PM², the project management method developed by the European Commission, has been widely adopted by the Ministry of Defense in France. We asked Stéphane Foltzer, Director of the Digital Defense Academy, how the ministry has adapted the methodology to the needs of the civil service.
What is your role? What is your mission?
I am the director of the Digital Defense Academy (ADN), since its creation in 2020 by the Minister of the Armed Forces.
The ADN covers 3 main missions:
- To support the acceleration of the digital transformation of the Ministry of the Armed Forces ;
- To contribute to the reinforcement of the attractiveness and the retention of the SIC (information and communication systems) professional family;
- Increase the capacity and quality of training in CIS and digital technology.
To achieve these objectives, the ADN intervenes in 3 priority areas of action:
- Digital literacy (increasing skills in collaborative tools, office automation and other more specific tools);
- Technical training in information and communication systems (ICS);
- Educational innovation with digital technology.
The Digital Defense Academy relies on digital technology to improve the quality of training. Especially since the COVID era, the challenges of digital transformation are not only important but crucial for the Ministry of the Armed Forces. Today more than ever, personnel need to be trained, but trained differently.
Digitalisation allows us to respond to massive needs and favours the creation of attractive and efficient training. ADN has therefore developed a holistic approach to training, which is part of a continuum of digital learning for a learning administration.
The aim of this approach is to move away from the usual 3/5 day theoretical training courses to a real professionalization of the agents, over several months. This continuum will try to cover the whole spectrum of an agent’s continuous learning. Throughout his or her career, from information monitoring, to proposing relevant training, to developing training and courses that do not yet exist. For example, we have recently created an end-to-end course for project managers, which lasts 3 months, with 3 half-days per week.
Can you tell us more about this project management course? What needs does it meet? What are the main challenges you have to face?
The ADN has designed and runs, in collaboration with the inter ministerial digital department (DINUM), a reskilling course for public agents in digital project management, co-financed by the “Plan France relance” and “NextGenerationEU”.
It consists of professionalizing the actors involved in digital projects, in order to secure the management of the projects entrusted to them and to optimize their performance.Training them in a project management methodology was one of the key elements to achieve this.
Instead of following a theoretical training on PM², the project management method developed by the European Commission, the ADN developed an end-to-end project manager course. It is composed of hybrid formats and different complementary themes for the project manager (project mode in general, traditional versus agile methods, digital news, IT security,…)
How did you hear about PM²?
I discovered PM² by searching on the Internet. After some research I was quickly convinced of its suitability by talking to the team at the Centre of Excellence in PM² (COEPM2) who developed and disseminate it.
There are several project management methodologies. What made you choose PM² as your project management methodology?
1. An open source methodology
As the learners come from all the French ministries, we wanted to rely on an open methodology, so that everyone could adapt it, if necessary, to their environment without legal restrictions.
The “creative commons” licence of the PM² method is for us one of the keys to success in achieving a shared culture of public project mode.
2. A concrete and equipped method
The variety and quality of the teaching resources produced by COEPM2 enabled us to launch an initial pilot course very quickly. It helped minimize the work involved in creating the presentations, while being reassured of the relevance of the content that had already been widely tested.
We also wanted to be able to disseminate the chosen methodology widely, within a learning community, in order to gradually achieve a shared culture around project mode, beyond the initial course.
3. A light and practical method
The sobriety of the content (about a hundred pages for the central guide) also greatly interested us, as the time available to teach it was limited.
The balance between theory and practice reinforced this, as PM² not only provides theoretical concepts, but also numerous ready-to-use templates.
4. An ethical method, adapted to the public service
The mindsets that the methodology includes are unique and give the methodology a human and ethical dimension. This was perfectly aligned with the values of the public service and the projects it is called upon to carry out. Link marc!
5. An official certification
Finally, the existence of an official certification was a real plus for the recognition of the professionalization of our learners.
Projects in the public sector are often complex and quite large. Is the fact that PM² is not a lightweight method a problem?
No. PM² is inspired by the public environment, it shares the DNA of public projects even though it is just as compatible with the private sector. The reverse would not be as obvious, but here we find this intrinsic compatibility of the method with public projects.
It is quite possible, on complex projects, to decide that the general method is PM² and on the parts where elements are potentially missing. For example, in the execution phase where we can contextualise much more than PM² does (since it is a generic method), we can very well leave it to the project manager or service provider to propose elements/additional methodology.
The framework remains the same, as do the documents and the milestone reviews. This is also the advantage of a light method. It establishes a predefined framework, known to all, and facilitates adaptation to the context and environment of the project. It can be simplified or expanded as needed and this flexibility is a real strength in a public context.
How did you adapt PM² to your environment?
Initially, we developed a course aimed at digital project managers working in the IT departments of the Ministry of the Army, which was quickly extended to the inter ministerial level.
Given the high demand for this course, it was then expanded with a second, more functional course, aimed at business departments, but all of them include the PM² method in the same way, so as to have a common set of skills for good dialogue.
In terms of adaptation, we initially translated into French the various resources created by COEPM2 that were not yet translated: the agile guide, most of the artefacts, the training materials and the C1 e-learning module.
In a spirit of public contribution to a European dynamic, we naturally transferred all these products to the European community that is developing around PM².W e then translated the certification exam designed by COEPM2 and deployed it on our digital platform.
We are now working on the creation of a collaborative game to learn PM² in a fun way, in particular as an introductory ice-breaker for a virtual class. In the coming weeks, we will also be producing micro-learning capsules that will complement the existing modules “C1” (initial guide) and “A1” (agile extension), so that we can scale up the dissemination of the project mode culture even further.
How has the method helped you in managing your projects?
It is still early to give feedback as we started the training courses a little over a year ago now. We are waiting for feedback from the first classes. The idea is to see how the course as a whole, not just PM², meets expectations. In other words, have we really improved the professionalism of the agents? This is a question that will be put to both the learners and their employers.
The interdepartmental sector has been integrated into the project and the staff are likely to work from different ministries. PM² has the advantage of being compatible with everything that already exists and offers a simple method, which allows departments that do not have a method to learn one and those that already use other methods to combine them.
In addition, the Agile extension of PM² has brought some variety to the methodology, which opens up the possibilities even more.
PM² makes it possible to provide and share a common culture of project mode in general, but also a tool-based method (document models, checklists, etc.) that is concrete and very practical. It helps to reinforce the ultimate objective, which is to spread a project management culture within the public sector.
Do you have any other continuous improvement projects in progress?
The ADN is planning to develop a learning community around PM² open to all public officials. Indeed, once the theoretical knowledge has been acquired, it is not uncommon to encounter difficulties when implementing the knowledge in practice. It is therefore interesting to be able to discuss with other people who have been trained in the same method and who are experiencing the same difficulties, to share documents and feedback, and to meet during face-to-face or remote events.
Sometimes, when one does not have immediate access to formal training, having access to quality educational content is an opportunity to self-train, without being totally isolated. This will be the second reason for the existence of this PM² community.
Finally, a podcast will complete these resources in order to share testimonies from project mode professionals, to publicise practices that work well on a daily basis or even ways of developing certain skills.
Can you name three concepts that you would like to develop in the near future?
- Immersive experience: how to integrate different technologies and modern techniques (3D glasses, serious games, collaborative games, practical workshops in project mode, ideation, design thinking) to make training attractive and effective.
- Learning to learn: how can our public servants change their relationship with learning, to be more involved in their training and master the tools to learn better and more easily.
- Hybridization of training: how to insert e-learning capsules before virtual classes in order to create reverse training and take advantage of the synchronous mode to correct exercises, do sub-group activities, etc.