An invitation to participate in Valmet’s newest training program, called EiPM or Excellence in Project Management, comes with a bit of mystery and intrigue. At the start of each program, participants are cautioned against talking about the content of the program with anyone who hasn’t yet attended. What happens in EiPM, stays in EiPM.
So, what makes Excellence in Project Management training program so unique? Like any of Valmet’s global training programs, the program is designed to strengthen our strategic capabilities, in this case, our project management capability, and to make a step change in our ways of working.
“From the very beginning we knew we wanted to do something different with EiPM, to shake things up and really challenge and engage our project management community. Originally, we had planned to go with an off-the-shelf approach, but the trials fell flat, so we went back to the drawing board. I am happy we did, because the end result is pretty cool. We managed to use simulations to pull even our most experienced project managers out of their comfort zones – which is where the best learning happens,” says Mikko Sillanpää, Excellence in Project Management Program Owner.
The program kicks off with a strong theory focus to establish a common language and way of operating, followed by a week-long project simulation focusing on role playing and pressure situations. The program concludes with practical application through on-the-job learning, manager coaching, buddying and feedback. Participants keep a learning diary throughout the program to deepen their learning and help put it into practice.
“I’ve been to many project management trainings during my 25 years at Valmet, but this program is different. The creators did a really nice job of integrating the theorical and practical into an interesting and fun simulation. I was surprised how fast the five days went,” says Seppo Kaukiainen, Senior Project Manager in Finland.
“The instant feedback from the coaches gave me the opportunity to improve myself many times during the training. We had two presentation sessions where we had to change our style to match the audience, which taught me to slow down and be more patient. In the team challenges, it was interesting to see how different people react to tense, high pressure situations. The atmosphere was one where we could share information, experiences and best practices with people from different parts of the world. It was international teamwork where everyone learns,” Kaukiainen continues.
The on-the-job module focuses on embedding the learning into daily work and is supported by manager coaching and buddying from different parts of the business, as well as by collecting feedback and applying it to ongoing projects. In this phase participants create a personal development plan, which is a concrete way to bring the new learning into the day-to-day work routines. At the end of the module each of the participants is expected to share the key learnings and takeaways with Valmet management.
“The logic behind the EIPM program is excellent. It proceeds from a Theory model - Self-study - Face2Face - Do it - Summary and close. Throughout the program, we really gain achievements, step by step, both tools in hand and results in real work. The Do it phase is when we have buddy meetings and coaching sessions. We need to prepare a lot for these sessions, for example review earlier learnings, collect questions to discuss, show how we are using the learnings in real work, and so on. My buddy is from another business line, so I’ve gotten a lot of knowledge on how other parts of the business handle project work,” says Bo Zhao, Project Manager in China.
Feedback on the program has been excellent. The feedback average is currently 4.7 out of 5, which is the highest among Valmet’s global programs. Particularly high marks were given for the learning methods, which included a mix of online, classroom, simulation, and instant feedback from the coaches.
“We know that after the face-to-face session, participants are more engaged, more connected and have sharpened important project management skills, but we need to wait until we see the true impacts of program, namely better project execution and higher customer satisfaction. The program is set to continue through 2021, so that the majority of our project management professionals have the opportunity to attend. Hopefully, we are able to keep the content of the program “secret” until we’ve reached everyone. So far, so good,” concludes Sillanpää.