September is the back to school seasons for millions across the nation. For me, I’ve always looked forward to September – the promise of learning something news, the pleasure of the fall season, and there’s the fact that I have a September birthday.
For many in the corporate world, September is also the start of the final push.
- You realize that you only have a few months left to finish those major goals ( and get ready for your annual review).
- Time is running out to use your training budget.
- You just started a new role and realize that you need more project manager training to get up to speed.
Whether you’re looking to finish the year on a strong note or acquire skills to succeed in your new role, you need training resources. That’s why I have written this guide to training resources, many of which are free. Most project managers understand the need to have a broad understanding of their industry, management and other topics. That’s why I’ve included “project management” and “non-project management” suggestions in each section.
In this article, I am defining training broadly. I cover resources that provide “how-to” guidance and techniques. You will also find recommendations for courses. However, I also include resources designed to help you think more broadly about the world and your work.
Every year, professionals spend significant time and money on training.
- According to the American Society for Training and Development, the “average direct learning expenditure per employee is $1195 per year” in 2013.
- The average number of training hours per year per employee is 30.3 in 2013 (source: American Society for Training and Development).
- Only 54% of training is delivered in traditional instructor-led classroom training. (source: American Society for Training and Development).
Statistics show that you and your organization are spending significant time and money on training each year. You owe it to yourself to think carefully about what skills you want to develop. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that your employer (or client) will know what kind of project manager training you need.
In this guide, you will learn about five different training resources for project managers. They range in cost from free to thousands of dollars. Whether you need to learn Microsoft Excel skills, communications or certifications in consulting, you will find something of value in this article.
For ease of reference, here is what we will be covering in today’s article on project manager training:
Section 1: Websites
Section 2: Books
Section 3: Podcasts
Section 4: MIT Courses
Section 5: Courses and Certifications
Section 1: Websites for Project Manager Training
The Web is filled with training resources. As the saying goes, information overload is a distinct problem. Start with these resources to stay informed on project management practices and learn other skills. Web resources are best at technical information (or other situations where rapid change is a reality). If you have limited time and money, Web resources offer bite sized training to get you through the day.
1. Project Management Institute (PMI). The most important project management resource on the web – there are guides to courses, white papers, and other resources to aid you in your career development. PMI also includes a directory of e-learning programs on change management, essentials of project management, organizational change and much more.
2. Project Times. A curated website that publishes articles on project brainstorming, communication, leadership, requirements, and stakeholder management. There are also job postings on the website for those seeking new opportunities.
3. Business Analyst Times. The Business Analyst companion website to Project Times. You may not wear the business analyst on your project right now but who knows when you will need to put on that hat in the future? Get started by learning business analyst lessons from The Godfather.
4. How To Manage A Camel. Published by British recruiting firm Arras People, this website covers building your internal network, project sponsorship and other helpful topics. As an Anglophile, I enjoy seeing how the British perspective differs from North America when it comes to project manager training.
5. PM Tips. PM Tips covers knowledge management, collaboration and related project resources. The website also provides helpful resources such as a Free Scope Management Template – there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
6. Projects At Work. Similar to Project Times, this resource offers a wide range of articles and other resources. Projects at Work is also notable for its social networking capabilities – you can also receive training from people in your network.
Tip: Read my Projects At Work article, The Depths of Discipline.
7. Microsoft Project User Group. Does your organization use Microsoft Project? If so, this resource can make a difference for you. You can ask questions and learn how other professionals are using Microsoft Project.
8. The Muse. The Muse is a wide ranging career development website aimed at a female audience. Of special significance are the Muse University free courses: you can use these to improve your network or hunt for a job.
9. Microsoft Excel Training. Published by Microsoft, this Excel training is excellent. In my career, I made constant use of Excel. Every year, I meet people who can perform magic with Excel. The videos provided in this resource are particularly helpful: you can see a process unfold, step by step.
