Project Management is offered on a customized basis. For more information about a tailored program for your organization or team, contact us at 479-575-3331.
Project Management Solutions is offered in cooperation with Pendere, Inc.
Few projects finish on-budget, on-time, delivering results expected by customers. Yet there is no shortage of industry best practices from which to learn. What is missing for most organizations is a tailored version of those best practices, tuned to the culture, embedded in the skills of the people, supported by appropriate technology. Only when all elements of people, process, and technology come together can projects be executed effectively and efficiently.
Because each organization's culture and experiences are unique, an organization cannot simply import a set of project management practices from one successful organization or directly implement an industry standard reference model as a working process. Creating a project management capability requires a holistic solution focused on organic development of the people and the processes, with judicious selections of supporting technology. The tough challenge is where to start.
As with any investment, building an organizational capability must solve a business problem and create business value. Thus, a solution starts with understanding the current state, to see what practices are in use, what is working, and what is not. That base is extended, evolving processes, providing targeted training, mentoring, and motivating teams to build their capability. Key to each solution is a set of measurable business goals, based on the reasons for improvement. Questions like these often elicit the relevant goals:
A sound solution requires careful change management, leveraging lessons learned from decades of quality and process improvement. The figure below shows typical activities, guided by experienced facilitators, as an organization goes through analysis, planning, pilot, deployment, and measurement phases of a full solution.
Some aspects of a solution require training, and that training must be appropriate to the solution. Traditional training techniques of lectures and case studies are seldom effective. Effectiveness of this type of training is often measured with instructor and course evaluation surveys (called “smile sheets”) at level 1 on the Kirkpatrick scale of learning effectiveness. Our project-based learning approach for training enables much higher knowledge retention and applicability, that associated with Level 3.
Project-based learning enables class participants to use their projects as the “case study,” learning how to directly apply course concepts and techniques to their work with the aid of experienced instructor consultants. For example, in the Project Management Fundamentals workshop, participants develop parts of their project plans and associated work products. In a Use Case Workshop, participants develop example use cases for a project on which they are currently working. Upon finishing each course, the participants should be well-equipped to complete the work expected of them by their organization’s project life cycle. Over time, using the project-based learning approach enables the organization to realize the business value of learning at Kirkpatrick Level 4.
Project-based learning is also key for the individuals in the training. As illustrated in the Average Retention Rates diagram, the level of retention from training activities is highest when participants in a workshop practice the skills by actually doing their own work using the new skills.
Each solution is motivated by some organization business need, captured in business goals and measures of business benefit.
Examples of goals and measures that are often used include:
Many other goals and measures are relevant, driven by specific organization needs. Success with a solution is ensured if it is directed at critical business needs. Thus our tailored solution starts with identifying the relevant goals, and measurable performance to the goals is monitored throughout the deployment of the solution.
Project-based learning workshops consist of short lectures to teach a concept and/or tools, followed by skill-building exercises applying the concepts and tools to project work of the participants. This is followed by in-depth applied exercises, using the collection of techniques as a whole, tailored as needed for the organization's life cycle and processes, to address the near term activities of the participants' projects. Participants are guided by instructors during the workshop for both the skill-building and the applied exercises.
Most traditional training uses a lecture format. That is the least useful in building skills for the workplace. Adults learn best from activities in which they directly use the skills being taught.
As illustrated in the diagram, the level of retention from training activities is highest when participants in a workshop practice the skills by actually doing their own work using the new skills. This is the approach of the applied exercises in the project-based learning workshops described here.
For many years, training organizations have offered skills development training in a variety of ways. The Kirkpatrick scale is commonly used to judge how well training meets its goals, using four levels:
While the first two levels are easiest and the most often used, the third and fourth levels are most significant to a business. Project-based learning workshops equip trainees to make direct use of the learning (level 3), and enable their organizations to quickly see level 4 results.
Workshop elements vary slightly, when offered on-site for one organization or as public training for participants from several organizations. The table below summarizes the project-based learning approach for the two settings, using a Project Management Fundamentals Workshop as the example.
|PM Fundamentals||On-Site Offering||Public Offering|
|Validate organization goals and expectations||Review outcomes that can be attained from the workshop with organization leaders, to ensure they fit the goals and career expectations of the training||Describe outcomes in the promotional material about the workshop, encouraging participants to review them with management|
|Gather project material to be used in the workshop exercises||Gain agreement of participants and their leaders on the relevant process materials and project work products to include in the workshop, based on the types of projects being performed by participants: PM processes, templates, checklists; charters, project plans, etc.||Provide guidance in pre-workshop mailing on what types materials to bring to the workshop - PM processes, WBS templates and other PM process assets; project charter, any work products in progress|
|Tailor workshop to fit the participants||Match organization-provided materials to exercises, supplementing with industry standard material in the courseware as needed||Provide industry standard material in the courseware, incorporating student-provided material in the classroom|
|Conduct the project-based learning workshop||Establish teams of 3 people, composed of individuals who are on the same real-life project in their organization. Using a workshop style that spends more than half the time on exercises, use the project context as the subject matter of the exercises. For example, when learning how to build a WBS, the team builds the top 2 levels of the WBS for their team's project.||Spending more than half the time on exercises, use the project context of the participants as the subject matter of the exercises, for example, building the top 2 levels of the WBS for each 3-person team's project. Where a team is composed of people from different organizations, use either a case study or the project of one of the participants.|
|Establish next steps||As the last workshop exercise for each team, participants identify the next activities to be done for that project, set action items with due dates and deliverables.||As the last workshop exercise for each team, participants identify the next activities to be done for their team's project, set action items with due dates and deliverables for the project team whose organization it represents.|
|Perform applied exercises||Each exercise team works on its next steps, with mentoring guidance from the instructor, to ensure their questions are answered, and good progress is made.||Each exercise team works on its next steps, with mentoring guidance from the instructor, to ensure their questions are answered, and good progress is made.|
Janet has spent 20 years as an IT professional helping organizations build effective project management and IT delivery capabilities. Examples include:
Joyce focuses her consulting efforts on enabling software organizations to maximize their productivity and competitiveness. With more than 30 years of experience as an IT professional, her consulting activities of the last 15 years have met needs of people ranging from CIO to individual developer. Examples include:
She recently served as a Vice President in the Worldwide Services organization at Borland, integrating process offerings into Borland’s software businesses. That work followed on from the acquisition of TeraQuest, the software process improvement company that Joyce co-founded and co-led for 12 years. Joyce managed various levels of software development over a period of 15 years at Texas Instruments, as well as being an early proponent of software process improvement.