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  • Writer's pictureBill Holmes

Training, Training, Training!!

Funny meme about training

“A captain of the Navy ought to be a man of strong and well connected sense, with a tolerable good education, a gentleman, as well as a seaman both in theory and practice.” John Paul Jones

“I had acquired the skills to sail a ship; I didn't acquire the knowledge.” Tom Holland

Within a span of 90 days in the summer of 2017, two Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers suffered separate collisions with merchant vessels under routine conditions while underway, resulting in a tragic loss of life.

How could this happen? How could some of the most sophisticated surface warships on the planet be struck by merchant vessels? The simple answer is that no matter how sophisticated the technology is, you need trained people who understand the basics of what they are doing. Without getting into the details, there was a fatal combination of inexperience and lack of training that led to both tragedies.

Retired Navy Commander Kirk Lippold, who was the skipper of the USS Cole in 2000 when she was attacked by al-Qaeda terrorists, has been quoted as saying the solution is in the basics. Lippold states “So now, many of these kids come aboard these ships and they don’t know a thing. So what do we need to do? We need to go back to basics. Basic Seamanship. Basic navigation.”

As someone who spends a great deal of time on the water in my personal boat, I couldn’t agree more! I am shocked at how many private "captains" don’t understand basic maritime “rules of the road”, how to dock or even how to anchor!

What does any of this have to do with projects? Everything!

As I have discussed in earlier posts at www.projectmanagementforum.net, we have seen the PMBOK® 6th Edition grow to 756 pages as PMI® seeks to keep the guide up to date. As the guide attempts to cover everything from “agile” methodologies to international project management standards like ISO, we run the risk of forgetting the basics.

Have you properly trained your team? If you are using Microsoft Project, have you trained your team or are you expecting them to learn on the job? How are you managing risk? Have you taken the time to explain to your team how identify and assess risk?

Does every risk have “mitigation” as a proposed response, or do you actually do risk planning?

What about configuration management? Does your team have a common understanding what that term means? Having a common understanding of the terms of art are crucially important.

What about traceability? Are you certain that all the requirements are being delivered and that there is no scope creep occurring?

I could go on.

It is the organizations responsibility to make sure that people are trained and competent to hold the jobs they are assigned to. Unfortunately, for many of us that is not the fact pattern we are dealing with. In many instances, we are assigned people who may be very smart, but they haven't been trained in the skills required to contribute to project governance.

The fate of the ship is always ultimately the responsibility of the Captain. The ultimate responsibility for the project is always with the Project Manager.

Train your team.


I spent a lot of time thinking about the meme to go with this week’s post. I wanted to keep the pattern of trying to lighten up serious topics with some humor, but I was concerned that it might be perceived as disrespectful to the heroes who died in those collisions. My father was a decorated disabled veteran and many of my friends and colleagues are veterans, so it is a subject that I am very sensitive to. Ultimately, I decided the meme made the point in a rather generic way and emphasized the purpose of the post, so I kept it. Finally, I was overwhelmed by the showing of support after last weeks post. Thank you.


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