Apr 16, 2010

Shouldn't PM Training Walk the Talk?

Posted by in Project & Program Management, Performance Measurement, Resource Optimization | 10 Comments

Lately, I've noticed something ironic about project management and project management training.

Successful projects are so specific to the needs of the sponsors and business, requiring detailed project plans to ensure that scope, schedule, budget and deliverables hit the target.  This target is oftentimes moving one; slight requirements changes cause further alterations to the project.  In the world of agile project management, these changes can be even more frequent.

Yet, when it comes to training people to pull off those very company-specific results, many companies use standard, off-the-shelf training sessions that do not accurately reflect the realities of the business and employees they support.

Why do so many companies accept a merely transactional relationship with their project management training providers when they should be demanding a collaborative relationship?

Don't get me wrong: off-the-shelf courses with pre-established case studies and exercises are a great start, and sometimes the right fit for some companies, but most companies that I work with have their own methodology and templates, their own project portfolio management and governance practices, different audiences, specific learning objectives and desired behavior changes, and schedule/budget constraints.  Isn’t it the responsibility of the service provider to act in a trusted advisor capacity to help its clients create the best possible learning experience and learning outcomes?

Isn’t it time for the purchasers of project management training services to “have it their way”?  To proactively recommend alterations and customizations to course content based on their expertise in building efficient and effective learning experiences?  Wouldn’t a more perfect world include:

  • Component-based learning content to create blended and spaced learning strategies that target specific learning
  • Objectives and desired behavior changes where performance improvement can be measured and used to fuel additional investments
  • Openness to including client-specific terminology, processes and templates to allow students to immediately apply what they are learning in “their world”
  • Understanding and appreciation of schedule and budget constraints
  • Openness to managing the ongoing program, taking ownership of the results, through the use of SaaS-based LMS and behavior change assessment tools
  • PM consulting backbone to support individual and group mentoring as well as process, organization and technology enhancements.

That would be a world where PM training and PM practice would be speaking the same language and walking the same talk.


(12 votes. Average: 2.5 out of 5)

10 Comments on Shouldn’t PM Training Walk the Talk?

Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin says:

Good point, Kurt. For more on this topic, take a look back at our Nov. 10, 2009 post: PM Training - Not One-Size-Fits All.

Posted on April 16, 2010 at 11:04 am

Jim Sloane says:

Oh brother, give me a break, you must not do training.
Clients don’t WANT to pay for innovation in training, it’s too expensive.
I have researched brick and mortar simulations and computer simulations a lot. It takes several hours of labor to create, and I emphasize ‘de-bugged’ simulations for clients. (You notice that I think simulations are the best way to learn. Although, one-on-one coach and employee teams are the ultimate best way.)
We went to e-learning because business wanted the burden of learning to shift to the employee - their time, not company time in a lot of cases. Oh, and by the way. e-learning is a lot cheaper!

Posted on April 16, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin says:

Maybe we are talking about two different kinds of training here. Because we DO do training ... and the majority of it is customized ... and judging by the increased interest we’ve been seeing, the right clients ARE willing to pay for the right kinds of innovation in training. Of course, having professional curriculum development services is central to the effort. I just don’t agree that computer simulations do the trick, particularly not for higher-level, less-technical project management skills - the kind that focus on the business and the people instead of technical expertise.
For that, you need interaction - preferably interaction with a skilled instructor.

Posted on April 19, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Karen says:

Kurt, I couldn’t agree with you more! When I received off-hour training as a project manager (that is, class offered by employer but after work hours), the #1 frustration I experienced was being taught something that didn’t align with the business practices of my company. One incident still in my head that demonstrates this is related to learning a specific approach to doing risk analysis and mitigation planning, an approach that had absolutely nothing to do with how my employer did project risk analysis. We had tools that we had to use to do the risk analysis, and specific guidelines as to how to think about mitigations. None of that was covered in the classroom, so I had to spend MORE of my own time to learn it.

