Project Management Training… For Non-Project Managers

Recently, while speaking at a conference, I asked the question “How many of you have the title of Project Manager?” There were about 35 people in the room and no one raised their hand. Okay. My next question was “How many of you are managing projects?” Every hand in the room went up. Lastly, “Keep your hand up if you have been trained in project management.” Less than 5 people still had their hand up.

The observation that I made at this conference, and continue to see, is that organizations repeatedly ask people with “day jobs” to manage and lead projects without any project management training or guidance on how to be effective and successful with the project. We are surrounded by projects – yet our positions at work may not be project based. However, these informal surveys that I conduct at speaking engagements continue to support the reality that people are being asked to take on more and more work, especially projects.

Admittedly, there are a lot of project management training classes available – however, it is predominantly focused on helping people become Project Managers and earn their project management certification. But what about that huge segment of the population that do not want to be a Project Manager? What about all of the people who are not interested in becoming certified yet are still required to manage projects? How can we help them be successful?

This is the segment of the population that is often overlooked by organizations in their quest to get a project kicked off. Organizations should consider establishing best practices with respect to their project efforts and rolling out those standards to all employees – not just Project Managers. The best way to implement this approach would be to ask the Project Managers within the organization to work together on a framework that would provide the guidance necessary for non-Project Managers (Project Leads). By helping these folks achieve success, the entire organization will benefit.

Suggestions on the framework would include:

  1. Scope Identification – Using a template, work with the Project Sponsor to determine what the goals of the project are. What problem are we trying to solve? What is in scope vs. out of scope. Document these decisions in the template like a project charter.
  2. Team Building – A team will probably be assigned to the Project Lead. A kick-off meeting is the best way to introduce the team members, review the scope of the project and work together to identify risks, assumptions, work efforts associated with the scope, communication standards and how the team will work together.  Establishing a checklist or a document that can review the various topics for the kick-off meeting for the Project Lead would be advantageous.
  3. Stakeholder Identification – Who will be positively or negatively impacted by this project? This is another discussion topic for the team. Everyone comes to the team with a different perspective and can, therefore, provide a more comprehensive stakeholder analysis, together. Stakeholders will be the users of the final product, service or result of the project. We will need their input on requirements, design, testing and project management training if applicable.
  4. Risk Identification and Response Planning – Many projects are kicked off without anyone on the team understanding what the risks might be to the project, or the organization. It is highly beneficial to identify risks, in advance, and how the project team would address those risks, if they should occur. This will help the project team and the organization overall be more effective and efficient when challenged with a particular issue. If the team has already identified the risk in advance, they just have to kick the response plan into action. A risk register and planning template can help the team to keep risks prioritized and managed effectively.
  5. Monitoring and Tracking the Work Efforts – With the project team, establish the best approach in tracking the work efforts, quality control needs, testing, and documentation of the various activities identified as part of this project.

These are just some of the foundational elements that can contribute to the overall success of a Project Lead who is not a certified Project Manager and has not been formally trained in project management practices.

Help all employees, staff and colleagues be successful – provide a project framework!

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Mary Beth Imbarrato
Mary Beth Imbarrato