Learning from Others to Improve Performance

Welcome to this second page of the Association for Project Management Scrapbook on Professionalism which explores the theme of learning from others to improve performance.

Ongoing learning and development from peers is very important in the context of project management; an activity that involves individuals working together, often across organizational boundaries, to achieve something that is innovative.

Bev and Etienne Wenger-Trayner, practitioners and researchers in  communities of practice and social learning  advocate a new model for learning:

“We’re living in a time when things are moving fast. The rules of the game are changing. Science is changing. Technology is changing. Geo-politics is changing. Learning fast is the only mode of survival. But here’s the crazy thing: our models of learning have not kept up.

For many people learning starts with something that’s known. It’s then transmitted to someone who doesn’t know it. But for the projects we’re involved in this simple view doesn’t work. In the real world things are too dynamic. And complex.

Knowledge doesn’t sit still. You’ve got to be on your toes – you’ve got to improvise, solve problems, strategize, jump on opportunities. And bring others along. Learning that matters today is social, in real time, and inventive. More often than not, what we need to learn is not yet known. And that’s why we need a new learning model.” Bev and Etienne Wenger-Trayner

Learning from others to improve performance

In that context of the social learning and improved capability and performance, let’s explore a selection of personal stories from corporate members of the Association for Project Management whose organisational capability has been recognised by APM.

Department for Work and Pensions

David SobczakDepartment for Work and Pensions DWP project manager David Sobczak has worked for the Department or its predecessors for nearly 30 years, specialising in project management for the past six years. He is passionate about learning and professional development having trained earlier in his career to be a business excellence assessor.

He has recently added to his general management certificates including a Masters Degree in Business Administration with qualifications and learning in Prince2, APMP and APMQ. He is a member of the APM and an active participant in both the DWP PPM profession and his local APM branch.

“I believe that you can transform personal and organisational performance through learning and professionalism and as an active member of the department’s PPM profession, view myself as a role model to colleagues.

“That said, I do not – and I know the department does not – take our success in delivering projects for granted. What drives our PPM capability improvement both personally and as an organisation is what we’ve achieved for our customers. We never forget that capability improvement and professionalism are not the be all and end all, they are a means to achieve better performance and greater business success.”

Communities of Practice in DwP

Joe Dowse, DWPIn this audio interview, Joe Dowse, Communications and Stakeholder lead for the Project Delivery Profession, shares her experience of one aspect of learning from others: the project delivery Communities of Practice at DWP. Why DWP has adopted Communities of Practice and how these have been developed across the delivery profession within the Department.


Reykjavik University

Yngvi Rafn Yngvason Yngvi Rafn Yngvason had been working at the Icelandic Civil Aviation Administration (ICAA) for five years as a safety analyst when he applied for the MPM degree, with the full support of his employers.

“With a BSc degree in Computer Science, I had not anticipated to take a master’s degree anytime soon. I saw the advertisement in the paper and my intuition urged me to apply.

“I was inspired by the context of the MPM degree, especially the courses on human behaviour and cultural differences. I had taken part in project groups related to my work as well as in my local church but the outcomes varied. I wanted to get to know both the technical, hard skills of project management as well as the human factor. The MPM degree at Reykjavik fitted perfectly.

“Fellow students on the course have become good friends, both through all the group projects as well as the personal work. The lecturers were first class and the degree has given us tools to both know ourselves better and to manage difficult situations when they occur.

“The MPM has helped me in my current job as a safety analyst at the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in Cologne, Germany. I work a lot with people from all over Europe and to have the tools I gained from my studies helps me to both organise myself as well all my projects within the agency and with communication with all the stakeholders.

“The degree also supports me in the role of a confidential counsellor to the agency’s staff as well as a family man. My future goals are to excel further in my work in aviation as well as to develop further as a project manager, husband, father and a friend.”

Learning to be a Transparent Project Leader

Haukur Ingi JonassonHaukur Ingi Jonasson, faculty member at the University of Reykjavik, Iceland, shares his Project Inheritance Tracks and talks about the things we can know and understand about ourselves and those around us and how this can help you manage people and projects.



Liliana CadauLiliana Cadau, Programme Manager and PMO Officer, ARUP.

“I came to project management from an unconventional academic background and career, having a degree in Political Science and past professional experiences in the consultancy industry but not related to engineering.

“However, I realised early on the importance of knowing how to prepare a work plan with clear objectives and a solid management and control system when trying to introduce change.

“My interest in project management grew quickly so I decided to self-study for the APM Introductory Certificate. Getting that qualification was the first significant step to formalise and give a framework to what I had been learning about managing projects. It was also the key that got me the first assignment as Programme Management Officer in a Real Estate and IT environment.

“Gaining the APMP qualification was the natural next step. Apart from formally certifying my project management knowledge, it strengthened my confidence in being able to deliver project successfully. I now recognise myself as a legitimate part of the project management community.

“I am just at the beginning of this professional path and I’m excited at the thought of the many of the many opportunities to explore project and programme management topics in the years to come”.

Read further APM accreditation case stories from organizations in business and academia.

Coming next month: Giving Back to the Profession

Tapping into the huge resources of the Association for Project Management volunteer community and exploring different ways to share skills, expertise and make a difference.

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