Training developers often wear many hats: instructional designer, graphic designer, eLearning developer, and project manager, or scrum master, to name a few. Today, we are going to focus on the training project management hat so that you can wear it with style and confidence.


As a training project manager, you probably already know this, but we miss a lot of deadlines. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone!


In case you don’t believe me, check this out: According to the Standish Group CHAOS Report, less than a third of all projects are successfully completed.


In addition, according to a detailed study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which involved more than 10,000 projects from 200 companies in 30 countries, only 2.5% of the companies successfully completed 100% of their projects.


Does that mean that you are failing to deliver more than two-thirds of your training courses and programs on time? Maybe…


Training Project Failure: What is it?


training project failure


My Management Guide defines it as:


“Project failure is a situation when a given project, which consumes human, material and financial resources, fails to deliver an acceptable Return on Investment (ROI), so it is terminated before the completion, no sufficient value is produced, and no benefit is delivered to the customer. This project is considered “failed” when it does not produce results in an expected way, exceeds its budget and time, and does not meet specifications.”


There are many factors that contribute to training project success (if done right) or training project failure (if done wrong). While no two training projects are exactly the same, the problems that can affect and potentially threaten them are often similar.


You can see a trend here.


Sometimes it is a single mistake that leads to failure. But more often than not, it is several mistakes intertwined.


There are 7 common reasons training projects end in failure. Given the frequency of these occurring, these mistakes can be considered “classic mistakes”. Read them, study them and remember them to avoid falling victim to them. Believe me, you will thank me later.


1. Having Unrealistic Training Project Goals and Deadlines


According to The State of Project Management Annual Survey 2016 conducted by Wellingtone, more than 34% of projects have no baseline.


In addition, a Geneca Survey revealed that only 55% of project managers are clear about the business objectives of their projects.


I would imagine this same stat would apply to training project management too, wouldn’t you?


Training Scoping Meeting


How often do we go into a training project and jump right into development without taking the time to host a Training Scoping Meeting with the stakeholders to complete the Training Analysis template? My guess is that it happens often.


Establish training project goals during the Training Scoping Meeting.


Undefined training project goals are one of the biggest factors in training project management failure. A well-defined training project goal is tied to one or more of a company’s key performance indicators (KPIs) or business strategies.


Yet, the Project Management Institute (PMI) explains that organizations report that an average of three in five projects is not aligned with business strategy.


How often are you ensuring your training projects and programs have a direct link to a KPI or business strategy?


Understanding The Organization’s Priorities


If you are leading the training function, it is critical to have an understanding of your organization’s key strategic priorities. You should examine projects to see how they align with your organization’s strategic goals.


Doing this helps with prioritizing training projects. Terminate projects that are low priority or if they are not somehow linked to the overall organization’s strategy.


2. Letting Changes Get Out Of Hand


training project failure


As you know by now, I often work in the hybrid training project management methodology: WAgile, which is a combo of Waterfall and Agile.


Even so, it is important to cover what other training project management methodology others are using. Some training functions are all Waterfall while there are some that are Agile. Others are just winging it.


In the linear training project management methodology of Waterfall, regularly changing project scope and requirements can lead to training project failure and missed deadlines.


To reduce the chance of training project management failure, you lock down the scope of the project once you have figured out exactly what the training project objectives are.


Training project scope is everything that needs to be completed to meet the objectives and business goals of the training project.


It is important to document in detail all the stakeholders’ requirements that must be met to make certain a training project is successful. You and the training team can then understand what needs to be completed and how.


If the goals and requirements are not articulated, how will anyone know what success looks like? They won’t.  It’s as simple as that.


Scope Creep


training project failure


If goals and requirements are added as the training project moves along, known as scope creep, the rate of project failure increases.


“Scope creep is pervasive in project management and difficult to manage because, as the name suggests, it creeps up on you,” says Kofi Senaya, Director of Product at the mobile app development company Clearbridge Mobile.


Scope creep looks like: “Hey, Shawntay Michelle, can we add an infographic? Oh, and two or three two minute animated videos?”


If you are working with a deadline for delivery, scope creep will impact the deadline. Have you ever heard of a one-month training project taking 12 months to complete? It happens.


Here’s the good news – strong training project management can curtail scope creep. This means you truly need to own wearing the training project management hat.


Sometimes, you may need to say ‘no’ or ‘not right now’ and explain how adding a few extra things here and there pushes on the delivery date. These tough conversations are a reality for us as training developers and training leaders who are responsible for training project management.


