Certainly you’ve wondered that before, haven’t you? “Can that person–that so unorganized, easily distracted, doesn’t take work seriously person over there–really learn how to manage projects? I don’t think they could deliver a pizza to their mother!”
We can put someone in a class or e-learning session, but can they really learn the stuff? Can you teach project management?
Here’s my take…. I actually like PMI’s definition of project management, which includes “the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet project requirements.”
Now I grant that some may argue this isn’t the perfect definition but let’s roll with it.
Can someone gain (or be taught) knowledge? Certainly, assuming they are willing and motivated to learn. You can enroll a person in a class, but you can’t make him learn.
Can someone develop skills? Absolutely, even if they didn’t win the DNA lottery with seemingly innate tendencies toward those capabilities.
For example, I used to abhor giving presentations. I couldn’t eat or sleep the night before. Now I do it for a living, around the world. I had to learn some knowledge about how to do it. It took some years to develop skills, and I’m convinced I’ll never be fully skilled. But what cracks me up is when someone says, “You make it look easy” or “I’m just not good at that”.
Strong project managers can make it look easy, but people miss the fact that it took years of developing the knowledge and skills.
Frankly, I think we set some project managers up to fail when we assign them to projects that require them to draw on significantly more skill than they’ve banked thus far. Just because someone passes their PMP (which is arguably mostly testing knowledge), that doesn’t mean they have developed the skills to run a highly complex, high-profile project. Similarly, even if someone has in-depth experience in one domain, their knowledge and skills may not fully equip them for navigating a high risk project in another domain.
Yes, you can learn project management. Time management. How to make effective presentations. Lead a team. Play a piano. Develop an eye with a camera. Fly a plane. Juggle. Say “I’m sorry.” Hmmm, that’s a tough one….
But knowledge alone is not enough. Mentoring, teaching methods that align to learning styles, practice, learning from mistakes, persistence, and time can help a motivated learner do far more than they realize.
I’ll end with a quote I’ve seen attributed to many people: “Success comes from good judgment. Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.” 🙂