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Integrating Lessons Learned Into Training Projects

Monday, May 21, 2012
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Training project management is becoming increasingly important to training professionals. In some organizations, project management is considered a core competency. For this reason, many training professionals can benefit from increasing their knowledge and skills in this area. It may also be worth considering pursuing certification programs in project management. To this end, dice.com recently ranked project management certification number 1 to pursue. So coupling your Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) certification from ASTD with a Project Management Professional Certification (PMP) could be a winning combination.

Training Project Management

If we look at each training initiative as a project, it becomes an endeavor that is temporary, unique, and for a specific purpose to produce a product, service, or result. This is because we work on training programs for a specific period to produce presentations, e-learning programs, or participant guides. As a part of this process, many of us perform training evaluations, using models such as Kirkpatrick. I personally like his model, not because I also attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison as Kirkpatrick did, but because it is a straightforward methodology.

While training evaluation is critical to determining the merit (quality), worth (value), and significance (importance) of a training program, it should not stand alone. An essential part of the training evaluation process involves the integration of lessons learned to ensure that learning (not just training) transfers. Learning is something people do. Training is something we do for them. Learning is very important, especially to those who are classified as learning organizations. Learning then becomes the acquisition of new knowledge every time a training project is completed. Lessons learned becomes a formal process where we systematically evaluate our training projects, and both an input to and outcome of training projects.

Utilizing an Established Standard As a Framework for Lessons Learned

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Experts agree that it makes good business sense to use an established standard such as the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) published by the Project Management Institute as a framework. Then training project knowledge can be reliably captured from the start to the conclusion of the training project. If using the PMBOK Guide, project knowledge can be captured in process groups and knowledge areas, as illustrated in the figure below, as a dashboard.  Within the PMBOK Guide framework, we have the opportunity look at what was done right (r), done wrong (w), and could have been done differently (d) for each item of a training project. Utilizing green, yellow, and red stop light colors works well for this purpose.

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Remain Practical in Your Approach

While training evaluation is critical to determining the merit, worth, and significance of a training program, lessons learned ensure that learning (not just training) transfers. Practically speaking, training project team members may not capture lessons learned in every category (knowledge area) across every life cycle component (process group) of the project. Those team members may decide to focus on specific process groups or knowledge areas. As I discuss on my website and in my book The Basics of Project Evaluation and Lessons Learned (Productivity Press, 2011), we to consider summative and formative evaluation requirements. In summative evaluation, we are looking at factors such as accountability, impact, and results; whereas in formative evaluation, we are seeking to determine process improvement, program enhancement, or alternatives.

Think of summative evaluation as looking through the rearview mirror, and formative evaluation as looking through the windshield. For more information on the application of project evaluation and lessons learned, visit the Lessons Learned website.

About the Author

Willis H. Thomas, PhD, PMP, CPT, earned a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI) and a Certified Performance Technologist (CPT) certification from the International Society of Performance Improvement (ISPI). He is the author of the PMI award-winning publication The Basics of Project Evaluation and Lessons Learned and The Basics of Achieving Professional Certification: Enhancing Your Credentials. He has been a featured presenter for International Project Management Day and has delivered courses to thousands of students around the globe. Thomas formerly served on the board of directors of the ATD Dallas Chapter.

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