Sunday, January 10, 2010

Project Management for Trainers: Key Concepts and Learning

I have just finished reading the book, Project Management for Trainers by Lou Russell. At the outset, let me admit that this is a somewhat unusual book for me to read. I am more into books about learning and performance, training, design, creative thinking, innovation and management, writing, and the like.

However, increasingly in my role as an Instructional Designer (ID), I have run up against the necessity to not only multi-task but also to think beyond training solution, learning needs and design. I have also realized that to be an effective ID, there are certain aspects of a Project I would need to understand better and get a handle on.

With this thought in mind, I took some time out to sit down and take stock of the tasks I have found myself doing in the last three months (in varying proportions). I have listed the broad categories of the tasks below (each task has many and varied sub-tasks that I will take up in subsequent posts):

  1. Business Needs Analysis
  2. Performance Consulting 
  3. Learning Solutions Design and Development
  4. Project Management (PM)
  5. Communication (both internal and client facing)
Having arrived at the list above, I did the next level of analysis to find out my weakest area. Project Management jumped out at me in a font size 10 times larger. I admitted to myself that I sucked at, not sucked...had no clue about PM.

This self-analysis became the stepping stone for my research into the kind of books I need to be reading and the resources I should be referencing.

And I picked up the book I have mentioned above. This engagingly written, practical, interactivity-filled, slim book is a wonderful introduction to the basics of Project Management. It covers all the fundamentals in a manner that is easy to understand and does not overwhelm with details. It gives you enough space and opportunity to think over what you have read and apply that practically. The book also provides a list of references and resources and is a must have on the shelf if you want to learn how training projects need to be managed and executed.

Some of the key concepts explained in the book that I have found particularly useful are:
  1. Differences between project and process
  2. Project Management Activity vs. Project Development Activity
  3. The Dare Approach (Define, Plan, Manage, Review)
  4. Arriving at Business Objectives mapping to IRACIS (Increase Revenue, Avoid Cost, Improve Services)
  5. Creating a visual scope document/project charter as baseline
  6. Risks and constraints analysis (measurable methods)
  7. Risk-scenario planning (extremely useful, especially for high-risk project with changing busienss needs)
  8. Building the project plan--step-by-step (creating the Work Breakdown Structure [WBS])
  9. Creating the schedule using the Critical Path anlaysis
  10. Difference between and measurement of Project Duration and Project Elapsed Time (Two Types of Time in Project Schedules)
  11. The Learner First Approach for accelerated learning 
  12. Managing change and change request (everybody's bug-bear and a must know)
  13. Time, Cost, Quality: what's the most important?
  14. Post-project review process--using Systems Thinking 
  15. Using the PACT model to carry out Performance Consulting 
  16. Differences between Learning Event Development and Performance Consulting
  17. Managing external suppliers and vendors
I am planning separate posts on each of the topics above--mainly for my clarity and depth of understanding.

One self-discovery I had post reading the book: I immensely enjoyed reading it. And I can see how if one truly gets involved in managing a project, it can be a challenging, innovative, analytical and highly satisfying task. There are a multitude of variables one can play around with, and these keep changing from point to point within the same project. I have seen it happen and now reading about the levers that can be used to control these make the task so much fun...I also feel it could be addictive...

Some of the resource and reference links from the book:
  1. The International Project Management Association 
  2. International Society for Performance Improvement
  3. Project Management Forum
  4. Project Management Institute
  5. The Training Professional's Gateway


  1. A note on the work breakdown structure (WBS).

    As a trainer and project manager myself, I can tell you the WBS is something that many professional project managers make big mistakes with. In Russell's book one of the mistakes he makes is by including tasks on the WBS.

    When planning, it's most helpful to start with WHAT first (your scope). For this, stick to nouns (and gerunds if necessary). Don't start talking about HOW you will do things until after you've detailed WHAT you want to accomplish.

    Otherwise, I've seen project managers overlook important pieces of scope and opportunities because they started diving into HOW too early.

    I wrote a report called Top 7 WBS Mistakes Project Managers Make you may want to download (free).

    Josh Nankivel

  2. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I will definitely read the report.

    Your suggestions are also very useful and I will think through them...would love to continue the discussion with you.


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