Skills of Project Management

by | Nov 30, 2009 | Articles

Classroom trainers are experienced in responding to the needs of individual learners, in being flexible, in changing content. Their skill includes having a store of responses, different exercises, different topics which enables a flexibility of content.

Creating, delivering and using Learning Technologies requires a different skill set. Project management skills are needed. Trainers must acquire these skills to control costs, deliver on time and achieve objectives.

Here are ten top tips for Project Management?
 

1. Outputs
The focus is on hitting milestones and the results of tasks rather than the tasks themselves. A project plan identifies these milestones and gets commitment from those responsible for achieving them. The download in this section from Saffron Interactive describes milestone management in more detail.
2. Evaluation
Trainers are well accustomed to using summative and formative evaluation techniques in the context of what learners learn and changes in their behaviour. Project Management also requires evaluation of the project objectives. These will include time, cost, uptake, involvement of managers, business benefit and a number of other factors which are defined in the project objectives and the critical success factors. There is a difference between objectives of the project and the objectives of the learning. A Project Implementation Review (See Download for how it is done) checks the achievement of these Critical Success Factors; what could have been done better and what was done well.
3. Terms of Reference
One of the essential tools of a project manager is to have unambiguous terms of reference. Trainers apply a systemic approach to development of training using Instructional System Design Principles. This requires a initial training needs analysis but terms of reference are different;; they are written and agreed between the project manager and the project sponsor before anyone else is involved. This is why those who manage projects that deliver learning must understand the issues and complexity of effective and efficient learning; they must be trainers first and project managers second.
Terms of Reference can take many forms depending on the methodology used. As a trainer the one I have found most useful is the BOSCARDIC approach. The download in this section from Training Journal on Tools of Project Management describes this in more detail.
4. Stakeholder management
Traditional training takes place under the control of trainers; usually in classrooms, e-learning takes place in the workplace under the control of line managers. This applies almost irrespective of the type of technology implemented. If line managers are not part of the process they become part of the problem. Line Managers follow the lead of Directors and senior executives. Senior Executives need to feel that Learning Technologies are invested in to meet their needs. Projects exist to deliver objectives determined by the business. e-Learning projects must also meet the needs of learners, so that they in turn have the skills needed by the business.
The Project Manager has to meet the needs of both.
The article on Project Management for Training points out the role of a Senior Executive or Managing Director. They own the project and will gain the benefit from it but only if they set out to do so.
5. Steering Group
A steering Group to whom the project managers reports is an effective way of managing stakeholders. It ensures a dialogue between trainers and the business. With the right membership the group will engage all parts of the business, ensuring smooth implementation of training.
 

6. Communication Strategy
Learning Technologies do not promote themselves. Learners may find out what is available by accident but marketing of Learning Technologies can hardly be left to chance. Every successful project has a communication strategy aimed at getting benefit from it; in the case of learning that means getting it used and implemented. Our research in Driving Business Benefit shows that for eLearning at least three different methods of communication must be used.
7. Line Managers
Because e-learning moves out of the classroom into the workplace managers have a role in consolidating learning in the workplace. The job of the e-Learning Project Manager extends beyond simply delivering the learning; they must influence line managers to do their job of developing their teams using the support of Learning Technologies.

8. Change Management
Resistance may be expected when any change is introduced. Learning Technologies create change in two ways

i)  A new method of training is introduced disturbing those responsible for delivering it as well as the learners
ii) Learning itself implies an expectation that a learner will change their behaviour; the need for that change may to be “sold” to the learner.
The project process of change management addresses the resistance that may be expected from many of those who need to be fully behind responding to the changes needed.
9. Project Phases
There is a clear progression from launch to delivery of projects. This requires a different mind-set to routine delivery of courses. A project manager needs to stay focused on delivering the end result through the various phases.
10. Quality, Time and Cost
Because a project has many variables and has frequent problems and pitfalls a project manager has to constantly trade off one issue against another. The three key trades are time, cost and quality (or specification). The critical word to use in these trades is “IF”.  If I have to save £X from the budget then the project will take longer, or less is done. Managing this triangle is a key skill and a Project Manager must be adept at negotiating.

The following downloads talk more about Milestone Management, (from Saffron Interactive) Project Management of Training, the Tools of Project Management,  and Project Implementation Review (all courtesy of Training Journal).

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