Program Vs. Project – A Guide to Program Management

By John Cropper, LINGOs Director of Project Services

JohnCropperAgain and again I am struck by our sector’s tendency to over-complicate; taking something that is already challenging and making it even more difficult.  I see so many projects; health, education and so on, and when I look at the details of each one I see large, multi-million dollar budgets, multi-year plans, multiple areas of intervention – and sometimes multiple countries….. and I realize these aren’t projects, they are programs!  I could go on about how the donor funding environment is a major driver of this, but let’s save that for another time and focus on programs versus projects.

Program Vs. Project

If we structure our work as one large project, it will be extremely complex.  Budgets will be massive, risk registers will read like books, plans will be vast, assigning roles and accountabilities will be complicated– and everything will be interlinked.  If we can break this mass of work down into smaller units, i.e. projects, we make things simpler.  Plans are easier to understand if they involve a specific piece of work such as building a single healthcare center rather than improving health outcomes for hundreds of thousands of people spread over three countries. It becomes easier to manage, comprehend and control.   Just how do you deal with a change in a vast mega project? How do we even understand the implications throughout the project?

A Guide to Program Management

Clearly, there is no magic solution. Turning a mega-project into a program with a series of smaller, more concrete projects raises its own issues. How do we manage the program? Who will do this? What skills do they need? How do they coordinate across projects? How do they ensure that the projects are working together to deliver all the anticipated benefits?  Help is on the way! Building on the success of PMDPro (8000 people have now been through the certification), LINGOs, PM4NGOs and APMG are working together to write a Guide to Program Management and this will eventually be linked to a certification.

Programs are all about achieving outcomes for our beneficiaries and linking up to organisational strategies at country, regional and global levels. As such, they are at the heart of our work and I hope that the new Guide and certification will make a helpful contribution to improving program design, planning, management and delivery – and I hope that we are able to offer a pilot course in the fall of 2014.

Celebrating 10 Years – Part 2

Eric Berg, LINGOs Co-Founder and CEO

EricBerg (1)2014 is LINGOs’ tenth year. In last week’s post, I reflected on LINGOs’ first decade. Beginning as a consortium with modest goals of sharing ideas and experiences, today LINGOs is a capacity building organization with more than 75 member organizations; a project services group that led the creation of a contextualized project management certification now completed by over 7000 development sector professionals; and with the 2013 launch of Last Mile Learning, LINGOs provides access to a range of learning opportunities for anyone working to improve people’s lives in the developing world.

In celebration of our first ten years, LINGOs is planning a number of events to recognize the amazing individuals, volunteers, partners, members and others that have accompanied us this far and helped LINGOs become what it is and enable us to grow from a small consortium to a capacity building organization that helps those doing good…do it better!

Celebrating Volunteers

In March, we will be acknowledging all the volunteers that helped LINGOs and its members in so many ways but in particular helped us with world class instructional design and development skills. Some of the most talented designers and developers in the world have contributed literally thousands of hours and over a million dollars’ worth of professional services. Their involvement has enabled LINGOs and its members to create eLearning content on a broad range of management, communications, technical and development-specific topics.

“… I thank you very much for the effort you make to help everybody who needs knowledge gain it freely. May God bless you all.”

Jean Pierre wrote from Rwanda, where he recently learned from volunteer-created courseware from Last Mile Learning 

The Learning Solutions 2014 Conference in Orlando in March when so many of the eLearning Guild community gather will give us a chance to celebrate the contribution of the volunteers and to share how the courses are being used and what a difference volunteers have made. We will also be acknowledging the generous support that David Holcombe and Heidi Fisk the co-founders of the eLearning Guild have given to LINGOs.

Thanking Partners

In May, at the ASTD International Conference (American Society for Training and Development) we will be honoring the second group that make LINGOs possible – the many corporate partners that have been providing world class course content, learning development tools, professional development services and state-of-the-art platforms so LINGOs members can provide services to their staff around the world that would otherwise be impossible. Some of our partners, like IntraLearn, Articulate and Blackboard have been with us since LINGOs was started. Others like Skillsoft, Net Dimensions and Yukon Learning are new this year and represent the latest expansion of corporate support.

