Getting the Most Out of a Project Management Course

You get out of something whatever you put into it.This is especially true when it comes to taking a project management course.

With a bit of conscious effort and a deliberate plan to follow, you will quickly find that you can maximize the educational experience that comes from taking a project management course. First, a few assumptions. If you match the following two criteria then this article will help you get the most out of your next project management course.

Assumption One: You are a project manager that is actively involved in managing projects

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a PMP Certified project manager, but it does mean that you have your hands in managing projects on a daily basis. You put together project plans, work with teams, manage risk, and drive projects to closure.

Assumption Two: You are not a PDU chaser

What is a PDU chaser? This is someone that really doesn’t care what course is being offered as long as it comes with a PDU attached at the end. I have a friend who owns a company that sells PDUs, and she says this is one of the first questions that is asked…how many PDUs? It’s not the topic of the course, who is teaching it, or what they will get out of it, but rather how many PDUs will they be able to report once they complete the course.

7 Steps to Getting the Most Out Of a Project Management Course

The following steps will allow you to get the most out of any project management course you take.

#1. Pick something you want to know more about

This seems obvious, but as mentioned at the outset there are many project managers that are just interested in the PDUs they will receive. To get the most out of any project management course you need to find one that is of great interest to you. This could be a course that answers a question that you may be struggling with in your day to day project management experience with your team. Or, it may be an area that you are wanting to transition your team to such as a new project management methodology or implementing a new process that will reduce the amount of time to complete projects. The goal here is that you really, really want to know about a topic and it is something that you will be able to take back to your job almost immediately.

#2. Pick the format where you learn best

There are many different formats available when it comes to picking a project management course. You may find that you learn best when you are in a classroom setting. You like the sharing of ideas, the instructor leading the class, and the camaraderie that is established as your work together through a project management challenge. Or, you may be the type of person that learns best in a private environment where you download the course to your mobile device and learn at your own pace and in your own environment. Another option may be to take an online course that is set up as a webinar with real-time interaction and the ability to ask questions. The point is that you need to find the format where you learn the best and then choose a course that meets your needs.

#3. Listen to learn not just to earn

Earning PDUs is a very important part of keeping your certification current as a certified project manager. However, this should not cloud your approach toward taking a project management course. You’ll find that there are two very different learning experiences if you are focused on really learning as opposed to just earning PDUs. Those that are focused on learning will take their time, ask questions, rewind, re-listen, and challenge the statements that are being made. Those that are focused on earning PDUs will many times just ‘phone it in’, multi-task along the way, and then ask what they need to do to claim their PDUs at the end. If you want to get the most out of your project management course, come at it with the focus of learning. PDUs will follow.

#4. Ask how you can apply this information

Throughout the entire course always ask yourself how you can apply this information. This is why you picked the topic that you did in step 1 above. There’s a reason why you picked this course and this is where you address that reason. See how the information that is being presented can help with a problem that you may be experiencing. Or, ask yourself how the information that is being presented can make a process smoother, easier, or faster and how this can be implemented in your company.

#5. Implement immediately

How do you feel after you have attended an interesting project management course? Excited. Optimistic. Ready to Go. You need to immediately take this momentum back to your company before it goes away. Why does it go away? Because the pressures, routines, stress, and sheer volume of work that needs to get done will quickly cause this momentum to slow down. At this point, you should have written down your plans for applying the information from the project management course in your department or company. Now’s the time to go back and make some changes and improvements.

#6. Share the project management course with others

Not everyone on your project team will have been able to attend the project management course you just attended. Make sure to capture the highlights that you want to share with your team so they can see the benefit of applying what you learned in the company. This can be a great way to raise the bar for your entire department as everyone absorbs, understands, and applies what you learned from the project management course. Plus, it doesn’t need to stop with you. Your schedule will undoubtedly not allow you to attend all the project management courses you would like to attend, but your peers and colleagues can go in your place…on one condition. That they come back and share what they learned with the entire team as well. They’ll appreciate the change to their schedule, the ability to interact with others outside of their company, and feel a big part of making things better for their department.

#7. Repeat

Once you’ve gone through your first course, implemented the changes, and shared this knowledge with others you will want to do this time and time again. If you are a PMP Certified project manager you’ll find that you don’t even have to think about earning PDUs. PDUs will become a by-product of the educational experience that you have set out to expose yourself to and will add up by default.

Does it take the effort to get the most out of a project management course? Yes, it does. But the payoff for doing it this way will greatly outweigh the effort you have put into the course. Your job as a project manager will continue to get easier as more and more best practices make their way into your company.

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