Path To Red

Sabotage The Project – Lack of Basic Skills

“…so basically we need some more guidance from the Central PMO on this.”

“Okay,” I reply into the headset, “just to be certain I’ve captured this request correctly. You need some additional guidance documents -”

“Maybe training too! Can you arrange some training?”

“And some training on risk management for your team, because,” I pause for dramatic effect, “we have project managers working on multi-million pound projects that do not know the difference between a risk and an issue.”

A moment silence. “Yes, because there’s nothing on the intranet about this.”

“That is true,” I admit, “I’d guess that’s because the Risk team made an assumption we would test basic project management competencies during the recruitment stage. I guess they have an issue now too, right.” I’m chuckling but there’s only silence from the other end of the line. It’s not her fault – she inherited a team without basic project management skills. I’m not sure what happened to her predecessor – whether the team’s performance issues got him fired or whether he left of his own accord. There’s a chance he got promoted. Wouldn’t surprise me. 

Now this manager has been dropped in to fix a mess.  She probably did well in another team, well enough to earn a chance to shine by taking over a programme. Of course, no one ever really briefs you properly when you earn this “opportunity” and you don’t figure out why things are going so horrendously wrong until your own reputation is linked inextricably to the success of the team. 

“Okay, I’ll write up a brief guide to patch the immediate problem and will deliver a short class next week to your team. I’ll see then about getting something more detailed onto the intranet.” Like the PRINCE2 book, I’m tempted to add. “Good enough?”

“Yes that’s great,” she seems happy. Why wouldn’t she be? The monkey has been passed to PMO. 

“No problem, I hear about this problem a lot,” I’m not lying. I hear it everywhere at least once. I used to think it was because of the way people get moved from other business areas into project management without formal training. But, honestly, if I were getting moved in the other direction, I may think about reading some books on that topic before I show up for Day 1.

“Do me a favour though,” I add, “next time you’re hiring, check the candidate knows the difference between a risk and an issue!”

“Okayyyy, will do.” Nervous laugh. 

“Errm,” I know I shouldn’t ask, but can’t help myself, “you know the difference, right?”


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