Should you bother investing in project management ‘training’?

A few months ago we published an article with the title Is project management simple? In that article we did address one of the challenges facing the field of project management. At that time we published six challenges, which we also included in one of our eBooks, with the title: Project Management Challenges, Opportunities, Methodology.

In that article we had listed an email from a “prospect” requesting a PhD in project management in one day – we republish that email here for ready reference.

The Email (unedited)

Project management training requirements for both employees and management.

Employees (Initiative Owners):

  • Team building activity
  • Time management
  • Identify project management processes
  • Understand project management terminology
  • Correctly identify the roles involved in project management
  • Describe project success criteria and success factors
  • Support and contribute to a successful project outcome
  • Prepare project documentation
  • Detailed Work Breakdown Structure
  • Resource planning
  • Construct a project budget and use it to control project costs
  • Report progress and identify deviations from plan
  • Follow up on activities
  • Risk identification & handling
  • Develop communication skills
  • Recognize different team roles and adapt behavior as necessary

It is important that application training is provided as well as the theoretical part. Software such as MS project, Primavera or similar applications would be useful so that the training would be hands on and targeted to fit our needs.

The challenge with the above is not the topics – but the requirement to do all of the above in 1 day!

What is new

What triggered today’s email is similar events and requests that we receive – here we share two examples – and we will be brief.

Example 1

One prospect wanted program management for a team of newly appointed program managers – no experience. We have a foundational program management course that blends PMI standard with other elements from our own work in addition to publications from other program management thought leaders. Our course is only 3-day so it only touches on important principles and it is designed for those who have experience in project and business management. The client want to shrink to 2 days … it is not a major concern if people have experience but is this enough to manage programs effectively?

Example 2

Another prospect, finally settled on a workshop (essentials of project management) that we offer, which is 5 days but this workshop actually combines 2 workshops — 8 days in total. In other words, a 40% reduction. Next the client came back and asked to shrink it to 4 – 50% reduction. Now he wants it in 3 days. Here we must ask, what is the purpose of the training? Is it awareness or learning?

Our Opinion

In general, a training, or a learning program – should be fit for purpose. We never hesitate in advising a prospect, or client, that you do not need to invest into a 5-day course when a 2-day or 3-day course will do. We do not hesitate in telling a client – you do not need a course if that is the situation. The key here is what the client wants = their expectations?

An awareness session to project or program management? A 1, 2, or 3-day might be enough – depend on the topics they wanted covered. This would be a situation if the client’s expectations is for their team to be aware of project management and some of the concepts.

However, to learn anything well (learn = concepts + applying them), then we need more time. This would be the situation where the client’s expectations is for their team member to know the basics on how to apply the concepts at work.

Of course if someone want to learn how to develop a good WBS (only), we can cover such a topic in details – with exercises and case studies – in 3 to 4 hours (not days). If someone want to learn how to identify risks (only) we can cover in a few hours … but if a client want to learn how to take a project from idea to closure – and learn how to apply the various steps – and learn all of the processes … we need time.

Project Management Plan per PMBOK 5

Processes to develop the project management plan per PMBOK Guide 5th Edition

Let us just think about PMBOK Guide processes; there are 47 of them in the latest editions. Note: 47 processes to cover in a 2-day (14 hours) course … that is 3.4 processes per hour. The 3.4 p/h is with the assumption that we do not cover the general concepts from the PMBOK like project life cycle, project organization, project success, and other topics. The image here presents the management planning processes from the PMBOK, which are 10. Please note, these are not all of the planning processes; these are only the ones to develop the project management plan!

Closing Remarks

In our view (and what I instruct my business team) is to talk to the client – if awareness is all they want – a SHRUNK program is enough.

However, if they want their people to really learn something, they should invest into a longer program – and ideally a custom-fit program to their organizational needs (blending consultancy with learning) … otherwise, it might be better for them to save their money since their return on the training investment will be minimal!