Project management education and the PMO
Building project management capability goes beyond training and education, but are PMOs the answer?
Who is grooming the next generation of project managers in your organisation? Are you frustrated that project management training is failing to provide what your organisation needs? Have you ever questioned the value the PMO brings to your organisation’s project management capability?
With the current crop of grey-haired project managers preparing for retirement and the onslaught of aspiring Generation Y project managers, who is going to ensure the ongoing development of project management capability and competency within organisations?
While there are more project management courses available than ever before, and a continuing growth in accreditation, organisational capability and competency is not necessarily growing. With Gen Y’s reputation for personal drive and ambition, the trend of individual growth is likely to continue independent of organisational development plans and structures. Independent individual growth may not necessarily deliver against organisational needs for overall competency development, nor will it enable the organisation to harness the inherent value of our next generation of project managers and channel it into effective organisational capability.
Over recent years, much has been written about the role of the PMO with general agreement that the PMO should be the organisation’s custodian of methods and standards and, almost as a consequence, they should also be the project management centre for excellence. However, this raises a number of questions and challenges around the ongoing development of competency and capability.
Capability: Depending on the mandate, model and functions of a particular PMO, the capability to mentor, coach and develop project managers may not necessarily reside within the PMO. Skills and development of PMO capability are different from those of PMO staff. The PMO is not always managed or staffed by people with deep specific project management experience, nor is that required.
Capacity: Fighting to survive and continually looking to demonstrate immediate tangible value to the organisation, PMO resources are often focused on more immediate needs rather than the development of project management capability.
Mandate: Only rarely is the responsibility for the development of project managers formally recognised in the PMO charter. It appears that while development of the organisation’s adopted methodology is often referred to, development of people often appears to be forgotten or assumed.
Funding: PMO funding models rarely include funding for capability development in people, with training funds often being held and utilised at the discretion of line managers.
Positioning: In addition to the above challenges it is clear that the best equipped people to offer coaching, mentoring and development of younger project managers are the senior project managers, program managers and program directors within an organisation. However, their responsibility typically starts and ends with delivery of their program or project: they have minimal involvement with the PMO.
Although these challenges are real, it is still possible for PMOs to overcome them and exploit the opportunity to deliver ongoing value to their organisation. PMOs can and should lead the development of the next generation of project managers for their organisation by:
- Positioning themselves as the facilitators of project management development;
- Assuming ownership of, and thought leadership for, the organisation’s project management competency standards;
- Publishing clear development pathways to enable formalised career planning for aspiring project managers;
- Facilitating a structured approach to development, coaching and mentoring through the engagement of senior project managers, program managers and directors;
- Fostering a culture of continuous project management improvement and development regardless of project managers’ reporting lines; and
- Sponsoring an internal project management community, and offering opportunities for project managers to network.