Experienced PMs are rare and costly. To scale and be competitive, new methods of training are required. Executive leadership tell us that to be really good in today’s Integrated PM jobs, PMs need at least 10 years of practice.
This is hard to find, and if found, too expensive at the scale needed. Organizations need to find faster ways to accelerate expertise outside of normal job experiences.
Blended Learning gives the participant a faster way to gain experience in Integrated PM best-practices, without having to spend ten years discovering what works and what doesn’t.
How can new PMs get needed Integrated PM expertise faster? Are there ways to accelerate the experiences? Yes, through carefully designed course sequences, blended learning course designers sequence learning experiences, so they build one upon the other.
Most PM’s like blended learning because it aligns with the characteristic traits of people finding themselves in Integrated PM activities. Knowledge isn’t just stamped onto their foreheads like the stars on the Star Bellied Sneetches regardless of your learning preferences.
In traditional Instructional environments such as slide-based presentations, the participant is an observer and listener-primarily playing a role of a passive receiver. These learning environments are called receptive or “show and tell.”
In the directive enrollment, the participant observes, listens, and responds to some questions based on what they have heard or seen.
In blending learning environments, the participant is highly engaged in the learning activity. The participant assumes the role of an active respondent from the beginning and continues that mode throughout the course. These courses have defined learning objectives and desired knowledge and skill outcomes which are the focus of the lesson design. Because blended learning is inductive instead of instructive, the emphasis is on learning from a series of progressively complex experiences by taking action, reviewing responses to those actions, and reflecting on the consequences.
Because blended learning courses are guided, they minimize the floundering factor. They provide guidance ranging from case complexity and performance readiness (from low-to-high) to the amount of support provided, and the interface and navigation design of the course presentation.
Unlike most courses that rely mainly on directive learning, blended learning environments also embed a number of resources for explicit learning, including virtual performance coaches, skill mentors, and process trainers.
Blended learning is job experience in a box, designed to be unpackaged and stored in the PM’s brain. Ready to spring forth in predictable, repeatable, and maintainable behavior. Much like in ballet or martial arts, the muscles memorize responses and become reflexes when called upon in typical production environments. It’s common to hear participants from blended learning courses exclaim “I didn’t know I could do that!”
There are at least six reasons PMs should participate in blended learning.
- Accelerates expertise in a safe and controlled environment with real-life on the job examples that appear infrequently or are complex; and provides less risk to the participant while gaining that expertise.
- Offers an ROI to the participant because they’re able to do their job better & quicker. It also offers an ROI to the organization through performance gains in the workplace.
- Participants learn more because of the relevance; they can both physically and mentally engage in Integrated PM experiences. Course teaching methods align with the personality characteristics of successful Integrated PM practitioners.
- Provides better information transfer potential because the new knowledge acquired is contextualized and indexed in the participant’s brain in a manner more likely to be retrieved when needed while doing a task or job.
- Improves critical thinking skills to enable workers to adapt their experience to new situations. Facts, concepts, a rule of thumb and rationale that an experienced practitioner would consider when responding to a situation, are learned through process training, skills mentoring, and performance coaching.
- Uses technology to facilitate learning through web technology capabilities that provide increased access to experts, interaction with peers, and team building opportunities.
These six characteristics show why Blended Learning is the training method of choice for Integrated PM practitioners. Organizations don’t have time for PMs to learn by trial and error on their projects or programs while learning how to do Integrated PM. Wrong decisions cost thousands of dollars and missed market opportunities. Blended learning provides an opportunity for participants to receive the experiences and knowledge they need- faster, cheaper, and better.
Not all students are right for Blended Learning courses. Participants in blended learning courses are most successful when they possess these eight attributes (below). The same can be said about participants of Integrated PM, those successful with Integrated PM are striving to obtain the following personal attributes:
- Interpersonal Skills Blended learning exercises the participant’s interpersonal skills and provides challenges that cause growth. Participants use interpersonal skills to succeed in forums, chats, workshops, webinars, and conferencing with instructors and other participants. The ability to be critical, and say no when required, without being offensive, is a personal attribute of people successful in Integrated PM.
- Compliance Blended learning develops the participant’s capability of maintaining strategic alignment and policy compliance. Participants practice designing workflows compliant with specific instructions and requirements. Understanding the minimum requirements for governance and management of projects is a personal attribute of people successful in Integrated PM.
- Conflict Resolution Blended learning develops the participant’s skill for interpreting project data to diagnose and resolve conflicts. This is accomplished by experiencing real-life conflicts in project requirement and constraint analysis; not to mention conflicts between peer opinions, literature accessed outside of the course, and web discussions. Managing and resolving project conflicts is a personal attribute of people successful in Integrated PM.
- Decision Analysis Blended learning provides experience in workflow change analysis. Participants practice analyzing data and making decisions to achieve their project and course objectives. Conducting research, analysis, and providing decision rational is a personal attribute of people successful in Integrated PM.
- Tradeoffs Blended learning strengthens the participant’s confidence in making tradeoffs. They constantly compare new information against existing knowledge. They focus on accessing factual information, analyzing situations, and weighing tradeoffs among budgets, schedule, and resources. Making decision tradeoffs is a personal attribute of people successful in Integrated PM.
- Operational Decisions Blending learning provides experience in making operational decisions and taking actions. Making operational decisions depends heavily on understanding policies and best-practices. Participants practice making actionable decisions, with real-life situations and pressures, in the context of their own Integrated PM environments. Quickly taking action on projects is a personal attribute of people successful in Integrated PM.
- Design Blending learning provides an environment for designing multiple effective solutions. Participants will practice making alternative designs that reflect multiple factors, such as feedback from instructors, peers, and experts. They will be in an environment of high social presence with instructor-led virtual sessions, group chats, and forums. Creating and selecting designs from multiple factors, and working with others to create a viable design, is a personal attribute of people successful in Integrated PM.
- Team Coordination Blended learning allows participants to practice communicating and coordinating problem solutions among project team members. Participants experience the use of best-practices for problem definition and resolution. Coordinating the activities of team members, clients and stakeholders is a personal attribute of people successful in Integrated PM.
As you contemplate whether your training goals would benefit from Blended Learning, remember the main reasons most people choose blended learning:
- Accelerates their expertise,
- Builds critical thinking skills,
- Builds skills that are impractical to gain on the job,
- Promotes knowledge retention,
- ROI on their time and money,
- Provides e-learning technology with easy access and usability.
Probably the most important benefit of Blended Learning are the experiences which develop personality, skills, and practices required by Integrated PM today.
With a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science, Val began working in the Aerospace and Defense, Telecommunications, and Electronics industries doing Predictive performance modeling, simulation, and animation. Later he would gain experience in Project, Product, Program and Portfolio Management. He leveraged this experience as Director of Global Marketing at Telelogic and while serving as Fellow at Ryma Technologies. He worked as a consultant in Enterprise Work Management for Workfront. He is the father of six kids and has been in Boy Scouting for 20 years. He has been an active evangelist for Integrated PM since 2009.
As a columnist at the Innovation Spark, Val writes a column about the issues and practices of Integrated PM leveraging the format of a 1960s cartoon, "Mr. Wizard and Tooter the Turtle".Website: www.linkedin.com/in/vworkman
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