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To Develop Project Managers, You Have to Understand How Adults Learn

Humans are capable of learning and improving at any age, but adult learning is a bit different from how one learns as a child. As Peter Tarhanidis explains in a post for Voices on Project Management, we’re not the little sponges we were back in 1st grade. It’s time to treat PMs like the adults they are when it comes to education and training:

Even though top managers at many organizations invest in traditional project management curricula, these courses have limited utility for adult project managers, slowing down the organization from reaching goals. In my experience, organizations tend to employ disparate training methodologies while teams dive into execution with little planning. With scattered approaches to talent management and knowledge transfer, they miss project goals.

A Structured Approach to Change

The work environment is constantly changing – demographics, technology, globalization. Therefore, adult learning should be the foundation of all training programs, with integrative learning models added to traditional ones. Educator Malcolm Knowles identified six aspects of the successful adult learner: 1. self-direction, 2. building experiences, 3. developing social networks, 4. comprehending the practicality of new knowledge, 5. the internal drive to understand, and 6. finding new ways to use old knowledge. Let’s put those insights into the context of project management in the modern enterprise.

Creating a Learning Organization

First you’ll want to identify all the self-directed approaches for how employees can apply learning opportunities to their work. Learning on the job is always preferable, since the learner gets instant feedback about the consequences of a particular action in real time and in a real scenario. The sum of individuals engaged in self-directed learning creates a “learning environment.” The natural learning environment can be facilitated by technology – gamification and simulations for starters. Additionally, learning environments may consist of “communities” of learners who are committed to a particular goal or subject. Learning levels should be defined with such boundaries as “local, national, global projects” or “small, medium, large projects.” Finally, if the role of teacher is valued within the organization, this position will gain popularity and prominence. It will be applied in everyday practice.

Read the original post at: http://www.projectmanagement.com/blog/Voices-on-Project-Management/13930/

About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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