Project Management in Education
Sometime ago, a colleague and I were invited to propose on providing
project management training to a government supported education
provider. This enterprise covered a wide range of topics through
a variety of media, including local TV. They were, therefore, collectively
involved in a large number of in-house assignments or "projects".
Quite a small group within the organization felt that their efforts
would be better served if the concept of project management could
be introduced. Indeed, in their spare time over a couple of years,
they had developed some philosophies, procedures, life-cycle steps,
and so on. The time had come, they felt, to broadcast the good
word, but "credible experts" were needed for the task.
Funds were raised and, as of necessity, the Personnel Department
were authorized to hire consultants (us). Knowing how important
it is to get on the right track, use the right cultural language
of the organization, and send the right messages, we had included
two meetings with the "working committee" as part of our proposal.
The first was to flesh out and agree the content outlined in our
proposal and the second to confirm the training product and review
the workbook we had by then prepared.
The training would consist of two four-day workshops, each to a
separate group with follow-up to be provided several weeks later.
It would cover forty to fifty people in all. We were assured that
the attendees would be experienced in managing the enterpriseÍs
We should have known we were in trouble by the second meeting because
- the manager
responsible was not present at the second meeting,
- the composition of attendees at the two working group meetings
were quite different,
- a recent personnel survey just released showed that the organizationÍs
morale was at a low ebb,
- the Personnel Manager responsible for hiring consultants was
transferred to "other priorities", and
- only one member of the working group would actually attend the
The first workshop was arranged to take place just before Christmas.
In the event,
- all regular hotel meeting rooms in the vicinity were booked
and we were squeezed into the reception room of a small restaurant,
- the Personnel Manager only managed to notify the designated
attendees on the Friday before the Monday 8 am start,
- the manager responsible distributed quite a package of departmental
reading and a self test on his material to be done over the weekend,
ostensibly in preparation for the course, and
- the attendees were all members of the organization's union.
In order to raise the profile of the workshops and to demonstrate
top management commitment to the project management concept, we
prudently arranged for the organizationÍs president to open the
workshop with some suitable introductory remarks. Unfortunately,
the president had not been briefed on our location, and when he
eventually tracked us down, arrived over half an hour after we had
started. From then on, it only got worse.
Collectively, the group was justifiably miffed at the short notice,
the mandatory direction to attend at a busy time of the year (work
interrupted by Christmas partying?) and, of course, the extra-curricular
weekend homework. Two individuals in particular seemed to be determined
to be non-responsive and made a repeated play that "they were
confused" by the instructors. (I learned later that the supervisor
of one of them was also at the same workshop. )
Somehow, we struggled through a very painful four days. Needless
to say, the second workshop was canceled outright. We insisted
on a de-briefing meeting to the "working group" at our
own expense. This time the manager was present, flanked by yet
another group of people. The best we could do was to establish
that we had indeed delivered exactly what had been agreed upon and
point out that those attending had somehow been inadequately prepared.
The issue of "customer satisfaction" was never even raised!