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CPD is a waste of time!

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Why oh why do people keep going on about continuous professional development (CPD)?  Stop wasting my time. I have done enough CPD, personal development, self-improvement, or whatever you call it, I did it all years ago. I don’t need it now, I don’t have time. I need to be getting on with the job rather than wasting time thinking about a different or new way to do it; techniques and processes don’t change that often, it is still the same as when I first learnt it 15 years ago.

Do you agree? Is this your thought process, as well as mine? Good.

Well, not good actually. Now I have you out in the open, I would like to whole heartedly disagree with you. CPD is a critical component to what programme managers, in fact any project professional, does. Without continuously improving ourselves we are lacking progression – be it in a personal, professional or project capacity.  If you are not going forwards, you are either standing still, going sideways, or going backwards – is this a position you want to be in?

I have the view that many project managers have undergone some form of formal PPM training, but I would suggest that very few manage to actively maintain skills, and dare I say, interest in project management, through undertaking regular CPD. Project management professionals, by the nature of the work, are regularly at the forefront of developments, pushing boundaries, exploring and utilising new approaches. We therefore need to undertake some form of CPD to make sure we are working with best current practice, and to allow enhanced and efficient working. This is the sign of a professional.

CPD doesn’t have to be onerous, but, as all PPMs should know, a little planning goes a long way! There are lots of different approaches to CPD.  I wrote about Self Development in the Gower Handbook of People in Project Management, and how I structure my approach around a ‘5 point plan’:

  • Assess your current status
  • Plan your development
  • Undertake development activities
  • Implement your new learning
  • Review your progress

These are logical steps, and following this process allows you to focus on the areas you wish to maintain, and those you wish to enhance. The key, I think, is to apply something new you learn as soon as possible. Not only does this help to reinforce the learning, but allows you to gain benefits quickly, thus helping to reinforce the benefits of undertaking CPD. To me it is all about taking best practice theory and making it operationally useful.

I won’t go into the range of self-development activities that exist here, there are numerous (do a quick search, maybe that could be your first CPD task). Suffice to say, that CPD doesn’t have to always be a formal course; the ability to do quick, and free, CPD is the key to success. For example, chair a meeting instead of just attending it, read a book, volunteer, write a blog (!), mentor someone, or ask for some coaching. The opportunities are endless. Just make sure that you have an ‘end in mind’, work towards it, review your learning afterwards, and then apply it.

Be honest with yourself, are you undertaking CPD? Are you standing still (or being left behind), or are you taking control of your future direction and career, and implementing a self development approach?


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  1. Edward Wallington
    Edward Wallington 23 March 2015, 08:29 PM

    @Brian, thanks.  I agree that CPD should be interesting, otherwise you will have no motivation to undertake it, and also relevant as otherwise why are you doing it… worth noting that could be relevant for your current role/interest, or for a future one. My copy of Project just arrived, looks great in the new format – indeed a CPD item!@Stefan, thanks for your contribution.  I agree that an element of undertaking CPD is ‘doing the job’, however I do disagree with not having a plan.  I am not saying you need to have a plan that is reams of pages long, but you should have some idea of why you are undertaking CPD.  For example, is it you want to understand Earned Value more so that you can contribute to discussions with colleagues; or is it that you want to be a Programme Manager and you are currently a Project Manager and so want to upskill in certain areas, different approaches, etc.  It may be that you are just interested in progressing your knowledge of wider elements of PPM (or any other topic for that matter).  I strongly believe that CPD has to be a continuous process, and to make sure we make the most out of it we need to plan activities towards and end goal, and to monitor and implement.

  2. Brian Wernham
    Brian Wernham 20 March 2015, 05:43 PM

    Ed,Nice one - you got my interest!  Yes: CPD should be interesting and relevant - make it a natural part of every week/month/year and the breadth and depth of your CPD log will surprise you!The new-look 'Project' magazine will hit your doorsteps shortly - it will be more in depth and help you with your CPD whether you are a student member or a crusty old 'Fellow'!Brian

  3. Stefan Roman
    Stefan Roman 20 March 2015, 01:55 PM

    If you are an ambitios type of person, with a hunger for knowledge and information, wishing to keep up to date with the society as it advances, then, in my oppinion, you develop yourself naturally, as you advance through life gaining more and more experiemce.  You do not need a CPD plan written down for this. It;'s in your blood.  On the other hand you can aspire to become, say, a projects director, but because your intelligence and personallity is limited, you'll never reach that point in your career because you did not identify your limit. Again, a failed CPD.  Say, I have reached my career aspirations. Don't need a CPD anymore, just learn as you go along, keep up to date, have refresher training, enhance own experience.In life, the glorious CPD is: 1. school (qualifications/knowledge), work (earn a living), experience (which comes with time).  

  4. Edward Wallington
    Edward Wallington 16 March 2015, 09:45 PM

    @Alex, thansk for your comment - I agree, it is a continuous learning process.

  5. Alex Shapley
    Alex Shapley 12 March 2015, 03:59 PM

    couldn't agree more!CPD doesn't have to be formal (and/or onerous) though it can be. What is does have to be about, is a continuing interest (and pride) in your profession. Anybody who thinks that they have nothing left to learn is a waste of space in my humble opinion.... 

  6. Edward Wallington
    Edward Wallington 11 March 2015, 07:40 PM

    @Alan - many thanks for contributing.  Apologies for making your blood boil - but glad the blog post had the desired effect :)@Merv – thanks for taking the time to contribute as well.  A well-considered response, greatly appreciated.  I think you are right, we (as in project managers) are naturally curious about stuff, and I hope this lends us to naturally seek to develop ourselves.  I couldn’t agree more about volunteering – this is a key reason why we do it, or at least I do.  If we can give a little, we can get a lot back, and everyone benefits.  Above all, I enjoy it, and it also contributes to my personal CPD. 

