Archive for the ‘Project Management in Education and Training’ Category

Analyzing Scope Creep

Scope Creep 122811_1517_pmfoundatio12[1]_png_w=630As part of Walden University’s graduate course, EDUC 6145 – Project Management in Education and Training, for this week’s blog assignment I will describe a project in my professional life which experienced issues related to scope creep.

One of the first major projects I participated in as an educator in the late 1990’s was developing a proprietary customer service course using a multimedia authoring tool. To maintain a level of confidentiality, I will not reveal the name of the tool, but I will provide a description of my experiences with this project.

Background: As computer based training (CBT) began to evolve, professionals with computer programming experience were the backbone of the development team for these courses (Locatis & Al-Nuaim, 1999). Companies purchased the CBT courses; installed them on local computers; with individual users completing the learning content and printing certificates of completion when finished. One of the first CBT courses used in my organization was medical terminology.

CBT course development became less complicated and less expensive to create with the growing availability of multimedia authoring tools beginning in the late 1980s. Authoring tools made it possible for non-programmers such as instructional designers, trainers, and teachers to develop interactive courseware for use within their own organizations (Allen, 2009). Major players in the field of authoring tools during that era included Authorware, CourseBuilder, Dazzler, Quest, and Toolbook (FAQS, 1999).

The Purchase: By the late 1990s, my department head was ready to enter the arena of creating organization-specific CBT courses. There was a trainer in our department familiar with one of the authoring tools while completing her graduate program, but she did not have direct experience with it. After a careful selection process based primarily upon information provided by sales representatives and journal articles (Mistake # 1), the decision was made to purchase an authoring tool which supposedly was intuitive for trainers. With my budding experience in technology, I was given the assignment of using the new tool to develop an interactive customer service course.

The Training: Believing you have more technology skills than you actually have (Mistake # 2) led to the decision that I would only attend the advanced training sessions. The real reason for this decision was more in line with saving money since the training sessions were being conducted in the vendor’s corporate offices near the west coast and included an airplane flight, hotel, meal and transportation expenses. Even though I struggled with some of the skills presented in the training sessions, I returned to work, energized with a tool pouch of new technology skills and ready to use the authoring tool for many years to come.

The Project: The basic course structure including content, exercises, and quizzes was recently created in two PowerPoint modules by my training colleague. My responsibility was to take the content, add lots of bells and whistles including interactivity, sounds and special effects, audio narration, better quality images, branching, and bookmarking to produce a highly interactive CBT course for delivery on our local area network.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, in reality without a written project plan (Mistake # 3) with deliverables, due dates, software requirements, etc.; and without sufficient resources of people, time, and technology (Mistake # 4), it took me a year to finish the project. The project was plagued with delays. Since my office was next to an overhead speaker for the public address system, all narration had to be recorded in my home office which then caused a secondary issue of ensuring the audio recording software and equipment were compatible with the personal computer in my home. My training colleague resigned shortly after the project started, requiring me to pick up a large portion of her responsibilities which in turn reduced the time I could dedicate to the project.

The Scope Creep: The scope creep was of my own making. In my quest to produce the most interactive course possible, I spent many hours searching for the most appropriate images and sound effects, and re-recording narration clips that had minor flaws. In addition, I spent many hours testing the branching and bookmarking features to verify learners could easily navigate between the modules, and from one lesson to the next without errors. I allowed time to take control of the project and perfectionism to take control of me.

Dealing with the Scope Creep: Admittedly, I did not deal with the scope creep. I just let the project evolve until it was done. Likewise, my department head also did not deal with it. Over time, I lost some of my enthusiasm for the project and my department head moved on to other projects and programs.

The course text shares this important fact, “clients and project team members have a natural tendency to try and improve the outcomes as a project progresses” (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer; 2008, p. 346). This was certainly true with me while I tried to improve the finished product as the project progressed. I was the only project team member and I allowed the scope creep to happen.

This issue brings to mind, a line in the “Gone With the Wind” film (Selznick International Pictures, 1939) where Prissy tells Scarlet, “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthing babies, Miss Scarlett”. Well, I can honestly say, back in the late 1990s, I did not know anything about project management and scope creep. But, if I had known about these topics, I would have been encouraged by the video program for overcoming scope creep with Dr. Van Rekom, Troy Achong, and Vince Budrovich. In the video, it was shared, “scope creep is inevitable”; and requires the project manager to “build in time and money to deal with it ahead of time” (Laureate, n.d.).

