Posted by: projectsinpractice | September 20, 2012

The Experienced Project Manager Passes It On

Teresa here. Suppose you are a professional project manager enjoying the full bloom of your seasoned career. You’ve been around the block a few times and achieved a few successes. You have even experienced a project disaster or two, and have survived to tell about it.

It’s essential to the growth of project management in your organization and your industry, and even the growth of project management as a profession, that you do tell about the successes, the disasters, and the valuable wisdom you’ve gained.

Here are some strategies for taking on that responsibility and sharing what you’ve learned.

  • Offer yourself as a mentor to junior project managers, or others who are eager to learn project management skills. This can be a professional development goal you set for yourself which can fit nicely with the goals these others have set for themselves.
  • Volunteer to work with interns or recently hired new graduates who have project management aspirations. Assign one or two as assistant project managers responsible for smaller branches of a larger project you’re managing. Try them out on small responsibilities and steadily increase their authority as they prove their mettle.
  • If your organization has a project management office (PMO), involve yourself in its built-in process for training and mentoring new project managers. In a PMO, you have the opportunity to work with other project managers and set up processes for standardized project management. The PMO is a great way to disseminate your project management expertise in your organization. If the PMO or the training function within the PMO does not yet exist, consider taking this on as your responsibility, if not your privilege. Who knows? The PMO or its expansion could become your legacy at this organization.

By training and mentoring the next generation of project managers in your organization, you can pass on the tried-and-true processes and methods you favor. People tend to remember the first time they’ve done something new, and they tend to regard the standards they learned first as the best, even as they learn new ones. Through training and mentoring, you can have more influence on how your organization implements its projects. It’s project management in your image. Anyone with any size of ego can appreciate that.

Speaking of ego, by sharing your knowledge, you’re coming as close as possible to cloning yourself. Think of mentoring as your insidious plot for easing your workload and helping your projects achieve greater success.

What’s really happening though, is that as you mentor new project managers to do things the way you do, you are strengthening your organization by building talent and transferring knowledge to the next generation of project managers.

Here are some considerations as you mentor those green project managers:

  • Don’t spew all your knowledge all at once; it won’t be as readily absorbed. Instead, consider the Socratic approach. When your charges come to you with a question, ask them for possible answers, and explore them together.
  • When you and your trainees are investigating an approach to a project problem, lead them to consider alternative outcomes, challenges, risks, and opportunities. Also guide them into understanding the tradeoffs, as in the project triangle, or the advantages and disadvantages of using different qualities of resources. Have them reflect on which essential questions haven’t been asked yet. Stimulate their thinking and broaden their view. You’re training the mind of a project manager.
  • Allow your trainees to make mistakes, as long as the mistakes are not catastrophic. When they take wrong turns or do things the long way, they’ll work hard to find their way back to the right course. Help them think about what went wrong, or what could have been more efficient. Going through this experience will help them remember the lesson for the next time they encounter this situation, and they become a seasoned professional more quickly.

Beyond mentoring and training, speaking and writing are some of the best ways to transfer your knowledge to the field at large and reach an bigger audience. Consider these ways to share your project management knowledge:

  • Speak on project management topics at professional organization chapter meetings, regional meetings, and national conferences. These speaking engagements can be round tables, panel discussions, or case studies. They can be full presentations or training seminars.
  • Offer to teach classes on project management topics at your local community college, technical college, or university.
  • Blog on project management topics related to your industry or other project management specialty. Engage in conversations with those who comment on your posts.
  • Publish articles for trade magazines in your industry or for project management journals.

By sharing your project management knowledge in these ways, you are cultivating the professionalism of project management in your organization and your industry while enhancing your own reputation. By the time you’re ready to move on to another career or retire, you’ll be pleased that not only did you manage a series of interesting and important projects, but you also strengthened the organizations you worked for and passed your knowledge on to other project managers following in your footsteps.

This is the second in a three-part series about the transfer of project management knowledge amassed over the span of a career. The first article was “The Fledgling Project Manager Takes on the World,” which explores how beginning project managers can make the most of their novice status to learn from the experts around them, and make themselves useful rather than annoying. My next article will discuss how senior project management experts can continue to share their expanse of knowledge even after retirement.

Talk back:  What risks and what advantages do you perceive in training or mentoring newer project managers?

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Responses

  1. An excellent post from a woman who practices what she preaches!


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