Project management training activities help participants understand and practice the project management techniques you teach in class. Students gain experience working with the various tools they will use on a day-to-day basis as project managers. Introduce activities which allow plenty of student practice. Following are three examples of activities that you can customize for your training sessions.
Brainstorming is usually used early in the creative process of project management. According to BusinessBalls.com, "Brainstorming creates new ideas, solves problems, motivates and develops teams" (see References 1). The facilitator of the activity uses a flip chart or white board for recording the team's ideas and managing their responses. Choose a brainstorming aim. For example, determine the pros and cons of relocating the headquarters operation.
Facilitate a session, recording all student ideas. When the time limit for brainstorming expires, help the group put like concepts into related headings and/or sub-headings. Create solutions based on the input of the group. Settle on an action plan with time lines and circulate this to all participants.
Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa, a Japanese quality control statistician, invented the fishbone diagram, also known as an Ishikawa diagram or a cause and effect diagram. When drawn, it looks like the skeleton of a fish, hence the name. It is an analytical tool often used for diagramming effects and their causes. It identifies root problems when a process is not working properly.
Draw a fish skeleton on a large paper or white board. Label the problem on the fish's head. Let's say you have problems with late deliveries. The bones protruding from the fish's spine will each name a major category that affects the problem area. For instance, if "Materials" was one of your main categories, you brainstorm things in materials that cause late deliveries.
One-by-one, brainstorm potential causes in each category asking, "Why is this happening?" about each item and sub-item. Other main categories may be "Skills" or "Procedures", for example, depending on the nature of your problem.
Key problems will likely show up in more than one category when you have completed the process. Once the most probable causes have been identified, order them from most probable to least probable. (see References 2) This activity offers students experience using the fishbone diagram approach to project management. Action plans may follow.
Critical Path Analysis
Critical path analysis (CPA) helps project managers plan and run elaborate projects efficiently. Using CPA, project managers estimate the time frame of the project. According to Fenman Professional Training Resources in the United Kingdom, critical path analysis is "one of the most useful tools for planning and analysing projects."
Fenman recommends a teaching activity based on cooking a popular meal, Spaghetti Bolognese.(see References 3). Students recognize which are sequential steps and which are independent steps. Walk participants through the drawing of a network diagram and then identify the critical path--the key events that dictate the overall length of the project. Using CPA, project managers visualize the importance each task has in finishing the project within the time frame.
Malinda Zellman has instructed computer, ESL and GED classes. She is a retired homeschooler and school librarian. She is contributing author for two books, "Games" and "Crafts," by Group Publishing. She has written for print magazines and websites. She holds two BA degrees, business administration and economics, from Rollins College.