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How many times have you watched a good idea come to nothing?

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Have you ever sat in a meeting about a new initiative and wondered if anything will really happen as a result of all the energy in the room?

For too long, education has failed to take advantage of the benefits of project management methods and techniques, even though these are now widely used in more commercial organisations. It’s time to work smarter so that we plan and implement projects more effectively and accelerate improvement in our sector.

In the education sector projects abound, as a project is defined as an initiative that introduces or accelerates change, within a finite period of time, using resources of time, people and money. So the introduction of a new qualification, the planning for a CPD programme or the setting up of a coaching network would all class as projects. They have an array of pitfalls and challenges due to the cross functional and time-bound nature of the work. They require people with different agendas and allegiances to work together, often to tight deadlines. Planning and communications are key areas of difficulty and more than one project has failed to deliver its outcomes because of this, leading to a waste of effort and a lack of benefit for its institution. Project management methods however can help us to avoid many of these common pitfalls and help us meet the challenges, as it draws on a body of good practice gathered from other projects in a range of sectors. We don’t need to invent the wheel here – we just need to pinch our neighbour’s one and get on the road...


Benefits of project management

  • Thorough planning

All project management methodologies emphasise the importance of detailed, contextualised planning before you launch your project. You need to know how to structure your project into stages that will deliver your final outcomes and what the key milestones are for tracking progress.

  • Focus on roles and responsibilities

Project management insists on the allocation of tasks and roles to people so that there is real clarity about who owns which actions. This makes it easier to track progress and make people accountable. No more sitting in working group meetings wondering who should have done what….

  • Attention to monitoring and control mechanisms

A project needs careful nurturing and a sharp eye on certain aspects at key points in the cycle. Project management tells you what to keep an eye on at which point and how. This helps you maintain momentum so the project doesn’t tail off in that familiar way.

  • Emphasis on communications

Projects stand or fall by the quality and quantity of communication. Project management focuses your attention on who to talk to when, about what and how, so that communication is both planned and responsive as well. This will help you get buy in and keep it throughout the initiative.

Training

This all sounds very easy, but in reality project management is a complex art involving a range of people, information and process management skills. But the good news is that there is training available that can give you a set of project management skills and a framework for planning your projects. Click here for an introduction to project management, tailored to the education sector and led by a qualified project manager with 20 years’ experience in the education sector.

Implementing Supported Experiments using project management tecniques

Colleges and schools all over the UK are embarking on action research projects such as the Supported Experiments cycle promoted by Geoff Petty. But how many of them have the project management expertise to optimise the impact of this cycle? It’s common to hear CPD managers say that it all started so well but then tailed off really, which was such a shame…

The cycle itself is a great one for building a culture of continuous improvement and innovation but you need to know how to bring the cycle to life, how to stage it so that it maintains momentum and how to capture its outcomes for dissemination. In colleges which are now working with us on project managed cycles, there is awareness that these methods are a key part of their implementation process…

“Excellent trainer, full of energy, very focussed and excellent support in keeping us on track”
 Joanne Green, Director of Quality, Bolton College
 
For an introduction to Project Management skills click here

For training on implementing Supported Experiments using project management methods click here.

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