Businesses need people with project management skills. It’s a handy skill to have if you want to drive an initiative in the business world.
In fact, Learning and Development (L&D) teams often need to use project management skills. But there is a problem. L&D has become hyper-focused on project management. For some reason, project management has been linked to the L&D profession as a key competency. In some organizations, it’s overtaken instructional design as a must-have skill.
But is project management what L&D should focus on? Why has it become a major focus of the team’s function?
Project Management Is Great—But It’s Not Everything
Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with being talented in project management. After all, when you create a learning program, you must manage the project.
But here’s the crux of the problem: What signal does it send when our profession focuses our certifications on being good project managers?
Why is that a problem? Our skill as project managers is not what makes learning effective. It is not why our stakeholders support us.
A Task Focus Rather Than An Outcome Focus
Focusing on PM skills is like focusing on LMS outputs to tell us how well our learning programs are doing. As we’ve discussed before, an LMS focuses on “efficiency” metrics. Those metrics answer how many, how fast, how much. They report on activities, time, and money spent. They speak to the process of learning, but not the results of learning.
The typical LMS only tells you how many students attended a class, how many courses were offered, and how happy students were with the training.
Yes, some of that information makes for interesting data. But it fails to deliver the one thing your bosses and stakeholders want to know: how did the learning program affect the bottom line of the business?
In the same way, a focus on project management is a focus on tasks. It’s a focus on steps and processes. It helps you get a job done but does not tell you if the job succeeded in boosting the company.
What Should We Focus On Instead?
L&D needs to focus on those skills used to design effective learning. Where should we put our focus instead?
- Stakeholder goals. The start of all good learning programs is knowing the result you need. This starts with choosing the right metric to measure. Choosing that metric happens when you have a clear understanding of your stakeholder goals.
- Program design. Once you know the right metric to measure, the instructional designer makes the metric change the program goal. Changing that metric becomes the target of the learning and informs how the program is designed.
- Outcome. The right metric and program design don’t matter if you can’t measure the outcome. Businesses demand ROI measures from their L&D team. Measuring outcomes is a matter of connecting the dots between program design, behavior changes, and metric changes.
As I said at the start, project management is helpful. However, if you need to improve job performance through learning, who do you want to hire: The person who manages the project better or the person who designs the learning better?
Is your L&D team focused on the wrong thing? If you need help mastering measurable learning design, then contact us at eParamus. We’d love to work with you.
Please follow eParamus on LinkedIn and feel free to connect with me, Laura Paramoure, PhD.
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