3. Using a Training Project Management Methodology Ineffectively


training project failure


Poorly managed projects are doomed for failure from the get-go. With so many training project management methodologies available, there is likely at least one that you could easily implement.


Which one you use isn’t as important as using your preferred methodology effectively. Training project management guides every step of the development of the training project, so it is super important.


At the Instructional Design Company, we use a Waterfall and Agile combined approach, referred to as WAgile to meet deadlines while offering a bit more flexibility.


Here are some common training project management methodologies to consider:


  • Waterfall project management

In this approach, you finish a project by completing it in stages and step by step. You create a project plan upfront and work it linearly.


  • Agile project methodology

This methodology breaks down projects into small pieces. They are completed in Sprints until the work is complete.


  • WAgile project management

This combines Waterfall and Agile. In training, we are often given a deadline (Waterfall) to work from that aligns with a release or launch of some product or new system. Then, apply Agile principles (i.e. breakdown all of the granular tasks and put them into a backlog).


In WAgile, we use the deadline to work backward from to load up our Sprints with the work that needs to be completed. If we find the due date given is unrealistic based on the work we have in our backlog, we communicate why it does not work and what does. This approach enables you to accommodate the necessary project changes as they occur.


4. Lacking Communication


“While nobody will refute the importance of constant communication to successful project management, once a project is underway it’s easy to miss times to meet with the team or provide updates to key stakeholders,” explains Bob Drainville, president of the time tracking app maker Timesheet Mobile.


Many projects fail when communication lacks with everyone involved in the project. Communication is the oil that allows effective decisions to be made across an organization.


Where communications breakdown, the effectiveness of the decisions made can rapidly turn sour and negative. Even in our own personal life, we understand that a lack of communication can cause huge problems.


Therefore, it is vital to communicate clearly and frequently with all involved in the training project. This includes the training team, the business owner of the training project, vendors, stakeholders, executive management, and other departments.


Don’t work in a silo. Communicate and collaborate with those around you.


5. Lacking Resources, Tools, or Skillsets


training project failure


How can you expect a training project to be successful if it lacks the necessary resources, tools, and skillsets? The answer: You can’t. That is an unrealistic expectation that will ultimately lead to training project failure.


Resources can be anything from materials to personnel. Tools are exactly that: Tools. What tools do you need to build the training project? Storyline? iSpring? Captivate? After Effects? Skillsets refer to the skills of each member of the team.


It is important to examine the training project objectives to determine what resources, tools, and skillsets you will need to successfully deliver the training project or program.


If you find that you are missing what you need to successfully deliver the training project, you may need to ask for more resources, the acquisition of a tool, or upskill a team member.


6. An Inexperienced Training Project Manager


training project failure


So many projects, so much mismanagement.


Training project management facilitates the planning, scheduling, execution, and controlling of all work that must be done to meet training project objectives.


The training project manager, who is often the training developer, is ultimately accountable for accomplishing training project objectives.


We all start out as inexperienced training project managers and that is okay. We don’t have to be experts to start. What we need to do is fail forward fast and learn from experiences.


Also, it’s important that we find a mentor who has experience in leading projects. Someone who can help guide the less experienced training project manager successfully deliver a training project.


Mentors can be other training team members, the training manager, or even project leaders from other organizations within the company.


7. Lacking Strong Executive Support


training project failure


Having an executive sponsor who supports the project and who will go to bat for your project from start to finish, is a big factor in project success.


Yet, some organizations seem to think that they can still find success without executive support. They will later find out that it doomed their project from the beginning. I did.


My Experience


Some years ago, I worked for an individual who told me he didn’t believe in training and that he wasn’t trying to offend me, but didn’t see value in a training function. Can you imagine how that made me feel?


My final project with him was one of my favorite projects of all time. It was truly cutting edge for my team and I. I checked in with him weekly and gave him updates on what we were doing and he kept telling me “Go! Make it Happen.” We did everything he asked us to do.


On the day before we planned to launch, he acted like he didn’t know anything about the project and told me to kill it because other leaders didn’t support it. He didn’t want to launch it.


This made me so upset with him. He told me he didn’t believe in the work of me and my team, who did amazing work. Actually, he did not believe in any training team. There was no support from him and he definitely would not go to bat for us.


The project was dead. It never saw the light of day. Looking back, it died even before it started.  I’m not sure anyone outside of our team ever saw it, even my boss who killed it. I doubt he even looked at it. Why would he? He didn’t believe in training.


