March 2013
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TD Magazine

Five Skills Gaps Worth Filling This Year

Friday, March 8, 2013

Focus efforts on filling five critical project management training and development skills gaps in the coming months.

Which training and development skills gaps are no longer possible to ignore? ESI, a project management training company, has identified five trends that, if left unaddressed, could hamper your organization's success in 2013.

Ability to execute on strategy. Harvard Business School research shows that 90 percent of business strategies fail due to poor execution. "In many organizations, strategy is getting lost somewhere between the boardroom and the front lines," says Mark Bashrum, vice president of strategic intelligence and marketing at ESI. "Projects are the mechanism through which strategy and execution are linked. It is just not possible to successfully execute any substantive organizational strategy without competent project teams and well-run projects."

Employees should be trained in the specific skills needed to manage their projects successfully such as cost control and risk management.

A firm handle on requirements. It can cost 1,000 times more to fix a project requirements problem during its execution phase than during the planning phase. In other words, get it right the first time.

Poor project requirements occur when a key player is excluded during the planning phase. Subject matter experts, external contributors, and senior stakeholders—anyone who can advise on the project—should be involved in writing and validating project requirements.

Agile dexterity. Speed and agility in responding to market needs are critical for success. This means that the traditional concept of management is changing.

"Command-and-control is a formula for disaster when objectives are dynamic and work needs to get done quickly," says Bashrum. "Working in a state of flux requires decisions to be made closest to the problem. ... In the agile environment, the role of manager shifts more towards servant leadership, where they are responsible for removing obstacles and protecting the flow of information to working teams."


Communicating up. When traditional hierarchical models are destroyed in favor of bottom-up management, employees must be skilled in communicating business needs to senior stakeholders. Increased business acumen and awareness of business objectives enable employees to pitch their ideas in a language upper management will understand.

Measuring bang for your buck. Many training and development professionals do not measure the return-on-investment (ROI) of their training programs until asked to do so—a dangerous way to operate in today's budget-strapped organizations.

"ROI should be viewed as a real-time process, not a snapshot to be repeated every couple of years," says Bashrum. "By calculating ROI continuously, program benefits are always known, and if the number is trending toward the red, the root cause can be identified quickly and action can be taken."

About the Author

Stephanie Castellano is a former writer/editor for the Association for Talent Development (ATD). She is now a freelance writer based in Gainesville, Florida.

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