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Progress in Improving Project Management at the Department of Energy: 2001 Assessment 9 Project Manager Training and Development INTRODUCTION The Phase II report found that the competencies needed for successful project managers were lacking in the DOE, and that this was a fundamental cause of poor project performance. This situation largely emanates from the absence of a career program and the lack of training and development opportunities for project management professionals. The Phase II report recommended the establishment of a department-wide training program, as well as criteria and standards for selection and assignment of project managers, including requirements for training and certification (NRC, 1999). In earlier chapters of this report the committee identified the urgent need for specific training in front-end planning, risk management, EVMS, and performance-based contracting. It is reported that a lack of confidence in currently available training programs, limited staffing, and the decision to concentrate efforts on other project management deficiencies have delayed action on improving training and development. The committee believes that as a consequence, progress on enhancing the competencies of project managers has been inadequate. A task force for project management career development, chartered to address the Phase II report recommendations, has done a commendable job; however, much remains to be done. A commitment from top management and additional resources will be needed to implement the training and development programs being planned by the task force. The training, development, and retention of qualified project managers will continue to be a major challenge for DOE.
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Progress in Improving Project Management at the Department of Energy: 2001 Assessment PROJECT MANAGEMENT CAREER DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM In January 2001, the deputy secretary of DOE directed OECM to lead a 2-year effort to develop and implement the project management career development program (PMCDP). To accomplish this goal, a task force was established that includes representatives from PSO headquarters and field offices and experts from other federal agencies. The task force is supported by OECM personnel, contractors, and rotating personnel from other DOE offices. It has gathered, analyzed, and synthesized much of the information needed to create a training program and readied some tasks for implementation. The committee applauds the task force effort to create a program geared to developing the knowledge and skills needed by project managers to fulfill the missions of the agency. Significant accomplishments of the task force to date include the following: An inventory of project managers; A benchmarking study of best practices for project management career development in other federal agencies and industry; Documentation of the roles and responsibilities of DOE project managers; A partial matrix diagram of the knowledge and skills required for 5 competency levels in 10 domains (general project management, leadership/team building, scope management, communication management, quality/safety management, cost management, time management, risk management, contract management, integration management); Identification of training and experience requirements for each of the 10 domains (in progress); A gap analysis of current levels of experience, education, and skills (in progress); and Descriptions of training courses for each of the 10 domains (in progress). Some significant tasks remain to be accomplished: Complete the matrix diagram of knowledge and skills. Complete the gap analysis. Contract for training course development/delivery. Develop the training curriculum. Develop experience histories of project managers. Conclude the effort on implementing a certification requirement. Integrate the tracking of competencies, certification, and training into the Corporate Human Resources Information System.
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Progress in Improving Project Management at the Department of Energy: 2001 Assessment INTERIM TRAINING EFFORTS The committee is concerned that it will take fully 4 years from the time the Phase II report was issued for activities to begin that address the critical need for project manager career development. It appears that the process of developing a program has been accepted as the solution to the problem. The committee believes that there should be active training while the plan to undertake a refined program is developed. Even though the final curriculum for project manager training will not be completed until next year, it is imperative that training not be neglected in the interim. The committee urges that training be escalated, particularly in those areas and for those individuals where known shortfalls exist. The committee acknowledges that the PSOs recognize the need for training and are implementing it to various degrees and that existing courses are being revised to meet present needs. However, it is important that these activities be given higher priority in response to the deficiencies revealed by the DOE gap analysis and issues identified by this report: specifically, in front-end planning, risk management, and performance-based contracting. The committee believes that project management training expenditures should be increased to a level comparable to that reported by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) for similar training in the private sector (ASTD, 2001). Management should ensure that resources are available and that participation in training programs is mandatory. ALTERNATIVE LEARNING CONCEPTS The committee considers the extant department-wide training contract, which gives exclusive rights for providing training, to be an impediment to obtaining training that is timely and available in various formats and alternative learning concepts. In the long term, sole-source contracts of this nature cannot meet DOE’s needs. Training courses for DOE project managers should be taught by personnel with extensive experience in managing projects. The development and deployment of alternative learning concepts are needed to impart accessible, timely, high-quality information to project managers. There is a need for flexible approaches that can fit project managers’ locations, schedules, and levels of experience. Several alternatives to traditional classroom learning have been developed and used successfully for professional development (Dixon, 1998): E-learning. E-learning refers genetically to the use of CD-ROMs, computer-based learning, and various forms of Web-based learning. Many universities now offer courses and degree programs via the Internet.
