I had written last week about the importance of functional managers being given the opportunity to manage at least one cross-functional project, but in retrospect, it is a good idea for project managers to do some cross-training of their own (cross-training is the athletic good practice of training in a sport other than the one which you compete in).
What sort of cross-training could a project manager do?
- The obvious approach might be to apply project management skills to a completely different domain such as volunteering to manage an event for a local PMI chapter or to organize a fundraiser for one’s favorite charity.
- A seasoned PM could also try honing their skills at mentoring by establishing a mentor-mentee relationship with an aspiring project manager.
- Yet another option could be to unleash untapped energies through writing, blogging, or other creative avenues.
What benefits could this provide?
At one time or another, many of us have faced Dilbert’s dilemma illustrated in the cartoon above (I knew you were wondering what it had to do with this week’s topic!) and many of the advantages cross-training provides to athletes are shared with those which could be enjoyed by project managers.
- Injury prevention: If one is managing a soul-draining project for too long, the likelihood of mental and even physical illness increases. Cross-training can provide a good opportunity to balance pain in one area with growth and enjoyment in another.
- Active recovery: If someone has survived the grueling experience of a bad project, a prolonged vacation or sabbatical may seem like the best option for rehabilitation, but cross-training can provide a good method of kick starting sustainable enthusiasm and optimism for the next project.
- Conditioning: By forcing yourself to channel your energies towards more than just your job, you are increasing your flexibility and versatility.
I’ve focused on cross-training outside of work, but there’s no reason that your company could not encourage the same practices. Beyond the performance benefits cross-training can bestow individually, when utilized cross-functionally, it can be an excellent method of breaking down silo walls.
As Percy Cerutty said “You only ever grow as a human being if you’re outside your comfort zone.”