  7. Merv Wyeth
    Merv Wyeth 09 March 2015, 11:56 AM

    For me personal development is rarely a solitary activity. CPD implies something social is going on and ideally forms part of our voluntary contribution to society in general. There may be times when you have a very particular objective in mind [as Richard described in his piece].However, I feel that more often than not, we squirrel things away because they strike a chord with us and we can then [hopefully] use what we have saved at a time in the future. I think there is correlation between the kind of mindset that is open to engage and the idea of volunteering. It recognises that in a social environment, learning is often mutual.We volunteer with no specific expectation of personal gain but on the basis that (a) our volunteering may enable others to learn and if we are volunteering others may reciprocate and (b) an understanding that you can learn as much from coaching someone as they learn from you.Isn’t this a kind of definition of curiosity which, as much as anthing, is reckoned to be a personal quality and strength? [Perhaps this is a candidate topic for a future blog?]I suspect many of the organizations in which we operate, often unwittingly, have a knack for crushing our spontaneity and curiosity. So let's hear it for CPD - particularly where it aligns with volunteerism and curiosity.

  8. Edward Wallington
    Edward Wallington 09 March 2015, 08:29 AM

    Thank you for your comments to date.  Glad you liked a bit of provocation, and that you agree that CPD, or self-development, is important.  I think it is a continuous process we should undertake as a matter of course, not something to strive for per se.

  9. Jonathan Norman
    Jonathan Norman 06 March 2015, 01:47 PM

    I agree with Richard, Penny and Edward, although I perhaps advocate a more informal approach to personal and professional development than Richard.The point is, projects are about doing new things. Which means that you need to develop the skills to recognize when you need to do something new, what that looks like and how to do it. Following established processes won't deliver something you've not done before.I don't advocate novelty for the sake of some intellectual concept of innovation but I do think that project managers have a responsibility for recognising the new and knowing what to do about it (or at least where to start) and that requires that you are learning and developing.

  10. Richard Renshaw
    Richard Renshaw 06 March 2015, 11:50 AM

    Thanks for the good provocation post, appreciated. I hold the contrary belief that there is high value for CPD.Thinking ahead, I am of the opinion that APM's aspirational 2020 vision is sound; the updated Road Maps become available by 3Q 2015 as a planning assumption I am of the opinion that development of competences aligned from the overarching IPMA's ICB has a benefit for both individual and corporate members. following as an abstract from the referenced publication I thought had merit;‘A search on Amazon of the term “project management” turns up nearly 10,000 hits. However, adding the term “people” reduces that figure to just 1,300. Gower’s Handbook of People in Project Management goes some way to redress this imbalance by presenting a compilation of 60 pieces by more than 50 authors on the issue.I think there are options in respect of CPD. One option we have adopted within our organization is a series of initiatives on both the individual and corporate approach as we seek to build excellence. We call it Performance + Rewards, other companies may have other titles and approaches.Firstly, be clear on what needs tobe achieved…•    What are the business requirements?•    What are your development goals, e.g. career development or progressionWrite the goal in the positive, e.g. increase sales, as opposed to make more sales callsMake it specific and measurable, e.g. increase sales by 15% by xxx date.Establishment a measurement of progress, e.g. measure the percentage increase in sales each monthto xxx date. The Career FrameworkThe Career Framework provides employees with meaningful content to help them own and manage theirpersonal, professional and career develToimpement.What’s in it for me?The tool facilitates having robust conversations with your manager about career goals andactivities,and will help you to be an advocate for your own growth and development.Work with your manager through ongoing and meaningful one-to-one conversations to identify the bestfit for the role you are in now and, if applicable, the role you desire.Use the role profile to clarify information about skills and competencies necessary to succeed in acareer area.These will help to determine both your business and development goals. 2. Are your goals S.M.A.R.T.?Read your goal and ask yourself “Why am I doing this?”For example, avoid ‘develop an effective relationship…’•     Why do you need to develop an effective relationship with this person?•     e.g. so that our departments can work together effectively•     What do you need to achieve together? We need to design and implement the software to meettheir needsThe goal becomes:‘Ensure the software is designed to meet the needs of the Sales Department and installed by xxx date’3.  Business goalsOnce you have written the goal, ask yourself the question:“Do I have the skills, knowledge and experience to achieve these goals?”If the answer is “Yes”Consider whether the goal is stretching enough.If the answer is “No”What   support,   development,   or   experience do I need?This will drive the development goals.4.  Writing development goals‘Go on a presentation skills course’ is not S.M.A.R.T.Identify what it is that you want to learn; this should be your goal:‘Learn how to plan and deliver an effective presentation by 31st December’You can measure this as follows:•     You will be able to plan a presentation•     You will have delivered a planned presentation•     Reduce the number of slides in a presentation to less than one per minute•     Number of words on each slide is less than 50•    Obtain feedback on presentation delivery--Thanks for the opportunity to contribute. Keep up the good pleasing dialogue in respect of the people aspect of the path to attain APM's Vision.    

  11. Penny Pullan
    Penny Pullan 06 March 2015, 11:44 AM

    I agree with you Edward, at least I agree with you the second time around.As someone who today is considering writing book no 4 (am I mad?) and preparing a presentation for a big PM conference, I agree that it's really helpful to continue learning and developing throughout your career.