Looking Back: There are always lessons to be learned with past projects, whether they were successful or not. For this project, the finished course was plagued by audio difficulties for as long as it was in use, primarily because the audio files were many and very large. When the organization implemented its first Intranet for employees, the course was not compatible with the software application used to manage the Intranet, and so my department reverted back to using the original customer service modules created in PowerPoint. In addition, because the course was created with an authoring tool prior to the implementation of SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) standards for learning technology (Ostyn, 2003), its components could not be repackaged for delivery through our first learning management system in 2004. In the end, the authoring tool was never used again, and the course created with it, died a relatively quick death.

References:

Allen, M. W. (2009). Who’s creating the e-learning? In Michael Allen’s 2009 E-Learning Annual. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=rP03gi-SIcsC&pg=PA46&lpg=PA46&dq=authoring+tools+in+1980s&source=bl&ots=pvccE-Ibky&sig=cqMD_4VDImpK343YrxR8ZZxInlI&hl=en&sa=X&ei=xl5oUaHCNqi90AGP7oGYAQ&ved=0CEYQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=authoring%20tools%20in%201980s&f=false

FAQS (1999). Multimedia authoring systems faq 2/3. Retrieved from http://www.faqs.org/faqs/multimedia/authoring-systems/part2/

Laureate Education (n. d.). Practitioner voices: overcoming ‘scope creep’. [Video]. Retrieved from http://mym.cdn.laureate-media.com/

Locatis, C., & Al-Nuaim, H. (1999). Interactive technology and authoring tools: a historical review and analysis. Educational Technology Research and Development, 47(3), 63-75. Retrieved from http://sfxhosted.exlibrisgroup.com/waldenu?url_ver=Z39.88-2004&url_ctx_fmt=infofi/fmt:kev:mtx:ctx&ctx_enc=info:ofi/enc:UTF-8&ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&rfr_id=info:sid/sfxit.com:azlist&sfx.ignore_date_threshold=1&rft.object_id=954925589375&rft.object_portfolio_id=2550000000134356

Ostyn, C. (2003, May). A brief history of SCORM. Retrieved from http://www.uytes.com.tr/eogrenim/Insightsmy.htm

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., & Sutton, M. M., Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Selznick International Pictures (1939). Gone with the wind, historical romance film. Retrieved from https://www.google.com/#hl=en&gs_rn=9&gs_ri=psy-ab&tok=6CK4y2b2Jd__kgcGWMVslA&pq=gone%20with%20the%20wind%20screen&cp=18&gs_id=3a&xhr=t&q=gone+with+the+wind&es_nrs=true&pf=p&sclient=psy-ab&oq=gone+with+the+wind&gs_l=&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.45175338,d.dmQ&fp=35c22db6eacd6bc5&biw=1280&bih=815&bs=1A brief history of SCORM. Retrieved from http://www.uytes.com.tr/eogrenim/Insightsmy.htm

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., & Sutton, M. M., Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Selznick International Pictures (1939). Gone with the wind, historical romance film. Retrieved from https://www.google.com/#hl=en&gs_rn=9&gs_ri=psy-ab&tok=6CK4y2b2Jd__kgcGWMVslA&pq=gone%20with%20the%20wind%20screen&cp=18&gs_id=3a&xhr=t&q=gone+with+the+wind&es_nrs=true&pf=p&sclient=psy-ab&oq=gone+with+the+wind&gs_l=&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.45175338,d.dmQ&fp=35c22db6eacd6bc5&biw=1280&bih=815&bs=1

Communicating Effectively

For this week’s blog assignment, I am interpreting a message delivered by three different methods of communication: email, voicemail, and face-to-face from the multimedia program, “The Art of Effective Communication” (Laureate Education, n.d.). While the same message is delivered each time, its tone and meaning is noticeably different with each delivery. The image below displays a copy of the message text.
Communicate Effectively

