Training in Managing Small to Medium Sized Projects
Project management skills are increasingly being applied in organizations to the management of small to medium size projects, carried out over a period of weeks or months, and involving people from all functions. In matrix organizations, where functional boundaries are crossed routinely, project management has replaced traditional management methods as the day-to-day modus operandi. If you recognize either of these scenarios in your organization, then the following ideas about training will be particularly relevant to you. Incidentally, one useful definition of a project is "a piece of work which has a discrete start and finish, an expected outcome or result and a specific budget of cash or resources".
For professional or full-time project managers, for example in IT and construction-related areas of work, project management is a complex discipline for which quite specific knowledge and training is required and this is often supported by sophisticated computer programmes.
For the occasional project manager who has management responsibility for a small or medium sized project, the level and detail of training required is less exhaustive. In this context, taking too complex an approach in project management training can be detrimental and can terrify participants to the point of inertia.
Training in project management can be kept simple, and probably needs to those who be so for are new to the discipline. A good aim for the training would be to enable participants to:
To achieve this, and depending on the past experience of participants, it may be appropriate to divide the training content into several separate elements:
Participants could attend all or any of these elements, depending on individual need.
For example, a seasoned team leader may be very experienced at team building, but less familiar with budgetary concepts and the need to negotiate resources with other departments. They would therefore find the first and last programmes most useful and relevant.
A vital factor in any project management training is to ensure that there is clear understanding of what project management entails and the key factors which will need to planned for and managed throughout the project’s lifecycle.
The cost-quality-time triangle is a well known model which can be used in this respect:
People being trained will need to know about the tried and tested project management tools which are available to them, in planning and managing these aspects of their projects. In addition, it is advisable to build into the training a number of opportunities to practice using some of these tools.
For the purposes of small to medium sized projects a relatively limited range of tools is required, and these may include:
Controlled practice in the use of relevant project management tools can be provided by prepared project examples which participants can work through as part of a group training exercise, applying project management tools as appropriate.
In addition, for groups involving participants whose functional roles do not include budgetary responsibilities, some further explanation of budgeting and accounting principles is likely to be needed, this could include:
In addition to the hard skills of planning, organizing, monitoring and measuring, project managers need some soft skills also to help them in establishing and managing relationships, both within the project team and with others outside it. This is particularly true of small to medium sized projects, which often require only a part-time commitment, with project team members remaining ultimately answerable to their full-time line managers. This can lead to a number of problems:
Soft skills training can usefully be focused on the following areas:
In reality, very few projects are likely to run their full course without some problems occurring. Project managers may therefore need additional training in the problem solving tools available to them and how to use them.
The list below suggests some basic problem solving techniques which can be introduced to project managers as part of their project management training:
© DBA 1998