10. Mr Excel (including the forums). MrExcel is an outstanding resource! The discussion forums are outstanding: I have posted questions and received helpful replies several times. If you are stuck on an Excel problem such as fixing a formula or working out a programming bug, you seek out assistance here.
11. W3Schools. Do you need to build websites, web applications or work heavily on the Web? W3 Schools has excellent tutorials that cover HTML, SQL, PHP and other important Internet technologies.
Tip: Technical resources such as W3Schools and MrExcel can also be very helpful for others in your organization. Remember – it is more helpful to your colleagues to refer them to a resource like W3Schools than simply stating “I don’t know.”
12. Copyblogger. Are you interested in persuading people to increase their support for your project? Are you involved in sales and marketing? If you answered yes to either question, you can benefit from studying Copyblogger, a resource that blends copywriting and content marketing.
Note: If you are a self-employed project management professional, Copyblogger is a Must-Read to help you build your Internet presence.
Tip: Request the free Internet Marketing for Smart People from Copyblogger to get a gradual introduction to Internet marketing, copywriting and persuasion delivered straight to your email inbox.
13. 43 Folders. Inspired by David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done,” 43 Folders is an excellent training resource for personal productivity. Few people respect a disorganized project manager. Even if you are very well organized, you can benefit from reminding yourself of the best practices that Merlin Mann writes about on 43 Folders.
14. Joel on Software. Many project managers I know work on software and technology projects. When you work on these projects, it is helpful to understand how programmers and developers think. Joel Spolsky’s website provides an excellent introduction to the mindset of software professionals.
Read The Joel Test: 12 Steps to Better Code to get started.
15. The Economist. This weekly newspaper provides some of the best news coverage of the world and business. Rather than focus on breaking news, The Economist offers analysis and reporting on broad trends. If you read only one magazine on current affairs, I recommend The Economist. The book reviews and the Technology Quarterly feature in the Economist are especially interesting.
Section 2: Books for Project Manager Development
Few resources can compete with the concentrated knowledge of books. Don’t be discouraged by the low quality titles you occasionally see in bookstores. There is a wealth of knowledge to be found in the business literature and other disciplines. Outside of the business section, I often find compelling insights in psychology and sociology books because they help me to better understand human behaviour.
For the best results, read the book with a pen in hand so you can easily take notes (or use Evernote). I also recommend reading one book at a time – that is an excellent way to improve your focus.
Tip: When you read books for training and professional development, ask yourself these two questions. I owe a debt to the excellent Manager Tools podcast, How To Read A Book.
- “Does this concept apply to my context?” (i.e. industry, seniority and background. For example, recommendations written for Fortune 500 executives may be difficult to apply as a project manager in charge of two or three medium size projects)
- “What is one idea or lesson from this book I can apply in my work?” (i.e. a book will not magically make you more effective – you have to take action on what you read)
16. Results Without Authority: Controlling a Project When the Team Doesn’t Report to You by Tom Kendrick. When you lack formal authority over an individual, you may wonder how to motivate them to contribute to your project’s success. That’s a challenge that most project managers face every day. Fortunately, Kendrick takes the guesswork out of the equation in Results Without Authority.
17. The Economist Guide To Project Management: Getting it right and achieving lasting benefit by Paul Roberts. Now in its second edition, this book covers the fundamentals of project management. Unlike Scott Berkun’s book which draws examples from the technology industry, Roberts includes examples from several industries.
For project professionals confused by the language and terminology of the field, this book includes a glossary that covers terms such as risk register, Gantt chart, earned value analysis and single version of the truth.
18. Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management by Scott Berkun. A modern classic on the discipline of project management, Berkun draws heavily on his experience leading technology projects at Microsoft in this book. If you work on software or technology projects with any regularity, you owe it to yourself to read this book.
