Succeed at Project Management Training

Choosing the right techniques is key.

By James Chiarello, Pathfinder, LLC

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This technique often is used when trying to demonstrate how a team dynamic should function in a real-life situation. Team members get the opportunity to experience the benefit of addressing a project situation and assessing alternative solutions through team interfaces. It also can demonstrate the impact a project manager has in this team environment.

2. Case study workshops. These detail a situation or event that contains some type of problem or issue — and typically are based on organization-specific examples. By using a relevant project, the attendees can quickly relate to the situation and understand the problem. This is critical so that they can focus on how to use the learned principles to help solve the problem. Such case studies also provide opportunities to think about application and practice, not just theory. They help with the development and application of critical thinking and problem-solving skills and encourage attention to, and self-consciousness about, assumptions and conceptions.

This technique is extremely effective for rolling out company or industry lessons learned. Most organizations strive to incorporate project-related lessons learned into their project delivery work process, but many struggle in getting these lessons back out to the project teams. Case studies provide an opportunity for the attendees to see what was done well, what was done wrong and how things can be done better.

3. Scenario-based workshops. These involve providing attendees with a problem or "what-if" issue that may have expected or unexpected impacts on the project. This technique helps to develop higher-level problem-solving skills, promote analytical thinking, provide an opportunity to synthesize previous learning into a single combined learning experience, reinforce and build upon previous team-building skills, stimulate an engaging learning experience for the attendees and foster positive competitiveness among team members and teams. Such workshops are extremely effective for advanced project management training — because they help train project managers to "think on their feet" and react to different situations by analyzing and taking into account multiple data points from a variety of project and organizational stakeholders.

Most organizations handle many aspects of project management very well. However, because there are so many aspects to address, they often tend to fail through omission rather than commission, i.e., overlooking something rather than executing it poorly. This learning technique enables the facilitation team to target problem areas while accentuating what already is done well.

4. Role-playing workshops. Here, attendees take on a role and act out specified behaviors related to that role. The technique helps develop greater involvement with the issues and deeper knowledge. Behavior during the activity is a good indicator of how well someone understands and can apply what's learned. Role-playing also allows attendees to hone skills in an environment where mistakes have no real-world consequences. A person can practice a part of an actual skill to be learned, which may lead to quicker mastery of that skill. Such workshops also help foster empathy for others on the project team and a better understanding of their roles and responsibilities.

Attendees may benefit from taking on a role that they impact or that impacts them. This allows them to appreciate how others view their role in the project team, better respect others' roles, and see first-hand how their actions affect others. Often, attendees are asked to play the "other side" in a project dispute or claim or the end user.

Knowing when and where to build these techniques into the training may seem challenging but it's not as difficult as you may think. It's always a good idea to use a blended approach. For example, an organization looking to make the skill set of its project professionals more well rounded might choose the role-playing and team-oriented training techniques. However, if the goal is to disseminate project management lessons learned, it might select the case-study and scenario-based techniques.

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