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How to translate project or programme course learnings into practice

Team of project and programme managers gathered around laptop with documents and notes on table devising strategy for applying their best practice learning in work

Congratulations — you’ve been on a project or programme management (PPM) course, enjoyed the experience and passed the exam.

All very positive. But now you are back at your desk you may be struggling with one nagging question — why am I finding it so hard to put those learnings into practice?

Well, the answer is simple and can be found quite close to home. It’s just a matter of context.

Go back to PPM basics

Think back to your PPM training: every project delivers an output. This may be a new process or new building but, whatever it is, it will only become an outcome — and result in a change in behaviour — if the operational staff successfully make the transition.

But they will only do that if they are given enough time, space and support to embed the new ways of working. Otherwise, it’s all too easy to fall back into using – for example – old processes, manual spreadsheets and workarounds.

Remember that giving the team time to adjust will likely result in a temporary drop in performance, known as the “learning dip.” But it is vital to fully realize the benefits of the new ways of working.

Post-course perspective

Now, let’s apply the same rationale to the training you’ve just received.

The course is the output or “completed training”. So, for you to put your new-found learnings into practice, you need to be given time to work out the most effective way to implement them.

This will naturally require the support and understanding of those around you, because it will inevitably take you longer to use the new methods than the old. It will also demand perseverance on your part so you don’t revert back to your comfort zone when faced with an overflowing inbox.

Again, this “learning dip” should be considered against the long-term benefits. In this case, that means the cost-effective implementation of a best practice method, designed to improve the set-up, management and on-time delivery of projects and programmes in your organization.

Take action

 So, what can you do now to ensure the theory is put into practice in your day-to-day role?

  • Speak to your line manager about what you’ve learned and how it can help the organization improve its project delivery.
  • Agree how your line manager is going to support you in implementing your new-found knowledge.
  • Identify who else in your organization has been on the same course and discuss how you can help each other by sharing useful tools, such as documented processes, templates, etc.
  • Set up a regular forum for like-minded individuals who are also seeking to improve the way they deliver change initiatives and are keen to exchange ideas and experiences.

Learn from experience

Next time you’re booked to go on a course, think about how you make things easier.

Take steps to agree learning objectives and expectations with your line manager in advance and seek out the advice of previous course delegates. After all, you don’t want to find yourself in the same situation of struggling to put your learning to work

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23 Jan 2020 Rajiv Khanna
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Thank you Michelle for highlighting this. Sue Taylor and Myself wrote a similar Blog for AXELOS couple of years and our moto was ' Now that you have passed your test, how areyou driving and have you been able to put your learning into practice'.
I have raised this with AXELOS (with no response as usual unfortunately): their focus today should be on promoting application rather than passing an examination. We get a weekly question on their Twitter 'what is an issue' or 'what is a risk'. We should have gone past this.
I hope your Blog raises the concept of applying the methods rather than passing an examination.
28 Jan 2020 Kapil Gupta
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Nicely covered and explained. Thanks
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