Equipping staff with the correct skill sets

Project_Management_(phases)Since I seem to be in the mood of drawing on my previous experience with the Air Force, I thought I will like to highlight another challenge that Project Managers in my region seem to be facing, and it is something that PMs need to be aware of as it can lead to major problems in project execution.

In the Armed Forces in general, there is an established structure and process where everyone starts from ground zero as a recruit and works his way up the system by picking up skills sets and being developed according to his aptitude (or at least that is how it is supposed to work!) If you are going to be assigned to a commando unit, they will make sure you go to commando school to learn the skills of the trade. Likewise, if you are identified to join the Air Force, you will be assigned to Air Force School to make sure you are grounded in the philosophies of the Air Force and have the necessary knowledge and expertise before being shipped out to the units.

Shockingly, in the corporate world where there are always concerns about expenditure and focus on budget cuts, staff may be deliberately put into situations that they are ill-prepared for. There is a general reluctance to spend on training staff due to the costs (both monetary and time) and the possibility that the staff may leave the organization before applying his skills fruitfully. Too often than I dare to count, I have seen people being assigned to projects that they may be ill-prepared for, but training is given lip service in the guise of “on-the-job training” where the poor soul is expected to be given a baptism of fire and come out as wisened and more competent — if he is not already burnt to a crisp.

Where possible, training should always be part of a project plan especially if the skill set may be lacking in the current resources. If it is unimaginable that an Air Force storeman can be deployed into a theatre of war as an Airborne Ranger since it may jeopardise the mission, it is also unimaginable that we should allow untrained personnel to be force-fit into the project to perform tasks that they are ill equipped for. Not training the staff to take on the project challenges is a risk. Period.

As I have seen in a somewhat humourous article before, there was this interesting conversation between a HR Manager and a Project Manager.

HR Manager: No, you cannot send this person for this expensive training course! What if he goes for the course and leaves us next month?

Project Manager: It will be even worse if he doesn’t go for the course and learns the necessary skills.¬†And he stays with us for years…

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