Project Practitioners > Cognitive Dissonance - Investment in Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

Cognitive Dissonance - Investment in Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

By Cinda Voegtli

Managers and executives lament the poor leadership and interpersonal skills among their project managers, yet recent studies have revealed that organizations spend almost twice as much on the hard skills of project management vs. the soft skills, and that spending on soft skills has actually decreased in the past few years. What’s wrong with this picture?

This flummoxes me.  I don't talk to anyone who thinks the hard skills trump the people skills.  None of us get anywhere with schedules, charters, other PM tools and techniques, without the soft skills to adapt to our audience, influence, overcome objections, etc.

I'm curious about what attitudes might be contributing to this mis-weighting of soft skills training spend. This is me speculating, and inviting others to share what they think - and what they're seeing in their own organizations.

1. Do hard skills seem a more valid use of training money if the goal is to "teach everyone project management"?

2. Are soft skills handled as a more centralized, generalized purchase by L&D, vs. a specialized project management-related purchase? Possibly leading to the courses not being tied well enough to project-slanted applications, and/or people trolling for "project management training" not recognizing that those soft skills courses are ALSO important.

3. Are people actually taking soft skills courses, but managers and executives don't see the results they're after? (whether because the courses are not tuned to project work... OR because the PMs might ALSO need coaching to help practice and adjust and put the new skills to work effectively).

4.  Are leadership courses slanted as for "high potential line management track" people, and the leadership needs of  project managers not recognized, or at least not addressed properly in the leadership courses and organization does have?  Do PMs signing up for internal training realize that they need that aspect too?

Whatever the reasons behind a decrease in soft skill investment, this is not good. Food for thought. 





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