To Learn or to Execute? That Is the Question

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Categories: Talent Management

If you've ever been in a corporate training session, chances are you've noticed fellow project managers coming in late, or not at all. The excuse is often, "There is so much pressure on the project that it's very difficult to make time for training."  

In my experience, project managers who choose work over training often expect the same from team members. So when a project is running, learning all but stops. But here's a thought: Upgrading skills and project execution can -- and should -- take place in tandem.

Consider these two scenarios:

  1. Project manager focuses on execution and ignores training
  2. Project manager focuses on execution and training
In today's fast-changing world, it is necessary to continuously upgrade skills beyond what you can learn on the job to overcome future challenges. In the first scenario, the project manager consistently misses opportunities to upgrade skills. After some time, the organization finds it difficult to provide better and more challenging assignments due to lack of skills. The organization will very likely lose a frustrated project manager. In the long term, both the organization and project manager are in lose-lose situation.

In the second scenario, the project manager not only focuses on efficient execution but also prepares himself or herself and team members for current and future challenges. Due to time constraints, this is the hardest option for a project manager, but it's also the most rewarding. The key is developing a plan that combines learning and execution. 

For example, a project manager might enroll in a training session that pulls him or her away from the workplace. This forces the project manager to delegate his or her tasks to team members. In turn, that gives team members an opportunity to lead during the project manager's absence -- and experiment and learn what they will do in future. The net result is a positive cascading effect that upgrades the skills of everyone on the project.

Here is a simple plan to get you started:

  1. Evaluate your team members' roles and responsibilities -- yours included -- six months or one year down the line.
  2. Identify the skills that are required to perform those roles and responsibilities. 
  3. Map the existing skills and identify the gaps for everyone on the team. 
  4. Prepare a training plan for each member. 
  5. Build a main training schedule that addresses individual absences as team members complete their training. This schedule should plug in the skills gaps left by the absent team member.
With a firm training schedule, you and your team members can feel at ease to attend trainings. And since training sessions directly enhance skills for all roles, everyone can feed their newfound knowledge into the project.

Do you prioritize training over execution, or vice versa? How are you ensuring you advance your skills in the face of project work? 

Learn more about how organizations can recruit, train and retain talent in "Mind the Gap," a PM Network® online exclusive.

Posted by Vivek Prakash on: April 19, 2013 12:19 PM | Permalink

Comments (4)

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Anil kumar
Dear Vivek, What you told is 100% correct.Generally it happens with the Project team. As you said Training and execution should be given equal importance. Already many corporate's introduced the training calender but how far it is implemented or followed by the Project Managers is questionable?. Always there should be a second man for key roles so that the team can be developed. The sample plan what you had given is very good and companies should follow this to fill the gaps and develop their Team.

Tehani Mott
You need both execution and training. One must wander the capabilities of a PM that cannot make time for self or team training. A good PM would be able to effectively schedule the needed training and ensure project is still executed accordingly. Training provides time off the project to recharge and gain some valuable skill and knowledge that can be brought back to the project and project team.

Vivek Prakash
Hello Anil,

First apologize for replying so late. I am trying to learn to get notice of the comments when it is posted.

Thanks for your comments. As you have mentioned, training plans published by organizations are not sot effective. Basically they are generic in nature and not aligned with project needs. Training plan prepared by project manager reflects needs of the project and if organizations can align their training calendar with project manager’s plan, its impact will be significant.

Vivek Prakash
Hello Tehani,

Apologize for replying late. Hope soon I will learn to get notice of the comments.

You are absolutely right. When knowledge is gained in a needed training planned by team, it immediately converts into action.

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