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Progress in Improving Project Management at the Department of Energy: 2001 Assessment Action learning. Action learning describes a program whereby groups of colleagues (learning sets) are brought together in real time by electronically mediated means to work on real workplace problems. Action learning is a systematic approach to learning while solving real problems at work. While action learning is individually focused, it uses a small group, known as a learning set, which provides a forum where each set member’s ideas can be discussed and challenged in a supportive environment. Action learning is an iterative, experiential process, involving a cyclical notion of learning. The elements of an action learning cycle are the following (McGill and Beaty, 1992): An action; Reflection—consideration of the effects, successful and unsuccessful, of that action; Generalizing—identifying new learning from this experience that can be applied; and Planning—deciding on the basis of generalizations how to act in the future. Just-in-time learning. The application of just-in-time learning for project teams is a means to deliver relevant information and improve team coordination. DP is planning to activate a just-in-time training program using a system developed in private industry. Learning portfolios. DOE project managers should be encouraged to develop learning portfolios. Learning portfolios are portfolios containing evidence of learning, work experiences, and achievements, for a specific learning goal. Learning goals can be established by an employee with the assistance of a mentor or supervisor. Portfolios may include a variety of documents, such as descriptions of projects, personal audits, research papers or articles, diaries of relevant experiences, notes from consultations with colleagues, case descriptions, and certificates from formal training programs. OTHER CONCERNS The PMCDP is directed at the training and development of project engineers; however, the committee believes that enhancing abilities in project management should also be directed at a broader audience of project management-related personnel, including program managers, support personnel, upper management, and contract project managers. Another issue is that federal agencies, including DOE, are facing a crisis brought on by the aging and impending retirement of experienced personnel. The aging workforce makes it even more urgent to develop a new group of competent project managers from younger, less experienced personnel and to create a career development program that will help retain skilled project managers.
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Progress in Improving Project Management at the Department of Energy: 2001 Assessment FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS Finding. Although there is a clear and immediate need to provide project management training, courses developed under the current PMCDP effort will not be available until late 2003. Training is the equivalent of providing workers the tools to accomplish their job. Recommendation. DOE should immediately implement an accelerated training program to improve the knowledge, skills, and abilities of project managers to address recognized gaps while continuing the PMCDP planning effort. Immediate measures should be taken to eliminate impediments and use current resources to explore creative and cost-effective nonclassroom alternatives such as e-learning, action learning, and learning portfolios. Also, trainers skilled in specific topics should be engaged to instruct a cadre of DOE employees, who in turn will impart department-wide training to other DOE employees. Recommendation. At the beginning of each fiscal year, DOE management should budget the funds to accomplish the projected training objectives for that year and should persist in mandating the accomplishment of individual career development objectives. Finding. The existing contract for training offers a means to deliver consistent content throughout the department; however, it reduces the range of options for training. Recommendation. DOE should modify or replace the current contract to allow greater flexibility in accessing courses pertinent to the project management skills utilized by industry and other federal agencies. DOE should develop new courses consistent with the new knowledge, skills, and abilities requirements identified by the findings of the gap analysis. REFERENCES ASTD (American Society for Training and Development). 2001. ASTD Benchmarking Forum. Available online at <http://www.astd.org/virtual_community/research/bench/benchmarking_forum_main.html>. Dixon, R.L. 1998. “Action Learning: More Than Just a Task Force.” Performance Improvement Quarterly 11(1):44–48. McGill, I., and L. Beaty. 1992. Action Learning : A Practitioner’s Guide. London, U.K.: Kogan. NRC (National Research Council). 1999. Improving Project Management in the Department of Energy. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
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