Stop training our project managers to be process junkies!

Updated: May 10, 2020

In the past we've been guilty of this, we’ve probably sent dozens of individuals to become process junkies, on either PRINCE2, MSP or similar certification courses, only to reinforce a way of working that slows progress down.

We still see PRINCE2, MSP and similar certifications quoted  in job descriptions as being evidence that someone is a capable project or programme manager. How many of the people that added these to job descriptions know how poor the educational experience of these courses are?  They are a week long, with the first half of the week focused on learning a book in a parrot fashion manner, with the second half of the week learning exam question techniques. Essentially, the learning is what do you need to regurgitate the books in order to pass an exam, rather than the practical use of the methodology. Sadly, these one week courses have spawned a set of professionals that are over zealous on process, and who have stopped thinking about what they're really trying to do, in order to follow a methodology. Ten years ago, this might have been us, we knew no better, because someone sent us on one of these courses and expected us to be project managers when we came back. We’ve spent years unpicking the focus on process and re-orientated it towards people, especially as, in change, it is all about people.

Maylor and co. get this issue (slide 21), their research found that the vast majority of project/programme management training was focused on process and structure, and that in the real world the vast majority of issues and complexity are sociopolitical. This research was across a range of industries, so it’s not a problem specific to any specific industry.  If only Harvey had undertaken this research years ago, we might have been much less confused and delivered more.

It’s not that these methodologies are bad, (or maybe they are!) it’s just that they should only be a small part of the training of project and programme managers. Professionals working in this area are getting a reputation for being process junkies and it’s being reinforced through these courses and the recruitment process. We have collectively setup a culture where anyone wanting to be a project/programme manager can only be selected if they understand a methodology that only tackles a small element of what’s required to do the job.

Join us in breaking the cycle. Stop sending people on these courses and expecting them to be professionals when they return. Stop expecting these to be evidence someone is a project/programme manager and use something more rounded, such as the many diploma courses or APMP (association for project management Practitioner) qualification or best of all aim to have a your current skills accredited by the CMI (Change Management Institute).

We're proud to be programme and change professionals as collectively we make a huge difference, however it takes many years to become an effective project manager and only a week to become a process junky and slow everything down.

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