The ‘How’ in Project Management

Two basic need drivers:

  1. Hope
  2. Fear

Products and services aim at one of the two. Most self-help, personal development books carry a promise, they give hope. Rarely does the reader find in them the tools needed to put the content into practice. The same goes for most trainings, especially seminars and conferences.

Is experience the only teacher?

We sometimes complain that project management does not give the expected results, but do we provide enough guidance on the “how to do it” part? Please note, I’m not talking about “best practices” of what should be done (as in PMBOK), but how to apply these best practices in a set of circumstances.

How were the top 2% of Project Managers described in Andy Crowe’s book able to differentiate from the rest? Experience? As in — they managed to evade failures big enough, they bounced back faster than the rest, they managed to build up their own how?

Did they have someone to help them?

Call for mentors

Mentors are one option. I don’t think they address the root cause of the problem described above (i.e. how to make a field with lots of general knowledge, “best practices” and soft elements more applicable?). But they shift the focus towards application / practice and guidance.

Let me end with an example. Toastmasters International focuses on improving a general competence — public speaking [and leadership]. Apart from providing a certification path, developing a community, tools to focus on self-practice, it encourages its members to learn in a step-by-step way, and embeds the role of mentor into its educational program.