~ By C J Williams
In the fast-developing economies, such as in India and China, where massive national and regional infrastructure projects are being undertaken, and businesses in every sector are growing at a phenomenal rate, traditional management approaches have been largely abandoned, and project management, and quality management, approaches have been universally adopted. In Africa and in the Middle East, this has long been the case. In most parts of the world, Project Management specialists are now respected and valued in the same way as professionals in medicine, finance, engineering, and education. For specialists (such as in Finance or HR), operational managers, and operational staff, it is now almost inevitable that they will be occasionally involved as a team member of a major project, and regularly selected to be a team member of smaller, overlapping projects. For project team members, there are many ways in which they can learn about how projects operate, and how they can contribute as team members.
The first is a simple step. That is, to read a book on Project Management. There are many, ranging from the very basic "Project Management in 20 Minutes" format, to the detailed textbooks by well established writers. This can be a useful introduction to the subject, but the "20 Minutes" format is simply too basic, and regarding the detailed textbooks, all the evidence says that most are abandoned after a couple of chapters.
The second is to take a Professional Development Short Course by distance learning, where study materials are sent to you, requiring you to read, learn, complete small exercises, and finally complete an assignment to demonstrate that you have learnt effectively. Look for titles such as "Managing Workplace Projects" or "Project Management Tools and Techniques." Most courses of this type will lead to a Certificate of Achievement. To ensure that it is a valid, credible, course, make sure that the provider also offers nationally or internationally recognised qualifications in the other sections of its courses portfolio. Don't underestimate this type of course. Most employers will be impressed that you have taken the time and made the effort to learn about projects in order to contribute to them more effectively, and of course, your improved performance will be noticed.
The third option, and for most people who will be regularly involved as a team member of operational, workplace projects, the best option is to study for a Professional Qualification in project management at Certificate level (Level 4 Diploma in the UK). This option is also the appropriate one for specialists who will be involved in projects in their specialist role, but are not likely to lead the project, nor make project management their specialism.
Again, to ensure that the provider is credible, look for evidence that they are nationally accredited, that they have other qualifications, in other disciplines, also nationally accredited, and that they are offering content that is in line with international best practice. A high quality Certificate or Diploma at this level will offer the following: Course materials based on international best practices, A suggested Timetable of study, A Personal Tutor providing email, postal, and telephone support, Mini-activities built into the study materials, Module Assignments that can be related to the student's workplace, Assignments assessed and feedback given by the Tutor, External Verification (auditing) of the provider, by the Accreditation Body, National and-or International accreditation of the qualification award.
The content of a high quality course would typically include: Overview of Project Management: Definitions; Project Management Best Practice; Why Project Management is Essential; The Demand for Project Management; Qualities and Competencies of a Project Team. Project Structures: Defining and Categorising Projects; The Life Cycle of a Project; Overview of PRINCE Methodology; The Lean and Mean Approach. Feasibility and Risk: Testing and Feasibility of the Project; Assessing and Managing Risk. Managing People: Internal and External Roles and Responsibilities; Managing Relationships; Managing the Project Team Members; Managing Creativity and Conflict. Managing Closure: Planning and Activating the Closure Point; A Project Closure Template. As can be seen, much of the content looks at the Project from the point of view of the manager or team leader. This is essential, as all team members should be aware of how a project should be effectively managed to ensure that the project is successful.
Another reason for this is that completion of a course at this level can be the first stage in a career development plan, a stepping stone on to a higher level qualification.
CJ Williams is a tutor and management consultant currently working with Brighton School of Business and Management in the UK, specialising in Business and Management courses taught via distance learning. The writer, CJ Williams, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Brighton School of Business and Management