Everything You Wanted to Know About Project Management Training (but were afraid to ask)

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For people involved with projects, you are not alone in the world. Consider the multitude of projects that are carried out on a daily basis, ranging from small and seemingly insignificant to the large and complex. They all need project managers and team members who need the necessary skills to carry out projects effectively. In 1969, the Project Management Institute (PMI) was founded as a non-profit association for the project management profession. Today, PMI is the leading membership association for anyone involved in project management and has hundreds of thousands of members across the world.

Damien O’Reilly, Liberties College Class Tutor for the QQI Level 6 Project Management, is a man who’s no stranger to education and knows how to effectively manage teams of all sizes. After his formal schooling, Damien studied a degree in Management & Marketing B.Sc. with DIT; after graduation, he joined City of Dublin Education and Training Board as an administrator and worked in Payroll and completed Higher Diploma in Payroll Management. During his time working in Accounts, he completed Post-graduate Diploma in Public Administration; then capped this with a Masters in Local Government Management; followed up with Postgraduate Diploma in Human Resource Management with Institute of Public Administration; & dovetailed this with Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching & Learning with National College of Ireland.

On top of your extensive training, what’s your own background in project management?

City of Dublin Education and Training Board (CDETB) has a Curriculum Development Unit (CDU) which I work as a full-time project administrator. The CDU has initiated a number of projects that have been mainstreamed in whole or in part through the post-primary and further education sector. The CDU, in responding to the needs within the CDETB and the broader national and international educational community, initiates and supports or manages a significant number of projects involving social justice issues as well as programmes involving inclusion, access, and participation that address the causes and effects of educational disadvantage.

There is a growing recognition that project-based operations have become the norm in today’s business world. In essence, almost every work effort is a project, from constructing a new building to designing and delivering a new information management system. As projects become the primary method for getting things done and effecting organisational change, it is crucial to choose a good and proven method for managing projects. However, projects cannot be properly managed in a silo. Every aspect of project management is affected by the organisation, the social environment, the project’s stakeholders, both internal and external, and many other aspects of the context in which the project is carried out. Understanding the context is critical to good planning and good decision making as the project progresses toward achieving its objectives.

For people out there who never hear the term before, what is project management?

Project management is the practice of initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team to achieve specific goals and meet specific success criteria at the specified time. The primary challenge of project management is to achieve all of the project goals within the given constraints. A project is a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result. Every project is different. Some are small and straightforward. Others are large and complex. Most are somewhere in the middle. Even though every project is unique, they all have certain attributes in common.

Every project has a similar life cycle, starting with an idea, progressing through development, and culminating in the delivery of a finished product or service. A product has a life cycle of its own which is tied into – yet distinct from – the life cycle of the project. All projects have similar overall phases, such as the start-up phase, the planning and design phase, the production phase, and the closing phase. That is all straightforward, but how do a project’s phases relate to the stages of its life cycle? Do the natural phases of a project affect the way it is managed? And what types of project management processes should be applied to the specific phases? These are all fundamental questions project managers ask. This Project Management QQI Level 6 course in Liberties College answers these questions and more. It is designed to give students aspiring to be project managers and project team members a solid understanding about the nature of projects, how they are structured, and how the structures affect the way they are managed.

What would the daily tasks of a Project Manager look like?

For myself, a typical day differs from day to day, as it’s dependent on the project I am working on that day or week. For example, I could be attending project working group meetings for a particular process relating to one project, then the next day I could be helping support agreement on the project plan at a kick-off meeting with a Project Sponsor, then the next day I could be updating logs and providing a project status report to senior stakeholders for another project. One day is never the same as the next!

What types of businesses/industries benefit the most from implementing this practice?

Industries that use project management include construction, manufacturing, engineering, architecture, and real estate development to name a few. Project managers work in information technology and with tech companies, where they coordinate the development and implementation of new applications or manage new site launches. Project managers also work within the Irish education and public sector.

What topics do you cover on this project management training?

