Accelerating Change Programmes

Seeking the approaches that enable faster change in the complex world of health and social care

Stop training our Project Managers to be process junkies

In the past I have been guilty of this, I’ve probably sent dozens of individuals to become process junkies, on either PRINCE2 or MSP courses, only to reinforce a way of working that slows progress down.

I still see PRINCE2 and MSP quoted  in job descriptions as being evidence that someone is a capable project or programme manager. I wonder how many of the people that did this to job descriptions know how poor the educational experience of these courses are?  They are a week long, with the first half of the week focused on learning a book in a parrot fashion manner, with the second half of the week learning exam question techniques. Essentially, the learning is what do you need to regurgitate in order to pass an exam, rather than the practical use of the methodology. Sadly, in Health and Social care, these one week courses have spawned a set of professionals that are over zealous on process, and have stopped thinking about what their really trying to do, in order to follow a methodology. Ten years ago, this was me, I knew no better, because someone sent me on a PRINCE2 course and expected me to be a project manager when I came back. I’ve spent many years unpicking the focus on process and reorientated it towards people, especially as, in Health and Social care, it is all about people.

Maylor and co. get this issue (slide 21), their research found that the vast majority of project/programme management training was focused on process and structure, and that in the real world, the vast majority of issues and complexity are sociopolitical. And this research was across a range of industries, so it’s not a problem specific to health and social care.  If only Harvey had undertaken this research 10 years ago, I might have been much less confused and delivered more.

It’s not that these methodologies are bad, (or maybe they are!) it’s just that they should only be a small part of the training of project and programme managers. Professionals working in this area are getting a reputation for being process junkies and it’s being reinforced through these courses and the recruitment process. We have collectively setup a culture where anyone wanting to be a project/programme manager can only be selected if they understand a methodology that only tackles a small element of what’s required to do the job.

Join me in breaking the cycle. Stop sending people on these courses and expecting them to be professionals when they return. Stop expecting these to be evidence someone is a project/programme manager and use something more rounded, such as the many diploma courses or APMP (association for project management Practitioner) qualification.

I’m proud to be one of these project/programme professionals, as we make a huge difference, however it takes many years to become an effective project manager and only a week to become a process junky and slow everything down.

4 comments on “Stop training our Project Managers to be process junkies

  1. Vikash Kumar

    Thanks for sharing your views. This research is helpful for others.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. tracey

    Do you have any examples of good programme management training courses that aren’t MSP? I’m struggling to find any (in London/UK) and am keen not to just learn a process, but practical help in doing my job. Thanks!


  3. traceygooch

    Do you have any examples of programme management training in the UK that isn’t MSP? I’m struggling to find anything and am currently running a programme and would really love some non-process based training.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Steve Sewell

    This is a really good question and raises some important issues, which I haven’t addressed in the blog. I think that by searching for programme management courses, this will inevitably lead down a route dominated by process orientated courses. In the less process world, then the equivalent is probably senior change management type courses that cover people skills (e.g facilitation, organisation politics, body language, NLP) alongside a range of change approaches e.g. Agile, Kaizen, Soft Systems, Scrum. These kind of courses tend to be 1+ year courses at University, although you could blend a range of short courses on individual aspects of people skills and change approaches. I’ve not come across a MSP length course that combines these (perhaps a market opportunity!).


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