What I’ve come to realize is that there are some lessons that just can’t be taught. They need to be experienced in order to understand the truth of the matter. The knowledge to be gained is context sensitive and as such there is no amount of formal academic training that will prepare you for the subtleties of what some lessons really are and what they really mean until you have been down in the trenches.

For example,

Good Project Management isn’t about following a process.
It is about managing the process to fit the culture.

If I had been told this 25 years ago when I first started out in my IM/IT career, I would clearly be able to understand the intent, but not the meaning. It takes time to understand the relationship between culture and process to really understand the deeper connection that is implied by the statement. The quotation also belies the complexity that is inherent within a culture and the various facets of which a culture is derived.

Here is the essential problem: There are more connections between process and culture than can be reasonably taught during a 4 year diploma program. While you could go through each one step by step by step, it is far more effective to provide some fundamental basics and then throw the neophyte into the midst of the lion’s den with naught but their skivvies and see how they make out.

Formal academic training only goes so far in proving solutions to things such as

  • multiple directors having competing agendas on the same project, or
  • the manager that is building their own fiefdom which competes with your project, or
  • the business users which have no head for rationalizing their business processes, or
  • the peer colleague which is setting you up to take the fall for their ineptitude.

All of these are very real life scenarios that happen way too often. But you will hardly ever see them in a book. It is doubtful you will see them very often in a seminar or conference. Most likely you will get your training in these areas from either learning it the hard way, or, if you are lucky, by having a mentor help guide you through these waters as they are happening on the ground.

Learning is a lifelong process.
We never stop, nor should we.

At the same time, we shouldn’t be too quick to rush into learning situations for which we aren’t ready prepared. Opportunity unfolds all around us which provide openings to do things we would like to do but maybe aren’t ‘qualified’ for when resumes are compared side by side. That doesn’t mean that we should simply be satisfied with our current station in life if it is not to our likening.

The trick is to establish a pattern of behaviour, through thought, word, and deed, which shows you are prepared to take on those challenges to a greater extent than those around you.

Some of the greatest minds in the world wouldn’t have amounted to anything if they hadn’t taken control over the circumstances that proved to others they were capable. Any neophyte can regurgitate quotations. It takes a lifelong approach to learning to be exceptional.

— Kevin Feenan

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