Building Project Management Skills through Training and Coaching

Once the methodology has been selected, the PMO has to work to get the organization to adopt the common processes. Two of the primary ways this is done are through training and coaching services.

Training is one of the premiere services offered by PMOs. In fact, in many organizations, the primary role of the PMO is to offer project management training to the staff. Coaching refers to working with individual project managers or project teams to transfer knowledge and teach new skills. This is usually done in-person, but can also occur over the phone or through emails.

Determine your training needs and how to resolve them

Like many of the services offered, training must be considered holistically, along with any other services that the PMO is offering. It doesn’t make sense to just start teaching classes. Project management is a very broad field. There are dozens of classes that can be offered, in many different formats and delivery modes. The PMO must take a step back first to determine the subjects that make the most sense to teach each audience, as well as the timeframe and dependencies of the subjects. The following steps will help.

  1. Determine the scope of training. An early and fundamental decision to make is the scope of your training effort. One basic assumption is that if you offer project management training, the project managers will be the primary focus. However, there are other stakeholders as well. You need to decide what, if anything, you will target to project managers, team members, functional managers, clients and external partners. You must also decide on content scope. For instance, will you just teach methodology skills, or will you teach classes in soft skills as well (such as listening, leadership, etc.)?
  2. Determine the training needs. The PMO should assess the skill levels of the organization within the overall scope that was determined earlier. This may have been done in an earlier organization assessment. If not, then you need to gather feedback from managers, clients and team members to find out strengths and areas for improvement.
  3. Create your Training Strategy and Plan. Now that you have determined what you need, you need to determine how you will do it. The Training Strategy describes how you will implement training at a high level. The Training Plan describes the details behind the strategy. It gets down to the detailed level of determining the specific classes to offer, the order of the classes, how the classes will be developed and how they will be delivered.

There are many options to consider for training. For instance, customized classes can be developed and taught by the PMO. This option is especially valuable if the class must be delivered to many people and the cost of sending everyone to outside public courses is prohibitive. You also have the option of using consultants to help build the training classes much more quickly. You can look at distance learning options such as webinars to reach your remote staff economically. You can also look at computer-based training. In fact, there are many options to consider when developing the entire training curriculum. Once you have approval on these documents, you are ready to execute the plan.

  1. Develop and teach the training curriculum. This is basically the execution of your Training Plan. You would buy, build or outsource various portions of your training needs based on costs, priorities and capabilities.

Coaching is more personal and targeted

Coaching is different from training. Training implies a formal teacher-pupil relationship, and the formal instruction of material. Coaching is less structured, and usually involves talking through situations and describing or demonstrating how project management techniques can assist. (Note that in some organizations, this type of service might be called project management consulting, or mentoring.)

If your PMO provides coaching services, you will need to be clear about what these services include. It is difficult for every Coach to have expert knowledge in all aspects of project management, especially when the deployment project is new. Instead, the coaching services should be aligned to the areas being deployed at that given time. For instance, if your PMO is initially deploying definition and planning skills to the organization, the coaching services should be on those same topics. The Coaches must be experts in those areas. On the other hand, if a project manager wants coaching on quality management, the Coach may have more limited knowledge. Later, when the PMO focuses on deploying quality management, all the Coaches should be knowledgeable in the subject.

You must also be clear on whether you will provide coaching in non-project management processes. For instance, if you are coaching on project management, you may get a request to help create a Test Plan. If the scope of your PMO includes project management only, this is a request you would not be able to help with. However, if your PMO also performs coaching on the development life cycle, then perhaps you would be able to help. Likewise, your PMO might receive a request to help a project team use a scheduling tool. Again, if this were not a part of the coaching service you are offering, you would need to decline the request.


The PMO needs ways to deliver the knowledge regarding the new project management processes to the organization. Formal training is one way to transfer this knowledge to many people at once. Coaching (or consulting) is a way to follow up the general training with personal service to reinforce what has been learned so far. This one-two punch is very effective at giving people the information they need, and then helping them retain the information and apply the knowledge to their current projects.

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