Figuring out the right project management training program—especially when time and money are both in limited supply—sometimes seems overwhelming. But project management competency training can really be broken down into 3 primary categories. Fortunately, by understanding which category you fall into, the task of getting the instruction you need becomes a little more straightforward.

Refresh existing skills

Why: Most PMP®s have at least an occasional opportunity to exercise a good majority of their project management skills. Workloads typically include complex projects—which may require a particular set of competencies—as well as garden variety projects that rely more heavily on the fundamentals. But now and then PMP®s may find a skill has grown stale through lack of use. That’s where refresher training comes in. By going back through the basics from time to time, project professionals can sharpen any competencies they haven’t used in a while.

When: Project management skills are perishable, and while refresher training doesn’t need to be frequent it should be regular. For PMP®s with a relatively diverse workload (where many skills come into play over time, even if it’s on a limited basis), refresher courses may be needed only rarely. In Project Teams that are tightly focused on a few project types, refreshers targeting rarely-used skills may make sense more frequently. And if a PMP® discovers they’ve developed some bad habits, refresher training can be added as needed to tidy up sloppy practices.

Update existing skills

Why: Project management approaches evolve over time. They may change to accommodate internal factors, such as resource levels or the Project Team’s maturity level, or external influences in the form of innovations and refined thought leadership. More than a simple refresher course, updating competencies will enable a PMP® to improve upon old methodologies or incorporate new best practices. Techniques that boost efficiency can be mastered, and project success in a changing marketplace can be more consistent.

When: This is the type of training PMP®s seeks most frequently, since most professionals working in project management already have a firm grasp of the fundamentals and are primarily interested in expanding their mastery of particular disciplines. By updating their existing skill sets, PMP®s are able to develop deeper proficiency in particular areas where they’re already good—they just want to be better.

Add new skills

Why: There are a wide variety of individual niche skills that most PMP®s simply don’t need in their day-to-day activities. It may be their organization generates a narrow range of project types or that their market sector doesn’t require particular skills. For instance, in industries without much regulatory oversight, the need for strong compliance acumen is low. Regional influences may also limit the usefulness of specific competencies. A good example is an area with little seasonal weather diversity, where developing months-long contingencies for subzero winter temperatures is unnecessary. In these scenarios, PMP®s likely haven’t had much need to develop rather specific skills. Moving to an organization in a highly regulated industry, or launching a project at a new location near the Arctic Circle, may trigger a need for new competencies.

When: Learning a new skill is best done when the PMP® will soon be putting that skill into practice. Given the long preparation and lead time some projects have, this may mean carefully staging training so that fundamentals of the new skill aren’t forgotten before they can be used. Training can still begin far in advance, but should include enough scenario-based focus sessions to cement the competencies and give the PMP® an opportunity to employ their skills almost immediately, even if it’s only in the classroom in the early stages.

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PMP® training

PMAlliance provides project management consulting and other project management services.

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