Here's the situation. You are the new director of training in an
organization with 1,200 people in 135 locations distributed across
13 states, in an industry of which you have no prior experience.
You have been on the job for three days when your boss hands you
your first assignment: Create a new training program consisting of
four modules to provide new property managers with the basics of
how to perform in their new role. Your boss would like you to
accomplish this by using teams of subject matter experts. Oh, and
while you are at it, he would like you to introduce this training
in a new format of instructor-led, online delivery, and you have
three months to make this happen.
WOW! This situation sounded like something from a textbook case
study exercise about project management, rapid development,
e-learning, and teamwork all rolled into one. But it wasn't a case
study; it was my new job.
I hadn't been with the company long enough to know what each
position entailed and had only begun to scratch the surface in my
needs assessment, but I knew that there was a training need because
no formal training currently existed for this group. From my years
of working in the manufacturing sector, I knew that a team-oriented
approach would work well for this assignment, and I was happy to
find myself in a company that embraced continuous improvement
Colonial Properties Trust is a diversified property management
company. My customers in this case are the team members who serve
the multifamily division, which consists of apartment communities.
Each property has fewer than 10 people on site, so online delivery
is the way of the future for the company.
Four development teams were formed consisting of 20 team members
selected via nominations by the company's operational vice
presidents. These teams consisted of the best of the best or
Colonial's "star" performers who fill the positions of property
managers and regional vice presidents. A team charter was created
by the steering team comprised of the division vice president of
human resources, director of compliance, director of training, and
the corporate trainer. As the director of training, I was the
project leader and from the charter I created a project plan using
the company specific planning tool called a key event schedule or
KES (a version of a Gantt chart).
In the first meeting we reviewed the basics of team membership,
including expectations and operating procedures. A steering team
member helped each team follow the process and keep on track with
KES timelines. Deliverables for each module included a participant
guide, instructor guide, and PowerPoint slides. Teams were expected
to meet at least once a week and were given timelines for each
Upon first glance this could appear to be a daunting task, so we
broke the development and design elements into small chunks. The
first call with each team was to determine an outline of what would
be covered in each module. From these outlines, we developed our
learning objectives. The next step was to flesh it out with
content. Each team member took responsibility for adding content to
the learning objective for which they felt most experienced. In
weekly meetings, team members presented and merged ideas into the
Another tool that facilitated the development process was the use
of the company team member portal through SharePoint. Team members
could each contribute, add, and build documents by storing them on
a team-specific site on the SharePoint training page.
We discovered that some of our SMEs had prior training experience
and some familiarity with instructional design, so although I
expected the training department to be responsible for developing
the format and design of the deliverables, the teams provided
insight and ideas that we incorporated into our final product.
Their input exceeded our expectations and the requirements of their
time. In fact, the teams delivered far more than what had been
requested and provided the training department with a much more
robust product than we could have accomplished alone or even if we
had outsourced this project.
The project was completed 100 percent in-house, and although we
experienced a bit of scope creep with competing fourth quarter
priorities, we rolled out the new training on time. Now, one module
is delivered each Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. for the corresponding week
of the month. (Module One on Week One and so on). SMEs also
continue to serve as instructors each week.
I've heard it said that the word TEAM stands for "Together Everyone
Achieves More," and in this situation I would have to agree. This
was a phenomenal experience and a wonderful platform from which to
drive future development initiatives, and it never would have been
possible without everyone working together.
2007 ASTD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.