The Do’s and Don’t’s of Project Management for Training Development

The world of work today is defined by project management. Every job we do can be broken down into a series of projects, with associated team members, deadlines, and resources. While project management used to be seen as a standalone skill or process, it is now baked into everything across the organization.

However, is project management for training development any different? Building a learning experience is certainly a project, but there are certain best practices that can be in place that deliver the most effective courses and deliver the strongest outcomes for learners.

DO: Use a separate technology tool

While project management software tools abound—software review site G2 includes coverage of 388 different solutions—they do not make for a great fit for learning projects.

The reason is because of the iterative nature of instructional design and the moving back and forth between design stages. A traditional project management tool measures success when tasks are completed. However, in instructional design and training development, a task may not be completed until the very end, when the course is delivered to learners.

“Project management for instructional design is not a linear process,” explains Andrea Martinez, founder of All About Training. “If you try and keep it linear you will ruin the outcome of your design and development.”


Managing an eLearning development project can be full of potential pitfalls and challenges. 

Download this eLearning project plan template to develop project milestones, keep track of progress, and more:

eLearning Project Plan Template

DO: Manage struggles between stakeholders

Because of the multiple contributors, managers, and teams involved in creating a learning project, there is bound to be friction, especially between the manager or training owner and the L&D team.

This generally occurs because a manager or training owner might have strong convictions about what employees need (or want), which might differ from what the L&D team is actually capable of delivering given timelines, budgets, and resources.

Additionally, even if there is budget available, the end-product course that the manager envisions might not resonate with learners

“The main struggle I see is that L&D would love to measure effectiveness, yet the learners and their managers are not likely to measure behavioral changes when they go back to work,” cites Lisa Cummings, founder of Lead Through Strengths, which develops and delivers live, virtual StrengthsFinder training. “The end users want something practical and applicable.”

As a takeaway, it’s vital to understand the goals and wish lists of all stakeholders in the project—not just the original requester, manager, or subject matter expert. (Still wondering how best to work with subject matter experts? Download The Secret Formula for Working with SMEs, our toolkit for more productive and effective collaboration today.)

DON’T: Let scope creep take over or overwhelm you

Solid project management for training development also requires managing scope creep. When managers first learn of the capabilities of authoring tools—or they see what other companies, including third-party learning providers deliver—they can easily get carried away. Just because really cool design elements, including audio and video, can be incorporated into a course doesn’t mean that they need to.

As such, if scope creep isn’t managed properly, a learning project simply might never get completed, or it might get completed, but way over budget.

Relying on the ADDIE methodology can help address scope creep. Spending a lot of time on the Analysis and Design phases can help clarify expectations—and keep the project on track and on budget—as the project moves into the Design phase and beyond.

DON’T: Micromanage team members

With all of the elements that go into designing training, team members and even managers might feel like they are being forced to carry out tasks that weren’t in the original plan.

As such, L&D needs to find a way to avoid micromanaging people and instead motivate and empower team members to participate actively and even creatively.

Communication—and ADDIE, once again—come to the rescue. Spending time in the early phases, such as Analysis, ensures that as much information is captured in the early stages so that surprises and disappointments are minimized later.

“I always tell my clients, it may seem like a lot on the upfront but the more I can get from you now, the more I can do and the less you have to be involved in and we both can work efficiently,” notes Martinez. “The last thing your client wants to do is to hand-hold you through the project.”

For more practical tips on figuring out the right project management framework and processes, check out this recent on-demand webinar recording with Tim Slade:

An Expert’s Secret Formula for Keeping eLearning Projects On Track and On Budget

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The Do’s and Don’t’s of Project Management for Training Development