How Long to Develop An Hour of Training?

Estimation is one of the more challenging aspects of project management, and is central to project success.  Formally or informally, most project work is tracked and evaluated against the expectations set up front for cost and time required.  Inaccurate estimates can have serious consequences for an organization, the project team—and the project manager.

The typical PM learns two things about estimation early in his or her career:

  1. It’s a bad idea to offer estimates before you have enough information to properly scope the project, because once people hear numbers coming out of your mouth, they will remember them forever.
  2. People will insist you do it anyway.

Good practice says that estimates, especially early ones, should be given as a range, with the width of the range set by the uncertainty of the estimate.  Even then, you still need a starting point.  Enter the rule of thumb.  For those times when you need a ballpark figure to gauge the size of a training project, many managers and organizations have history doing similar work they can draw upon to get started. 

But what if you are just getting started as a training manager, or have never developed a particular type of training before?  What if you want to gauge your personal experience against industry norms?  Back in 2003, Karl Kapp conducted a survey of learning professionals, and wrote an article that compiled estimates for developing of an hour of training using various techniques.  Kapp and Robyn Defelice have recently updated the original article with findings from a new survey.  The initial response pool isn’t huge (47 participants), so the results should probably be used cautiously, but it’s some of the best public data I’ve seen, and the new article covers a broader range of development approaches.  The authors note that estimate duration for several training types of development have increased since the 2003 survey, and suggests that issues with scope and change management—in both the project management and organizational sense—may be responsible. 

It’s also worth noting that the authors are continuing to collect estimates, so if you’d like to contribute to the study, follow the link to the article above and scroll down, or visit the survey directly here.

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Should You Hire Technologists for Their Industry Knowledge?

Pat Ferdinandi questions the current trend.

About David Gaw

David Gaw I’m a learning professional with more than 15 years experience developing and delivering training and change programs for clients in nearly every industry you can think of, as well as the public sector.  I have worked for IBM and Deloitte Consulting in their Human Capital practices, and have been involved with—and intrigued by the potential of—e-learning technologies since long before anybody called them that.  As Manager of Technology Consulting for DDS Inc./Metamor Knowledge Solutions, I led product design and sales support for our portfolio of e-learning products, and supported technology implementations on five continents.  I am a PMI-certified Project Management Professional (PMP), an avid traveler, and I couldn’t hit a golf ball to save my life.

Will Change Resistors Change?

Craig Brown at Better Projects:

Here's an idea that was suggested to me today; People who resist change will still change.  They just change slower than others.  Why?  The idea is that resistors are really trying to hold the status quo.  If your early adopters and the middle packs move on to the new way of thinking and doing business the status quo eventually changes.  After a while your change resistors have adopted the new status quo.

I think this idea is partly true: some change resisters are indeed likely to come around and accept a new “future state”, given time.  But I would suggest two caveats to keep in mind when considering this.

First, it assumes the planned change actually happens, and is sufficiently successful that you eventually reach the “new status quo” you intended to reach.  That’s by no means a foregone conclusion.  Indeed, that this so often fails to happen is one driver behind the rise of organizational change management as a discipline.  Resistance to change can be so disruptive that it derails a change initiative completely or worse, results in a future state that the organization did not intend, and that leaves it worse off than it was in the beginning.  If you are attempting to implement a major system or process change, and the new status quo turns out to be that you can no longer fulfill orders or respond to customer inquiries, the question of whether change resisters will eventually adapt to this state of affairs is suddenly the least of your problems.  Indeed, you may discover the change resisters were trying to tell you something important.

Second, it’s not universally true.  People resist change for a lot of different reasons, some of them perfectly rational, others less so.  Whether a given person comes to accept the new status quo, and how long it takes, will depend in part on the person and in part on their motivation.  When change is managed well, and stakeholder perspectives given proper attention, some people will be won over before the change, some will be won over in time, and realistically, some will never accept the change, and will eventually leave the organization one way or another.  In the end, even people who are willing to be “won over” will be more or less persuaded depending on how the change is presented, and how they are treated over the course of change.  That’s one reason why a good change management plan will seek to anticipate sources of change resistance—both the resisters and their motivations—and develop appropriate approaches for responding to each.

A Cynical Start for a Cynical Series

Barry Otterholt at the PM Hut blog has started a series of posts he calls A Cynical Perspective on Project Management with the tongue-in-cheek “Project Management 101.”  He explains, “Most of us need to learn by our own mistakes, rather than heed the wisdom of others. Here then is the prescription for learning, so you can make the mistakes faster and get to the wisdom sooner.”  It’s pretty entertaining, I just hope there aren’t budding project managers out there who read it and miss that it’s humor.  I’m looking forward to see what else he has planned for the series.

Get the Failure Over With

Why wait for your project to actually fail when you can imagine it did up-front?  Simon Moore at Strategic Project Portfolio Management writes about the use of a “premortem” as a risk management tool.  The supporting research found their use can increase the ability to correctly identify reasons for future outcomes by 30%:

…[P]ost-mortems are, by definition, only successful correcting mistakes after they happen. …Experience may be the best teacher, but that can also prove expensive. Pre-mortems offer a different solution, correcting problems in advance, and eliminating the risk in the first place.

A pre-mortem involves getting project stakeholders and participants into a room before a project starts, making the rather bleak assumption that the project was not successful and then determining the cause. By assuming that the project has already failed, it makes it much easier for everyone in the room to be creative in pointing to potential problems and shortcomings.

I think it’s fascinating that a simple and completely notional change in mental perspective can have such a profound impact on the effectiveness of surfacing risks early.  Moore links to this Harvard Business Review article in which Gary Klein introduced the term “premortem”; it goes into more detail on the research behind the idea.

Kevin Siegel’s Adobe Captivate 5 Sneak Peek

Kevin Siegel was at last week’s Adobe Learning Summit, and shares details about the forthcoming Adobe Captivate 5 in this sneak peek.  Among other things, it sounds like Adobe has done significant work to make Captivate’s user interface more like those of their other design products.