The value of Project Management training is limited unless it forms part of a process which recognises and addresses the challenges of implementing Project Management in the organisation as a whole.
Training people in Project Management is not the same thing as implementing Project Management. Implementation is a process driven by senior management. Training forms part of this process, and senior management must therefore be involved from the onset.
Training must take its brief from organisational implementation requirements.
Training in Project Management can be compared to training staff to work in a new staff cafeteria.
The training provider should know the reason why the organisation decided to get a cafeteria. The provider should assess what the trainees already know and determine what they can be taught. Training provides the ability to modify recipes, as well as practical lessons in how to cook, guidelines for cooking and troubleshooting tips for preparing the specific kinds of food which will be served there. It also provides training in stock management for the cafeteria which fits in specifically with the organisation’s own internal system for ordering from its suppliers.
Similarly, training in Project Management must provide insight and practical skills which fit in with the reason why the organisation decided to ‘get proper Project Management going’. It must provide practical lessons in how to use the Project Management techniques which would be needed in their own work, as well as guidelines and troubleshooting tips for dealing with the specific projects which they will have to manage.
Implementation means building the kitchen and cafeteria, informing those who will be allowed to eat there, determining what kind of food should be provided depending not only on what people want but also on what the trained staff are actually capable of cooking; it involves providing them with the kinds of utensils that they will be capable of using effectively. Finally, once the cafeteria is up and running, implementation involves checking whether the staff are coping OK, whether they are meeting the needs of the people who eat in the cafeteria and working effectively with the accounting department and other affected areas in the organisation.
Implementing Project Management involves the creation the reporting structures, training people to fulfil their various roles in the ‘Project Management department’ (if such a structure will be set up), providing project managers with project tools (such as software, if required by the organisation’s projects, and if staff are capable of being trained to use them effectively), and setting up processes that ensure that affected departments can work together smoothly, so that everyone knows what is expected of them and who is in charge of what.
Implementing Project Management also means checking how it’s going when everything is up and running, and providing assistance to bring things back on track or to take the next step up.
The relationship between training and implementation
It is evident, then, that the kind of service which the organisation intends to provide by ‘implementing a cafeteria’ will determine the kind of training that is required. The training will also reveal what can be implemented by its staff.
The people who will work in the cafeteria aren’t the ones who will set up the cafeteria. They should definitely communicate their requirements, have an influence on the selection of equipment and they may even oversee some of the work. But it’s not up to the cooks to order the evacuation of adjacent offices during the building of the kitchen, to tell the accounting department to add new inventory fields to their database, or to make other staff stop what they’re doing so that they can all agree on what food they’d want. The implementation of the cafeteria must be driven by people who have higher authority in the organisation.
Likewise, senior management must drive the process of implementing Project Management and of involving other roleplayers who are affected by or able to influence projects. By becoming aware of what running a kitchen is all about, they can better identify who would need training, and what they’d need to put in place so that the cooks can do their job. Through the training process, they will also become aware of issues which have not yet been considered in the implementation plan. (Why do they say we’ll need more cleaning staff? Why do they want us to pay for a high-density concrete floor? Why do we need a Halaal certificate? Can’t they just take pork off the menu?)
Project Management has a far greater impact on the daily lives of people in an organisation than whether or not they eat in a cafeteria. It stands to reason, therefore, that senior management must direct the implementation of Project Management and deal with the questions and issues revealed by training.