Workshop on Project Management my way, and maybe yours?
Do you organize internal training sessions and possess the knowledge and project management experience that you want to share? Or maybe you are on the other side and seeking support from individuals with more project management expertise? Let me provide you with an approach on how to deal with it - I will present a workshop scenario that can help you save some time.
In the learning process, it is essential to apply the newly acquired knowledge in practice and relate it to your own experiences. Following the learning cycle known as the Kolb cycle, learning is a sequence of recurring stages (experience, reflection, theory, practice), with experience being the key element.
The Questions & Answers (Q&A) Workshop, which I will focus on today, aims to maximize the concentration on topics raised by participants and provide them with a choice among various available options. Moreover, it is designed to require relatively less preparation from the facilitators.
How did the Q&A workshops on project management originate at Allegro?
It all started with a training need identified by one of the teams at Allegro. I need to mention that as the Portfolio Management Office, we are not directly involved in project management trainings; our focus is on managing the portfolio of strategic initiatives (you can learn more about this from the article "Projects at Allegro? Yes, and What Kind!"). As you can imagine, when addressing the identified training need, time was a challenge for both facilitators and participants. Developing a full-fledged training program with exercises and conducting it would have been time-consuming. Hence, the idea of a Q&A format workshop emerged, where project management practitioners could help address typical project challenges on the spot for those who needed to develop these competencies.
A Dose of Theory and Participants' Challenges
In this case, as well, the most crucial aspect was the preparation before the workshop, both for the participants and internal experts. Conducting an interview with the team leader helped to understand the types of challenges the team faces and the nature and scale of projects they undertake. This was further deepened through a survey directed to team members, the future participants of the training. Gathering project challenges complemented by specific situations from ongoing projects, as well as questions for the experts, allowed us to tailor the workshop to the participants' needs.
Furthermore, to level the participants' knowledge and provide them with the basics of project initiation, planning, monitoring, and completion, we utilized an online training professionally prepared as part of the Allegro Academy. Participants familiarized themselves with this dose of project management knowledge before the Q&A workshop. It enabled them to find some answers independently, and for the experts, it served as a knowledge foundation to refer to during the workshop while sharing their own experiences.
Preparation of Experts Before the Workshop
The success of the training heavily relied on assembling a well-chosen panel of experts. In my case, it included Dominika, Monika, Przemo, and Rafał, representing the PMO team, Agile Coaches, and Business Services & Automation. What united them was their passion for what they do, practical experience, a strong willingness to share knowledge and experiences, and the ability to listen actively. As a panel of experts, we familiarized ourselves with the participants' submissions before the training, exchanged thoughts on valuable insights to provide them, and importantly, each expert could add their perspective and proposed solutions that were helpful to them. As we are diverse and handle challenges in different ways, not everything that worked in one case may work in another. Hence, the variety of options allows finding a solution that resonates best with each individual.
I'd like to emphasize the confirmation of cooperation principles with the experts before the workshop. It was crucial for us to focus on the participants and not negate the recommendations presented by other experts or engage in discussions about which approach is better. While it might seem obvious, from a risk management perspective, it is beneficial to establish this at the outset.
Interactive Workshop and Individual Consultations
Following best practices, I always start each meeting by highlighting its purpose. In this case, adding an introduction from the team leader who submitted the need for training was helpful. This introduction provided context and explained why developing project management competencies at this time was essential for the team.
This is the only formal part of the workshop; the rest is more interactive and non-official, creating an atmosphere conducive to discussing difficulties. It also inspires participants to share their own solutions or empathize with others facing similar challenges and contribute their examples.
As practitioner-experts, we know well that project problems are entirely normal, and participants are not alone in their challenges. Most frequently, similar issues arise, such as scope creep, growing requirements, difficulties in managing team members, ineffective meetings, or inquiries about tools that could keep the project on track and monitor its progress.
So far, we have conducted the workshop only in an online format, lasting for 3 hours. As you can imagine, covering all topics in 3 hours is challenging, and questions may arise after the training. Thus, we encourage participants to reach out directly to us - the experts - for any further questions.
Each participant took something valuable for themselves from the training, and what about you?
The training summary showed that each participant took what they needed most from the training and left with a toolbox filled with tools not only for project-related challenges but also for other aspects of their work. Participants emphasized the excellent mix of project management knowledge and best practices, agile approaches, diverse perspectives, and the company's specificities, which was particularly important for newcomers who recently joined Allegro.
I also packed my own toolbox because the tips from my colleagues served as inspiration for me too. One of them pertained to planning and risk management - as a Project Manager, remember to consider vacation seasons and holidays in your work planning. Nothing is more prosaic than being surprised by the Christmas holidays in December and realizing that project work won't progress at the same pace as in other months. The calendar is one of the key tools for a Project Manager, isn't it?
Personally, I love learning from others. Perhaps you also enjoy testing solutions suggested by both familiar and unfamiliar practitioners. If you feel like it, share your experiences with testing this workshop format. Or maybe you have already applied a similar model of training? I'd be interested to know how it looks for you because every opportunity to share knowledge is also an opportunity to learn - even for someone who shares it.
Portfolio Management Expert with extensive experience in international organizations. An enthusiast of project order, which helps present and manage the most complex projects in a predictable manner. She has been working at Allegro for 3 years. She strives to combine the project world with the product world, creating solutions based on the best practices available at Allegro and around the world, as there's no need to reinvent the wheel. Proudly, in addition to her economics studies, she has a defended engineering thesis in the field of optimizing blueberry nutrition.
The text originally appeared in the quarterly: Strefa PMI