The Seven Deadly Sins of Project Management: Insufficient Training
Organisations can turn strategy into action by using project management. Despite the increased investment in project management capabilities, many projects fail to achieve their goals.
This fifth article in a series examines how a lack of project management training can lead to project failures. It was first formulated by Jeffrey Pinto in his paper “Lies, damned, and Project Plans”: Recurring human mistakes that can ruin project planning.
Skarbek often jumps into situations where key client projects are in crisis. Is it malpractice in project management or environmental factors that led to failure such as lack of commitment, sponsorship, engagement, and commitment?
Pinto’s seven deadly Sins offer some insight for project managers who are quick to point out that their projects were well managed, but that external factors conspired against them. These insights can make it question whether the profession really got it right.
Pinto identifies the fifth sin as the lack of project management training. Pinto illustrates the knowledge that underpins all of this in a very holistic way, with four categories:
Cultural knowledge is about how an organization thinks about implementation activities and views the world
Knowledge of the industry in which you work
Information about the institution’s structure, governance and rules, as well as decision-making
Process knowledge about how to deliver key projects
Our experience shows that only the most traditional project-based organizations have long-lasting internal project management training programs, such as engineering and aerospace firms.
Most clients in FMCG and life science are familiar with project management.
Sometimes training can be outsourced on demand to providers such as PMP or Prince 2, which often falls between two stools.
For those who are regular members of project teams or lead functional sub-teams within a larger project, the information-based insights are not concise enough.
Project managers are not sufficiently context-specific to be effective in their roles
In both cases, the outsourced training is focused on individual skills and leaves little opportunity to imprint the organisation’s DNA of ‘how to execute key initiatives here’. This will require Pinto to cover all four knowledge areas. Particularly, the hard skills methodology component that is usually taught in project training is essential, but not sufficient. Non-tailored training will never be able to adapt the soft skills elements to the specific organisation’s context in such a way as to get traction.
We often see a very uneven distribution in training. It could be that both the IT department or the clinical studies group have project manager training. However, the methodologies can be very different (e.g., agile and waterfall).
Cross-functional collaboration across multiple departments is required for any strategic initiative. The mix of approaches across project teams, as well as the training gaps for some members, will not be a strong recipe to ensure success.
Another source of stress for consultants is the current high levels in restructuring in organisations. This tends to push out people at the mature end their career progressions. They have the informal experience that makes them successful as sponsors or key players in project team teams.
Without any internal training programmes and knowledge capture capabilities, the key planks of these four knowledge areas are lost.