Email

Voicemail

Face-to-Face

In this method of delivery, Jane   sends an email message to Mark, requesting a missing report. I read this message three times before I was able to grasp its meaning. Its tone is informal and vague; and without specific date and time sensitive deadlines. The sentence structure is complicated. The use of abbreviations/acronyms in   written text, such as the one used in this example, ETA, should be discouraged because the project manager may   believe ETA means one thing such as estimated time of arrival, and another person may believe it means something else. When I listened to the voicemail version of the same message, I was immediately impressed by the female voice. Her tone of voice was pleasant, calm, and non-threatening. She effectively   used breathing techniques to pause briefly between sentences and phrases, resulting in a well- articulated message. Despite these enhancements, the content of the message remains informal and vague, and without specific date and time sensitive deadlines. The sentence structure remains complicated. While the   abbreviation ETA is used in this example, for some reason it was less noticeable by me. In the third example, the female shares the same information as in the other two delivery methods, requesting Mark to send her a missing report. She is observed to be leaning over a cubicle wall to talk to Mark, with her non-verbal body language leading Mark to believe the conversation is informal and there is no rush in providing the requested report. While her tone of voice is pleasant, calm, and non-threatening, she enunciates her words in a manner that causes some of the words to be drawn out and having extra emphasis where in a normal conversation this would not happen.

For me personally, I found the second method of delivery, voicemail, best conveyed the true meaning and intent of the message. This exercise demonstrates that the same words can be interpreted in three different ways based on its delivery method and the audience receiving the message. When functioning as a project manager and communicating with the project team, I need to carefully choose the delivery method based on the team members receiving the message. Stated another way, it is “sharing the right messages with the right people in a timely manner” (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008, p. 357).

Here are a few strategies and tools which can be utilized to communicate more effectively with other people involved in project management activities.

  • Project Dashboards: A project management tool used to provide up-to-date information for a project. For example, a brightly colored stop light with red, yellow and green symbols. Green indicates the project is in good shape; yellow indicates the project requires attention; and red indicates the project is in critical condition (Mind Tools, 2013).
  • Project Milestone Reporting: The project manager can utilize a Project Milestone Report to show team members the tasks which have been completed and the tasks still needing to be done according to the timeline in the project plan (Mind Tools, 2013).
  • Keep Repeating the Message but in a Different Format Each Time: According to Chiu (2012, p. 43), the project manager should keep repeating the same message to compensate for the brain’s 20% information absorption rate. To minimize repetition, Chiu (2012, p. 43) recommends putting it in a different format each time. For example, a safety banner, an agenda item for the project meetings, a certificate for a safety award, provides verbal reminders about working safely, or schedule a free safety lunch.
  • Use Both Active and Passive Methods of Communication: It is recommended, the communication strategy determined during the project planning stage should include both active and passive communication methods (Project Management Communication, 2013). Examples of Active communication include face-to-face meetings, video conference, one-on-one meetings, telephone conference, webinars, and stand up presentations (Project Management Communication, 2013, p. 5). Passive communication methods include these examples: pod cast, web cast, email, Intranet bulletin boards, Blogs, Websites, and a project newsletter (Communication, 2013, p. 6).

References:

Chiu, A. (2012). Ten tips for smart project managers. Chemical Engineering, 119 (1), 40-43. Retrieved from http://ezp.waldenulibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=70327788&scope=site

Laureate Education (n. d.). The art of effective communication. Retrieved from http://mym.cdn.laureate-media.com/2dett4d/Walden/EDUC/6145/03/mm/aoc/index.html

Mind Tools (2013, March 21). Project dashboards: quickly communicating project progress. Retrieve from http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/new PPM_92.htm

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., & Sutton, M. M., Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Project Management Communication (2013, March 21). Project management communication – perfection eludes us… Retrieved from http://www.successful-project-management.com/project-management-communication.html

Learning from a Project “Post-mortem”

Background

Phase 1: In the summer of 2009, I was a member of the project team implementing Microsoft Exchange in our organization. My role on the team was the instructor for the face-to-face classes which were to be conducted in the month prior to going live with the project. The target audience included all current Internet email users, consisting mostly of management staff, educators, administrative and department assistants, and other key personnel; about 500 total employees. This implementation did not impact the internal communication system used for non-management/non-exempt employees as their conversion to Microsoft Exchange was supposed to occur sometime in the future, though a target date had not been established. For the training, I designed three face-to-face courses, two hours each:

  • Outlook Web Access Mail Skills
    • 16 sessions, maximum number of available seats 224
    • 161 completed, 9 no shows
  • Outlook Web Access Calendar Skills
    • 16 sessions, maximum number of available seats 224
    • 123 completed, 19 no shows
  • Outlook 2007 (Client version) Mail Skills & Calendar Sharing
    • 2 sessions for Administrative Assistants
    • 6 sessions for Department Assistants and others needing to share calendars and delegate access
    • 32 completed, 4 no shows
  • A total of 161 employees (32% of target audience) attending the first course also attended either the second or third course.
  • No further face-to-face sessions were scheduled because employee did not take full advantage of the previously scheduled classes.

