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ATD Blog

Project Management Is a Vital Capability for Talent Development

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

With the new Talent Development Capability Model, the Association for Talent Development is helping to “future-proof” the industry by helping TD professionals become more resilient and better prepared to lead the industry through periods of deep change like the one we are experiencing. Project management is one of 23 capabilities in the model.

The model represents ATD’s shift from focusing on competency (a determinate skill or knowledge base) to capability (integrating knowledge and skills to adapt to future needs); signaling that TD professionals must possess agility and a commitment to lifelong learning to succeed in their field.

“Project management is the glue that helps ensure that the goals of projects closely align with the strategic goals of the business, and it helps guarantee that realistic expectations are set regarding what can be delivered, by whom, when and for how much,” says Lynn Lewis, CPTD, a facilitator for several ATD certificate programs. “It helps to ensure that the outputs of the project deliver real value. It brings leadership and direction. Without it, a project team is like a ship without a rudder—moving but without direction, control, or purpose.”

In talent development, project management skills are critical to ensuring that a learning experience or talent solution achieves the desired learning or behavioral outcomes. The project management capability, which is part of the model’s developing personal capability domain, explains what TD professionals must know and do to steer new and ongoing projects to success—even if the goalposts for success are constantly moving.

“TD professionals should be knowledgeable about the need for a realistic, simple, and repeatable project management process to manage multiple projects with multiple stakeholders,” wrote Lou Russell, author of 10 Steps to Successful Project Management and a contributor to the Talent Development Book of Knowledge.


According to the model, effective project management involves:

  • knowledge of project management principles and processes (for example, scheduling, planning, allocating resources, evaluating and reporting)
  • coordination of the logistical tasks associated with planning meetings
  • evaluation and prioritization of implications, risks, feasibility, and consequences of potential activities (this includes creating a project charter that clearly explains the objectives, justification, cost-benefit analysis, key stakeholders, risks, constraints, and other important aspects of the project)
  • development of project plans and schedules that integrate resources, tasks, and timelines
  • adjustment of work processes and outputs in response to or anticipation of changes in goals, standards, resources, or time
  • establishment, monitorization, and communication of progress toward the achievement of goals, objectives, and milestones.

Talent development professionals use project management skills in nearly every aspect of their work. One example is selecting and procuring a new learning technology, such as a learning management system or social learning platform.


A TD professional leading this project will need to do thorough research on potential vendors, create a list of options, submit requests for proposals, conduct a standardized and rigorous interview process, and select the best option from a whittled-down list of candidates. Then they must negotiate the terms of the contract and pricing.

“The learning professional will need to get the right team members involved to identify who will oversee the administration of the system, technical support, and content management,” explains Lewis. “After engaging the right people, they will need to create a realistic timeline that details when certain tasks must be carried out. Anytime that a team is involved, clear communication of the scope, time, cost, quality, and resources must be done to keep stakeholders informed and to keep the project team on track through regular status reporting.”

About the Author

Stephanie Castellano is a former writer/editor for the Association for Talent Development (ATD). She is now a freelance writer based in Gainesville, Florida.

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