How Do You Effectively Teach Project Management?

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with school and college-based project management education. On the one hand, I am encouraged that it is becoming a much more common component in curriculums, being included in many diverse programs. On the other hand, I feel as though it is doing a disservice to both students and their future employers because it cannot possibly prepare people to be project managers in an organizational environment. That’s not a criticism of the education programs, it’s just the reality of what project management is.

You can teach someone the basic competencies involved in managing a project—the theories behind different project approaches, the mechanics of how to plan, the different ways of handling risks, the estimation techniques, etc. Those are no different when taught in a school setting than when taught in a corporate training class.

The problem is that those competencies are not enough. It’s like teaching someone how to play the piano or the guitar without letting them get their hands on the instrument. Understanding what has to happen is one thing; actually doing it is very different.

Project management is a discipline that must be practiced if it is to be mastered, and in education environments the opportunities to do that are very limited. There are exercises involving different scenarios of course, and I know a…

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