How to keep up with changes through Best Practice
A progress report published this year by The National Audit Office, found that the Government Major Project Portfolio totals 149 projects worth £511bn.
The expected spend of £25bn in 2016. Yet in the very same report the NAO showed concerns with the government’s “poor track record in delivering major projects”, as it has found that a third of the government’s major projects are rated red or amber-red.
Project complexity, budget overspends or missed goals are not restricted to government ventures. The very same challenges are encountered by the private sector too, but perhaps with less scrutiny and less media interest. So what can organisations do this year that can help address those risks and determine better outcomes?
The global workplace is changing and now requires a greater need for a common ‘Best Practice’ language for project management. As a result, according to AXELOS, over one million people have taken PRINCE2® exams, although it is debatable how many organisations are getting the full benefit of the training.
There is a clear driver to have a common understanding of Best Practice and this is not just about ticking boxes and passing exams. The training needs to stick so that project managers retain the knowledge and internalise Best Practice in order to run subsequent projects more successfully.
Learning and development initiatives for project management are also increasingly focused on improving communications in order to define lessons learned and share that learning across project groups.
Technology has evolved to deliver Best Practice training more effectively by enabling people to learn collaboratively and providing platforms for them to work and learn together. This type of technology platform does not have to be a traditional learning management system — it could be corporate collaboration systems or a private group on Facebook or LinkedIn, or mobile Apps.
The challenge is to use all technology effectively to share learning consistently with project managers wherever they are in the world.
Baseline competency assessments
Establishing a baseline of project management skills via competency assessments is critical. Ideally this should not be a one-size-fits-all assessment but should be tailored to reveal the competence level of the project manager measured against the needs of each individual organisation. It is important to have a clear brief about what learning and the associated technology is intended to fix.
An initially simple request for training from the HR or project management department may sometimes result in a requirement for a high level assessment of the entire organisation. Questions about why the organisation needs project management training or why it needs to develop PRINCE2® skills can uncover major issues with the way projects are run. A wider analysis of the issues can result in the need to assess and develop the competencies of individuals, but it can also uncover problems at a higher level.
The assessment process needs to be much more than a box ticking exercise and there is no substitute for an objective third party assessment of individual project managers to see if an impartial assessment of project management competency levels reflects the organisation’s view.
Only then can focused learning content be designed and delivered to meet the needs of that organisation’s project and programme managers — they may be very strong on business processes but poor on quality for example. In this way training may be designed that will result in measurable improvement across the organisation.
Points to consider
There are a wide variety of Best Practice approaches such as PRINCE2®, PRINCE2 AgileTM, ITIL®, MoR® and MoP®, but where should organisations start with delivering training on them? Here are some top tips:
- Identify project management skills gaps during the on-boarding process and audit those in existing project management roles.
- Consider all technologies that may be used to support training initiatives. There are effective and cost effective tools to support a more mobile workforce.
- Utilise a blended approach for maximum effectiveness – this may include a mix of classroom, 1-to-1 coaching support, e-Learning and Apps. Do not be frightened of new technology and experiment with small groups.
- Allow time for training and give it value within your organisation. E-enable training so that employees can fit it into their workflow and even access it during travel.
- Introduce a degree of competition and motivate through peer pressure. Provide performance dashboards so that colleagues can observe their peers’ progress through training and see that they have passed exams.
About the author
Russell Kenrick is the Managing Director at ILX.