As a dedicated Project Manager (PM), you keep abreast of the latest thought leadership about the discipline. You belong to LinkedIn groups, subscribe to Harvard Business Review, regularly attend Project Management International (PMI) meetings, and read PMI Network and PM Today. However you may be missing out on a terrific, untapped source of personal development: your peers. Chances are, they have a wealth of experience and insight they would be willing to share with you on a quid pro quo basis.
Think about the other PMs in your organization. Are there one or two (or more) you would like to know better, whose management style and success you would like to emulate? Invite him or her to lunch. Develop a list of questions about issues you have faced and ask how that person handled or would address those situations. Although every project is unique, if you’re both in the same organization, it’s a safe bet that you have common or similar challenges. At a minimum, the lunch meeting serves to build a relationship between you both and pave the way for future discussions and collaborations. At its best, there is a stimulating discussion that results in learning, ideas, and insight. What is there to lose? The time is well spent, as is the cost of the lunch.
But why stop there? Does your organization have a Project Management Community of Practice (CoP)? (As defined by Google, it is “a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.”) If it doesn’t, start one. Invite all of the PMs in your organization to a lunch and learn where people take turns presenting innovations, case studies, and lessons learned to the group. Reserve some of these meetings for round tables where the floor is open and topics of all kinds can be discussed. If the practice is deemed valuable, perhaps the organization will support it by purchasing lunch for the group or enabling PMs to use work time (instead of lunch time) to attend.
In a 2006 study by the Warwick Business School at the University of Warwick, authors Archibald, McDermott, Conville, and Parker found the following nine factors contribute to CoP events:
(1) Provide significant funding for face-to-face events
(2) Ensure community activities address business issues
(3) Provide CoP leader training
(4) Ensure CoP leaders are given sufficient time for their role
(5) Ensure high levels of sponsor expectation
(6) Engage members in developing good practice
(7) Improve the usefulness of tools provided
(8) Ensure there are clearly stated goals
(9) Promote CoPs ability to help employee’s solve daily work challenges
In an evaluation of the list above, the factor identified as #1 is certainly important because it implies organizational approval for the activities of the CoP. However, I would argue it’s not a requirement for CoP success. Lunch time meetings can still create value even if members participate on their own time and bring food from home.
Have you started a PMCoP? What were your experiences?