just do it (better) – ii

I said yesterday I hope not to need to see teams like this ever again. Before I get to that, let me give you a quick rundown on what they’re doing.

A couple of years ago some old hands at the NGO project management game saw there was a lack of a serious sector-wide approach. Oh sure, NGOs do various flavours of PCM all right. But all the PCM I’ve ever come across rarely gets past first base.

We throw the kitchen sink at project design, which is a strength. But there’s been neglect of detailed iterative planning and implementation tools and techniques. You know, all the stuff to do once the ink is actually on the grant: getting the project done on time, within scope, within budget. We spend so much time worrying about whether we’re doing the right thing, we don’t spend enough time making sure we’re on top of doing things right.

To cut a long story short, these old hands collaborated, coordinated, consulted far and wide, and came up with PMDProProject Management for Development Professionals. It is much more balanced across the whole project cycle. Practical too.

So far, so boring, right? Now if you have worked in aidlandistan for a while, the next thing I am going tell you might shock you. You have almost certainly sat in training, you have probably given training. You have probably filled out innumerable end-of-course happy sheets. Amirite? So I suggest you take a seat, and hold on to your lower garments.


Doing PMDPro means sitting for an externally validated qualification. There’s an exam. There’s a freakin’ exam! I mean a really real exam, 2 hours long, 75 questions, 65% to pass, which everyone who comes on the course has to do. (OK, except for a nice quiet bloke called Moses here in Kotido, whose wife went into labour for the first time last night, and he’s a little freaked.) And only people who pass the exam, get the certificate.

Can you imagine?

For you project management nerds, PMDPro is a 3-tiered sector-specific deeply contextualized modification of the PRINCE2 framework, and the online exam/certification process is handled for next to nothing by APMG, bless ‘em. What we have here is the aid sector learning from and picking up approaches from the private sector. Bo selecta!

Watching people here do the course over the last five days has been awesome. The positive motivation is steaming off most participants. The opportunity for a basic but genuine qualification is a powerful motivator. Folks here are studying their collective backsides off. They show up early. Talk about the content all through lunch. Support the slower movers in their teams. Are hitting the books at night. (Well, just one book actually, the PMDPro Level 1 guide – pdf.) Does that sound like most NGO training you’ve been on or delivered?

So I’m nervous. The exams are going on right now all around me right now. The team have all worked so damn hard. Many coming from a pretty modest starting point in terms of project management theory and practice. I’m trying to be realistic but really keen they do well!

But in the end, it’s not about exam results, or getting all the levels of tiered qualification. That’s just a means to an end, to give people motivation to master the body of knowledge. Because professionalism isn’t just passing an exam, and it’s not just having a nice bit of paper. The really important thing is what this team does next Monday. The important thing is whether they use the tools and apply the skills. Whether they change how they work over the next month, next quarter, next year. Whether they hold themselves to a new standard of management quality.

Now of course the pass rate of the group is a nice easy to measure indicator. I suppose I could tick that off if its good and pat myself on the back. But it’s not the only thing, or most important thing, that I’ll be monitoring over coming months. In fact it’s not even the first thing, because we took up a baseline survey last week.

I never want to have to see these guys again, because I’m experimenting.

But I’ll tell you about that on Monday.


3 Comments on “just do it (better) – ii”

  1. Megan Kennedy-Chouane says:

    Word of wisdom “a change in knowledge does not equal a change in behaviour” – can’t wait to find out what you WILL measure!

  2. […] approaches on project management that I wrote about back in February. You can read part one, part two, part three and part four. My colleague is in Tanzania, the ‘condition 3′ country […]

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