The Real Expense Of Cheap Training

Few things are more expensive than a cheap training in an organization

 

Let me tell you two stories.

Jagmohan, a very promising HR professional who had joined a spanking new manufacturing organization which had been a market leader of sorts in Asia Pacific region, in its line of business.

This organization has been doing rather well as far as projects were concerned as long as the company was smaller with closely knit teams which used to all sit together in the same building. Success came and with it came growth. With growth came diversification and tremendous increase in head-count. New professionals, new ideas and new ways of working came into play and soon there were many “Business Units” within the organization with their own teams and than there were these “Production Lines” which had their own departments and work force. All of them grouped and located in different physical buildings and geographies.

It was not long that the euphoria of growth lost its sparkle. Projects were not finishing on time, decisions were taking forever to be made, several layers of hierarchy was making the “Ownership” of deliverables complex, teams were rife with “Conflicts” and their managers seem to be party to such conflicts, project tracking were getting increasingly “abstract” and to top it all there were mounting complaints and dissatisfaction from the Customers. In effect the very professionalism that gave them success and growth seemed to vanish almost immediately after the growth.

Jagmohan was hired to specifically address this growing concern. His main target was to find out the underlying reasons and gaps for such “lackluster” performance by teams as well as to find a solution for the same. The idea was to get the teams delivering projects again on time and within budget.

Jagmohan was not new to such issues and had undertaken similar work for introducing “Balanced Score Card” Model in his previous organization.

Jagmohan immediately got to work. Identified the necessary stakeholders and started discussing the weak areas and before long he had a good list of “Improvement Areas”. However he soon started to realize that he may have bitten more than he could chew. Unlike the operations based “Balanced Score Card Method”, Project Management had humungous permutations and combinations and almost every single business unit had a different view and different expectations in terms of required Project Management Skills for their team. He was finding it increasingly difficult to find common “Treads” or “Skills” that he could formulate some trainings around.

He got in touch with the training provider that he knew in his previous organization. The training provider suggested that one of the best things to do is just go for a “PMP®” training. This would not only cover “Everything” on the topic of project management, it would also give a global benchmarks to the participants which in turn would help the organizations image.

And so began the cycle of floating the PMP® idea to all the stakeholders within the organization. Every one was impressed and this lead to the next step of finding the right “Training Partner” who could actually provide this training to all the Project Teams in batches and in different locations so that the entire project team would be covered.

Jagmohan did further studies and went to the PMI site and downloaded the syllabus and other handbooks that are needed to understand what all this certification entailed. This was a good exercise because now Jagmohan was well equipped to interview and screen the candidates for the “PMP® training partner”.

The stakeholders identified about 800 employees to be covered with this training.

The process of selecting the right candidate began. Jagmohan knew that the PMP certification is a standard training and hence the focus should be the cost as it would make a huge difference. For every quote he would multiply the no. of persons with the quote and see how much it would cost him. Jagmohan was always good at numbers so it was not long before he could identify the one he would finally choose. He was the cheapest one. Now jagmohan wanted to save some more money for the organization. He realized that he would negotiate a per batch deal with the training partner instead of the per person deal. This further saved a lot of money for the organization. Now since this became a per batch deal there was no limit to the no. of persons he could put in every batch. So he further negotiated with the training partner that there should be 40 persons per batch. This would mean he would need only 20 batches. 

Jagmohan got the training batches started. Jagmohan, being an experienced person having worked in large organizations, also knew how to take credit for good work done. So he prepared a very nice excel sheet showing different prices that people were quoting and who he saved so many hundred thousand rupees. He got accolades and in one of the functions he even got an award for his diligent work.

Trainings went on…. And soon the euphoria around the training started to die down. More and more stakeholders stared to complain that despite so many trainings there was nothing visibly better in real world project management. The problems remained more or less the same. Increasing no. of the trained persons could not clear the exams. Increasing no. of trained persons showed a lot of unhappiness with the training methodology. Many even said that they did not need so much of unnecessary information. While many started to complain that what is the use for us to get trained on project management when our seniors did not follow the same manner of project management. The troubles and complaints…. Which started as a trickle now came in waves of flood and torrents. There was almost an organization wide demotivation and soon more and more senior managers started to say that … I guess we as an organization are not the right candidate for Project Management.

Does this story sound familiar…..

I have heard this story so many times that its almost seems like a global phenomenon.

Should we even try to calculate how much did it cost for the wrong and cheap training in this organization in terms of totally failed investment, productive hours lost, lack of motivation and disillusionment towards a global certification and to top it all lost a huge chance of taking their organization to the next level of project management. The cost, if calculable, would probably result into Millions of rupee losses.

Now I guess its time for the Second Story.

