Part of a set of successful risk management practices means shuffling resources from the places where they will contribute least to progress into the places where they will enhance progress most. Within IT, and other departments, one of the most common ways of organizing and shuffling resources is, of course, with projects. The project manager and the project team report on milestones and successes during the project, and then on final results when the project is deemed complete (or cancelled). One hopes that risks are minimized and avoided along the way.
A recent report on the top 10 trends in project management for 2013 from ESI International, though, points out a somewhat tricky and widespread situation that may be setting up both project managers and teams for failure, even before a project is begun.
As a project management training company, ESI has observed where companies are willing to put training dollars. And they may be putting them in the least productive places. Companies claim that “their project managers lack leadership skills, such as communications, negotiations, organizational change management, and customer relationship management.” However, “most companies would prefer to send their project managers to targeted training in the specifics of ‘project’ and ‘program’ leadership rather than generic leadership training …”
Says ESI International Executive Vice President J. LeRoy Ward, “Leadership skills are lacking within the project community, and until project managers learn how to properly lead teams and their projects, project execution will continue to be a problem.”
Tight training budgets will always be reserved for more specific training programs whose results can more easily be evaluated on quantitative criteria, but perhaps a more balanced strategy could allow for “soft skill” training for more senior managers. If you look at why IT projects fail, it is inevitably a combination of governance, communication, management of expectations, change management, team management, and time and budget management.
So the question may be how best to develop leadership skills among project managers that will put them in a position to succeed, and to help their teams succeed. Rather than viewing leadership and soft skill training as unnecessary for the short-term lifecycle of the current mission-critical project, successful companies take a longer view and approach it as a necessary investment in the company’s future.
Among the resources on IT Business Edge addressing leadership development, one of the best places to start is with this piece on research by Dr. Ray Benedetto and Tom Walter, authors of “It’s My Company Too! How Entangled Companies Move Beyond Employee Engagement for Remarkable Results.” In clear language, the authors describe how an organization can put in place direction and communication that make it easier for employees to understand and take advantage of leadership development opportunities on a daily basis – even without a training budget.