Happy Friyay everyone! I’m pleased to have stuck with 2 weeks in a row of posts, preparing to write for this topic was easy, I’m a big advocate of Learning & Development (L&D), however writing about it was a different story, fortunately I set time aside some time this week to plan and that led to a rich template on how to approach this topic, in preparing for this I’ve also realised that I work well/best under pressure.
I’m passionate about L&D, for me it goes hand in hand with growth, and I’m adamant that I don’t remain stagnant, you may have gathered that from reading my first post on Procrastination. The outcome of L&D is an improved version of ourselves, and none of us know too much on all topics to be beyond learning a bit more. Having read Atomic Habits by James Clear he explains the value of the 1 Percent Rule, which expresses the value in sustained incremental (1%) daily improvements over a year will produce a huge progress.
I’ve been working in the civil service for around 20 months now and in this time, I can confidently say that I’ve grown as a Project Delivery (PD) professional, the L&D I’ve received has come through my work experience, shadowing, mentorship, soft skill courses and accredited courses. I will focus on the latter three for this blog. During my time at Ministry of Justice (MOJ), which was my first department in the Civil Service they offered a range of interesting and engaging soft skill courses, I undertook the following ‘Influencing Skills’ ‘Managing Conflict & Difficult Situations’ and ‘Leadership Masterclass.’ There were also several more soft skill courses on offer and as a professional, especially a project delivery the soft skills on offer were extremely beneficial in providing insights and templates of how to approach situations in a co-operative and purposeful way. When looking for more senior roles, whilst they ask for qualifications such as Prince2, they also ask about have soft skills, for example ‘strong presenting skills’ this is an important skill to have and develop as a PD professional, so there is real value in attending these soft skill courses as they not only increase your ability and confidence, they also boost your employability.
Another great offering by the civil service are Action Learning Set (ALS) groups, I am part of the Bridges programme and this includes an ALS, which is a group of staff also on the programme who hold each other to account and offer a safe space to raise issues or successes. The Bridges programme also includes mentorship with senior civil servants and coaching. There is also a government wide PD academy for staff to build on there project delivery expertise in a group setting using ALS, another version for senior (higher grade) staff is the Project Leadership Programme, these are really engaging as the views provided are diverse with each government department applying PD in their own distinct way and offers the opportunity for staff to expand their networks outside of their own government department, expert speakers are also bought in and staff given written assignments to continuously develop their understanding of PD methodologies. Within the civil service the L&D opportunities are countless and ALS style programmes allow staff to continue to build on their ideas of PD or their respective professions and not get rigid in their understanding of it.
The MOJ PD function offers a lot of great courses and development opportunities as mentioned above outside of accredited courses. In my experience I did find it initially difficult to get on to accredited courses in contrast to the soft skills training courses that were made available, in part I think communication and notice around the courses weren’t as frequent or widely promoted. This was frustrating and there are accounts of staff who did not get on training for years in part to those reasons, so it is essential to remain in constant dialogue with your organisation and your line manager about your desire to study these courses. One significant change which allowed for greater access to these courses was the introduction of the ILX platform, this allowed staff to self-study at their own pace several PD courses and once a high pass mark was achieved the function tended to be supportive of requests to take exams. It should be noted that my request to take the Prince 2 Agile Practitioner exam was declined as the MOJ PD have not leaned fully into the Agile approach. This appears to be quite a contrast to the HMRC (my new Civil Service department) approach to L&D, where digital and agile methods appear to be more embraced. It is also important to consider which course to pick as there are several, I have studied both Prince2 and P30, and of the two I’d recommend Prince2 as it provides a great low level breakdown on the best practice approach strictly for projects, whereas P30 looks at high level view for projects, programmes and portfolios. Accredited courses in my eyes are a must for continuous improvement as methodologies continue to evolve and expand as we’ve seen with the growing use and influence of Agile Methodologies
The entries into the civil service are direct entry through an application to one of the roles on Civil Service Jobs, that is how I got my two roles into the civil service, and once in you are also able to apply for internal roles through expressions of interest. The other two entry routes are through the apprenticeships offered and the graduate scheme which is the Faststream. Those two entry routes are great for development and accredited courses are actively encouraged each year in them as they are part of the offering of these roles, for the direct entry roles that requires more active management by yourself to secure if you are interested in pursuing accreditation.
L&D is essential for continued growth as a professional, it can be in the form of a soft skill course or an accredited course, and it will be so worth it as it’s an investment in yourself, continuous improvement itself is a fundamental agile project management approach after all.