revisiting of academic concepts & re-affirming their practical application to project management (especially in cases where they would have been only ‘glossed over’ during the initial training, due to the complexities associated with integrating multiple domains and concepts).
These could be further categorized along various disciplines (such as the Project Management Knowledge Areas as proposed by the Project Management Institute within their Project Management Body of Knowledge®).
Doing so also creates a framework where you could plan your development curriculum.
Similarly, once the initial “refresher” of the initial concepts and understanding of the practical application of the academic concepts have been completed, the next logical iteration of this kind of training is to then dive deeper into each of the disciplines – and establish a more advanced understanding of their application.
Careful now though; the original scope of the discussion was ongoing professional development training within an organization (for instance, monthly lunch-and-learn workshops hosted within the organization); advanced topics often lead to more advanced formal training – which is in a separate category from the initial 4 presented here.
Soft Skills & Finesse
The hard to quantify, but oh so necessary skills in how to deal with people, hostile or angry customers, presentation, motivation and negotiation, etc.
Often these are the skills and abilities you only get through working with more experienced practitioners as they either deal with unique situations, or coach you through them.
Once again referring to frameworks such as the Project Management Body of Knowledge® you can readily find a proposed breakdown of subject matter knowledge areas/disciplines.
Technical Professional Skills (and Refreshers)
Those things that either involve the use of tools, technology, or other techniques to get the job done and are either affected by changes in organization, new tools or things we simply get “rusty” in.
This could be anything from either refreshers or advanced training on scheduling software (like Microsoft Project) – to unique/Web2.0 and social-media concepts such as using private-Twitter accounts for team-based delayed/deferred communications.
Lessons learned reviews should be conducted by project stakeholders and their respective management organizations (most notably the PMO and/or project/program management team within the delivery organization) but often these lessons fail to go beyond the report and the immediate groups that it is shared with.
Lessons not shared are never really learned, and therefore lost. Hosting presentations of the most immediately relevant lessons learned to the entire group not only helps ensure that these lessons are passed on, but can also help further develop presentation skills and award Professional Development Units (PDUs) to PMs who are engaged in those sessions.
Additionally, such opportunities are a great addition to a team-building program.
Advanced Formal Training and Development
This area wasn’t originally included in our discussions – simply because it’s the one that most people immediately think of when it comes to professional development training – and is usually handled through post-graduate training, advanced courses, next-step training, etc. It is not usually within the context of internal (or individual) ongoing training – although we all eventually start thumbing through the catalogs of courses offered by our local training providers.
A discussion on “formal” development training areas/subjects for PMs often tends to be industry specific as well, so it becomes harder to create a standard checklist for all PMs – where the proposed development areas shown above tend to be more generic to all PM disciplines.
That said, there still are some classic standbys that can apply to most situations, including:
- Problem solving and analysis techniques
- Advanced scheduling techniques
- Formal leadership training
- Team-building and collaboration techniques
Regrettably ongoing professional development for most individuals is ad-hoc at best; similarly many organizations have the same approach – and they often squander great opportunities to distribute knowledge and keep the teams refreshed.
Having a framework to assess requirements and build a training curriculum helps, but then that still doesn’t address the elephant in the room.
For many PMs, the primary motivation around professional development activities is to avoid loosing one’s credential and having to rewrite the PMP (or similar qualification) exam again.
While that is certainly good motivation, as is including professional development progress within one’s annual assessment in the organization they work, you really can’t legislate any sort of passion for one’s profession.
The desire to develop one’s skills and promote and expand their trade at large requires a passion and enjoyment of what one does that goes well beyond the scope of just the workplace.