What You Can Do


To help mitigate situations like this, host training scoping meetings at the onset of the training project. Invite executive sponsors, subject matter experts, and anyone else who will need to be involved in the development of the project.


Ask for input, complete the Training Analysis template, establish weekly meetings to discuss the project, and ask everyone to commit to the success of the project.


There are many mistakes that can plague a training project, but all can be prevented or at least reduced.


What about you? What do you think?


Drawing upon your experience, what are some major reasons for training project failure or success? What did you learn from them? Please post below. I would love to hear from you!

Ready to dive in and become a full-stack Instructional Designer and eLearning Developer without getting another degree? Check out my 12-week immersive program: Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program.






The Testimonials are In:


Shola Richards

Working with Shanwtay and Katie at the Instructional Design Company was a dream come true. Their creativity, expertise, and professionalism throughout the entire process was beyond top notch. I engaged them to help turn my first book into a training course, and I could not be happier with how the final product turned out. If you have an instructional design project and you’re considering which company to work with, you can stop your search and thank me later. They are truly the best in the business.

Shola Richards


Graphic Designer

I joined the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program because I struggled to find jobs in instructional design beyond the development phase. I’ve done a couple of training programs with lots of random projects, but I was overwhelmed, not connecting the dots, and not good at structuring my writing to hit learning objectives. I was looking for motivation and direction at beginning a better Instructional Designer.

After taking the Instructional Design & Tech Certificate program and joining my fantastic team for support, I found the structure and approach to be what I need to take my next steps, evening improving my skills in the development stage.

Gayle Bower


Teacher, Future Instructional Designer

I love how this course let’s you work at your own pace. I got great tips and learned many things. The ongoing support for multiple people and groups is what I love the best. You are never alone in this process. I have been able to adjust my resume and began creating a portfolio of work I’ve completed to add when applying for jobs. I use many of the PowerPoint skills in my lessons and trainings. I would highly recommend this for anyone wanting to become an instructional designer.

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Teacher, Future Instructional Designer

I have searched for the last few years to find some suitable career change where I wouldn’t have to earn another degree and where I could use the talents and skills I already have as a teacher. When I came across the Instructional Design Accelerator course, I loved the fact that Shawntay was a former teacher and could relate to a teacher’s need to transition from the classroom. This was what sold the course for me. Her experiences are invaluable especially when translating teacher duties to instructional designer duties. I would (and have) recommended this program to other teachers I know who are looking to transition out of the classroom. I do appreciate ALL of her feedback on my projects!

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L&D Project Manager

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Gabby Grimaldo


Future Instructional Designer

If you have any interest in ID, sign up for this program NOW! Shawntay and her team are top notch! The course content exceeded my expectations in a big way and the encouragement and support continues to be so valuable. You will not feel alone going through this course, you will learn so much, you’ll have many cheerleaders, and you will have fun!

Shanna Howe


Future Instructional Designer

I am really enjoying this program! It’s prerfect for someone who is thinking about a career shift to Instructional Design and does not have a lot of experience. This is my first real introduction to Instructional Design and it’s been the perfect beginner course to help me get my feet wet. The modules are broken down well and it’s great to go at your own pace and at your own time. The modules themselves are very comprehensive and you learn a lot from all of them. I really like how each one build upon each other and you’re working towards the bigger project of designing your first training course from scratch. I’m learning so much from going through this course! I was provided great feedback from Katie and Shawntay through the process via Trello Boards, comments on the Google documents, and Facebook group. This course has been well worth the time and effort and I appreciate the fact that I will always have the resources available to me after I complete the training (just in case I’m not quite ready to transition yet).

Aviva Berkowitz


Future Instructional Designer

I can’t say enough great things about the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program! The length of the program is perfect; it doesn’t feel rushed and there’s just the right amount of structure to give you the accountability you need. There are so many opportunities to get live answers to any questions you have related to the course content or anything ID-related! This program gave me the support and structure I needed to both feel affirmed in the relevant skills I already had coming in and to fill in the gaps I had as a career-changer going into ID. Shawntay, Katie, and all the coaches are super helpful and supportive. I now feel confident that I have the tools and access to resources I need to apply for ID jobs without wondering if there’s something I’m “missing” in the preparation process. I’d highly recommend this program to anyone wanting to transition into ID or who just wants to brush up on their skills in the field.