Appreciating Members 

Later in the year at a leading development sector conference, we will be highlighting the work and contributions of our members. One of the founding principles of LINGOs was for organizations to share their learning experiences and products among each other thereby saving money and propagating best practices. We have numerous examples of member organizations that have produced outstanding courses and implemented LINGOs products and tools in innovative ways and then invested their time and resources helping other LINGOs members deploy the products and systems they created.

Finally, next November in Portland, Oregon, we will have our Tenth anniversary Member Meeting where we will both look back to celebrate where we have been and more importantly look forward to collectively imagine what LINGOs can become in the next ten years. Mercy Corps has offered to host our meeting which is fitting because it was one of the original six NGOs that attended the organizing meeting that took place in November 2004 at The Nature Conservancy. We have invited the original board members to join us to be recognized for their pioneering work and we hope to have some other surprises for everyone that come to Portland so mark your calendars now.

Saying Farewell

And of course as has been previously announced, Portland will be my final LINGOs meeting. As you can see, it will be hard to say “goodbye” to LINGOs at the end of this coming year.

  • We’ve transformed from a small community with monthly calls led by Linda English (then of Save the Children) to a vibrant community of members actively engaged in providing innovative, professional development opportunities to their organizations in ways that constantly amaze me.
  • Our project services group has run with the PMD Pro project management certification that LINGOs pioneered in 2010. The team is innovating learning approaches that fit the needs of our sector, with face to face, online and blended approaches to learning and reinforcement. Providing training to individuals and training organizations, we’re pleased that (at present) over 7000 individuals have taken the PMD Pro exam and more and more organizations incorporating the tools and techniques into their standard processes.
  • And through our Last Mile Learning program, every day more individuals throughout the globe are accessing content on basic management, financial management and project. In December, Jean Pierre in Rwanda emailed us “… I thank you very much for the effort you make to help everybody who needs knowledge gain it freely. May God bless you all.”

Celebration and Catalyst

In last week’s post, reflecting on LINGOs first decade, I noted that this anniversary celebration is also a time to look forward.  This is a time to imagine what’s possible, to leverage the accomplishments of our members, partners, volunteers, board and individual and organizational learners around the world as a catalyst; this is a moment “to dream of things that never were… and ask why not?”

LINGOs brings together vast resources of a large community of innovative private sector partners, leading global development organizations and talented and committed individuals working to change the world.We bring an entrepreneurial approach, knowledge of the learning needs, community and technology to enable change. I invite you to join us – what can we do together? why not?

LINGOs: Reflections on the First Decade and Imagining the Second

Eric Berg, LINGOs Co-Founder and CEO

EricBerg (1)Ten years! Ten years! It can’t be that long. I just filed the 501(c)3 papers a little while ago – or so it seems. But a check of the paperwork says 2005 which means 2014 will be the tenth year for LINGOs. My plan was very clear – volunteer as a staff person while Linda English from Save the Children, Mike Culligan from Catholic Relief Services, Meg Burns from Care, Mignon Mazique from Mercy Corps and Lisa Ferris from Heifer International decided what they wanted to do with the organization – maybe three years max. Then we would find a capable person from the sector to take over and lead LINGOs into the future. I could then watch from afar as the organization took off. But as they say about “best laid plans of mice and men…..” mine went astray many years ago — and how lucky for me.

Reflections and aspirations

Over the holidays I’ve had a chance to reflect on the past nine years and have enjoyed thinking about how our modest aspirations at the beginning – to share some online learning opportunities among international NGOs – has expanded into wanting “to provide world- class learning opportunities at little or no cost to anyone working to improve lives in the developing world.”

With the launch of the Last Mile Learning program this year, we have taken the first steps on that very lengthy journey. And with the launch of the new LINGOs Learning Platform (LLP) in 2014, we are taking a giant leap forward in providing a state-of-the-art, multi-function learning platform – not only for our members but also for local NGOs throughout the world.

More than a learning consortium

LINGOs now includes a community of members that are actively engaged in providing innovative, professional development opportunities to their organizations in ways that constantly amaze me.

The PMD Pro project management certification that LINGOs pioneered in 2010 is taking hold in the sector with over 7000  individuals having taken the PMD Pro exam and more and more organizations incorporating the tools and techniques into their standard processes. We are gathering data now on how professional project management has resulted in more benefits to the individuals and communities being served by PMD Pro certified project managers. Look for an article on that topic in the coming months.

