A Case Study in Project Management Training - [website] Email Print
Published: 26th of May 2017 by: Debbie Engelbrecht CEO

We were contacted by a diversifying company in the home building industry. Having started out as an interior finishing company, they have subsequently become involved in more elaborate projects and were now beginning to act as the main project managers for small developments and subcontracting to a different division in their own company, among others.

A hard working, hard hitting, slightly battered and bruised crew awaited me at their boardroom table one afternoon for the first of four sessions of Project Management training. It is never ideal to start training at 17h00 after a hard day at work but they were simply unable to fit the much needed training into their daily schedules.

Prior to the training we identified the following challenges:

1. A highly stressed and under resourced working environment.

2. Communication breakdown.

3. Consistently running late on projects and having to pay the penalties.

4. Losing money due to errors being made and work having to be repeated.

5. Waiting for raw material as lead times were not being sufficiently managed.

6. Unreliable contractors.

Our trainer had four sessions with the group and wanted to make it as practical as possible in order to ensure that the additional time this team was spending on the learning could also bring real time saving into their daily lives. The first part of the workshop was making sure that whilst in-house they may all be speaking about the same project in reality two separate divisions saw the project very differently.

We identified where the stress in the team was coming from and where the lack of resources was affecting them most. Identifying quickly that the communication breakdown occurred as a result of the stress and lack of time spent on relevant and productive project meetings. The latter then gave rise to the monetary losses that were in turn impacting on resources, contractors and raw material delivery.

Once the team could see from a more global perspective what was actually happening, it became clear that a good project management framework would assist in streamlining. Also, their new and expanding company could turn the corner toward better profitability.

We dealt with the various project management frameworks available and they quickly identified which one would suit their environment the best. We then dealt with the various aspects of project management from scope definition right through to risk analysis. In each of these areas, they were quickly able to identify where, when and why they were struggling and how to fix the existing problems.

At the second session, they had already aligned their finance department much more efficiently with their projects and there were already reports of better delivery times from suppliers.

A further area that was fixed quickly and easily whilst on training was the setting up of basic service level agreements with the contractors that efficiently placed the cost of late penalties in the hands of the people causing them. They had already met with most of their main contractors by the time the training was completed.

The quality control issues that they were currently experiencing were addressed immediately as it became apparent that simple checklists, clear authority levels, technology (cameras and Whatsapp!) and an aligned quality control process that could be incorporated on a daily basis would be beneficial to all; saving much time. The service level agreements played a huge role in the final outcome of quality and accountability.

The work breakdown that they had so comfortably taken on without structure in the past was hugely beneficial to them as it then became apparent to them where they were expecting too much or too little from others.

The risk analysis was an interesting exercise as they worked with a new project they were taking on and during the training. It was immediately apparent that they would have to review some of their thinking based on the high probability and possibility of materials damage during a certain aspect of the very tricky installation. This installation was to be undertaken by their internal division. They immediately worked on risk mitigation and before the night was out, they were all starting to look a lot more relaxed.

At the final session, we addressed the aspect of communication and how to manage the communication making sure that all parties could “see the project” at a glance, but also that they were able to touch base sufficiently. We suggested the scrum method of meeting and very specifically ensured that they understood the necessity for minute taking. After a very lengthy question and answer session, our facilitator staggered out of there at 10h45 leaving behind a very enthusiastic and hard-working team.

Our follow up elicited the following comments:

1. Thank you. For the first time in 3 years we are bringing in most of our projects on time. This is saving us a fortune!

2. Thank you - especially because of the risk register I am now much more able to identify stress points in the project and with more hands on supervision at that time. My team and I are getting through it all so much quicker!

3. You have no idea! I have a life back. My stress is gone. I have normal daily stuff, but none of that lying awake all night wondering what is going to blow up in my face tomorrow!

4. Thank you for the clarity you brought. With our SLAs in place and our contractors being paid on time, with regular meetings we are pretty much running like clockwork. It’s a different company.

5. I cannot believe that something as simple as scope definition and agreement with all stakeholders in place could make such a difference to the quality of what we put out. I was never before assertive enough to push back. I was always thinking that all I had to do is keep the client happy at all costs. Now, I tell people no and they are even happier with me!

From our side a great story – from the client’s? Even more so.

© Debbie Engelbrecht is the MD at Staff Training. Staff Training is a leadership and soft skills development company. With workshops including emotional intelligence, personal mastery, tools such as the Enneagram and highly trained and experienced facilitators Staff Training are able to assist you with your change management initiatives. Call 0861 996 660.

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