L&D teams work hard to deliver training that inspires and engages learners while delivering performance-driving organizational impact. So it can be frustrating when you’re managing training projects and continually finding it stressful and challenging.
Some of those frustrations include missing deadlines, struggling to work efficiently with stakeholders, dealing with moving goalposts when it comes to the project deliverables, or simply being overwhelmed by multiple projects at one time.
So, why are these things happening? And what can you do to ensure a smooth and successful training project? Here are 5 ways you’re currently managing training projects wrong and how to fix them:
1. Incomplete Stakeholder Identification
While there’s certainly such a thing as “too many cooks in the kitchen,” it’s vital to identify and bring on board all your stakeholders right from the beginning of the project. While their individual involvement in the project may ebb and flow as you move forward, letting everyone contribute to and consider the objectives, milestones, timelines, and content during kick-off will mitigate the risk of disagreement or conflict down the road.
Not only that, but it’s a good way to avoid “secret stakeholders.” This may be a senior manager who comes in late in the project to voice concerns, or a subject matter expert who thinks extra content needs to be added.
These late-stage interjections can severely impact your deadlines and your budget. But it canbe easily avoided by involving all stakeholders in the project kick-off and asking them to identify any other potential stakeholders who may want a say.
Stakeholders to consider include:
Whether it’s the L&D manager or an executive, it’s vital that the holder of the pursestrings is on board with your budget needs and decisions from the start and is kept abreast of any potential changes.
Management are key advocates of the training courses you’ll be producing and distributing and they may be the ones who requested it in the first place. Without their buy-in, you could easily find a completed training project falling flat on its face when the time comes for deployment.
Are you absolutely sure that the format and content of your new learning experience are what your target audience is looking for? While they don’t necessarily need to be involved directly in the training project itself, tools like surveys, workshops, and focus groups can ensure you’re developing training with this all-important stakeholder in mind.
Plus, don’t forget other key stakeholders including:
- Instructional designers
- Tech/IT experts or facilitators
- Subject matter experts
You’ll find lots of templates and documentation to help you with stakeholders in this free toolkit.
2. Messing Up Your Deadlines
The last thing a timeline should be is plucked out of the air. If you find yourself humming and hawing before landing on a date without any real data to back it up, it’s easy to find yourself panicking as the deadlines come closer and the tasks pile up.
The key here is to underpromise and overdeliver. Setting unrealistic timelines only serves to dissatisfy both you, your training project team, and your stakeholders.
So begin with tracking your time straight away so that, going forward, you’ll have a clear understanding of how long certain tasks and processes will take. Ask your other stakeholders for similar estimates to develop a project timeline that makes sense. It should move the project along at a brisk pace without imposing unrealistic expectations.
Plus, add a buffer so you can deal with any unexpected changes or issues comfortably.
3. Poor Communication
Communication is key in all aspects of our working lives, but never more so than on a training project team. A lack of communication leads to confusion, disengagement and, sometimes, conflict. People get frustrated when expectations are demanded but not clearly communicated.
Here are some important items to communicate clearly to the team:
The project team should clearly understand the objectives of the project, i.e. what is the organizational impact of this new learning experience, what will it look like, and how will it be distributed. Communicating the objectives clearly also help to engage your team as much as possible as they understand the impact their work will be having.
You can’t assert a deadline unless it has been clearly communicated. Project team members should not only have deadlines communicated to them early and frequently, but they should be given the opportunity to agree to them during project kick-off.
If you’re waiting on a contribution from a subject matter expert, are you sure they truly understand the impact they will have on the rest of a project if they miss a deadline? Project team members should understand the dependencies within the project deliverables. For example, the subject matter expert should clearly understand that, without their contribution, instructional designers cannot possibly begin their content development, leading to missed deadlines and so on.
There’s nothing more frustrating than setting up a group chat specifically for your project, only to continually receive emails from team members. If you’re finding yourself continually trying to centralize communication and collaboration over the project, make sure to enforce whatever communication channels you have chosen for the project. Meeting schedules should be made clear and set up in digital calendars right from kick-off. Lead by example and send all communications through the appropriate channels, regardless of how others are communicating with you. And don’t be afraid to gently remind contributors of the proper locations for various collaborations and conversations.
Communication about all of these items should happen from the start, be made available through project documentation, and be repeated as necessary. For more on this, check out the full recording of a recent webinar with SME expert Peggy Salvatore: Stop Struggling With SMEs: Essential Tactics for Efficient Knowledge Capture.
While it’s true that, as project lead, these items are your responsibility to establish and enforce, there is a fine line between managing and micromanaging. But, unfortunately, it’s one that is often crossed when it comes to training project management.
The last thing you should be doing is hand holding the team through each and every task and responsibility. In fact, if you choose this approach, you’ll find people more reluctant to engage with you anyway. Micromanagement builds resentment and rarely improves the timeliness or quality of work.
Instead of micromanaging, enforce existing project mechanisms such as the project timeline, meeting schedules, communication channels, and roles and responsibilities rather than individual tasks.
When managing training projects, you’ll inevitably find yourself dealing with tricky and unexpected situations. But by eliminating some of these fundamental mistakes, you’ll be better placed to handle them and continue to run the project smoothly.
Want to learn more about successfully managing training projects? Check out this webinar!
An Insider’s Secret Formula for Keeping eLearning Projects On Track and On Budget