Chris Croft's Personal Blog

September 7, 2013

Questions to ask a potential project management trainer

On your course what is the division of time between the people side of things such as leadership and management of teams and the task side of things such as constructing a Gantt chart?
If they are spending more than half of the course on people stuff then it’s not really a project management course. Some trainers pad out their PM courses with people stuff, and although it’s important, it’s a management/leadership course, it’s not why you are buying. The planning of tasks needs at least a day to cover properly.

How practical is what you’re teaching? How many hours a week do you think a person would need to plan and then run a project using your method?
If it’s more than a few hours at the start and then 1-2 hours a week, normal busy managers won’t ever do it

What do you think of the PRINCE2 methodology?
Anyone who still likes this nowadays should be avoided. It’s far too complicated for any normal busy manager to use, and it doesn’t teach you HOW to do basic things like list tasks, estimate costs or times, find critical paths or produce a Gantt chart.

How many proforma forms are required in order to use your method? How many pages and sections are there in your recommended pid?
There should be no more than 5 forms, and the PID should only be 2 pages plus a Gantt chart. Any more than that and normal busy managers won’t ever do it

What method do you teach for estimating the time or cost of a task? Do you recommend the 1-4-1 estimating method?
If they haven’t heard of the 1-4-1 then then don’t know what they are talking about. If they are teaching the 1-4-1 then they are blindly regurgitating ineffective existing theories. Ideally they would know about it but not use it.

How do you recommend that people find the critical path? /Do you teach the use of post it note diagrams as part of your project planning methodology?
Forward and backward passes are much too long-winded and unnecessarily complicated for busy managers to ever do. Much more practical is to just do some post-it notes and add up the longest path. BUT: If they say they don’t bother with critical paths then they aren’t doing it properly.

For producing critical path diagrams Do you prefer PERT or CPM and why?
If they don’t know what you mean, get another trainer! Ideally they will give you a reasoned argument based on whether projects have events (milestones) or activities (tasks to be done), and whether the diagram is for the benefit of the customer or the team doing the job. Either is OK, but personally I prefer CPM (times on the boxes).

What do you teach for the construction of Gantt charts?
Does it involve a network diagram first? Does it involve Excel? Is it quick and easy? Do people actually do one on the training day?

Do you teach the concept of earned value and if so how? How do you calculate the expected finish time of a project?
If they have lots of complicated formulae involving SPI, CPI, estimated / actual costs of work planned / performed, then their method is too complicated for normal busy managers to use.

What do you think of Microsoft Project?
It’s not a disaster to like it, but most PMs find it annoying, and I personally think Excel is cheaper, quicker, and better when it comes to resource planning (especially for multiple projects) and costing.


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