Sometimes trainers are a company’s link to reality. When upgrades or new projects are being planned, we are the ones who have crucial information about the employee skills that are currently available and the potential that can be developed. If managers don’t have this information early in the planning stages, lots of time and money can be wasted down the road.

While being involved on a new project from the start can be a good thing, it also puts a trainer in a difficult spot, diplomatically speaking. Because trainers work with equipment and people on a regular basis, they have a better idea of a company’s resources. The person who bought this equipment or hired these people (or decided not to do either one of those things) may not have had any contact with the real world since he or she signed the purchase order or made the job offer. The manager doesn’t know that the software that was supposed to save time and money was shelved a month after it was purchased, or that the person who claimed to be a whiz at Excel, in fact, can’t do basic algebra.

Hold your horses there, partner
Of course, no one wants to be the one to break this news to a manager. As the bearer of bad news, you have to find a tactful way to say, “Hey! Bad decision! Waste of money!” Doing this well requires tact and practice. But, if the resources that someone is counting on truly aren’t there, you can’t let a manager plan a project around them.

The best way to do this is to enlist the help of your colleagues early on, before the meeting with your boss. Figure out what they’re thinking, and go from there. This way, you’ll have a plan ready to present, making you look like Mr. or Ms. Proactive.

How to stay fixed in reality
These examples will help you plan your strategy and prepare for project management meetings.

  • Get the numbers. What resources are available? How many people are in the departments involved in the project? Are any of them already dedicated to other projects? Will any of them need training before the project begins? How much time will this take? Having concrete information handy can be a big help. This cuts down on overly optimistic estimations of available resources.
  • Find past examples. Has this been done before? How did it turn out? Can you talk to anyone who was involved? This will give you some early warning signs to watch for and another perspective on the project. That is always helpful in the planning stages.
  • Win your colleagues over so more than one person is on reality’s side. If you are voicing an unpopular opinion (these are usually the ones based in reality), it is no fun to be alone. This is where the advance preparation work that I mentioned above comes in. When you’re recruiting people to join your campaign, be sure to make some new friends. If you rely on the same people for help all the time, a manager may start to discount your opinions or write all of you off as a “fringe element.”

Things to consider when committing training resources
You want projects you’re involved in to be successful, so you have to know what you have to contribute. Don’t overestimate. It’s always better to exceed your predictions than to fall short of them.

  • Your time and your dedicated time. We all know that these two things are different animals. Anything is possible in theory, but then there’s reality. Often you won’t really have a choice about participating in a new project, but just in case you do, here are a few things to consider beforehand:
    What are you working on at the moment? How much room do you have in your schedule for a new project? How much overtime might be involved (if you’re lucky enough to get paid overtime)? Are there other deadlines you have to meet? Will you be out of the office or teaching classes at any time during this project?
  • The buy-in and time requirements of the other people involved. This is the time to be brutally honest and to encourage this trait in other people. You need to decide how much work and help you’ll be able to get out of other people. You also need to decide how realistic their own assessments are of their abilities and available time. We all know the feeling of counting on someone for a specific contribution and then being left empty-handed at deadline time.
  • The equipment. This can be a “gotcha” issue. Sometimes hardware and software are inadequate for new tasks. Sometimes there’s just not enough production time in a day to complete daily work and new projects. At a minimum, you should consider storage space and processing power when planning a new project. This also is a good time to bring up the budget and see if there’s anything in it for equipment.

What are the best ways to keep training projects on time and on track? What are the secrets to working successfully with other departments? Send us your stories and suggestions about staying sane in the face of a group project.