And every day more individuals throughout the globe are accessing content on basic management, financial management and project management from the Last Mile Learning site.

Last week we received an email from Jean Pierre in Rwanda that read in part, “… I thank you very much for the effort you make to help everybody who needs knowledge gain it freely. May God bless you all.”

While we don’t know exactly who Jean Pierre is or how he found Last Mile Learning, we are happy that the message is getting out and look forward to telling you about tens of thousands of Jean Pierres, each of whom is improving his or her skills so communities can get more from the investments being made to improve people’s lives in the developing world.

Grateful to the members of the LINGOs’ village

There’s an oft-quoted African Adage that “it takes a village to raise a child.” In our case, a global village has helped LINGOs to become what we are today (and what we can yet become!). LINGOs would not even contemplate that audacious desire without the generous support of our village.

  • Our many corporate partners that provide world class course content, learning development tools, professional development services and state-of-the-art platforms enable LINGOs to provide tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of learning services to each of our 75+ member organizations as well as to have created the Last Mile Learning Program that provides a growing library of learning and training resources for anyone.
  • Hundreds of learning professionals have contributed their world-class instructional design and development skills, volunteering thousands of hours and over a million dollars’ worth of professional services enabling LINGOs and its members to create customized eLearning content on a broad range of management, communications, technical and development-specific topics
  • LINGOs Members have not only benefitted from the support of our partners and volunteers, but they have built on and shared these contributions so they are not just additive but contribute exponentially to the success of global development and humanitarian efforts. The ideas initially developed by one organization, tweaked and improved by another, can be continuously perfected, and scaled for global deployment at a minimal cost and maximal return for all of us who want to help make the world a better place.
  • The LINGOs Board of Directors provides the vision and guidance for LINGOs –allowing us to imagine the vision we so audaciously desire to achieve and helping us ensure we have the assets, including the village of partners, volunteers and members, to achieve it.

From not being able to spell “LMS” to contextualized content creation

We have accomplished more than I ever thought possible when we first started those monthly phone calls led by Linda English at Save the Children in 2004. From modest goals of sharing ideas and experiences to over 150,000 courses completed online — mostly by staff in the developing world. From accessing some corporate eLearning courses on Element K to creating custom content contextualized for individual NGOs and organization-specific processes. From not being able to spell “LMS” to creating custom learning platforms reaching employees around the world, we have come a long way together and we should celebrate what we have accomplished and make sure others know what we have done.

Imagine Ifs

But a Tenth Year review is also time to look ahead at what we can do together in the next ten years. Now is a time to really “dream things that never were and say ‘Why not?’” While I am very proud of where we are, I don’t believe for a minute we have scratched the surface of what we can do.

  • Imagine if all the people working in local NGOs had access to the kinds of professional development tools and experiences that LINGOs members enjoy.
  • Imagine what could happen if we could collectively figure out how to translate individual knowledge and skills into organizational impact.
  • Imagine if we could harness the entrepreneurial energy of local trainers to build a network of people who possess not only the professional skills but also content and platforms that enable them to work with local organizations to improve the impact of their work and for those local trainers to be able to make a living at it.
  • Imagine using technology in new ways so that content could come from the South and be shared across the South without filter or modifications.

These are just some of the things to think about as we look ahead. I am looking forward our Tenth Anniversary as both a celebration and a catalyst for new directions for LINGOs. I hope you will think about what LINGOs might become as you contemplate the year ahead during these first few weeks of 2014. You can be certain that all of us at LINGOs will be thinking about it along with you.

Co-Founder and CEO Eric Berg announced plans to retire from LINGOs at the end of 2014. We will celebrate both LINGOs and Eric’s many accomplishments and contributions at the tenth annual member meeting at Mercy Corps in Portland, Oregon, in November.

LINGOs seeks an entrepreneurial, dynamic leader to succeed Eric. To learn more click here.

Catching the PMD Pro Fever!

