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Three success factors for implementing role-based training

We often receive requests for proposals (RFPs) for services related to conducting earned value management (EVM) toolset training.  Reading through the RFP, it quickly becomes apparent the company thinks toolset training is going to teach someone how to their job.  Being able to produce a report out of a toolset is one thing.  Being able to interpret what a performance metric means or the ability to quantify the impact of an emerging project risk requires experience and judgement – a better fit is role-based training.

Toolset training isn’t designed to help someone become a control account manager (CAM), master scheduler, or project control analyst.  Walking through the various menu functions may help someone figure out which options do what, but it isn’t intended to teach someone how to do their job.

What kind of training can help a CAM, scheduler, or project control analyst improve their skill sets?  Consider implementing some level of role-based training.  What does this entail?  It combines the workflow process and toolset training with a focus on what project control tasks a specific role such as a CAM, scheduler, cost analyst performs.  A previous blog on project control training discussed the components and steps involved in creating this type of training.

Why is this approach better?  It focuses on executing the project control process, what the person is responsible for, and how to use the toolsets effectively to do their job.  Another blog highlighted how conducting role-based training helps educate and mentor project personnel so they gain additional experience as well as foster critical thinking skills.

If you are thinking about implementing role-based training in your environment, what follows is short list of success factors that can make a difference.  Role-based training becomes especially important when you bring new toolsets into the mix.  It helps reduce the time required for project personnel to adjust to using the new toolset to do their project control tasks.  User acceptance can make or break a toolset implementation.

Success Factor 1: Have clearly defined project control roles and responsibilities in place.

You need this to establish ownership, responsibility, and authority for the project control system as well as the project control data.

For some companies, this is the hard part.  They are lacking the organizational capability or skilled project control resources to sustain the project control system and establish a culture of excellence in program management.  This is not easy to overcome.  It requires management commitment to implement a progressive change in how a company defines and implements their project management process.

Defining workflow procedures with swim lane flowcharts can help in this process because each of the steps can be used to tell a story.  What happens at each step?  What’s important about a given step?  Who is responsible for performing what?  Who has the authority to approve something?  What inputs are required?  What are the expected outputs?  Where do artifact or data hand-offs between roles occur?  Who is responsible for correcting errors and maintaining configuration control?

Stepping through the workflow procedures with the project control personnel help to create a repeatable project control process and establish a common understanding of everyone’s roles and responsibilities.  You can use the sequence of workflow procedures to build a framework for conducting the role-based training as well as to organize artifacts, templates, and other materials for the different roles following the natural order of the project life cycle.

Success Factor 2: Who is conducting the training?

A technique some companies use is to have upper level managers who started out as schedulers or CAMs and risen up through the ranks as project managers conduct training for project control personnel.  This sends a strong message that the company values project management.  These managers have years of real-world experience that bring life to the discussion.  Their stories of success and failure illustrate why specific project control practices matter.  And, people remember those stories when they encounter something similar on their project.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have that kind of process in place – you often need to rely on external resources to help you.  When bringing in external personnel to conduct the training, take a look at their background.  Have they walked in the shoes of the people they will be training?  Do they have broad industry and real-world experience?  Are they familiar with the toolsets you use and know how to apply them?  With a history of implementing and using toolsets in different environments, they often have work-arounds for known issues in software tools they can pass along to you.  They have lived through what works and what doesn’t.

A previous blog talked about finding that “just right” project control resource.  The same guidelines apply here – look for a cross-functional project control person that can assume a mentoring role for your project control personnel.

What’s least effective is accepting the default – conducting training that is solely focused on software features, functions, and menu options.  People need to know how to apply the toolset to do something that matters in their day-to-day work environment.

Success Factor 3: Use real world examples – tell a story and make people think.

When the opportunity presents itself, take advantage of an option to use a copy of a real project’s data to conduct the training.  It is always better than made-up data for a training exercise.  Why?  It’s a complete set of source data relevant to your business environment that can be used to illustrate best or not so good project control practices.  Did the project manager determine an appropriate level of data detail?  Did the CAMs pick earned value techniques that fit the scope and type of work for their work packages?  What was the impact of their decisions?  Include individual or group exercises that require some effort.  Make people think.  What’s important?  What’s just noise?  How do you tell the difference?  How do you interpret the data on an Integrated Program Management Report (IPMR) Format 1?  Does the explanation of a significant variance on an IPMR Format 5 make sense?  How do you verify that?

Practical training

If you are thinking about taking a different approach for your project control training, we can help.  We have the cross-functional resources well-versed in conducting role-based training workshops.  Give us a call today.

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