This course is aligned to the QQI programme module for Project Management 6N4090 provides an overview of the project management discipline as outlined in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) – 6th Edition published by the Project Management Institute (PMI). It will identify key project management concepts and terms and provide information about the variables that can influence project outcomes. The course teaches students to develop their Project Management skills to enable them to work in an integrated fashion and deliver projects of quality, within schedule, and within budget. The course content is broken down as follows:

  1. Project Management Essentials – Managing Projects within Organisations; Project Management Overview; and Project Management Process Groups.
  2. Project Integration Management – Integrated Initiation & Planning; Direct, Monitor & Control Project Work; and Controlling Changes and Closing a Project.
  3. Project Scope Management – Requirements and Defining a Scope; Creating the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS); and Monitoring and Controlling Project Scope.
  4. Project Time Management – Defining and Sequencing Project Activities; Estimating Activity Resources and Durations; and Developing and Controlling the Project Schedule.
  5. Project Cost Management – Planning Project Costs; and Controlling Project Costs.
  6. Project Quality Management – Plan Quality Management; and Quality Assurance and Quality Control.
  7. Project Resource Management – Planning and managing Project Human Resources.
  8. Project Communications Management – Plan and Manage Project Communications; and Control Project Communications.
  9. Project Risk Management –Risk Management Planning; Performing Risk Analysis; and Risk Response and Control.
  10. Project Procurement Management – Planning Project Procurement; and Managing Procurements.
  11. Project Stakeholder Management – Stakeholder Management; and Managing & Controlling Stakeholder Engagement.
  12. The Code of Ethics & Professional Conduct – The Role of Ethics in Project Management.

As Project Management is fundamentally about managing change students will learn through working on ‘live’ scenarios thereby gaining a better understanding of the project integration processes in action. Students will be offered tuition in the most up-to-date project management information so that their skill set is fit for purpose and can add value to their own company or business.

Are there any unexpected benefits as a result of implementing Project Management techniques?

One of the biggest unexpected benefits is delivering value for the organisation and the client. Here the focus is on benefits during project execution. Most projects experience problems and unforeseen events that pose a threat to successful completion. Thankfully there are many proven project management processes designed to direct, monitor, and control project work. For example, project baselines for schedule, cost, scope, and quality give the project manager a firm foundation by which to monitor project work and make decisions. When problems arise, strategies for managing changes help get the project back in line.

How does project management differ between a small team and a big team?

Henry Ford once said that coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success. Mr. Ford knew the importance of teamwork. Ask anyone who has worked in a project environment, and they will tell you that team dynamics can make or break a project. A positive, constructive atmosphere can keep team members motivated and productive, while a negative atmosphere can have the opposite effect. Developing effective project teams is one of the primary responsibilities of a project manager. Once the team is working effectively and the project is underway, it is time for the project manager to proactively manage the project team in order to address and resolve personnel issues that could adversely affect the project.

This course covers the Develop Project Team and Manage Project Team processes, within the Project Human Resources Management Knowledge Area. Techniques for developing project teams, such as training, team-building activities, and recognition and rewards will be discussed. Students will also be introduced to strategies for enhancing project performance and conflict management techniques.
Some team members tend to limit the degree of cooperation they contribute. They feel that in giving more, their skills and competencies are being exploited without any assurance that they will be justly rewarded. Cooperation should be perceived not by the amount of work that is added, but by the degree of necessity or urgency by which it is needed. Values should be based not on a particular member’s benefit but for the entire team. The benefits of a fruitful completion may not inure to a particular individual but are likely to spread out to the entire components of the organisation in terms of sustainability and stability.

What are the common pitfalls that implementing project management systems overcome?

A good project is something that unites plenty of details. It consists of a skilled manager and a team that performs tasks. It includes a circumspect plan that covers all major as well as minor issues and many more other crucial things. These (many more other crucial things) are integral part of any project be it something simple or vice versa, complicated. In any case, projects may face a variety of pitfalls. And an experienced manager should know how to avoid pitfalls that are so likely to be met on the way to project accomplishment. Pitfalls can be described as things or processes that hinder your project from successful accomplishment. They have different nature, but according to some common features these problematic points can be united into groups: poor communication; lack of trust and delegation; unclear roles, responsibilities, and deliverables; a poorly created project plan; lack of breaking down projects in smaller tasks; weak resource and people management; inappropriate risk and schedule management; and not using or using inefficient project management tool.