By John Cropper, LINGOs Director of Project Services

JohnCropper

Seven thousand. I just received the latest statistics from APMG and over seven thousand people have sat the PMDPro exam. I get excited by every landmark with PMDPro but I was reflecting over the weekend on just how incredible this is and on what has happened with PMDPro since it was launched in 2010.

World Vision engaged at regional and country level, training hundreds of staff and they now have their own trainers in East and Southern Africa. Mercy Corps merged its program guidelines with PMDPro and has rolled this out globally. Staff in one Mercy Corps office even talks about “PMDPro fever.” Catholic Relief Services has trained hundreds of staff and partners across Africa and PMDPro now forms part of its CRS Fellows program. Rainforest Alliance has trained staff across its global operations and has started a project to standardise their project management approach. The Inter- American Development Bank trained its local partners in Latin America and as a result, local training organisations are now delivering PMDPro. Plan International has trained staff across Africa and two of their staff still hold the highest pass mark! Heifer is in the process of training staff and developing their own trainers. Save, AFSC, Oxfam, the Aga Khan Foundation, UNICEF and Islamic Relief have held courses and many more organisations have sent staff to ‘open’ courses. One organisation is even talking about how to take PMDPro to two thousand staff!

Diverse Approaches

What is striking is the variety of approaches. Some want their own trainers. Others want to engage at a regional level. Some focus on the country. Some organisations are going for face to face training approaches. Others want the training to be virtual/blended. Some want to train their partner organisations. Others want to include their finance and support staff. Some organisations want to focus on PMDPro 1 – others are engaging with PMDPro 2 as well and some want to do a combination of all of these.

Common Need

Amongst all this diversity, it is interesting to think about why this is happening. Clearly, there are many motivations and needs being addressed. However, there are some common themes. One major area is that organisations want to professionalise their ability to deliver projects and take advantage of the skills and techniques that the profession of project management can offer. Some want to develop a career stream for project managers. Some organisations want to develop a common language and even processes across their projects. One senior manager told me that for the first time, their finance and program staff were holding productive conversations! Some organisations are reaching out to develop their implementing partners’ capacity and also develop a shared vocabulary for project management. Other organisations are seeking to tackle identified project management issues such as under or overspends, audit weaknesses or donor perceptions.

Overall, I feel that this represents a fascinating picture of change. Project management capacity building is clearly being used to solve a wide range of organisational challenges and what is especially rewarding is that the message is being spread by participants themselves.  There has been almost no publicity or marketing and yet … seven thousand people have engaged.

Catch the Fever – Register for a blended online course

Eventbrite - LINGOs 4-week Project Management for Development (PMD Pro1) Course / February 4th – February 27th, 2014

Eventbrite - LINGOs – Curso de 4 Semanas en Gestión de Proyectos (PMD Pro1) – Del 4 al 28 de febrero de 2014

Eventbrite - LINGOs 4-week Project Management for Development (PMD Pro2) Course / January 7th - 30th, 2014

 

For a complete 2014 calendar of Project Management open courses, please see http://lingos.eventbrite.com

LINGOs Project Services Group offers a range of training and learning opportunities for organizations. For more information, please click here.

“When Can I Do PMDPro 2?”

By John Cropper, LINGOs Director of Project Services

JohnCropper“When can I do PMDPro 2?” This is pretty much always the first question that I get asked as soon as people have passed PMDPro 1! I always suggest that people spend a few months putting the tools into action in their projects before they think about level 2. However, as more than seven thousand people have been through the level one certification, the question – and providing an answer – has become more pressing.

What is PMD Pro?

The Project Management in Development (PMD Pro) is a certification which has been developed with experts from several of the world’s best-known and highly regarded non-governmental organizations. These organizations are committed to improving the use of the resources entrusted to them for development, relief and conservation projects. The PMD Pro certification is seen as an important benchmark for continuous improvement.


There are currently two examination levels within the qualification scheme, PMD Pro Level 1 and PMD Pro Level 2. Certification is offered through APMG-International.

Pilot of Blended Online Course

Through September and October, LINGOs piloted our first blended PMDPro 2 course. We had organised face to face courses before but we really wanted a blended option that would allow people the flexibility to work and learn together. At the same time, many iNGOs may not have enough staff in a given country to make a face to face course cost effective – another reason for wanting a blended option.

