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Experiential Learning

Present perception

Many senior and top managers are of the opinion that you simply send your staff on a PRINCE2® training course and then put them to work on projects.  This is not a good approach.  There is a better way to develop higher level project managers.

The ingredients for the development of top level project managers include:

  • Having access to a mentor who is familiar with the organisation’s tailored methodology, use of software tools and project modus operandi
  • Periodic exposure to project management training modules that form part of a growth plan
  • A supportive work environment where staff can experience and experiment the application of the theory
  • Training in the software tools of the environment

Developing top quality project managers

  1. Mentorship

    Everyone needs direction, guidance, a sounding board and a manager with credibility, to develop.

    Human resources are the most precious asset of an organisation – they enable the organisation’s leadership to achieve their corporate objectives.  Investment in their competencies yields handsome returns.  Their efforts can result in the realization of the benefits envisaged for change efforts.

  2. Planned growth path

    The following courses should be considered when preparing a project management (PM) development plan for a staff member:

    • Project Management Essentials this is a basic introductory course for people with no previous project management experience.  This course is optional.
    • PRINCE2® practitioner is the globally recognised starting point for PM’s and carries international accreditation.  Its scope covers the primary competencies required for project management.
    • APM PM for PRINCE2® practitioners extends the competencies gained from PRINCE2® further and is also an examined course with international accreditation.
    • Programme Management Essentials is a two day appreciation course enabling the delegate to better understand the interface between projects and programmes.  If required the delegate can attend the formal MSP® (Managing Successful Programmes) course to achieve international accreditation.
    • Managing Benefits Essentials is a two day appreciation course enabling the delegate to better understand that the purpose of change is focussed on benefits realization.  The course outlines how benefits are monitored from project outputs, programme outcomes and business-as-usual.  Benefits are to be nurtured and pursued with vigour.  If required the delegate can attend the formal Managing Benefits course to achieve international accreditation.
    • Agile Project Management introduces an optional approach to managing specific projects better suited for this alternative approach.  An Agile Essentials course should be attended to understand this alternative approach.  If required the delegate can attend the formal Agile Project Management course to achieve international accreditation.

    These courses should be scheduled over a period of time and separated with opportunities to experience the theory in the workplace.

  3. Experiential learning

    Question:  What is the best path to follow, to develop top quality project managers?

    When the concepts researched by David A Kolb in his book “Experiential Learning” are applied, an important learning journey emerges.  Learners learn best when provided with a supporting infrastructure in which to experience knowledge gained from attending courses.  The following diagram summarises relevant information extracted from David’s book.

    Exp - concept

    Adults learn best when they are given the opportunity to:

    • Observe how the theory is applied in practice
    • Reflect on how the theory is applied in practice
    • Create their own generalisations
    • Formulate their own abstract thinking
    • Experiment by applying their own understanding in real live situations

    Where there is insufficient organisation capacity to set up and sustain this structure, consideration should be given to acquiring external resources.

    The following is an example of an experiential learning plan:

    Experiential Learning Plan

    Continued from diagram above:

    Experiential Learning Plan 2

  4. Software tools

    A PM learner can be further empowered by having access to supportive software tools.  Here are some primary options that should be considered:

    • Configuration Management: To overcome the burden of managing many project documents, the learner should be enabled to have access to them from a central point (e.g. computer screen).  A sample system (P2Nav) is described in greater detail elsewhere on this web site.
    • A document management system like MS Sharepoint of Documentum provides simple version control facilities and is user friendly.
    • Project scheduling: Microsoft’s MS Project is a popular tool but there are others available.
    • Time recording software
    • Resource management software
    • Apps for pad and handheld access to project information

Conclusion

Learning is a continuous process grounded in experience.  Relying only on a PRINCE2® course to set project managers free on an assignment, is a simplistic view that requires a more caring and realistic approach.