19. Getting Things Done by David Allen. Published in 2001, Getting Things Done (commonly called “GTD” by enthusiasts) remains the single best book on personal productivity I have ever read. At first, GTD may feel challenging as you will have to change some of your habits to implement it. I encourage you to preserve! The clarity of mind you can obtain with GTD is well worth the effort.
Tip: If you only implement one idea from Getting Things Done, I suggest the Weekly Review.
20. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Published in 1989, Stephen Covey shares habits that can enhance your life in the office and beyond. The concept of the emotional bank account is an excellent metaphor to consider when you think about favours, conflict prevention and communications.
21. The “For Dummies” Books Series. In the 1990s, “For Dummies” books were a crucial resource that I used to learn about a range of technologies and applications. In my view, “For Dummies” books are best for an introduction to a topic, especially a technology topic.
22. The “O’Reilly” Books on Technology and Software. O’Reilly Media books are best known for their striking animal covers and depth of coverage. In my view, O’Reilly books are best for situations where you need learn software in detail. If you are simply looking for a light and accessible introduction, I suggest starting with a Dummies book.
Tip: Some public libraries offer free access to print and digital copies of O’Reilly books.
23. Made To Stick by Chip and Dan Heath.
How often do you make presentations as a project manager? On large projects, you have executives, sponsors and other stakeholders who need to stay informed. By using “Made To Stick” principles, you will make you presentation memorable.
Tip: If your project includes training or change management, “Made To Stick” will be especially valuable.
24. Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds by Carmine Gallo. I read this book last month while on vacation and I was impressed! For years, I have always enjoyed TED talks. Yet, I never really considered how they are structured. For example, Gallo has helped me to understand that unexpectedness (e.g. Bill Gates legendary TED talk on global health and malaria) is a key ingredient for a memorable presentation.
25. Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath. How many decisions to you make every day? Do you ever find yourself getting stuck on how to make a good decision? Decisive offers an excellent framework for making decisions. This book is an excellent companion to “Made To Stick” mentioned above.
Tip: Want more ideas on improving your decision making? Read my article: 10 Tips for Making Better Project Decisions.
26. The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker. This slim volume has stood the test of time! Don’t let the title mislead you – Drucker is speaking to everyone engaged in knowledge work, not just those with executive job titles. “The Effective Executive” is a business book that you can read multiple times and learn something new each time.
27. Your Public Library. I am fortunate to live in Toronto because this city is blessed with one of the best public libraries in the world. Of course, libraries have excellent collections of books, magazines and newspapers. Many libraries also offer online research databases, ebooks (Toronto Public Library offers many O’Reilly technology books, for example) and audio books.
Tip: Ask the reference librarian for suggestions on books and other resources when you are seeking to learn a new skill or design a training program for yourself.
Section 3: Podcasts
Podcasts are fast becoming more popular as larger numbers of people carry smart phones. Podcasts are Internet radio programs (some are produced with video) that you can download and enjoy at your leisure. There’s no need to race home or sit in the car waiting for your favorite program. I prefer to listen to podcasts on my iPod and iPhone but you can also listen to podcasts right on your computer.
Tip: I recommend downloading the free iTunes application (available for Windows and Apple computers) to download podcasts.
Hosted by Cornelius Fichtner, the project management podcast comes has free and paid episodes. As with many podcasts, Cornelius focuses on interviews. His interview with X about risk changed my thinking and prompted me to write about project risk management.
Tip: You can earn 30 free PDUs (Category C) on the website by listening to podcasts and using the recommended documentation procedure.
29. Project Management for The Masses. (Hosted by Cesar Abeid).
Hosted by Cesar Abeid, PM for the Masses includes a variety of guests that discus agile project management, managing the Olympics and the importance of writing. I’m happy to support this podcast since Cesar is from Canada too.
30. The People and Projects Podcast (Hosted by Andy Kaufman).
Run by Andy Kaufman, the People and Projects Podcast offers both free and paid podcasts. Listeners can also find a guide to books on project management on the podcast website. Past episodes have explored project failure, feedback and negotiating skills.
