Project teams—even highly skilled and typically successful ones—encounter failure now and then. The causes and impacts can vary widely, from a project that’s completed far past the allotted timeframe or outside the approved budget to a new hire that doesn’t turn out to be a good fit. But failure is one of the best learning tools around, if you know how to leverage it. Project Teams can give their project management training programs a big boost if they examine their failures objectively and use that information to root out areas where their teams may benefit from additional education.
In many cases, Project Teams focus solely on training sessions that specifically address the hard skills directly related to the core competencies of project management. However, because so much of the PM discipline relies on the mastery and effective use of soft skills, such as communication and leadership, those areas shouldn’t be ignored. As you look for ways to boost your team’s effectiveness, the following project management training tips may help turn past failures into future success.
Hiring and recruiting failures can be nearly as devastating to the team as project failures, so use every opportunity to correct them. Consider providing hiring managers with periodic refresher courses that cover interviewing and communication skills. These training modules may also be helpful for others who participate in the hiring process but don’t hold supervisory roles. A skilled instructor can work with team members to ensure they are not only able to identify the expertise and traits the right candidate should possess, but also that they have the skills to evaluate potential new hires and determine if they have those desired qualities.
Recognize, too, that some hiring failures may actually have their roots further downstream, in lackluster leadership skills. If new team members start strong but then seem to fade or lose connection with the rest of the group, it may be a sign someone at the management level isn’t making the candidate’s transition as smooth or as productive as it could be. Targeted management training, whether it’s a base-level course or a module for those with more experience under their belt, is often helpful in resolving turnover and other ongoing issues.
Project failures can have many different triggers, but a few general guidelines may be helpful in determining where training might improve results in the future. Failures that revolve around uncontrolled scope creep, for instance, are often corrected by training that teaches advanced planning and control methodologies. In addition, depending on where the process broke down prior to the failure, education that focuses on negotiation and communication skills may also prove useful. Because project management professionals regularly work with high-level stakeholders able to approve increases in scope, the ability to effectively discuss project impacts and negotiate expectations could help to better control creep.
Project Teams that have experienced budget overruns and contingency planning failures may benefit from updated cost management training as well as courses that delve into the concepts underpinning efficient resource management. An experienced instructor will be able to work through and improve upon any outmoded methodologies that may be in use within the team. They will also have the real-world expertise necessary to correct potential misconceptions about where and how cost and resource controls fit into the project management process. For best results, consider a training program that includes breakout sessions featuring problem scenarios the project team must evaluate and resolve. The more realistically these sessions mirror the particular issues each Project Team faces, the more effective the training will be and the more likely the team is to succeed when faced with similar problems in the future.