Training is Not a Panacea

Posted on: July 25th, 2016 by Jim

True story: I visited a potential client who had a problem with his project managers. Let’s call it XYZ Corp. Basically, he works in a very tough industry and when schedule dates were not being met, the customer would chastise the PM’s (since XYZ had made the promise.) According to him,”chastise” is a polite word. Screaming is more like it.

I asked this gentleman, let’s call him “Fred,” how I could help. He said he wanted his PM’s better trained in project management best practices. After further discussion, he revealed that he had just had them trained three months prior.

I then asked him why he thought this training would solve the problem when the previous one didn’t. I further asked him why dates were being missed to begin with. He admitted that sales was setting dates with no input from project management. And so when those dates inevitably slipped, all hell broke loose.

I informed him that I didn’t think training his PM’s would solve what seemed to be a cultural issue. And further, that getting the head of sales in a room with him, and perhaps a PM or two might be a valuable (if painful) experience.

But instead of agreeing to anything like that, he then defended sales by saying “Well, they have to make revenue.” So, since he was head of professional services, he was trying to have it both ways – protect the PM’s from the customer, but also make sure that sales people can sell unfettered. I considered this a no-win situation from which I extricated myself promptly.

The point is that project management training – necessary and valuable as it is – would not have solved that particular problem. And so I see this a lot in organizations where something is broken and they try to fix it by training people. But when you train people here’s what you get:

People who are trained.

Unless the problem is that your team are lacking in some fundamental skill, you haven’t really gotten down to the root cause of the problem. And if you train them, you must allow them to do the things they were trained on and not just treat it as something to be checked off.

So before you play the, “Hey I know. Let’s send them for training” card, think about what the real problem is. Otherwise not only have you not solved the problem. You – and I if I am the instructor – are just breeding cynicism.

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