Testimonial Jack Suess
As Vice President of IT at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) I noticed that many of the IT projects were missing their deadlines. When I talked to my senior leaders in the IT Business Systems Group, each leader shared the same issue – the functional units were struggling to perform the required level of project management necessary to keep these projects on schedule. I approached Terri Werner, Director of Training and Organization Development at UMBC to discuss ideas for training and development to change this. While I initially envisioned a program in project management, what I got was the cohort Project Leadership Development Program.
Before this program, there was no consistent approach to project management on campus, or even within some units. Most of our projects require the collaboration of one or more additional departments. Often those individuals leading projects felt they weren’t getting the necessary cooperation of other staff outside their unit. A key gap identified by participants was learning how to influence staff that you don’t formally manage. In addition, most of those chosen to lead these projects had no formal training in project management. Our goal was to focus on high-level project management goals, such as learning how to break up a project into tasks and milestones, assign resources, and keep everyone up to date through communication identified as important project management learning objectives.
As mentioned above, when we first began planning this program I was envisioning most of the training would be focused on project management basics and tools and I was not anticipating the training around leadership development, teamwork and facilitation skills being essential parts of the program. Terri understood that both the ‘art’ and the ‘science’ of project management were important. After talking with senior leaders on campus about their desired results, and to potential program participants about their current challenges, for greater long-term success she proposed a broader goal of campus-wide culture change for how multi-department projects are initiated and executed. To begin influencing this, she rolled out the pilot program to include involvement of the President’s Council and the participants’ supervisors. She created a comprehensive program that included personal development plans, in-person workshops, discussion sessions with topic experts, peer coaching teams, participants sharing what they were learning with their department and project colleagues, project management software support, online resources, and supplemental online learning each student could do according to their particular learning needs. She also provided one-on-one coaching as requested.
In addition to realizing we need to spend more time doing professional development for emerging leaders, we have seen the positive benefit of building relationships with the cohort. My favorite aspect of the program was the way Terri built a sense of community among participants that spanned every division and college within the university. Now this group of emerging leaders feels comfortable reaching out to mentor others and they are applying the lessons they learned on new projects.
Terri cares deeply about people and recognizes that every person is unique. As such, while this program was run as a cohort, I know from talking to different students that they all felt Terri had worked with them to personalize the program and help them where they needed help most. That comes from the way that Terri listens, observes, and works with participants in her programs. She has the ability to hold both the unique needs of each participant and the bigger picture needs of the whole at the same time.
Vice President of Information Technology and Chief Information Officer (CIO)
Division of Information Technology (DoIT)
University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)