Project management teams often oversee projects that are similar in nature. They may deal primarily with the needs of just one industry, they might focus on the same few groups of end users, or they likely require the same subsets of competencies—construction management, IT development, etc—from one project to the next. This is good for enabling PMP®s to become highly skilled in a particular area, but it provides few chances to expand a team’s horizons and inspire innovation.
As a PMP®, if you really want to move your training to the next level, try getting out of your project comfort zone. By pursuing educational opportunities focused on issues you don’t normally encounter, you’ll gain insight into new ways to solve problems and address challenges. Use these tips to broaden what and how you learn, and gather important knowledge you may not discover on the traditional project management training path.
Look outside your industry. If you’re putting most of your efforts into healthcare or construction projects, for example, consider learning more about the projects that occupy PMP®s in other industries. The possibilities are nearly endless, from the restaurant sector to plastics manufacturing. Many of the methodologies used by project management teams span across most industries, of course, but how the PMP®s working in a sector very different from your own address specific challenges can often give you some new ideas for tackling the obstacles in your own path.
Observe partner industries. How projects are handled in related fields can be surprisingly illuminating, offering insights into similar problems from very different perspectives. For instance, PMP®s working in the software development field may look at their challenges in different ways after seeing how their partners on the hardware side of the equation tackle issues. This type of expanded thinking can also be valuable in shedding light on why some problems occur repeatedly, why a particular project didn’t reach the level of success the team expected it to, and where opportunities may exist to bring PMP®s from both industries together to overcome shared challenges.
Study projects of every size and scale. PMOs that focus on large or very complex projects can learn new lessons from their counterparts who specialize in smaller projects. The same goes for PMP®s that spend most of their time on small projects. The approaches to resource management, stakeholder engagement, even communication strategy often look very different when going from one end of the project size spectrum to the other. PMP®s who are able to look past the obvious dissimilarities are likely to uncover a trove of useful tips for rounding out their own skills in these areas.
How can you go about gaining this kind of less traditional insight?
Mentoring. Developing a relationship with a PMP® experienced in the area you want to study is always a good strategy. They can help you understand the nuances of where their projects are similar to yours, and together you can explore the potential for applying their problem-solving approaches to challenges you’re facing. If you’re able to find a colleague interested in the experiences you’ve had, the knowledge transfer can go both ways.
Conferences. Attending an industry-focused conference is another option. You’ll be able to network with other project professionals while also seeing how vendors active in the field might fit into your team’s support framework.
Industry certification programs. Many training courses allow students to audit specific classes. If you’re seeking targeted insight into a discipline or topic, this may be a good solution. Time and entry fee investments are often reasonable and the networking opportunities with students and instructors are an added bonus.