Tip: Like the Project Management Podcast mentioned above, you can earn free PDUs by listening to this podcast. It’s simply a question of time and having the discipline to document your efforts.
31. EconTalk (Hosted by Russ Roberts).
Do you like economics? Do you understand economics? I hope you answered “yes” to both questions. EconTalk offers in-depth commentary and analysis on a wide range of economic matters. In the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2007-2009, this podcast gave me excellent insight into how the crisis unfolded.
In production since 2006, EconTalk is one of the longest running podcasts I’ve encountered. The quality of the conversations, often focused on new books, is outstanding. If you’re tired of the shallow coverage of economic matters on television, try out EconTalk.
Tip: Understanding how the economy works, the role of incentives and other economic principles is important to every organization. To get you started, listen to this fascinating exploration of opportunity cost: Ticket Scalping and Opportunity Cost.
32. I Love Marketing (Hosted by Dean Jackson and Joe Polish).
Once upon a time, I didn’t think about marketing very much. You might be thinking that you’re not an entrepreneur or not in a sales role so marketing has no relevance to you. Marketing is about getting people to take action and the roles of persuasion.
As a project manager, you know the importance of improving your persuasion abilities. How else will you get the staff and resources you need to successfully complete your project?
Along with Career Tools, Manager Tools is the best podcast I have ever seen for ideas to improve your results, network and the rest of your professional life. In particular, Manager Tools is outstanding at explaining DiSC, a personality/behavior profile instrument.
34. Career Tools.
Unlike Manager Tools which focuses on individuals with people management responsibilities, Career Tools applies to every professional. With several hundred podcast in the archives, this podcast is one of the richest audio training resources I have encountered.
Note: If you like to have written materials to enhance your listening experience, you can purchase a license (which also gives you email access to the experts behind Manager Tools).
35. Get It Done Guy by Stever Robbins.
Delivered in a humorous and engaging style, the Get It Done Guy podcast offers a variety of productivity tips. If you find some of the other podcasts too serious for your liking, I suggest starting with Get It Done Guy. You’ll be amused and learn something at the same time.
36. HBR IdeaCast. Created by the Harvard Business Review, the HBR IdeaCast features short interviews on business trends. In contrast to some of the other podcasts I regularly listen to, HBR seems short (but you may like that).
Past topics covered by the HBR IdeaCast include privacy, confidence, intuition and condensed versions of the Harvard Business Review.
37. The Public Speaker. Produced by the same network as Get It Done Guy, the Public Speaker, hosted by Lisa B. Marshall, offers short lessons on communications.
As project managers, communications is what we do all day. There’s every reason in the world to get better. Despite what the title says, this podcast covers email, meetings and more in addition to traditional public speaking.
Section 4: MIT Courses for Project Manager Training
Did you know that you can take courses from some of the best universities in the world? There’s only one catch – you don’t receive academic credit from MIT (but there’s no tuition fees either).
In my view, MIT courses offer an excellent middle ground between the commitment of traditional courses and the free form nature of podcasts and websites. In some cases, these courses provide homework, assignments and readings. Of course, it is up to you whether or not you want to push yourself to learn more by completing this work.
38. Introduction to Lean Six Sigma Methods (MIT Course). Released in 2012, this MIT undergraduate course provides a wealth of resources, including a factory tour and video lectures. Six Sigma methods originated in the manufacturing industry: these ideas are now widely adopted in other industries. If you are curious about Six Sigma, this MIT course will provide you with a robust introduction.
Tip: Confused by Lean and Six Sigma vocabulary? Download the Lean Academy Glossary from MIT.
Note:According to the Globe & Mail, lean specialists are in high demand. In 2013, the newspaper reported: “One ad gave a starting range of $75,000 to $97,000 and others in the field say senior positions pay much more.”
