Project Management Institute, Inc. (PMI) defines project management as “the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to a broad range of activities in order to meet the requirements of a particular project.”
This definition doesn’t tell the reader much about the day to day work and responsibilities of a project manager. While each organization has its own expectation for project managers, there are fundamental activities that remain constant. There are 5 phases of a project:
- Initiating – the business problem or opportunity is identified, a solution is defined, a project is formed, and a project team is appointed to build and deliver the solution to the customer
- Planning – the project team creates a project plan, project charter and/or project scope that outlines the work to be performed
- Executing – resources and tasks are distributed and teams are informed of responsibilities
- Monitoring & Controlling – project managers will compare project status and progress to the actual plan, adjusting schedules and doing what is necessary to keep the project on track
- Closing – after project tasks are completed and the client has approved the outcome, an evaluation is necessary to highlight project success and/or learn from project history
How does this work in the Training Services field at IPS?
After a client has met with our business development team to craft a solution for their needs, the project is handed off to the delivery team led by a Training Project Manager, who is responsible for most of the phases. We spend the majority of our time in the planning, executing, monitoring and controlling phases. We meet with clients to confirm project objectives, match facilitators to the project and the client organization, review all materials and curriculum to ensure they meet expectations, monitor training delivery, and evaluate outcomes.
While these activities are now second nature for me, I had to learn the value of good project management over the course of my work at IPS. And occasionally the lesson was a hard one. Whenever a training goes well, there is cause for celebration. But when one goes wrong, the project manager and team have to take a hard look at why during the Evaluation Phase. I’ve had two situations where we failed to ensure a good match between instructor and client.
In the first, the instructor didn’t have industry experience and it was difficult for participants to connect the training to their work. And in the second, the instructor’s temperament and demeanor didn’t match the client’s culture which resulted in the participants disconnecting from the instructor and course materials. Due to those experiences, we’ve implemented a step in the planning process to allow clients to interview and have a teaching demo with our instructors. We learned that being extra conscientious in selecting instructional talent is one of the most important tasks because of the risks involved. This has led to higher instructor ratings, increased participant satisfaction scores, and requests for additional training.
Project management is a cycle in which the phases of Implementation, Monitoring and Controlling overlap allowing for continual improvement if the project management team closely monitors and controls the implementation. This makes regular communication with all project team members crucial. In our business, instructors and facilitators must have regular and direct interactions with our clients to gain feedback and problem solve any issues.
An early experience led me to create these regular check-in meetings. The project went in a direction not covered by our contract and my instructor delivered services that we couldn’t bill for or pay them for. With check-in meetings, I’m able to monitor the progress of projects and make changes to a delivery scope if and when a client makes the request. These check-in meetings help ensure that we deliver the best solution possible.
To keep projects moving smoothly and on target, I set aside time daily to do all of the tasks above, as well as general daily duties that keep my projects moving ahead. I monitor my calendar and task lists regularly to ensure I am not missing any steps or deliverables. Personal organizational and time/task management skills are critical for the success of any Project Manager.
This job keeps you busy. Here are a few recent critical internal projects I managed for IPS’ Marketing:
- Marketing Brochure redesign – March 2017
- Website redesign and relaunch – February 2017
- 5th Anniversary event management– October 2016
- SWOT Analysis—Organizational Strategic Planning Process-March 2016
Some of the most significant client projects that I’ve managed over the years include:
- Subject Matter Experts Management and review of Basic Training v3 curriculum rewrite for the SEIU 775 Benefits Group – May 2015
- Goodwill of the Rainier and Olympic Region – Warehouse Clerk Training Program
- Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (now Keurig Green Mountain) – Supervisory Success Program
- City of Tacoma – Supervision and Management Certificate
- Job Skills Grant Programs
- Tribal Enterprise and Games Management Certificate Programs
While each project is customized to the need of the client, the phases and tasks remain largely the same: develop a plan, implement the plan, monitor and control the plan, and evaluate the plan. Each phase is crucial but perhaps the most often rushed or overlooked phase is the Evaluation phase.
Every Project Manager and team needs to spend time thinking and discussing the successes or failures of a project afterwards. What are some of your lessons learned and how have they helped re-shape your processes and tasks? Take time to reflect on those and you will become a better Project Manager.