Villano-More: School’s Out

Indeed, my time as an online classroom student came to an official end Tuesday morning, 2:59 GMT. My Essentials of Project Management course is a wrap, complete, finito. One might say that yours truly is now wiser to the ways of all you project managerial lot now: no longer will you be talking over my head with your management of stakeholders, planning and earned value. Folks, I’ve arrived! Mwah, ha hah!

(Sorry, I was just channeling my inner “training course = project manager” personality. Apparently, we all have one. Swear on it.)

In all seriousness, the experience of learning about the elements and characteristics that go into modern project management have been invaluable. It has widened my industrial focus exponentially. What’s more, the instructors and resources from Villanova have been great to me and I’m sure just as good to fellow course taker Dr. Ed Wallington, whose posts about his experiences can be read here and here.

If the true effect of a good education is proper application, instructors at Nova would be pleased to know that things are staying with me, and in what has been a particularly pleasant surprise, I can feel the lessons seeping through into my working life each day. Not often does one walk out of class with the ability to constructively apply and effectively derive from the lessons just learned.

For instance, I now constantly find myself considering tools that can be construed as an OPA, or organisational process asset. These mostly documented resources (lessons learned, plans, procedures, risk data, schedules) can be filed away as part of a company’s working history. It then becomes this invaluable resource, one in which you learn more about the right courses of action to undertake. They’re applicable in all facets of project management – initiation, planning, risk, change. In all, the PMBoK Guide (our reference book used in conjunction with the eight-week course) lists 42 different processes in project management in which OPAs are listed as a type of input.

The entire process is as if I were like Toto as he pulls back the curtain to reveal Oz. The weight of the industry and all its power hovered above me like a domineering, detached and ultimately superimposed head, when in reality it took a little reading of the situation and some common sense to realise it’s an industry developed, analysed and practised by humans for the benefit of the structures and bases we so deeply value. Ultimately, within the menacing confines of a place I’d never been before that seemed daunting (online learning and classroom setting), I nevertheless came away realising there was – like Oz himself – a benevolent person on the other side talking straight to me, and not to that fake image of the man in his underwear in the back of a classroom of 50.

I particularly loved the concept of project manager’s working for his/her team, as opposed to the misconception that its usually the other way around. It’s a breath of fresh air and the ultimate pat on the back for all those who value teamwork so vociferously. The course reminded us not to manage in a way that puts team members on their heels, but to engage through effective communication and strenuously endeavour to bring the best performance out of everybody involved.

So what else do I get out of it? A big framed certificate, for one thing, which should arrive in the next 4-6 weeks (UPDATE 4-4-2011: It arrived Friday and is now in my home office. Our two-year-old daughter loves it). And I also get a series of invaluable OPAs (there I go again) from the course resources: most valuable among them is a PMBoK Guide, Fourth edition, which is an invaluable tool to come back to. Plus, the lectures live on in DVDs and the accompanying study guides filled with my notes and reflections. And some other invaluable lessons they’ll have to pry from my cold, dead hand. Things like “inputs  –> tools & techniques  –> outputs”. It’s embedded like a mass favourited YouTube video you’d never remove from your web site.

Thanks for the opportunity, Villanova.


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