Phase 2: Over the next few years, an increasing number of nurses, physicians, and other healthcare providers were given an Internet email address in addition to receiving a login for the internal communication system still in use. Face-to-face training sessions for using Internet email were not provided during this time period though all new hires received training for the other internal communication system.

Phase 3: Three years later in the spring of 2012, phase three was hastily implemented to transition the remaining 1400 employees to Internet email via Microsoft Exchange and phase out the antiquated internal communication system. The catalyst for this hasty implementation was the new human resources personnel system and its requirement that every user have an Internet email address. Due to the large target audience, limited computer classroom and instructor availability, the decision was made to design two online courses for Internet email skills and Internet calendar skills which employees were recommended to complete. In addition, a series of open computer times when employees could walk-in to receive assistance from the education staff was scheduled over a six-week period leading up to the Go Live date and afterwards. During the six-week period:

  • 380 users (27% of target audience) completed the Internet email skills online course
  • 98 users (7% of target audience) completed the Internet calendar skills online course
  • 89 employees (6.5% of target audience) attended the walk-in sessions
  • Walk-in sessions for the last available date were cancelled due to low turnout on previous dates
  • No additional walk-in sessions scheduled for current employees
  • New hires receive Internet email skills training during new employee orientation

What contributed to the project’s success or failure?

Despite only training 32% of the target audience, the Go Live date came and went in the Phase 1 implementation with essentially no major issues from an instructional point of view or related to the technology equipment and therefore was seen as a success. Project leaders from the Technology department as well as from my perspective as the face-to-face instructor, believed the implementation went smoothly primarily because the target audience was already experienced with using Internet email, with only the nuances of using the Microsoft Exchange server being new. While I was disappointed with the turnout for the face-to-face classes, I was nevertheless confident knowing I designed and delivered the instructional sessions by focusing on the “need to know versus nice to know” (Murphy, 1994, p. 10) content, enabling participants to attend shorter training sessions and avoiding “information overload” (Murphy, 1994, p. 10).

While Phase 1 was seen as being a success, Phase 3 was more of a failure from an instructional point of view. Participants attending the walk-in sessions were assisted to log on to the Network with their user name and password, register and complete the online course for Internet email skills through the LMS, and assisted to log on to their email account for the first time. Unfortunately, only 6.5% of the target audience took advantage of the walk-in sessions. It was ironic the employees with the least amount of computer skills during this phase were the ones who did not take advantage of the walk-in sessions. A year later, my department continues to receive calls from current employees having difficulty understanding basic Internet email concepts. The online courses for email skills and calendar skills remain available in the LMS but only about 50 employees have completed them after the implementation was finished.

A major reason for scheduling walk-in sessions instead of structured face-to-face sessions for Phase 3 was the same key personnel who could have taught face-to-face classes, including myself, were involved configuration and implementation of the organization’s replacement LMS. There simply was no time available to design and deliver structured face-to-face training sessions.

Which parts of the project management process would have made the project more successful?

For the design and delivery of the online courses in Phase 3, I functioned as the subject matter expert as well as project manager. Looking back on this portion of Phase 3 which I was responsible for, even though I was not aware of it then, I now recognize I loosely followed the life cycle phases for planning a project as depicted in our course text: 1) Conceive phase; 2) Define phase; 3) Start phase; and 4) Perform phase (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008, p. 76).

Because Phase 3 was being hastily implemented for the same target date as the implementation of the human resources personnel system, the project leaders in the technology department did not have much lead time to clearly explain to the target audience why this implementation was necessary. They also did not plan well for announcing the implementation to the target audience. At the same time, it was not entirely the fault of the technology department for these weaknesses because they were not aware the human resources personnel system included a required field for email address until after contract signing for the other project.

All in all, I consider Phase 1 to be a success and Phase 3 to be more of a failure.

References:

Murphy, C. (1994). Utilizing project management techniques in the design of instructional materials. Performance and Instruction, 33(3), 9-11. Retrieved from  https://class.waldenu.edu/bbcswebdav/institution/USW1/201340_04/MS_INDT/EDUC_6145/Week%202/Resources/Week%202%20Resources/embedded/Murphy_W2_6145.pdf

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., & Sutton, M. M., Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.