Same goes for simulations and other “games” used to learn concepts - if they don’t demonstrate that which I use 8 hours a day, then don’t bother me with them.

The smart employer will realize that his employees want to immediately apply what they learn in the classroom, not have to “unlearn it and learn something else.”

Posted on April 19, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Kurt Foehl says:

Jim, I appreciate your note and understand the realities of budget and schedule constraints.  Please don’t feel that my post was meant to stress that classroom-based, instructor-led training is the only effective option.  A blended approach that accounts for the realities of business and has a measureable effect on behavior change is quite often the main goal.  I do have to disagree with your opinion that most companies don’t want to or won’t pay for tailoring or customization.  PM College has always recommended the integration of client-specific tools, templates and processes into the training to ensure that participants are able to practically apply what they are learning.  We were an early pioneer in developing a component-based course structure that allows us to “knit together” the right components from multiple courses.  What started as a recommendation from us has quickly become a client requirement for the majority of our training engagements.  It’s been some years since I have seen an RFP without this requirement.  Much of our client base has its workforce spread across the globe and it’s essential for them to acquire the right amount of training at the right time with the right content to ensure consistency in delivery. These organizations have therefore been very willing to dedicate “company time” to the development of their people.

Posted on April 21, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Orlando says:

Kurt, having led efforts in establishing PMOs for the last 10 years, one of the keys to our success in transforming company cultures and making PM a core competency was partnering with internal (HR Department) and external training providers.  Just as a project’s success goes beyond meeting datelines to delivering value, PM training should go beyond delivering pre-established classes to partnering with someone who takes the time to understand the culture, where the business is trying to go, how the PMO is trying to influence and thus delivering customized solutions that true value and competitive advantage.

Posted on May 7, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Kurt Foehl says:

Orlando, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and your focus on delivering training that speaks as much as possible to the culture/practices of the organization.  “Customized” and “tailored” does not always mean “more expensive” and “complex”.  Focusing on those behavior changes that will have the greatest impact to the individual and the organization is the best way I have found to demonstrate value to the business.

Posted on June 28, 2010 at 6:21 pm

paul Lombard, PMP says:

Regrettably, it is true that many organizations base their learning purchase on the basis of the lowest price tag. I agree with Kurt in that the learning objectives need to be clearly defined and the learning path to those objectives should be structured and blended in the most efficient AND effective way.

Posted on July 7, 2010 at 9:17 am

paul Lombard, PMP says:

AS an extension of the concept of ‘efficient AND effective learning” there has been a lot of conversation about “green” training” What has your organization done about making its training green?


Posted on July 7, 2010 at 9:19 am

Helene Matthews, PMP says:

What a great question, Paul.  Here are some of the steps we have taken towards “being green” and we have these solutions available for clients that are interested in taking advantage of them:

1. Reduced materials for Participant guides – this includes both moving to spiral bound and including handouts within the guide whenever possible to reduce the number of extra pages
a. We also use front and back printing to reduce the total number of pages
b. We provide the option of client printing from provided files which reduces the need for shipping
2. E-reviews of content materials with clients
a. Establishing the LMS as a method of file sharing materials with clients
b. Using Webex to review materials reduces the number of printouts
c. Maintaining and reviewing material change logs online
3. Virtual ITL offerings
a. Online materials reduce the paper
b. Web-based delivery reduces the need to travel and the “carbon footprint” of the course
c. Moving to the online PMPerfect test prep instead of a book form saves paper, as well as reduces shipping impacts
4. LMS options
a. For clients that are ready, we offer the post-course tests through our LMS, reducing the need for paper
b. For clients that are ready, we can also offer course evaluations through our LMS, reducing paper, and increasing reporting options
5. Online resources replacing paper-based resources
a. We now offer online assessments for both the MBTI and the SDI assessments, significantly reducing the need for paper and shipping for courses that include these tools

Posted on July 16, 2010 at 10:14 am

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