A project manager’s job is to make sure that tasks are getting completed and on time. It is also the project manager’s job to make sure that team members have access to all of the resources needed to complete these tasks, and that communications channels are open.
However, projects often hit a snag, and a project manager needs to address issues expediently. The obvious one is the failure to complete one or more tasks—milestones are not being met—but what are some others? We’ll leave off this obvious one and examine some other tell-tale signs that a training project is in trouble—and what you can do to step in and turn the ship around quickly.
Need a handy way to stay on track when it comes to training projects? Try this:
eLearning Project Plan Template
1. Lots of overtime
Though not an obvious sign of project trouble, team members spending too much time on any single task is not good.
While the completion of project deliverables is usually a sign that everything is going smoothly, the discovery that too much time is being taken along the way means that the project was not organized and assigned properly. Certain tasks perhaps should have been cut up into smaller ones, or some more challenging tasks should have been given to other team members or outsourced.
2. Meetings with “no bad news”
Communication is important and regularly scheduled meetings should provide a forum for all to share milestones, issues, and relevant details.
However, project managers need to listen more closely. If the weekly or bi-weekly meetings do not include anything negative—”bad news,” so to speak—this could be a signal that the training project is in trouble.
“Nobody likes to be the bearer of bad news, but sometimes organizations need to face the reality of negative news,” explains Ty Kiisel in the ProjectManagement.com blog. “This includes project team members who don’t want to be the messenger and business leaders who tend to shoot the messenger. If there is not an environment where the communication is honest about “reality,” projects tend to fail.”
How to protect the team against a “no bad news” environment? Explain that it is OK to relay project failures along the way—create an environment of open communication.
For a deeper perspective on what really goes in as courses get built and shipped to learners, check out our “Ask the Experts” article on project management for instructional design.
Training teams should spend less time chasing collaborators and more time focusing on developing exceptional content.
Check out this on-demand recording to hear e-learning designer and author Tim Slade share his top tips for managing e-learning projects:
3. Lack of interest
While not every work-related task has to the most exciting in a team member’s career, a sense of boredom and a tangible lack of interest or commitment to the project is also a sign that the project has hit a snag.
A lack of interest could be a sign that one or more team members do not have the resource capacity or the necessary skills to complete the tasks required. However, a lack of interest can also be that team members do not see the project as a priority, and/or the project objectives may conflict with the team members’ personal interests, according to the University of Waterloo.
One-on-one communication is the remedy for this. The project manager needs to explain not only the importance of each team member’s contribution to the project, but can go the extra mile by communicating the importance and impact of the team member’s contribution to the company and the effects on end-users—the learners. Framed this way, team members can find excitement in the project and bring 100% of themselves to each task.
4. Tasks are completed too quickly
The first item on this list of signs of project trouble was overtime, but the opposite is obviously another telltale sign of problems on the horizon: tasks are completed too quickly.
Why is this important? Speed of completion can be a sign of a few issues:
- The task was too simple or easy for the assignee, and should have been rolled up into a larger task.
- The task perhaps could have been outsourced or handled by technology.
- The team member speeded their way through the task in anticipation of the next or future tasks requiring more effort.
- The task may have been completed but there are quality issues.
While finishing early is usually not a bad thing, project managers should look closely at tasks completed too soon to see if certain tasks can be reassigned or united with others.
5. Too many scope changes
Scope changes are common in learning projects. Instructional designers are used to this, and sometimes the most “designed” projects find themselves changing direction mid-project.
However, too many changes, especially those that weren’t even hinted at in the analysis and design phases, are a sign that the training project is in trouble.
“A common approach to shoring up a lagging project is to change the scope,” explains Kiisel of ProjectManagement.com. “Eliminating features or relaxing requirements is not uncommon, but if project teams are doing it because the project is in trouble, it’s a huge warning sign of danger ahead.”
Every organization is different, and every organization has its own way of handling issues. Some build in multiple “escape hatches” into a project, in the event that employees are late (or early), deliver with quality issues, or exhibit a lack of interest.
More than simply telling the business manager who requested the training that a project might be delivered late or altered from the original request, a project manager can suggest alternatives, such as additional courses or support material that could be developed alongside the original course.
Of course, all insights and feedback related to the project should be collected, maintained, and analyzed for future projects, in order to seek efficiencies.
The struggle to deliver highly impactful, performance-driving training affects training teams of all sizes and budgets.
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