I think projects fail if you approach them blindly and don’t test their assumptions. I think if you do go through a process where you try and understand the project – you dramatically improve your chances of success – and reduce the failure rates. There are failures in any element in business – that is part of business – there are risks in any initiative. So whether it is projects or any other part of business – life is full of risks as well – you have got to get out there and get on with it and move from where you are to where you need to get to. Part of that is that you will fail along the way, but obviously, the essence of that is you learn from your failure, take that lessons learned and bring it to your next project. I think if you have the right framework you learn from failure – and in time you will reduce failure. You can’t just take the approach that all project fail otherwise we would have no change in organisations; and we would never have any change and we wouldn’t get better at what we do.

What are the top three traits a project manager should have?

Well, I think that in dealing with people, working in teams one must be cognisant of the social and emotional dimension of project management. The success of any project depends greatly on the team’s resilience and an understanding of those all-important soft as well as hard skills. To this end the key skills in my view are as follows;

1. Emotional Intelligence – that is probably the key one. So that is almost giving you the right raw material; and I think that those who have the right emotional intelligence tend to have the capacity to embrace difference of opinion, absorb difficulties and seek consensus.
2. Attitude – the ability to have the right attitude is important. When working with teams and reporting to clients the ability to remain calm, persevere and adjust to challenges makes for a positive team spirit.
3. Training – I think having good quality training and qualification in Project Mgmt. is a huge advantage. Experience itself is of value and provides that unique edge that clients and employers desire the advantage that qualification brings means that your skills are current and fit for purpose.

The QQI Level 6 or the CAPM with PMI offer the correct certification. Enrolling on the Liberties College QQI Level 6 course in Project Management will ensure that you are setting out on a pathway to attaining industry standard qualification and workplace relevant skills.

Any funny/interesting anecdotes from your own experience?

Project managers are notoriously busy and stressed, but that doesn’t mean that they lose their sense of humour along the way. A commonly cited joke I use is the phrase, ‘Who’s the creep who let the scope of the project out of control’. Perhaps, the best and most impactful project was NASA’s ‘Man on the Moon’ project. It was the best-watched TV news. It was a turning point in the history of the human civilization. If you have not already watched Apollo 13 movie, I would recommend watching it. A lot of things have gone into the Man on the Moon project.

In terms of when people are talking about Project Mgmt. I would like to give you my own take on how we teach project mgmt. in CDETB Liberties College is that we teach it as a Management Science but we also teach it as a Life Skill. So Project Mgmt. is both and we have seen a significant change in project management from students over the years. Third Level institutions and Irish Universities now have students taking project mgmt. on a whole wide range of programmes. The interest in project mgmt. has grown dramatically. For example, some PhD students can actually take the module as part of their Doctorate journey – which wasn’t something they had to do; they elected to do it because they saw it as real-world relevance. Essentially, a PhD is a project and that is a choice that they made. I do think what is happening at the grassroots level is that individuals are recognising the importance of project mgmt. and they are taking that and going about their own initiatives to try and understand the area.

How do you, or organisations, capture Project Knowledge?

Well, it is interesting because the Project Management Institute, PMI have produced a whole range of papers in that area. I think the process is unique to every organisation in how you do it. However, I found this was a very simple method and it actually worked. You must capture the technical knowledge of people – from different parts of the country – sometimes capturing 20 years of technical experience – in, maybe, a half hour discussion – and that is fed back into the template again. It is a difficult exercise and is always different in every organisation.

What is most important when capturing knowledge is to have the sense of open communication. It is so common that people put in such effort when going to a project meeting; but it ends up as negative, wasted energy. On all of my projects, there was always an open forum – I would certainly say that I made mistakes as much as anyone else, and when working on those projects I never felt I was in a position that I had to bluff it. If I was supposed to do something and I didn’t deliver on it – I simply told them: ‘Sorry guys, I was busy on another project and I didn’t get to do it.’- and so there was never any wasted energy. The focus is around that communication. It is almost like one of those intangible things – if you could bottle that you would be a millionaire.

Damien O’Reilly
Liberties College, Class Tutor – QQI Level 6 Project Management

Apply Now: Don’t be afraid to take that plunge; you deserve to put your future first and really make a go of studying this time around. To find out more about booking on to this project management programme, click here.


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