39. Technology-based Business Transformation (MIT Course). Project management is about delivering change. This MIT graduate course, “covers how to leverage major technology advances to significantly transform a business in the marketplace.” The course includes case studies based on LL Bean and IBM.
40. Practical Information Technology Management (MIT Course). Where does IT fit into an organization exactly? When you are deeply immersed in technology projects, it is easy to miss the bigger picture. Topics covered in the course including IT in cruise lines, bank IT systems, and several other case studies.
41. How to Develop Breakthrough Products and Services (MIT Course). Exciting projects bring new innovative to the market. This course focuses on technology innovation, as one would expect with a MIT course. With some creativity, these innovative practices can be applied to other industries.
Section 5: Courses and Certifications
Improving your skills by taking a traditional course remains one of the best ways to improve your skills. When you are required to show up at a classroom at a specific time, the likelihood of learning and completing a course increases. I also enjoy the networking opportunities offered by in person courses. In most cases, it is a great way to meet industry leaders with insights to share.
42. Certificate in Project Management (University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies). This multi-course certificate program is offered by the continuing education unit of my alma mater, the University of Toronto. The School offers PMP exam preparation courses and traditional courses covering foundations in project management, leading projects and implementation.
43.Certificate in Business Analyst (University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies). Depending on your focus, your career may benefit from learning business analysis skills. This three course certificate program offers a foundation in business analysis.
44. Masters Certificate in Project Management (York University). This York University program is designed to equip senior leaders in project management. This nine month program takes place in downtown Toronto and includes a complimentary iPad. With a price tag over $9000, this program is also the most expensive in this guide.
45. Certificate in Program and Portfolio Management (Ryerson University). Are you managing a Project Management Office (PMO)? Are you an executive with project responsibilities? If so, Ryerson’s certificate program may be right for you. Coursework covers organizational strategy, enterprise risk management, crisis management and creating balanced portfolios.
46. The Directors College (McMaster University). Serving on a Board of Director for a public firm is a great responsibility. For a robust education in corporate governance, this program is highly recommended. Graduates of the Directors College serve as Directors for many of Canada’s largest corporations.
47. Dale Carnegie Course. Warren Buffet attributes much of his success to the Dale Carnegie Course he took decades ago. Run over a period of weeks, the course provides training in communications, providing positive feedback, and methods to improve confidence.
Tip: Project Managers (with the PMP certification) can claim PDUs for taking the Dale Carnegie Course.
48. Certified Management Consultant (CMC) Designation. Offered by the Canadian Association of Management Consultants, the CMC designation requires three years of management consulting experience and other qualifications. For project managers working as self-employed consultants or at consulting firms, the CMC is worthehile.
49. The Certified Six Sigma Black Belt Certification. Offered by the American Society for Quality (ASQ), the Black Belt program provides advanced training in kaizen, measurement, management, and leadership. In addition to an exam, the certification requires the submission of signed affidavits that attest to the applicant’s experience.
At the time of this writing, the application fee for the Black Belt certification is $459 (some discounts are available).
Note: There are several Six Sigma certifications offered by the ASQ. For example, the Yellow Belt program is suitable for individuals who “participate as a project team member [and] reviews process improvements that support the project.”
50. Scrum Certifications. For project professionals that focus on software development, Scrum certifications are an asset. Many in the project field have familiarity with agile principles. If you want to distinguish yourself from your peers, Scrum certifications offer a coherent approach to Agile software development.
51. Change Management Accreditations. The Change Management Institute was established in 2004 and now offers several certification programs. How is change management helpful to a project manager? In my view, the change management discipline offers useful tools to understand how projects interface with organizations. In a sense, change management helps us to manage the social consequences and results of projects.
That’s it for today! I hope you found this resource helpful in planning your professional development. If you found this article helpful, please share it with a friend.
What is the most valuable training experience (book, course, certification or other resource) that you have taken? What did it cost in time and money to complete the training?
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