I’ve written a lot in the past on project onboarding…the process of bringing new resources onto the project in mid-stream either to add needed talent or to replace outgoing team members.  What about shadowing on the project itself?  What about mentoring a junior PM team member such as a business analyst or even the project manager himself?  What if you’ve got several first time project managers in your organization – how do you get them ready to take on large projects of their own?  How do you instill confidence and leadership in them when they’ve never even led a small project before?  And is that the answer….do you push all the smallest projects at them and let them sink or swim with those?  Sort of a like a right of passage…?  Read on…

The problem with the small stuff

The problem with the small stuff

Yes, one option is to hand small, less visible projects to the newest of the new project managers – even first-time project managers.  The problem with that train of thought is that you still want to succeed on those projects…right?  There is no such thing as a throwaway project.  I’m not saying that all new project managers will fail.  But if you throw projects at them of any size without mentoring involved, then their chances for success are fairly slim.  And that’s not good for the organization, no matter what size or visibility the project is.  On the other side there is still a customer expecting a winning project…and paying for it.

Thrown into the fire

Likewise, tossing a new project manager into the fire on a big project with minimal training is not a good idea.  Some training is better than none, but on-the-job training is the best.  Handing a first time project manager materials to read on the organization’s project management methodology and letting them play with templates to familiarize themselves with estimating and requirements capturing documents before heading out into the field with the client is not a good idea either.  It’s just not enough.

Mentoring is the solution

True mentoring – with a good deal of shadowing involved – is the best way to go.  Team your new project managers with experienced project managers who have quite a few engagement successes under their belt.  And certainly team newbies with PMs who are known for using all the tools right and practicing best practices on every engagement.  Look to those project managers who consistently score high with customers as good mentoring resources for the newest project managers in the PMO.