Improve Knowledge

March 13, 2010

Improve Knowledge (for self as well as the profession)

Improvement of organizational process assets are important an that was discussed as part of one of the articles in this set of articles about a project manager’s professional responsibilities. An important aspect of this knowledge management is that a project manager is responsible for improving his own knowledge base. A project manager professional is also responsible for pushing the profession’s body of knowledge. This would mean publishing, discussing and generally disseminating project management knowledge to other professionals. Improving his own knowledge may look a selfish motive at first look, but only by improving this knowledge a person becomes more capable. That should lead to better project management.

Improving knowledge, pushing the body of knowledge boundary

The PMBOK specifies a whole range of processes in process groups for executing the project using organizational process assets and then generate updates back into the Same assets. Each such use and the updates generated through such processes are opportunities for learning for the incumbent project manager. While most specialized tasks are carried out by personnel with the right skills, a project manager has opportunities through interactions with the person and while reviewing the results, to learn how to get best results out of tools this person may have been using. Most processes use special sets of tool and techniques and opportunities to learn are numerous. The project manager is in a unique position to derive knowledge from the use of such tools & techniques, as he has a global view of all the activities. He is thus able to discern how changes at places affect something else.

Like any other quality process you need a means of continuous improvement to arrive at an optimum process. The continuous improvement part of this knowledge acquisition process is frequent review in your mind of what is unknown and needs to be learnt. The ability to find the professional weaknesses is an essential tool for this process. Once you know these weak spots it would be easy to look out for opportunities to learn.

Disseminating knowledge and expanding the knowledge base activities can start at home ground first. Organizations where the projects are long-term or there are many similar projects undertaken can do with building up/grooming of additional managers. Current project manager can easily start delegating work to such lieutenants as they become knowledgeable. The project manager thus needs to do mentoring actively and ensure that the understudy gets every opportunity of learning various aspects of project management. Some this can be done formally by following a specific program or somewhat informally by taking the understudy along to any discussions, reviews, in fact to any learning situation.

The project management institute considers this pushing of the knowledge boundary very important. Thus it encourages practicing project managers to teach, publish significant findings. The practicing manager can write in trade journals and spread the lessons learnt to other professionals. In today’s scenario blogs, participating in appropriate forums would be couple of nice ways to spread the knowledge. Much of the learning from executing a project may be specific to the technology or the knowledge area, but one is always able to distill the learning down to concepts that apply to projects across the board. Project performance reviews are the biggest opportunities to learn firsthand. Not only the performance data gates discussed, one goes into the analysis of any deviation, effects of supporting parallel activities are gone into in detail. These tend to reveal hidden relationships, some cause & effect situations and how procurement and other supporting activities may influence the project outcomes.

Phase closure and the project closure and particularly the post mortem sessions are very important in terms of learning that relate to the complete project life cycle. One major part of conscious efforts in these post-mortem sessions should be to get into the cause-effect analysis to derive the maximum knowledge possible. One can then pass on the relevant learning trough the trade press, trade meets, symposiums and the whole range of such activities designed to spread knowledge.

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