When the Canadian Armed Forces prepares soldiers, sailors and airmen and women for combat, it ensures they have the necessary training to succeed. But when the CAF seeks to acquire the equipment to enable that success, the people tasked with procuring that kit are not nearly as well prepared.

As Vanguard reports in the current issue, the Department of National Defence is implementing a framework for Project Management Competency Development to better align the skills of project managers with the complexities and risks of today’s major capital procurements.

Last week, another piece of the puzzle fell into place.

As the government continues to define its new Defence Procurement Strategy, the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa launched a partnership with the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) of Brisbane to offer its Executive Master of Business program focused on complex program leadership and strategic procurement.

The three-year program is being offered through Telfer’s Centre for Executive Leadership in Ottawa and is intended to “complement” the DPS and the government’s industry innovation strategies. It blends seven one-week residential sessions with online learning and a two-week international study tour to “create professionals who have developed mastery in systems thinking, emotional intelligence and cognitive flexibility.”

The Queensland program was established in response to defence procurement issues similar to those now experienced by the Canadian government. In a recent report, the Auditor General raised “concerns about the problems caused by a lack of skilled, experienced staff assigned to manage many major acquisitions.”

In a press release, Telfer said “the program aims to help break the cycle of delays and failures often seen in complex projects.”

During the launch in Ottawa, Bob O’Connor, the executive director of the QUT Graduate School of Business, noted that the iron triangle of scope, schedule and cost “is not good enough.” Military officers may have discipline, but that does not prepare project managers for “systemic thinking,” he said.

More than one speaker suggested the program could be a game changer for defence procurement and that it could help address some of the trust issues that now exist between National Defence and industry if project managers from both go through the program together.

Retired Royal Canadian Navy commodore Kelly Williams, senior director of strategy and government relations for General Dynamics Canada, noted the need to “pay attention to preparing people” and suggested that in implementing the Canada First Defence Strategy, “we should have put people first.”