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Project Skills Improvement Through Formal Plans

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It is very likely that you have some members on your project team who are more talented or experienced than others. As project managers, we tend to utilize their skills as much as possible because we know that more often than not, they will be able to produce excellent results and meet expectations. 

Nevertheless, this group of people still needs the opportunity to improve their skills and knowledge. This is especially true when an organization needs to stay relevant in the current economic conditions. 

According to PMI's 2012 Pulse of the Profession report, a critical success factor of projects was staffing the team with the appropriately skilled people. Organizations that had a formal process for developing project/program competency saw a 70 percent success rate on projects, versus a 64 percent overall average. 

Unfortunately, Pulse of the Profession also showed that in 2011, only 47 percent of organizations had a formal "talent management" process, down from 52 percent in 2010.

But we must have formal talent management processes to develop project managers and team members, and you must tailor it to the people involved. An effective project manager is only as good as the information that he or she has.

An "accidental project manager," for example, might not have attended formal project management training courses. But fundamental knowledge helps project managers achieve effective and high-quality deliverables. For this group, it would be good to start them off with proper training on the core skills they'll need to grow and succeed as project managers.

Team members who are familiar with project management fundamentals might need help developing in other areas, such as soft skills. Since 90 percent of a project manager's job is communication, maybe you will help them improve in that area. 

Have the team member sign up for a communication course, for example. Choose topics such as influencing skills, which is important in convincing clients and partners. Or, suggest courses on negotiating skills, which is helpful in negotiating a more achievable schedule.

Refresher courses could be helpful for everyone on the team. Look for training that zooms into specific project management areas, such as effective cost and scheduling control, risk management or quality control management. Aim for at least one training session every quarter. 

Do you have a formal talent management system? How do you develop your project managers?

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