Personal development

Millions of Dollars, Euros and Pounds are spent every year on training project and programme managers and yet we still don’t seem to have resolved Cobb’s Paradox1.

Social media is rife with explanations of why projects fail, and studies of lessons learned reports repeatedly reveal that people simply don’t implement the basic techniques and processes that are taught on every course.

Clearly something needs to change.

As Cobb observed, the principles of good practice in project delivery are well understood but they are not applied as often as they should be. So the question should be “How can we ensure that good practice is applied and knowledge converted to competence?”

In his book “The Checklist Manifesto”, Atul Gawande tells the story of how he helped the World Health Organisation reduce surgical mortality by 47% around the world. This six-minute video of his TED talk on You Tube sums it up perfectly ( and reveals that “Even cowboys have checklists”.

Clearly, Gawande was not trying to develop competency in surgical teams – the competence was already there. What he successfully did was to improve the application of that competence and develop good habits that work time after time. Although in project delivery we face a slightly different problem, we can learn a lot from Gawande’s work.

Firstly, we need to see training as just the first step on a development path and get away from the idea that going on a one-week course and getting a certificate makes someone a ‘qualified’ project or programme manager.

Secondly, we need to provide the environment that builds on training by encouraging its immediate application to the day-to-day management of projects and programmes before it gets forgotten.

Praxis achieves this by providing a development path for individuals that takes them from basic foundational knowledge through to verified competence in a complex environment. It also provides checklists that facilitate the adaptation and application of good practice in team and organisational situations.

The ‘Individual Path’ within the Praxis Pathway works in conjunction with the Team and Organisation Paths to take an holistic approach to achieving high levels of effectiveness and efficiency in organisational project delivery – and ultimately address Cobb’s Paradox.


  1. When Martin Cobb was CIO for the Secretariat of the Treasury Board of Canada in 1995, he asked the question that has become known as Cobb’s Paradox: “We know why projects fail, we know how to prevent their failure – so why do they still fail?”

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