Power of persuasion
PMI'S career track
CAREEREDUCATION >> BY SUZANNE YOUNG
One of the most pressing issues about advanced training usually goes unspoken—that is, the delicate issue of getting management to pay for it. Although approaches vary, they all share a common theme: Give the company a reason to train you.
Making the Case
“You've got to prove to management there's value to the company,” says Colin Balchin, founder and director at Adept Knowledge Management in Aberdeen, Scotland. Explain how the course will enable you and the organization to operate more efficiently or profitably.
For example, when Milton Maisonet, PMP, made his successful pitch for an executive masters of technology management program, he correlated the value of the schooling to his work. Mr. Maisonet, manager of the global engineering project management office for Kraft Foods Inc., East Hanover, N. J., USA, also included an analysis of several university options to show how his preference would benefit the company. In addition, he emphasized the accelerated pace of the course, which would enable him to bring new skills to the job faster, as well as the schedule that would minimize time away from work.
Beginning project managers often face the fiercest opposition because executives don't see how their training links to business results, according to Al Howard, managing director of 9:pm International Inc., a management consultancy in Wake Forest, N.C., USA. To overcome that resistance, he provides a series of integrated spreadsheets that “explicitly show where project management experience and training improve project delivery, which results in both time and cost savings.”
Take the Initiative
Project managers in developing countries also have a tough time, especially when they're trying to get funds for advanced management methods, says Murtada Mohd, project control for Ranhill Petroneeds JV in Sudan. His advice: Don't wait for management to say yes. “Sometimes I paid for classes directly from my own funds,” he says. “Other times I got an advance that was deducted from my salary. I took courses after working hours and in Dubai during my holidays. Now, I have joined an international company and really found how important the training is.”
Sometimes you just dig into your own pocket, agrees Ralph Schuessler, a project controls manager for Bechtel Infrastructure Corp. at the Panama City-Bay County International Airport Project, Panama City, Fla., USA. “Determine if this is really a requirement for your career both professionally and with your company. If it is, pursue it on your own. The bottom line is, it's your career and you need to manage it,” he says.
You need to show them afterwards—through performance—that the training was a worthy investment.
When Robert Gries, PMP, first approached management about advanced training, the answer was mixed. “Management agreed that it was a good idea, but thought they couldn't afford it,” says Mr. Gries, a project manager and architectural engineer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle, Wash., USA. So he decided to begin the program on his own and eventually won approval.
It also helps if you share your newfound knowledge. “After attending the PMI Global Congress in Toronto, I came back and gave a seminar on project management communications for 12 of my counterparts from the region and headquarters,” Mr. Gries says. “This sort of thing can create a real shift in management's attitude.”
Philippines-based Franklin Millare, assistant project manager at Jones Lang LaSalle Inc., agrees. “You need to show them afterwards—through performance—that the training was a worthy investment,” he says. It can help pave the way for the next person who makes a request.
Timing is Everything
In addition to the enterprise value, be ready to present your individual case for certification, training and education. As someone with at least a half-dozen certifications—all of them paid for by a company—Mazin Abusin, PMP, knows a little something about requesting advanced training. “I usually present my case to management right after I deliver something that they perceive as valuable,” he says. “For example, after authoring an IT fundamentals course, I straightaway received funding to sit for the Certified Information Systems Auditor examination.” Based in Dubai, UAE, Mr. Abusin is a freelance consultant for companies in the Middle East, and a national advisor to the Sudanese government on good governance and project management.
Make a Commitment
The stiffest resistance often comes from middle managers, who fear that additional training may make employees more likely to be recruited by rival firms. Companies might require employees to stay for a specified period following training they've funded or be forced to reimburse the cost if they leave before the agreed-upon interval. If there is no such policy, volunteer your commitment to remain with the company for a specified time.
In the end, you must realize that education is an investment in yourself. For Kathleen Matlock, who owns Matlock Consulting Services Inc., there was no way to pass the costs along. “As an independent consultant I didn't have the challenge or the luxury of convincing a boss to pay for my project management education,” she says. “I had to make a leap of faith that the investment in updating my skill set would ensure a more secure career.”
Suzanne Young is a freelance writer who writes for and about business. Her work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle and Forward and she is the author of the forthcoming Beyond Engineering: How to Work on a Team.
<< www.pmi.org << FEBRUARY 2006