Krista Johnson Awomoyi


Freelance Instructional Designer

I’d highly recommend the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program. I’m blown away by how much I learned in just 12 weeks. I had ID experience prior to taking this course and was just looking to get a better understanding of applying adult learning principles. This course well exceeded my expectations! Not only did I gain a clear understanding of adult learning principles, I was also able to apply those principles by creating assets for your portfolio using PowerPoint, Adobe Premiere Pro and Storyline. The hands on support that we received was top notch.

Darlene Dalgleish


Instructional Designer

This program is one of the most robust yet fulfilling L&D programs I’ve seen. I learned so much about the industry and about the limitlessness of my own capabilities. I am so appreciative of Shawntay and all of the trainers who took part in the program. They went above and beyond with not only guiding, but communicating live and working one on one or in small groups. If you are on the fence, I say take the leap and you will not regret it! There’s so much to learn, not only from the trainers, but also the learners in your group. Everyone comes in with their own skills and can be additional support and guidance for you. Thank you for creating this program!

Shawnice Edge


Instructional Designer Training Facilitator

Shawntay is an amazing individual. She is very knowledgeable in all aspects of ID and eLearning. She is also very compassionate and loves to help and see everyone around her grow and prosper. Shawntay has been a great mentor to me and she has helped me mature as an instructional designer and eLearning developer. She has provided me with opportunities when others have overlooked me. I am very grateful to have met and built a lifelong relationship with Shawntay.

I recently got hired into my first instructional design / training position and Shawntay was one of the first people to congratulate me!

Brian Hightower


Freelance Instructional Designer

My teacher-to-instructional-designer journey began two years ago when I left my teaching comfort zone and started my first freelance ID job. Now, I’m stepping out of the classroom and taking my freelance work full-time, so I’m thrilled to be joining the Tech Accelerator program. Adding technologies like Articulate 360 and Adobe Premiere Pro to my qualifications will help me take my courses to the next level and attract more clients!

Sarah Smith


Teacher Transitioning into Instructional Design

I am genuinely grateful for this course. I wanted a real-world perspective and feel like I got it. I’m teaching now, but nearing retirement age but can see myself working as an instructional designer well into my retirement years. My other goal is to take as many courses in statistics as possible in hopes of bringing some mathematical precision to the ROI question. Like you say, getting accurate metrics to measure ROI can be a challenge, but I intend to work on that part. That’s unimportant right now, what is important is the fact that I feel like this course was well worth every penny I spent and I would to it again in a heartbeat. I have too much going on right now, but as soon as I get some time freed up I intend to take your course in project management.

Lee R


Turns Your Written Thoughts Into a Masterpiece!

Shawntay Skjoldager can turn your written thoughts into a masterpiece. She is great to work with and the most organized person I know!

Sheryl Rhoades
President and CEO, The Creative Entreprenuer


Shawntay has been incredible!

Shawntay has been incredible and her team is responsive and effective in translating my training programs into professional presentations. Don’t hesitate to contact her for your project.

President and Principal of HRM Consulting, Inc.


IDC is My Secret Weapon to Soar Above My Competition!

The IDC team has been my secret and special weapon of success. They have delivered above and beyond with every single project out in front of them. They have met and beat timelines. They have been Uber responsive every step of the way. I keep them on speed dial and have and continue to recommend them to friends and clients. If you are in need of instructional design and plenty more, this is THE ALL-STAR team that will more than deliver and help make you and your project soar above the competition.

LT. COL. Jason O. Harris
U.S. Air Force Officer, Special Operations Pilot, U.S.A.F. Academy Instructor, Motivational Speaker


A Tremendous Asset to the Project Team!

Working with Shawntay and the Instructional Design Company has allowed our university to meet the growing demands of our programs. Shawntay’s expertise allowed for the course development to be completed on time and met all of the university requirements. Shawntay’s project management skills were phenomenal and allowed my team to work on other areas while she completed this project for us. Her work is of high quality and her professionalism and willingness to help made her a tremendous asset to the project team.

Amanda Buckley
Academic Quality Assurance Specialist, Abilene Christian University


Creative & Highly Talented!

Shawntay is a creative and highly talented instructional designer.  She brought a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and leadership that enabled her to own the design and creation of a full scale facilitator curriculum and train-the-trainer program.  It was a pleasure to partner with Shawntay, her project management and communication skills ensured the project was on time and on budget.

Susan Gatti
President, IMMIXID


Breaks Down Mammoth Projects

“Shawntay is quick study and carefully synthesizes information for presentations that are clear, concise and captivating. Her personality draws the audience in and her content mastery is excellent. A team player and organizer, Shawntay has the ability to break down mammoth projects, keep everybody on time and on task.”

