What We Still Get Wrong About PM Education...And How to Get It Right

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at markmullaly.com.

In the sixty-or-so years since the advent of project management, there’s been a lot done in terms of education, training and skill development in the field. You would think we’d be getting it right by now. Or that we’d at least be getting it more right than wrong. In my considered view, we’d be mistaken if we thought that were true.

Part of the challenge in all of this is how we think about the problem. I very deliberately used “education, training and skills development” rather than just one term in the last paragraph. Each of those concepts is different. And while I normally don’t get pedantic enough to ruminate over dictionary definitions in these columns, in this case I’m going to make an exception. There is nuance here that’s incredibly important, so bear with me. I promise not to make a habit of it.

Let’s tackle training first. Merriam-Webster (my usual weapon of choice in such debates) tells us that to train means teaching to “make fit, qualified or proficient.” It “forms by instruction, discipline or drill” so as to “make prepared for a test of skill.” That’s a bit of a different concept than educating. Here, we get a definition that acknowledges training (“to train by formal instruction…”) but very quickly qualifies this with an addition of &…

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