Corporate Training Development: The Value of Planning

Instructional Design Tips
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Corporate-Training-Company-TipsSomewhere along the way a teacher challenged me to reframe how I think about vision and what we see. He suggested that you don’t see objects, but you see the result of light reflecting off those objects.

The reflection or effect something has can be more important than the essence or accuracy of the object itself.

At the start of any new corporate training project, I assemble a detailed project schedule that helps set expectations for team members. I sometimes grumble to myself. Why take all of this time to create a schedule? It’s tedious, and no project sticks to all the dates in a schedule. How detailed do I need to be when something will likely change as soon as I hit ‘save’?

For me I like to get pretty detailed – but not because I am aiming for 100% accuracy. It’s not the project schedule itself that’s important. It’s the reflection or the outcome of the thought to create it and how we use it that makes it so valuable.

In all my years of project management, I can’t remember one project that has followed the schedule exactly, but I have still had successful projects completed early or within a week or two of the completion deadline. The project schedule, in and of itself, is not what ensures timely development. It’s the up-front review of the scope of work, estimated costs for each step, planning for resources, and the ongoing use of the schedule to communicate with the project team that helps the schedule contribute to corporate training success.

Here are some examples for how I like to reposition my project schedules:

Old Objective: We need a project completion date.

Reflection: We need to know how our project tasks effect the project completion date.

A date on its own isn’t enough. A good project schedule communicates the order of key steps needed to reach project completion.

Old Objective: We need the exact dates for resources so we can reserve everyone now.

Reflection: We need to know how long we have (and need) to complete each task, and generally when they will be needed.

Someone will inevitably need more time. While the schedule will give you dates, dates can shift. It is important that everyone reviews the estimated length of each step and more importantly understands how one step taking longer may shift other parts of the schedule.

Old Objective: All I need is the final project schedule.

Reflection: Key stakeholders need periodic updates of the project schedule, so they can see progress and adjust for schedule shift.

For my projects, I can have more than a dozen versions of my project schedule. There might not be any major shifts, but even the smallest shift in schedule needs to be communicated. Sometimes, even if the dates haven’t changed, I like to show progress to remind people where we are in the process. Frequent communication of the project schedule reinforces the idea that the schedule MIGHT change, and sometimes that simple reference can ensure that it doesn’t need to.

To me, the real benefit of a project schedule isn’t the schedule itself. It starts with taking the time to think about all of the project details at the beginning of a project, preparing and assessing project challenges, and having a simple method to stay connected and communicates with key stakeholders. Simply seeing the dates written on paper, whether they change or not, and being reminded that someone is keeping track can be enough to keep people invested and able to help meet the project completion deadline – or close enough!

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  1. Before a project schedule can be created, the schedule maker should have a work breakdown structure (WBS), an effort estimate for each task, and a resource list with availability for each resource. If these components for the schedule are not available, they can be created with a consensus-driven estimation method like Wideband Delphi . The reason for this is that a schedule itself is an estimate: each date in the schedule is estimated, and if those dates do not have the buy-in of the people who are going to do the work, the schedule will be inaccurate.