Rick Miller
Author, Speaker, Strengths Coach


eLearning Development

“I have had many opportunities to work with Shawntay—mainly in the support of implementing new eLearning initiatives. I have been very impressed by her ability to quickly learn how to use rapid eLearning development tools and effectively use them to create multiple courses within a short timeframe. Shawntay’s enthusiastic nature, attention to detail, and dedication to her work make her a pleasure to work with and a great asset to both Texas A&M University-Commerce and the broader training community within the Texas A&M University System.”

Ashley Christian
Director of Learning Strategy, Caveo Learning


Top Notch Professional

Working with Shawntay has been an immense pleasure. She is atop notch professional who brings enthusiasm and extensiveexpertise to professional curriculum development and execution. Her knowledge of tried and true techniques to maximize the effectiveness of presentations is invaluable.

Nancy Drapeau, PRC
Vice President of Research, CEIR - Center for Exhibition Industry Research


Fortunate to Find Shawntay!

“I was fortunate to find Shawntay when our organization was looking to expand and update our educational offerings. Shawntay proved herself to be an educational and personal development expert who immediately made an impact with our clients throughout Europe. Everyone who came into contact with Shawntay was immediately impressed by her level of expertise and willingness to share her knowledge with those around her. I would not hesitate to recommend Shawntay to anyone looking for an education subject matter expert.”

Jonathan Burt
Director of Qualifications and NSD Services, Mary Kay Inc.


Short Turn Around. On Time. Under Budget!

“We hired Shawntay to develop a training facilitator’s guide and PowerPoint slide deck for an operations manual heavy with technical content. The project was made more challenging by a very short turn around, 5 business days, and the fact that the operations manual wasn’t complete and was being updated simultaneously with the facilitator’s guide and slide deck. Despite these challenges, Shawntay delivered as promised. On time and under budget.”

Dave Beeman, CPP
Vice President, Andy Frain Services


Need an Expert Who Consistently Delivers?

“Working with Shawntay you will immediately notice her professional presence and poise, but over time her tenacious pursuit of excellence and her skills in instructional development and adult learning will really impress you. I worked with her at Mary Kay, and was able to experience firsthand her great rapport with regional partners in Europe, understanding their unique sales force training needs. In addition, Shawntay consistently exhibited grace under pressure, made executive decisions to move business forward. If you are looking for an expert who consistently delivers and goes the extra mile to get things done, contact Shawntay!”

Mellora Moore
Marketing Director, Academic Partnerships


Quality Products & Solutions!

“I had had the pleasure of knowing and working with Shawntay on more than a few occasions. I found her to be a very good business partner and very committed to delivering a quality product or solution in a timely manner. I have always had a positive experience in partnering with Shawntay and would recommend that you consider leveraging her talent.”

Judy Owen, CPC
Transformational Leadership Coach


“Invest in yourself and take your skills to the next NEXT level!”

Get yourself signed up for Shawntay Skjoldager’s Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program today and be on your way to success! Within the first week of taking her course, you will experience growth! Be sure to plug into her Facebook Q&A sessions for personalized help, too. This is THE course to take if you are new to instructional design or have landed on the training team and need help getting started.

Patrick Hodges
Managing Partner, PHiG


“Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!”

Shawntay has exceptional knowledge and experience with all aspects of creating and implementing effective, performance based training for adults. She is exceptional at needs analysis – identifying target audiences and collaborating with business owners to keep training focused on business needs. And she is great to work with – always providing great support to get projects done on-time and on-target. She is always on the look-out for new and more effective ways to engage learners. Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!

Mike Stubblefield
eLearning Developer/Instructional Designer, Vivos Therapeutics


“Spot on”

I have known and worked with Shawntay  as a education program director and use the expertise of ShawntayMichelle for the development of my presentations.  The service has always been “spot on” with professionalism, care and attention.  Shawntay’s recommendations to my ideas make me look good to my clients.

Owner, Certified Consulting Services


“Shawntay Skjoldager reached in and made my training life so much easier!”

I am new to the training design and development world and I was SO excited to get in there, but I really lacked the real-world knowledge that would set me apart from my peers. And, then Shawntay Skjoldager walked into my life with an outstretched hand and a seemingly endless list of ways to knock every training out of the park. From the Training Analysis Form to the Tay Tay tips, this course made my life so much easier and even ironed out the review process that I had been struggling with for months.

Take time to invest in your own learning and make sure to put Shawntay Michelle at the top of your personal development list!


Katie Carter
Training Specialist, LegalShield

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