So, how did it go? Overall, I believe it was a great success. The group filled up very quickly and we had people from fifteen different organisations and countries. Completing PMDPro 1 is a pre-requisite, so the level of project management knowledge in the group was high – as we anticipated – and from an instructor’s point of view, it was very rewarding to be able to ‘go deep’ and really focus on participants’ project management challenges and issues.

PMDPro 2 Course Structure

The course follows the same format as the level one blended courses: 4 weeks, online facilitated classes, structured reading, assignments, participation in a community and asynchronous learning via PMTV- a rather grand name for a series of project management videos we have developed that focus on how to apply the tools to projects. We seek to help participants get ready for the PMDPro 2 certification – but also cover more advanced material and really focus on application and how to get the tools to work in practice. To help with this, we provide bonus readings to help participants explore areas of interest in more depth.

What difference does this make?

Well, the pilot has just finished but one participant said she hoped there would be: “a consistent process of project management on the organisation level; more cooperation/engagement between different departments; more effective and successful projects, increased reputation of the organisation”. I couldn’t put it better myself!

Interested?

LINGOs is running the next PMDPro 2 blended course in January. For information on dates, times, and fees and to register: 

Eventbrite - LINGOs 4-week Project Management for Development (PMD Pro2) Course / January 7th - 30th, 2014

Read more about LINGOs Member Experience with PMD Pro

5 Reasons Blended Learning is Going Viral at Rainforest Alliance

Blended approach gets learning to where learners are

What’s Project Management Training Got to do with International Women’s Day?

The Right Stuff… LINGOs 2013 Awards

Clockwise from upper left: ComputerWorld Honors Medal; Paige Layno Winn with FHI 360's Member of the Year Award; LINGOs Awards; Rising Stars Nick Walden (L) and Rich Peavy (R) with LINGOs CEO Eric Berg (Center).

Clockwise from upper left: ComputerWorld Honors Medal; Paige Layno Winn with FHI 360’s Member of the Year Award; LINGOs Awards; Rising Stars Nick Walden (L) and Rich Peavy (R) with LINGOs CEO Eric Berg (Center).

Among the fun and fabulousness at the LINGOs 2013 Member Meeting, we had the opportunity to recognize some rising stars and a member organization that is contributing above and beyond to the LINGOs learning consortium.

Originally formed to be a community of learning in 2005, LINGOs has grown and evolved.  As a reader of this blog, you’ve no doubt seen frequent posts on two initiatives that benefit our members, as well as the development/humanitarian community at large:

Our Project Services group works with development organizations to build capacity in project management, and provides innovative learning opportunities for individuals around the world to strengthen their skills and knowledge.

The Last Mile Learning initiative is providing world class learning at little or no cost – not just to our member organizations, but to ANYONE working to improve people’s lives in the developing world.  LINGOs members have access to all that is available to others, often before it’s released to the public.

Focus on LINGOs Members

The LINGOs 2013 member meeting was the ninth occasion at which LINGOs members have convened to network, share ideas and approaches and learn with and from one another. Over a third of our 76 member organizations from around the world sent representatives to the two-day event to take part in two dozen sessions hosted at PATH’s Washington, DC headquarters.

It was a wonderful occasion, and at the reception hosted at the offices of the National Democratic Institute, we recognized some key contributors to our learning community.

Rising Stars

LINGOs recognized two individuals each one new to the community stood out as exemplifying the ideals on which LINGOs was formed. Both work with organizations that have joined LINGOs in the past two years, and each has contribute to the community in ways large and small – serve on advisory committees, share what they are learning – spotlights on work in progress, espresso shots, share questions and concerns in LinkedIn… provide and share across the community.

Member of the year

LINGOs’ 2013 Member of the Year FHI 360 joined the LINGOs community three years ago, and has since undergone significant transition and growth. Paige Layno Winn, FHI 360 Senior Learning Officer and designated contact to LINGOs has played an extraordinary role and is more than a LINGOs star (maybe a sun).

“LINGOs recognizes FHI 360 as its 2013 Member of the Year not simply for using LINGOs resources well within their organization,” said LINGOs CEO Eric Berg. “Rather, the recognition is for sharing and giving back to the LINGOs community that includes 75 + international development organizations and the other organizations and individuals with whom LINGOs interacts via its Last Mile Learning initiative (www.LastMileLearning.org) and our Project Services groups.”