Ankita who had just come out of a Management School with specialization in HR and Organizational learning, was picked up from the campus to work in a rather large organization. They were a smaller startup about 5 yrs back and they had done some remarkable work in the past in their close knit teams and achieved grand success. They grew very fast and got 2 rounds of funding in quick succession. They too were suffering from the lack of co-ordination due to tremendous growth and that their teams, despite being highly skilled, were unable to complete projects and assignments in time. They were also spending more than the budget almost in all the projects. This was making their funding partners edgy as this way the more the projects they would do the more the losses the company would generate. Something had to be done. The organizations collective project management competency was to be raised and fast.

Ankita was immediately put on to this work. Her target was to help identify the right candidate to become the organizations training partner. They started searching for the training partners and almost every one was recommending PMP trainings. She was told that PMP contains every thing that is needed in a Project and also has a global benchmark hence would be the best thing to do for them. Ankita did a research and went on to the PMI site and realized that…. Truly PMP certification was the best and most appropriate global certification that covered every aspect of project management and what’s more it was Domain or Industry agnostic.

She was about to finalize a pmp training partner with the cheapest quotation when a relatively less known training organization approached them. The person from the training organization was insisting on talking to some stakeholders within the organization and not just the HR persons. This seemed odd but for some reason it felt as if the person knew what he was talking about. Hence Ankita arranged a call. The person kept asking questions after questions and almost seemed to know exactly what kind of problems were being faced by the organizations. After a call that lasted nearly 30 minutes more than the allotted time the person said he will create certain options for them and send it to them for their consideration. Ankita waited for the options. She received an email that had very different approach. The approach said that there should be three different kinds of training for the targeted professionals within the organization based on the three different kinds of roles that were apparent. The approach stated that the senior managers who were to track and support the project managers did not need full PMP training …all they needed was a Project Management appreciation which would ensure they would know all the necessary tools and skills to start, scope and track a project well.

The approach document stated that the second group that mostly consisted of Project Managers would be trained on PMP but it would customized in such a way that despite the fact it would cover all topics of PMP it would pay more stress on the improvement areas that had been identified during the call. The entire Time management would be done using the Microsoft Project tool as the organization had sufficient no. of licenses for the same.

The approach document also stated that the third group that is basically from Cross functional teams who are required to support the Project Managers in executing the projects but were essentially reporting to their respective operational heads or heads of Departments….. would be trained using a customized and lighter version of Project Management training that would give them just the right tools and skills and knowledge to help “Contribute” to the projects when they are required to work on a project.

When Ankita did the total cost calculations she realized that this training organization was costing more than the other training organizations but she also saw that this is the only training organization which was interested to know what were the real issues within the organization and like a doctor was recommending surgical solutions …just the right medicine for the right ailments. She had always know that a Cheap doctor is not always the best doctor.

She had a long meeting with her senior manager and was finally able to convince that they should go for this new training organization with three levels of customized trainings. 

The first to be trained were the Senior Mangers. This laid down the backbone of professionalism in Project Management within the top layer of the organization. Suddenly all the senior managers were speaking a common language. The co-ordination among them improved and they all started to think on the Strategic aspects of project management. While this happened the project managers began to see a visible change in the way the senior managers started to work with them and guide them. This created a very good effect among the Project managers and now they were looking forward to their targeted training. When the time came for the training the Project Managers were all very receptive and wanted to focus more on the practical aspect of project management rather than just lapping up “Academic” concepts. Soon after the series of trainings for Project Managers a very healthy competition started among them…as to who would clear the exams first. The found that it was so easy to reach out to this new training provider and seek guidance. This gave a lot of confidence to the Project Manager. Soon more and more project managers started to clear the PMP exams and started becoming highly efficient in real world project management as not only the were good at it …. They were also getting very good support from the senior management …who were very informed on strategic project management and were providing excellent support and mentoring to the project managers. The project management tool’s use made the life of a lot of project managers much easier and they were able to handle more work with lesser effort. Focusing on Critical path also allowed them to have a much better Work life balance than they earlier had.

Now came the turn of the third group. By this time there was already so much positivity surrounding these trainings that the Operational support staff were eagerly waiting for their turn. After their training got over they suddenly realized that how Operational work and project work are so different and have to be handled differently. The Project Managers found much superior understanding among the cross functional teams and this gave rise to a much better working environment and healthy collaboration.

Ankita could actually see and measure the improvement in organization wide project management effectiveness. She too had attended a training and hence now knew exactly which measures and what benchmarks to be used to measure the “Practical and real” improvement within the organization after the trainings.

Ankita and her boss got a citations for amazing work done. They also got invited to HR forums where they presented their case study. Ankita saw that while she was presenting her slides every one was finding it very interesting but one particular person was finding it very informative as he was taking detailed notes. After the presentation that same person walked up to Ankita and congratulated her on great work done. He wanted the contact details of that training organization and also wanted to get in touch with Ankita for more details. They exchanged visiting cards. Ankita looked at the card provided by this person…. And noticed that his name was ……. Jagmohan.

There is nothing more expensive to an organization than a wrong training done just because it was cheap.