Taking Project Management In-House with PSI

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December 06, 2016

Taking Project Management In-House with PSI

PSI in-house PMD Pro 1 training, November 2016. Rose Pollard is seated second to the left in the photo.

By Caitlin Holland

Manager, Marketing InsideNGO

As a recent graduate of InsideNGO’s PMD Pro 1: The Essentials of Project Management workshop, I attended the in-house PMD Pro 1 training at Population Services International (PSI) to observe InsideNGO’s trainers facilitate this workshop with a group of people who work together day-to-day.

At InsideNGO, we often recommend that organizations send teams of employees to our professional development trainings (not just individuals), and in some cases this is more beneficial than others. PMD Pro 1 and our other project management workshops fall into this category—the standard language, the tools, and the templates you walk away with are most easily implemented when your colleagues are also using them. In-house trainings are an excellent option for organizations that want the benefit of teams learning together when the number of people who require the course exceeds the cost-benefit of sending a group to an open workshop.

During the PSI in-house training in November, I had the chance to speak to PSI’s Daniella Fanarof, Deputy Regional Director for the Asia Region, and Rose Pollard, Program Assistant in the Asia Region, who were responsible for planning and organizing the in-house training.

Caitlin Holland (CH): As a longstanding, sustaining member organization that has sent employees to our open trainings for years, what prompted PSI to take advantage of our in-house training option for the first time?

Daniella Fanarof (DF): Primarily the opportunity to tailor the training to our needs. At an open workshop you might have other organizations there, which could be a great experience and great exposure for our staff. But I felt like we had specific needs and that called for customization, and would make an in-house training worthwhile. Also, we had the critical mass to make it affordable.

Rose Pollard (RP): We got in touch with InsideNGO directly, early on, because we knew we were interested in sending multiple people to a training and it was mentioned as an option. We knew it could work out well, especially with the InsideNGO and PSI offices located only a block away from each other.

CH: There is a good size group taking the training today. Is it mostly employees who work in project management—project and program managers/directors—or is there a mix?

RP: There is a range of participants—from financial analysts, to program assistants like myself, to program managers with more years of [project management] experience. It’s incredible to have everyone in the same space. PSI being so large, people in different departments don’t often interact, so that’s a really unique situation for us—to all be in the same room and have the space to not only develop our skills but also compare notes and processes that we are involved with on a daily basis.

DF: All the participants [in the training] work in our regional departments and manage program at different levels. As Rose pointed out, we have a number of people with extensive project management experience, but I feel there are always skills we can learn that will make us more efficient. Also, one area at PSI that we strive to always improve is internal collaboration. From department to department, we do things very differently. With that in mind, I saw the benefit of identifying some processes that would be consistent throughout from one department to the next, and make it easier for us to stay on the same page. Whether someone is transitioning from one department to another or different teams are coming together on a specific project, we’d all be coming at it from a similar place. I think when you’ve been doing something for such a long time, you can easily forget that there are other, perhaps more efficient, ways of doing things. Having someone from the outside come in and bring us some new tools or processes is a good thing.

PSI staff at their in-house training by InsideNGO – PMD Pro 1: The Essentials of Project Management.PSI staff at their in-house training by InsideNGO – PMD Pro 1: The Essentials of Project Management.

CH: We hear across the board that people really value a group going to this training so they can leave with a consistent set of tools and takeaways that will be shared across their organization and with the people they work with every day.

DF: Yes. While I can’t say everyone will actually use everything they’ve learned, but I think nuggets of wisdom here and there are always helpful. The main benefit for us is getting a new perspective and hearing about new ways to do things.

CH: This question is more for you, Rose, since you’re actually participating in the training. What were you hoping to gain from the training today, both personally and for your colleagues?

RP: I think that program management helps you think on a bigger scale, and on a day-to-day basis I’m immersed in smaller tasks. I wanted to encourage myself and my colleagues to think more broadly and build the skills to do so. I really like the concrete tools that are being provided, and it’s going to be interesting to go back to my daily tasks and have that larger perspective. I think it will affect my overall way of thinking more than how I execute the tasks I do day-to-day. I also looked forward to increasing my interaction with other employees at PSI that I wouldn’t interact with otherwise. Lastly, the training is very focused on the PMD Pro 1 certification exam, and that is a goal of mine – to have the certification. But it’s not my primary goal. I’m more interested in reflecting on program management generally and with regard to PSI. This workshop is helping me achieve this through knowledge gained through others in the room and through adapting the PMD Pro 1 framework and terminology to our own processes here.

CH: What’s one thing from the training in particular that has stood out for you so far, on day 2 now?

RP: Apu [Patel], the trainer, is really easy to interact with and really open. He has a lot of experience, not only in the development sector but as a program manager, and so that’s just really been a positive experience. We most recently discussed stakeholder engagement and that has been a great process – to think through the motivations of others involved, think about how our work will affect their deliverables, and [reflect on] how much we really depend on others during the lifecycle of a project.


If you are interested in taking our next PMD Pro 1 open workshop, registration is now open for January 23-26 in Washington, DC with expert trainers Apu Patel and Amy Gaver.


CH: Daniella, you were the one who coordinated this training. Are you typically the person who coordinates these kinds of trainings for staff, or does everyone kind of have the flexibility to find their own professional development opportunities, department by department? With the emphasis on being a “learning organization” these days, I’m interested to hear how our member organizations coordinate their learning opportunities for staff.

DF: Professional development is something the organization is really looking to focus on over the next year. Within PSI’s Human Resources (HR) department, there is a team called People, Learning, Performance (PLP) – the learning side of HR – which serves as the organization’s cultivator of talent, employee development, and culture. Over the last 18 months, they’ve placed great emphasis on our organizational and strategic level goals. Individual departments play a strong role in promoting professional development. I like to think that one of my roles in our department is to look out for professional development opportunities for the team and to try and make them happen. Whether it’s something coordinated in-house with different departments or an external training, if I see something that’s relevant for my colleagues I point it out to them as a good opportunity to grow. Professional development is something the organization is really looking to focus on over the next year, but it’s not something that’s been centralized historically.

CH: Got it. But is there support within the different departments that are pursuing those professional development opportunities on their own?

DF: Yes, definitely. There was a lot of interest when I announced this training. People were excited about it.

RP: Another really positive aspect of this training has been the perspectives brought in from other international development organizations. At PSI, we’re in our own little world. We’re so big and it’s rare that I hear about the program struggles of other non-profit other organizations within the development sector. Apu shared different narratives that serve as a reminder of similar work and goals being achieved in other organizations just like PSI. That’s a great reminder – that these skills are so important here, but are also replicable across our sector.


If you are interested in coordinating an in-house training for your organization on any of our open workshop topics, please contact client@InsideNGO.org for more information.


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