Project Management: Easy to Teach, Hard to Do

If you're a parent, you know that the best way to teach your kids is to set a good example. This idea of teaching versus doing extends into just about every area of life, including project management.

I've been even told, "Don't talk the talk. Walk the walk." I've even been told, "Walk the talk!" Of course, the idea is to stop talking and get doing!

walk the talk

This challenge effects us all. And it's hard to admit. Even master success coach Jim Rohn said, "Listen to what I say, just don't watch me to closely. This stuff is much easier to teach than to do." I admire Jim highly among the legions of success coaches out there today, and respect that he said that.

Project Management Is Easy to Teach

I don't mean that leterally, and think that teaching is actually hard. Putting knowledge and experience into words, or any other way of communicating, is difficult, especially when the idea of it is truly to "impart" the knowledge and experience onto the student. Teaching anything is a skill and talent unto itself.

I think what "Easy to Teach" really is saying is that teaching, and preliminary learning, is not the end, but rather the beginning. It is the start of the journey.

And the journey only begins if we get exposed to just enough knowledge, just enough stimulus...to motivate us to go out and learn more.

Project Management Is Hard to Do

If teaching is the start of the journey, then doing is the end. Anything related to project management that is "taught" to us is of little value unless we apply it.

Some of my favorite analogies are in sports. So think of, say, swinging a tennis racquet. You are told what to do. You watch what someone else does. You do it. You get feedback...then do it again. And you try not to think too much about it! You never necessarily master it totally, but you come to own it, and become a continuing student of the game, trying to always improve going forward.

Learning and Doing Project Management

So it is with project management: we learn some, then we do some. Then we learn some more.

While we are doing, things change. We need to learn more, and maybe even re-learn things we thought we knew. We need to acknowledge that questions we've asked, and that have been answered...may have a new answer.

Continuous Learning in Practice

The PMI recently implemented some new Professional Development Unit (PDU) requirements that resulted from a Role Delineation Study (RDS) that showed that, indeed, some of the answers to questions about the role of a project manager have changed. I've written some recent posts about this - see Focus on Leadership – PDUs and the PMI Talent Triangle and PMI Talent Triangle: Earn “Technical Project Management.

The very minimal requirements that the PMI has for PDUs in certain categories are hardly enough for a PM to truly achieve excellence. But they are a start, and often just a little extra stimulus and awareness is all that's required to open our eyes to learn more - and help us to be a "do-er" - and "walk the talk".

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