Project Management and the Value of People

In my last blog I talked about the environment of chaos that many of our projects live within. Today I would like to talk about training and how it impacts your project management community.

Before we can talk about the benefits of training, we need to discuss the impact your organization has on training. Yes, that’s what I said, “the impact your organization has on training.” The typical reaction is that this is impossible, irrelevant and unimportant. I would argue the exact opposite. Your organizations perspective on training and learning is of utmost importance. Allow me to explain.

First of all, the benefits of training are constrained by the perceived values it provides as viewed by the organization and the management therein. Think about how you and your organization perceive training and what benefits you attach to it.

Typically, every organization has its own culture that is unique. This culture consists of values, beliefs and attitudes. Amongst those values, beliefs and attitudes are pre-set notions about the value of training and learning within an organization. Let’s call this your “training value proposition.”

There are four popular “training value propositions:”
1. Training as policing
            a. This involves using training to measure and document development and to justify career movement up, down and in and out of the organization
            b. Legal documents are an ongoing output from the internal performance management program (these documents are used to justify the existence or removal of staff)
2. Training as power
            a. From this perspective, knowledge is seen as power that should be in the hands of a select few
            b. These organizations tend to be structured with top-down authority and clearly defined chains of command (specific knowledge is limited to positions of power)
3. Training as currency
            a. “For profit” organizations tend to see training and learning as a vehicle to ultimate profit
            b. Skills, tools and techniques, certifications and process maturity become a measure for profit
4. Training as personal development
            a. Many organizations that work in “high knowledge” sectors have moved beyond the “training as currency” value proposition due to the complexity of the work being performed
             b. In highly complex environments, staff are required to be creative, risk taking, independent thinking individuals that can make things happen. This tends to require a great deal of individual freedom, autonomy and ongoing training and development

The question is, “which value proposition does your organization embody and how does it impact the ultimate success of your organization?
Whether you realize it or not, these values, beliefs and attitudes have a direct impact on the culture of your organization. This impact’s the way staff view the organization and their role within the organization.

If an organization creates a culture of blame, shame, guilt and fear, this tends to result in productivity problems, disciplinary issues, lack of risk taking and lack of creativity and ingenuity. Ultimately it may lead to high turnover, loss of morale, loss of intellectual capital and the loss of ability to achieve objectives.

An alternative culture would be one of positive reinforcement, a supportive emotional environment that promotes learning, healthy risk taking, autonomy, independent thinking, creativity and ingenuity.

The value proposition that supports this sees training and learning as a component of personal development that helps build people and a strong organization. This type of organization is flexible, quick to change when needed, supportive, mature and willing to take risks to achieve goals and objectives.

Where is your organization on the value proposition spectrum?

Policing? Power? Currency? Personal Development?

I encourage you to support a culture that builds people, rather than focusing primarily on policing, rules, blame, cutting costs and maintaining political power within the silos of your organization.

When you give people freedom, you’ll be amazed what they give back in return.

In my next blog I’ll give examples of the potential benefits of applying this new “training value proposition.”

Larry Barnard

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