What MAKES a Project Planner - Part 3


Welcome to the 3rd and final part of our series “What makes a Project Planner”. In part one we identified the current pre-requisites for hiring Project Planners and why it’s not sufficient. In part two we identified the need for Project Planning training. If you haven’t read these yet, I suggest you do so first. If you have read the first two parts, then you must be ready and excited to dig into today’s topic:

How to identify good quality Project Planning courses.

In South Africa, Project Planning is in many ways still a foreign concept. In the usual starting-line conversation “What do you do for a living?” there is never a one-word (or two-word) answer for a Project Planner. It always comes with a lengthy explanation of what Project Planning is, more often than not resulting in blank nodding faces. The reason this fact actually affects your choice of training is that this non-understanding of the skill means there is no standard in South Africa to measure Project Planning by. Creating a Project Planning course for accreditation in South Africa means creating a whole new unit standard for the South African Qualifications Framework. While some standards exist for fundamental concepts, it does not flow through to advanced levels. This means nobody can get SETA accreditation, or University Degrees for advanced Project Planning, since the South African Qualifications Framework does not cater for it (yet). Generically, South Africa doesn’t know how to measure Project Planning skill! But the good news is, there are a few checks and balances you can look at when choosing a course for Project Planning, and I am going to take you through them one by one.

  1. Who created the course? The person who created the course should have, not some, but A LOT of knowledge and experience when it comes to Project Planning. Does/did this person work in Project Planning? For how long? Do they have the credentials to qualify them as experts or at least seriously advanced, in the field? A qualification with an international body like AACE International assists in proving this person understands the skill and its standards.

  2. Who is facilitating the course? While it can sometimes be the case, the facilitator is usually not the creator of the course (i.e. the P6 trainers mentioned in Part One), but the facilitator should him/herself have sound understanding of the course they are presenting. They must preferably have a good dose of experience in the field, applying the concepts that are being taught. And then add to this the “never trust a thin cook” ideology: A good cook tries their own food. A good facilitator tries their own course. So if they’ve done the course, they can better teach the course. If they haven’t done it, it’s not that they cannot teach it, but then they may not fully understand the mentality of the student having to absorb the information.

  3. Duration Here you want to look at the contact hours. Contact hours mean “in-class” hours, time that the student will be spending with the facilitator to be taught, mentored and coached, or as we like to call it, engagement time. With Project Planning, quick in and out 2day or 3day courses are convenient, but not sufficient. Concepts are easy to understand but difficult to apply, and therefore it takes more time to master.

  4. Certification In light of the issues relating to the qualifications framework, the accreditation of a certificate would seem less important than the type of certificate being offered. If a course offers an attendance certificate, the skill of the student is not measured. It basically says, “Peter was here”. It does not say that Peter understood the concepts. It does not say that Peter could apply the principles. Rather look for a certificate of competence or a certificate of completion (sometimes a certificate of completion can be the same as a certificate of attendance, so just clarify in these cases). A certificate of competence or certificate of completion means that tests and/or assessments had been done to verify whether skill was attained. If the skillset is not being assessed, you cannot be sure that it can be measured by those offering the course (they may not be equipped/experienced enough to do so), and you cannot be sure that it will make a big difference in the candidate attending the course.

  5. Results What you basically want to know is: “What did this mean for the people that have already done the course?” If these people started as newbies in the industry and months or years later they are still newbies, then chances are the course didn’t make a big difference. This is relative, though, because course success also depends on the drive and ambition of the student. But, with a certificate of completion/competence it suggests that the person has provided the drive and ambition to successfully complete the course through testing or assessment, and it should then bring results in the work or the career of the individual.

  6. Accreditation (Bonus) We mentioned international accreditation in the first point and this is a bonus check for a good Project Planning course. The reason this is listed as a bonus and not a primary check, is because lack of international accreditation does not make it a bad Project Planning course. It can still be fantastic, but not yet put through the process of international accreditation. However, having international accreditation almost guarantees that a course is up to standard. Here we specifically refer to organisations like AACE International; and Project Management Institute (PMI). The former carries more weight than the latter in Project Planning.

In time the Project Planning field will become better understood in South Africa and those starting-line conversations will become easier, and shorter. In the meantime we continue, educating, listening, training and learning. And we continue to explain, and explain, …..and explain what we do for a living!

We have created a printable checklist that you can use to measure the Project Planning courses you are interested in, compare and choose the best one. To receive this printable copy, simply get onto our mailing list by clicking the link below and filling in the form. Thereafter you'll be redirected to the checklist immediately.

*We could have said you get the checklist for free, but as Project Planners we have the habit of reflecting the truth. While you’re not paying for it with money, you are giving something almost as valuable…space in your inbox!


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