Case Studies in our Project Management Courses

26 October, 2015

If you have to explain anything, examples are great. A topic like Earned Value Management can cause many students’ eyes to glaze over but, as soon as an example is presented and they can see what the concepts are all about, we can almost literally see the lightbulbs go on around the room.

This is why case studies have become increasingly part of our courses. Using the same scenario throughout a course helps to integrate the various concepts and show how to apply them in the real world. It is also fun for us to create imaginary companies (even whole imaginary towns) full of engaging characters. Just like television’s soap operas, we are finding our students get to care for our case studies’ business owners and want to guide them on the path to success.

Our most elaborate case study supports our Program Management Professional (PgMP)© exam preparation course. Here we present two radically distinct companies and one decides to buy out the other. We see how strategy has to be adapted to cope with the companies’ different expectations. Students need to work together to determine how to overcome the vast cultural differences and to find benefits from the takeover that were not considered originally.

We have two different case studies we apply to our Rescuing Troubled Projects one-day course. These are vital in a course like this. No one is going to believe that the techniques being presented will actually work unless they can see how they apply in a real-world example. We have a specific case study for those familiar with the software industry. Here the person put in charge of a project has neglected his responsibilities in favour of undertaking some complex technical research. How will we get the project back on track?

If our class is not made up of software people, we introduce our talented cabinet maker. He has been crafting bespoke furniture for years, when he gets a massive order to outfit a stately home. How can he get the work done in the time allowed, while still maintaining his reputation for superb craftsmanship?

If you are interested in Stakeholder Management, we will bring you to a little mining village in Wales. The open-cast mine has long been closed down and now various factions in the village are fighting over how best to develop it. We take on the role of the Project Manager for one proposal and see how best we can persuade everyone to back our idea. We have our work cut out for us because we are up against the mayor and she has her own proposal to promote.

Also, our one-day Strategy Management course introduces us to a small company that makes carbon fibre components for bicycles. Stumbling onto the Holy Grail for carbon fibre manufacturers, they come up with a recipe for shatter-proof carbon fibre. Overwhelmed by their discovery, they decide to become a bicycle manufacturer in their own right. What sort of marketing and production strategy is needed to succeed in this new arena? Should they get into it at all?

When discussing our corporate clients’ requirements, we often suggest that they might propose case studies of their own that will ground the course in examples specific to that organization. These are interesting exercises for us, as we have to tease out the subtleties and work out how our tools and techniques will address the issues presented.

In most cases, we have prepared sample answers for the exercises based on our case studies. But these are rarely presented. In fact, we usually end up altering and enhancing our sample answers based on the analysis done by our students. This is the great thing about having a classroom full of practicing Project Managers – we are learning from them every bit as much as they are learning from us.

We always strive to provide meaningful courses for our clients. By our extensive use of case studies, we feel we have added a vital ingredient to our Blended Learning Solution.

By Velopi Seamus Collins

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