Tag Archives: professional development

Which Program Management Course is Best for YOU?

A few months ago, the Sustaining Biological Infrastructure (SBI) Training Initiative released a brand-new training: Creating a Successful Business Plan.

This 2-day course is for people with a background in program management. Participants get to workshop a specific business plan with the opportunity for a follow-up consultation with their expert instructor. This course builds upon the skills gained through our signature three-day Strategies for Success course, which is focused on providing participants with program management skills, and workshops a pitch and strategic plan. These courses are designed for different experience levels, but without formal training it can be challenging to decide which training to start with.

The SBI team and our expert instructors developed a few short questions to help you better understand what each course offers, and what sort of background qualifies you as prepared to move on to the more advanced class. The easiest way to know you’re ready to move on to the Business Planning course, would be to first take our Strategies for Success course. Participants who sign up for both can access a special discount of their Business Planning course fee (email us to learn more) and can rest easy knowing they’ll be completely prepared for the more advanced class. But if you’re unable to take both courses or feel your skills are too advanced for Strategies for Success, check out these questions:

When thinking about these  yes or no questions, it helps to have a specific project or program goal in mind that you would be working on during the training:

  • Do you feel like you have a good grasp of your project’s finances, what resources you need to maximize your impact, and where and how best to acquire those resources?
  • Does your project have a compelling strategic plan that provides a sound basis for guiding new activities and supporting fund-raising?
  • Can you state your project’s vision, mission and value proposition from memory? Do you and others find them concise and powerful?
  • Does your plan incorporate ways to monitor, document, and communicate success?
  • Do you feel like you fully understand who your stakeholders and users are and what they need?

If you can confidently answer “yes” to all of these questions, you’re probably ready to go straight for Creating a Successful Business Plan. If you answer “no” or feel uncertain on three or more of the questions, take another good look at the ‘Strategies for Success’ course outline and see if you think the tools and skills mentioned seem beneficial to you.  Also look at the items in the “what you will learn and do” column and consider if they would help make your five year plan more effective.

Tell us about your decision! Are you ready to move on to Creating a Successful Business Plan, or will you be joining us at Strategies for Success first?  Sign up for our Training News email list to stay up to date on upcoming courses.

Still unsure? We want you to find the most appropriate training opportunity for your experience-level! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us to learn more, ask more questions, or seek guidance: sbi@esa.org

 

Alumni Spotlight: Drs. Aaron Weiskittel and Brian Roth


Drs. Aaron Weiskittel and Brian Roth work for the University of Maine, Orono. Aaron is the Director for the Center for Research on Sustainable Forests (CRSF), founded in 2006, and Brian is the Program Leader for the Cooperative Forestry Research Unit (CFRU), a core research program of the CRSF, active since 1975. Both have experience working in forest industry and have a desire to see on-the-ground implementation of research, and are thus keenly suited to conducting stakeholder-driven programs unique to the university.

A few years ago, Aaron and Brian found themselves transitioning into leadership roles and being presented the opportunity to make structural changes within their programs.


A few years ago, Aaron and Brian found themselves transitioning into leadership roles and being presented the opportunity to make structural changes within their programs. Not surprisingly, one of the main challenges was lack of financial resources, and how to use those limited funds to maximize value for their stakeholders. In Aaron’s words, “As academics, we aren’t trained to be leaders or organizational strategists. The challenge is to maximize the efficiency of research dollars and do that in a way that appeases the stakeholders. We are aware of the sensitivities and differences between those groups, and we need to find commonalities.” They learned about SBI through a site visit from the Organization of Biological Field Stations, and decided that the course sounded valuable to help navigate their transitioning roles. Aaron noted that in a tight funding environment, “The colleague discount was another incentive to us both coming- that made a difference.”

“The colleague discount was another incentive to us both coming- that made a difference.”

SBI helped them develop the tools and methods to think strategically about leadership, as well as provided them the time and space to focus on personal development.  SBI is unique in that throughout the course, it gives participants the opportunity to do just that- apply tools and methods to their program. “A key element of the course was going through the materials and devoting a good portion of time to doing self exercises. Knowing we can go through a systematic process to evaluate and think about potential changes is critical” Brian says, noting that the course also highlighted communication with stakeholders about business models and the value of research. Brian has found that increased program capacity is a necessity to stay relevant and create a buffer for external events- and SBI has helped him to attract new members, and strengths, to his research cooperative.

SBI helped them develop the tools and methods to think strategically about leadership, as well as provided them the time and space to focus on personal development.

Most recently, Brian revisited the SBI workbook when cooperative members requested a business plan for his proposed idea to build capacity for the program by increasing membership outside of the state of Maine. This presented a challenge- selling that idea to members who liked things the way they were and resisted change for fear of diluting the mission. He used the logic model, did a SWOT analysis, and created a presentation to communicate the strategic decision to concerned stakeholders. “I had to speak their language and be very clear and financially driven. The SWOT analysis took on a whole new meaning when I was actually looking at our strengths and communicating advantages and threats to members both inside and outside of our cooperative.”

“You’ll get more than you expect from it. It’s a unique opportunity to reflect on where your organization is, and where you are within it. It’ll give you the tools to make the right changes, and learn new skills that most of us only get by trial and error.”

Aaron and Brian particularly enjoyed coming to SBI as a team. Being there together motivated them to work on things not only during course hours, but in the evenings before and after dinner. They also found that having two different perspectives made it easier to communicate the value of the course to their colleagues at the University of Maine. “We were on the same page, exposed to the same methodology, and can now speak the same language” says Aaron.

To those interested in taking SBI, Aaron says “You’ll get more than you expect from it. It’s a unique opportunity to reflect on where your organization is, and where you are within it. It’ll give you the tools to make the right changes, and learn new skills that most of us only get by trial and error.” Brian adds, “You aren’t alone! We are all facing similar challenges, and at SBI you can work with a bigger group going through those problems and work with a professional staff that are trained in how to get you the tools that you can use.” Both of them highly recommend SBI and have encouraged fellow colleagues at the University of Maine as well as elsewhere to attend, particularly if it can be done as a team.