How to construct and manage an L&D Project.

Mind Tools blog “Project management in L&D” states that L&D needs careful planning and management – and that brings it under the rules of project management.  Any project involves four main parties:

  • The client (in this case, the learner), who expects both benefits and change from the project.
  • Management, who makes demands on resources and time because of its expectation that the project will make a profit.
  • Other stakeholders, who may be drivers, inhibitors or neutral, depending on their viewpoints.
  • The project team (L&D), who needs understanding and motivation to succeed.
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What tends to happen with generic projects is that a business case is made. If that’s approved, a feasibility study (learning needs analysis) is completed. If that’s OK, some development work takes place, a project team is formed and a project manager is selected. There’s a trial of the product (a pilot training program) and then, if all is satisfactory, the product (program) is rolled out.

All projects need a ‘champion’, who could be the client (learner). Clients tend to believe that nothing is happening on the project until they see some results, yet most of the work on the project happens before the implementation stage. Many project teams get over this problem by producing a prototype (pilot program). Making the project (L&D) manager responsible for the project’s implementation is dangerous.

There are a number of reasons for this, not least the potential conflict between delivering a product on time and within budget versus quality. In addition, the project manager may not know the project’s history. Project managers need to know about the early shaping of the project, because this justifies the project’s funding and defines the expected benefits. The client establishes the project’s objectives and forms expectations – although clients are unlikely to communicate these to the project manager! In time, a brief emerges but a great many things may be obscured by immediate concerns, inappropriate detail, and mistranslation.

  • Project management: Controls – after the initial phase of a project, project (L&D) managers should have three controls available to them: the schedule, the budget, and deliverables. However, your project will fail if you try to control all three before it is fully specified. For example, when you are operating on a fixed budget, reducing the time allowed for the project will result in reduced quality.
  • Project management: Resourcing – beware of adding more people to a project that’s already late. That will just make it even later. At some point, the size of your project team will make communication difficult and, eventually, you’ll spend longer communicating than you do working on the project. This increases the project’s cost considerably if you have a schedule that’s too short for the job in hand. Among the proactive levers of project control are:
  • Value and risk.
  • Deliverables
  • Quality
  • Risks
  • Project management: Risk avoidance strategies – there are five basic risk reduction strategies:
  • Avoidance (Can I plan so that I eliminate the risk?)
  • Transfer (Can I outsource this risk to someone else? For example, taking out insurance.)
  • Reduction (Can I do things in another, less risky way?)
  • Acceptance with contingency (I can’t avoid this risk but I have a plan to meet it when it happens.)
  • Acceptance with tolerance (I’ve allowed for this in my project budget and schedule.)

It’s important that someone “owns” the risk register, but it’s also important that everyone on the project team is aware of the risks. The next post on project management for L&D will look at such things as project delivery, quality and management. 

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