Robert Kihara, Senior Training Manager in the Leadership Program in Nuru Kenya, shares his reflections on piloting Level 2 training with Project Management 2.

At the fullness of time, the boat was pushed into the waters and the wonderful rowing team set off to what would turn out to be a very adventurous trip in search of knowledge. In the morning of 17 March 2014, the first Level 2 training began with Project Management Training 2 (PMT2). With participants drawn from Nuru Kenya’s top management, the uniqueness of this training could be likened to a boat on a maiden sail.

The boat

Unlike the motor-driven boats that have a central source of power, the Level 2 training boat got its thrust from the rowing all the sailors did. Instead of having the trainers as central to the learning process, expertise, experience and insights were collated from among the participants in order to come up with a common understanding of the what, why, and how of Strategic Planning, Financial Management, and Personnel and Performance Management. While the success of the sail was due to the synchronous rowing and determination from all, we must specifically acknowledge the priceless contributions of the Impact Program Manager Pauline Wambeti, the Finance Manager Francis Kizito, and HR Manager Mwita Babere in Strategic Planning, Finance Management and Personnel and Performance Management modules of the PMT2 Curriculum respectively.

The sailing experience

As it is, a calm sea never makes good sailors. The sail was characterized by storms – brainstorms. The group discussions and learning activities provoked participants into thinking about their practices in project management from a different perspective. Due to the winds, rowing in the same way was found not to work in some situations thus provoking many to develop more creative and objective problem solving methods. Amazing discussions came up about many aspects of how Nuru Kenya currently works and some wonderful suggestions were put across for further exploration and possible adaptation. While there were many questions answered, there are still others that needed deeper deliberations with technical groups such as the HR on standardizing performance evaluations as well as offering constant support to managers. To such, ways of providing support in several issues are being deliberated. Regarding strategic planning, participants were able to learn and practice various approaches to make strategic plans for projects, including budgeting as well as how to staff projects. The participating leaders also took time to evaluate their existing practice in project management, which resulted in an appraisal of areas of excellence and strategies for improving areas of weakness. Such suggestions include organizing subsequent training sessions that are specific to the area of need. The most interesting part of the sail was how the sailors kept to the rowing. In learning activities that needed much more time and work, the participants illustrated interest and commitment to acquiring knowledge, skills and attitudes to become better managers.  Full attendance, teamwork, active participation and engagement helped the sail be a success.

The destination

Unlike other boats, our Level 2 training boat is not expected to ever dock! By the end of the trainings Joel, the Ag Operations Manager, had already started using Smartsheet as he did his planning on it. Jane, the Leadership Program Manager also applied the same skills by uploading the Quarter 2 Program goals on Smartsheet with amazing precision. As opposed to the common perception that training only happens and ends in the training halls, trainees are expected to keep going on long after the formal training. While our IT team is exploring the online learning platforms we could use to continue the discussions, we have a resource center on dropbox where participants can refer for more information on various topics. A priority for these trainings is to establish a lifelong learning culture among the leaders in Nuru Kenya.

Our future in sailing

While we are glad for the storms that we have experienced in the trainings, we also acknowledge that there are some that we should have avoided as not all contributed positively to the learning process. The major one was time allotted in comparison with the objectives to be covered. In our subsequent sails, a more accurate estimate of time needs to be in place so as to avoid detours and or shortcuts that could harm the expected outcomes.

Level 2 Training team, Daniel Gisiri, Robert Ndiritu and the entire Leadership Team is glad to take on the task of keeping the sail on!