Establishing a Successful IT PM Mentoring Program
Welcome back and if you did not read my previous blog post for August, you might want to quickly do that as it is background material for this follow-on post on how to establish a successful IT Project Management Mentoring Program at your organization. As we previously discussed, having a mentor when you are beginning or seeking to enhance your skills and abilities as an IT project manager, a mentor can provide help you achieve this objective. However, most companies or organizations do not have such a program to assist their PM staff.
To start, what is a mentor and how does this role differ from a coach or manager?
With specific reference to IT project management, a mentor is an experienced, skilled IT project manager with the willingness to provide suitable knowledge by example to others seeking to improve their project management acumen. What this means is that an IT project manager with a proven track record provides those without with the value of their ‘time in grade.’ Thus, a mentor imparts wisdom by example, not by directive or email.
To establish a successful IT PM mentoring program, an organization needs to have and be willing to:
- A willing supply of experienced IT project managers, of course
- Support by senior management for the program
- Provide resources to ensure the program success
- A program champion
The first three are what they are, either you have them or you do not. So without the first three, the chances for implementing a successful program are almost nil – move on, and attempt improvement in other areas.
If on the other hand, you do have the first three requirements, the program champion is the most critical key to success for the mentoring environment. Your program champion must be both an experienced IT PM in their own right, but also have the aptitude to transfer such knowledge and wisdom to others that could eventually replace them. This is absolutely mandatory. A mentor is someone that is not threatened by others wanting to learn what they know, but seeks to provide this knowledge to such motivated individuals.
Your program champion will need to accomplish the following program milestones once approval and resources for the mentoring program have been obtained:
- A program plan detailing the approach and milestones for success of the program
- An internal ‘marketing’ effort to unveil the program to potential mentors and mentees
- A ‘kick-off’ meeting with potential mentors
- An assignment gathering between ‘vetted’ mentors and potential mentees
The purpose of your mentoring program is NOT to standardize how the mentor-mentee relationship will unfold, but to simply introduce the parties and provide the time to support the mentoring process.
Let me just warn, however, that not every successful IT PM is right or able to be an effective mentor. The following characteristics are needed in such a responsible party:
- Most important and above all – patience!
- Knowledgeable in IT PM practices demonstrated by a proven track record of successful project completions
- Willingness to guide and lead by ‘doing it right,’ not by just talking
- Ability to work one-on-one with someone less experienced and capable without frustration
- Understanding of when to allow ‘trial and error,’ and when to demonstrate effective practices
To put it into a formula: a good mentor is 50% experienced guide, 20% professor, 20% psychologist, and 10% parent. While these may be difficult to locate or obtain, you can find ready and able source of potential mentors while you are developing your own internal ones.
Briefly, then, here are the benefits that can accrue from a successful IT PM mentoring program:
- The development of internal IT project managers with inside knowledge of your organization
- The capture of experience and knowledge from established and successful IT project managers
- Improvement of IT project success rates as mentors demonstrate workable practices to others
- Improved morale and ‘esprit de corp’ for all project managers
- Reduction of turnover of IT project managers
In closing, remember, every organization that is successful at their own IT project management could be advantaged by having and supporting an IT PM mentoring program. Where else are your future IT project managers better derived: outside, or home grown? Your ‘home grown’ IT PMs will bring with them a wealth of internal organizational knowledge and process understanding as well already forged associations and work history. These are the best candidates for your successful IT PM mentor program.
Good luck, and have a great September.