Training is one of the premiere services offered by project management offices (PMOs). In fact, in many organizations, the primary role of the PMO is to offer project management training to the staff.

PMOs also have a role in coaching or working with individual project managers or project teams to transfer knowledge and teach new skills. This is usually done in person, but it can also occur over the phone or through e-mails.

Like many of the services offered, training must be considered holistically along with any other services that the PMO is offering. Since project management is so broad, it doesn’t make sense to just start teaching classes. Consultants, who often have a wide array of project management experiences, can take the lead in this part of a client’s PMO effort.

There are dozens of classes that can be offered, in many different formats and delivery modes. The PMO must first determine the subjects that make the most sense to teach to each audience, as well as the timeframe and dependencies of the subjects. The following steps will help during this process.

Fifth in a series

This latest installment in Tom Mochal’s series on the consultant’s role in establishing a Project Management office deals with possible training and coaching responsibilities. Previous articles have discussed the basics of a PMO, customizing a PMO for your client, deploying a PMO, and project management methodology.

  • Determine the scope of training. What is the scope of your training effort? One basic assumption is that if you offer project management training, the project managers will be the primary focus. However, there are other stakeholders as well. You need to decide what, if anything, you will target to project managers, team members, functional managers, clients, and external partners. You must also decide on content scope. For example, will you just teach methodology skills, or will you teach classes in soft skills as well?
  • Determine the training needs. Gather feedback from managers, clients, and team members to find out strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Create your training strategy and plan. Now that you have determined what you need, you need to determine how you will do it. The training strategy describes how you will implement training at a high level. The training plan describes the details behind the strategy, determining the specific classes to offer, the order of the classes, how the classes will be developed, and how they will be delivered.
    There are many options to consider for training. For example, customized classes can be developed and taught by the PMO. This option is especially valuable if the class must be delivered to many people and the cost of sending everyone to outside public courses is prohibitive. You can look at distance learning options such as Web conferencing to reach your remote staff economically. You can also look at computer-based training. Once you have approval on these documents, you are ready to execute the plan.
  • Develop and teach the training curriculum. This is basically the execution of your training plan. Your client would buy, build, or outsource various portions of its training needs, based on costs, priorities, and capabilities.

Coaching is more personal and targeted
Coaching is different from training. Training implies a formal teacher-pupil relationship, and the formal instruction of material. Coaching is less structured, and usually involves talking through situations and describing or demonstrating how project management techniques can assist.

If your client’s PMO will provide coaching services, be clear about what these services include. It is difficult for every coach to have expert knowledge in all aspects of project management, especially when the deployment project is new. Instead, the coaching services should be aligned to the areas being deployed at that time. For example, if your PMO is initially deploying definition and planning skills to the organization, the coaching services should be on those same topics.

You must also be clear on whether you will provide coaching in non-project management processes. For example, if you are coaching on project management, you may get a request to help create a test plan. If the scope of your PMO includes project management only, this is a request with which you would not be able to help. However, if your PMO also performs coaching on the development life cycle, then perhaps you would be able to help. Likewise, your PMO might receive a request to help a project team use a scheduling tool. Again, if this were not a part of the coaching service you are offering, you would need to decline the request.

The PMO has to deliver any knowledge that is vital to the organization’s new project management processes. Formal training is one way to transfer this knowledge to many people at once. Coaching (or consulting) is a way to follow up the general training with personal service to reinforce what has been learned so far. This one-two punch is very effective at giving people the information they need and then helping them retain the information and apply the knowledge to their current projects.

Tom Mochal is president of TenStep, Inc., a project management consulting and training firm. Recently, he was director of internal development at Geac, Inc., a major ERP software company. He’s worked for Coca-Cola, Eastman Kodak, and Cap Gemini Ernst & Young. Tom has developed a project management methodology called TenStep and an application support methodology called SupportStep.