Project Training: Balancing Structure With Flexibility

A solid training program is an essential tool to ensure PMP®s achieve the right kind of project management training for the projects the Project Team typically handles. But there are several approaches a project office can take to develop an effective and relevant strategy for its specific needs. Informal training programs offer maximum flexibility while more formal programs ensure compliance with specific requirements. Balancing the best of both styles will give your team members a more rounded education that also incorporates the Project Team’s culture as well as the demands of its project portfolio.

Project Management Training

A well-structured training program will outline expectations surrounding the disciplines and credentials that team members should be pursuing. This enables everyone to know what’s required of them and also gives PMP®s a foundation from which to create their own learning targets that support not only the Project Team’s expectations but their own career goals, as well.


Format these expectations so they’re flexible enough to accommodate potential changes—from expansions to a shift in market position—that could arise later. In addition, plan to review these educational expectations every year to be sure they continue to be aligned with the Project Team’s environment.


Many formal training programs also create a framework with specific timing requirements. This may mean that PMP®s are expected to participate in a minimum number of training hours each quarter or that they must attend sessions on certain disciplines with a set regularity (every 2 years, etc.).


As with other expectations that are included in any training program, these timing provisions should also be malleable to some degree. Consider including a mechanism to delay portions of the program if a preferred trainer is unavailable or ceases operation in your team’s area. Also, work to develop timing requirements that balance a realistic approach to training with an effort to stay in tune with emerging concepts. If timeframes are overly rigid, PMP®s may be forced to take an outdated class sooner rather than waiting for an offering that better addresses new thought leadership principles later.


Stipulating a specific progression for training sessions is often useful for ensuring team members don’t skip over necessary fundamental courses on good project management methodologies in favor of more advanced training. It may also be an effective way of requiring that individuals in the project office develop deeper expertise in specific competencies.


On the flip side, a stringent roadmap may not take into account the past experience a PMP® has already developed. It also presents the potential for missed education opportunities, as new classes are always being added and an overly-specific structure will likely skip over these. Consider instead an approach that simply outlines the desired disciplines and levels of experience—basic, advanced, etc.—each PMP® is encouraged to pursue. This offers better flexibility and will be more useful, particularly where an evolving project portfolio may call for new areas of expertise on short notice.


Instructor criteria is also sometimes laid out in within an organization’s project training program. One advantage to including credentialing or expertise requirements for trainers is that team members are more likely to receive quality instruction, even if the number of sessions attended each year is relatively low (an all-too-common cost trade-off made by project teams).


But there’s also the potential that defining instructor criteria too tightly will leave PMP®s without enough training options if the trainer’s credentials lapse or if new credentialing schedules conflict with existing requirements. A set of criteria that focuses more on expertise and experience may provide enough flexibility to ensure team members are able to access high-quality instruction without being overly concerned with requirements that may become obsolete.

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