FHI 360 emulates the ideals of a learning community on which LINGOs was founded 9 years ago, and it is an honor to present the 2013 Member of the Year award to Paige Winn for FHI 360.

FHI360 shared its initial learning and process for deploying its LMS with other members in a blog post in January  2011. This relatively simple way to share knowledge and approach to deploying technology based learning, has benefitted the many organizations that have joined LINGOs since then.  In an early 2013 “Espresso shot” shared a great update on internal community building, that highlights use of resources they get through LINGOs and other low cost resource such as NING.

FHI 360 is clearly is deploying LINGOs resources well, as can be seen from its learning management system utilization reports in terms of the total number of staff registered and actively engaging in and completing self-paced courses, as well as participating in events.

Our Member of the year has tried out many member benefits, sometimes investing extra resources in getting more than what is available through LINGOs – such as we shared in the January Spotlight article.

Paige Winn recently guest blogged on its approach to building a virtual community of learning.

FHI 360 not only developed important resources through Global Giveback but shared with other LINGOs members, an award-winning resource that benefits any health worker working on HIV and TB prevention.

Also through the Global Giveback, FHI 360 created a harassment and discrimination course that, with minimal adaptation, is now available for the entire LINGOs and InsideNGO community, has shared its approaches to using the LINGOs-hosted LMS for events and reporting.

LINGOs Laureate Award Bestowed

Earlier this year,  in a LINGOs LINK Spotlight article, we reported that IDG’s Computerworld  Honors Program named LINGOs as a 2013 Laureate for its collaboration with Rustici Software  in the  creation of SCORM Dispatch. The annual award program honors visionary applications of information technology promoting positive social, economic and educational change.  Todd Slater, Director of the Technology Learning Center Director at The Nature Conservancy and LINGOs Board Member bestowed the ComputerWorld Honors Laureate medal on LINGOs’ Director of Technology, Robb Allen. Robb lead the work for LINGOs with Rustici Software that member organizations are now using to provide content from the LINGOs catalog to more than ten portals.

For more info on the meeting

Please view the Spotlight Report from the November 2013 LINGOs LINK.

Fun “Cosmo Quiz” vs Serious Announcement?

You’ve got a new course or learning resource and it’s a great learning opportunity for your staff. How do you get the word out?

 Financially_Fluent

[  ] Memo from the boss?

[  ]  eMail from the Learning Coordinator?

[  ]  Flyer in the break room?  (or elevator, stairwell, restroom…)

[  ]  Text announcement on your intranet?

[  ]  “Gamified” approach?

[  ]   Hallway conversations from an internal maven?

[  ]   All of the above

Have Some Fun

Most of us don’t think of financial management as particularly enjoyable. Last Mile Learning launched its new Financial Management Learning Path with a fun Cosmo-style quiz to ask viewers to check their financial fluency  (click here for the quiz).

Market Your Learning

LINGOs’ Last Mile Learning is marketing learning resources more than once and in various ways. For busy development professionals, particularly those who travel internationally and may miss an email that isn’t hugely urgent, so it’s vital to have more than one opportunity for staff to learn about it.

Actively market your learning! For-profit-companies don’t send an email about a new product and then sit back and wait for customers to empty the shelves. They advertise! Not-for-profit charities do marketing, as well. Use those marketing resources to increase awareness of your learning resources.

Multiple Contacts

The “Financial Fluency Quiz” was promoted through a newsletter (click here to subscribe), many LinkedIn Community Groups, the Last Mile Learning Facebook Page, tweets (and re-tweets) and various e-distribution groups.  In fact, you can forward it, too!

5 things you can do now:

Eventbrite - LINGOs 2013 Member MeetingIf you are with a LINGOs Member Organization*, you can attend the Last Mile Learning session at the LINGOs member meeting next month in Washington, DC.
checkMark Click to Check YOUR financial fluency

LML-squareRegister for a Last Mile Learning Account and take a free course

LikeUsonFacebook  LIKE Last Mile Learning on Facebook

LINGOs Members, if you’d like the editable file for the financial fluency quiz to use (and direct your learners to YOUR portal), email Marian.