Most experienced project managers follow the same 5 steps when making decisions in order to keep their projects on track, under budget and deliver successful results. These 5 steps apply to any kind of projects but how do they relate to eLearning development projects?
Let's try to find out:
Step 1: Research the problem
When a problem comes up during a project's execution, take the first step by spending the time needed to identify its root cause and also to ensure it's not just a symptom of another underlying problem. Project problems are usually related to people, processes, equipment or materials. Find out when, why and how it occurred and the impact it may have on your project.
If you want to identify the root cause of the problem, you should probably ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the problem related to content handling?
- Is the problem related to graphics?
- Is the problem related to the functionality of a particular screen?
- Is the problem related to the implementation of the final results of your eLearning project? For instance, are you running your course locally or on a LMS?
Step 2: Prioritize the issue
Projects tend to have a common characteristic amongst them that problems occur all the time and in order for you to handle all of them efficiently, you will need to determine whether each problem needs your urgent attention or not, based on the impact it may have on the development process of your eLearning course. If its impact is high, for example: it will cause a delay on the due date or it has a negative impact on the project's costs) then you have a "high priority issue" and you need to stop whatever you're working on and get it solved as quickly as possible.
Sometimes, adding extra content (more than the one originally provided by your end customer) to an eLearning course will have an impact on the delivery dates or could increase the overall cost of the project. Issues such as those are no doubt high priority issues that require your immediate attention as a project manager.
Remember that being clear and concise about the scope of your eLearning project is a key important issue in achieving successful outcomes. In order to do so, you must be aware of the nature of the content provided by your end client as well as the expectations they might have on the end result, but most importantly, you need to be in sync on the learning objectives associated to it. Always ask yourself if the issue threatens in any way the learning objectives of your course's development and rely on your lead instructional designer to double check this.
Step 3: Identify the solutions
With a clear understanding of the problem and its priority level, you need to identify several ways to address it. After doing so you can review each alternative according to the following check list in order to determine whether it would actually be the best choice possible:
- Does it solve the root cause of the problem?
- Is easy and practical to implement?
- Will prevent the problem from re-occurring?
Keep in mind that the learning objectives of the course you are developing are the most important elements of your decision making process. Therefore, gather your team and together try to find solutions that will help you achieve those objectives. Even better, motivate your team to come up with solutions that will improve those objectives somehow or that will contribute in a positive way of the project's timeline or your client's pocket. They say that two brains think better than one, so imagine what a whole bunch of brains would do!
Step 4: Make your decision
Now that you have gathered all of the information you need to make your decision, be careful not to make your decisions too hastily. Take time out of your day to cautiously consider all of the pros and cons. If it's necessary, go for a walk to clear your head, but always remember to take a little more time when making critical decisions that will directly impact your project's success.
Simple decisions such as deciding what you're going to have for lunch can be easily done in a heartbeat, but when the making choices that will directly impact the timeline, cost or learning objectives of the eLearning course you are helping to build need a research process and clear mind thinking that can't be rushed or taken for granted.
If the issue you're dealing with involves functionality, keep in mind that SHIFT offers a whole set of templates and options that could help you come up with a solution. Remember that even if your subject matter experts or sponsors are asking for changes or new functionalities, you can always rely on SHIFT's Support System in order to make it happen.
Step 5: Act on it!Once you have thought it through, taken a long walk and finally made the decision you think it's best, you need to be fully committed on implementing it. Act on it immediately by informing your team about it and then scheduling all the necessary tasks to make it happen. You can keep track of your decisions by using SHIFT's documentation repository, specifically in the Project Management folder associated to your eLearning course.
All problems, no matter how small they are, will affect your project in some way or another, so you will need to act quickly once a decision on how to handle it has been made.
If you follow these steps for every decision you might have to make through the process of your eLearning course, I can assure you you'll make more concise, faster decisions.
No doubt you'll feel good about it!