ATD Blog

Succeed on L&D Projects With Project Management Principles

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Was your last L&D project a triumph? If the answer is “yes,” what made it work? If not, what created snags?
In “Project Management for L&D Purposes,” Mary Beth Imbarrato advises readers on how to improve the chances for project success—using project management principles. The elements that will serve you include:

  • Having a framework that everyone is privy to
  • Sharing appropriate details with all stakeholders
  • Helping everyone understand their roles
  • Appreciating the risks related to the project

What and Why of Project Management

Many of us are adept at project management-related skills—for example, time management, prioritization, and communication. And while each of those skills is beneficial, Imbarrato writes that they “can be much more valuable when they align into a system that can effectively guide a project through the stages of development and implementation.”

Using project management principles can improve the odds that projects will be completed on time, on budget, and with intended results. Using such principles also provides the L&D team a means of reviewing the process and improving upon it.

Getting Buy-In

One of the challenges we all face, both professionally and personally, is handling change. And implementing new ways of managing L&D projects is exactly that—a change. That means you’ll need to secure a willingness to do things in a new way, from both the C-suite and your business partners.

You can help executives understand the benefit of project management by sharing data. For instance, 97 percent of organizations believe that project management is critical to business success, according to PwC. Further, high-performing companies successfully complete 89 percent of their projects, while low-performing companies only complete 36 percent, according to the Project Management Institute.


Executives, business leaders, and others in the organization will be more apt to buy into project management when you share a project toolkit (consider such elements as a visual depiction of the project framework, a project charter, work plan template, and change request form), review the project life cycle, and explain the process.

Moving Forward

Once you gain buy-in, create a foundation from which to build your project management framework. Begin by determining whether your organization already uses some form of project management. If so, you can probably tweak the process for L&D purposes. You’ll get a head start as many employees will already be familiar with the process.

Next, sit down as an L&D team and reflect on recent projects. What went well that you can replicate? What didn’t go so well that you could avoid by having processes in place? You may learn that some business leaders have a good system for timely communication, and perhaps you can imitate that system more broadly. Or you may sense that there’s a general propensity to change up projects midstream. What can you do to alleviate that trend?


Creating a Framework

With the wealth of information you’ve garnered, you can next develop a framework that will work for your L&D team and organization. The Project Management Institute’s framework, for example, includes five phases: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring, and closing.

During the initiation phase, as Imbarrato explains it, the L&D project lead meets with the project sponsor to learn about and clarify the project and determine what success will look like. During this meeting, the project lead can ask how frequently and by what means the project sponsor wishes to be updated. Other topics to discuss include potential risks to the project, timelines, and scope of the project. Based on the discussion, the project lead will draft a project charter, which the project sponsor will then sign off on.

At this point, the project team holds a kickoff meeting to ensure everyone understands the project, roles and responsibilities, and expectations.

The project continues through the remainder of the framework phases, with communication key throughout. Consider creating a communication framework that will outline written collateral—such as emails, articles on the intranet, and what’s expected from each; other visual messaging, like posters with project details; electronic tools, including an email address for any questions or suggestions on the project; and training for anyone who will be affected by the project.

About the Author

Patty Gaul is a senior writer/editor for the Association for Talent Development (ATD).

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Really interesting! We have shared this in the Community and there is some good collaboration and comments on the topic.
@Kristy Sadler, thanks for the comments and I also appreciate the fact that its on the LearnOps site as well!
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Great write up Patty! Learning project management practices and applying those practices to your L&D role can be advantageous to all stakeholders - you, the team, your colleagues, the learners, as well as your clients. Establishing sustainable, and repeatable, practices through the power of project management will provide a strong foundation for the L&D program in all organizations. Thanks for sharing my article!
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But of course - great PM leads to greater project success! If you are looking for just such a framework customized for L and D, be sure to check out our Project Management Certificate Program. You can find info here:
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