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Bettina Menaldo's design narrative: embedding the Project Management framework as way of working

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Bettina Menaldo
27 March 2014

Narrator

As a training designer, my role was to identify what the gaps in the organisation were and figure out how we could create a training program that would help participants systematize their project work using a common framework.

 

Situation

This was a large company. Different functional areas were using diverse approaches to manage their projects and thus reported progress in different ways. The company wanted project managers to use a consistent framework, templates and steps in the process to facilitate alignment and collaboration across functions. Additionally, project managers were not specialized in project management. They had their own role and the added responsibility to manage a cross functional project.

Task

We had to develop a training program that would not only train project managers to use an integrated approach but also ensured that this new framework continued being used throughout the year. The program was expected to introduce the basics of Project Management and give participants some kind of follow up and support to apply the principles and new framework.

Actions

One of the essential steps was to involve key stakeholders from different functional areas, as each would advocate for their own approach to managing projects. We also needed their buy in to allow employees to devote 25 hours in total to take part in the training program.

We designed and developed the training program using the concept of learning paths. This meant that is was a blended learning experience where participants were asked to do different activities like readings, watching videos, short face to face sessions, application exercises and also follow up sessions to review how they had applied the project management framework  to their day to day work. The whole learning was scheduled to be delivered within 2 months.

Results

The results of the Project Management Training were positive. Participants found the framework enough generic to be applied to different types of projects, the activities and content were relevant and focused on the specific topics that the organisation wanted to emphasize like creating a team charter at the beginning of the project and the use of standard reportings. Different functions progressively adopted the new framework and started using a common language and templates to describe their projects.

The unexpected outcomes were that even if participants valued the training, what they most appreciated were the follow up meetings with the facilitator to discuss how to overcome the barriers that they encountered in managing their own real projects. For example, “managing stakeholders” was covered in the training, but the reality of how to do it was more complex than the way it was addressed by the content of the training.

It was also difficult to maintain the new framework alive, as employees changed teams and new employees joined the company.

Reflections

My reflection is that we need to find ways to introduce the practical application to the job earlier on in the learning path. Often learning feels to participants like separated from the real context where it needs to be applied. It’s often challenging to keep the balance between a training being enough generic to suit everyone’s needs and, at the same time, enough specific to give people specific solutions applicable to their own jobs.  

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