Why I wouldn’t do a weekend course again
I recently took the 5 day Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®) course with Maven Training. I’ve done courses with Maven in the past, and I’ve also met many of their team and their CEO Melanie Franklin. But the reason I choose them this time was because of their innovative approach to delivering training in a way that makes it fit around the day job. In my case, I signed up for the weekend version of MSP®. That’s just one day out of the office on a Friday, followed by Saturday and Sunday training, plus the following weekend too. What a great idea, I thought. Five days of learning for only one day out of the office! A perfect way to manage my development and the commitments to my projects. It wasn’t for me, though.
There’s no downtime
Each weekend day I was up early to make it to the venue on time. Even though I was in jeans and a T-shirt, I was still doing work-related things and talking about work. The other delegates weren’t my usual team, but we still mainly talked about our programmes. The weekend felt like work days. So I was reading and responding to work emails during the breaks. And thinking about work and taking notes of things I needed to do back in the office.
We worked the hours of a normal weekday, and then had homework to do in the evenings. Homework, on top of normal weekend activities, like making sure all my washing was done, spending time with family, going food shopping. This was OK(ish) during the first weekend but come the day of the Practitioner exam I had worked 13 days in a row and it wasn’t fun.
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The City is closed at the weekend
Maven’s lovely offices are at Liverpool Street. They feed you all day with fruit, crisps, tasty lunches that are different each day and a spread of afternoon tea. But the City itself is pretty much closed. I had bargained with myself that as a ‘reward’ for giving up my weekend I would get breakfast from Starbucks. This was fine on Friday, but I hadn’t realised that with no commuters, there is no reason for any of the shops to open at the weekend. Some of the shops inside Liverpool Street station even close on a Sunday. No skinny latte and almond croissant for me.
The other implication for this is that the office buildings aren’t designed to be used during the weekends. The air conditioning was switched off, the windows won’t open, and we had to rely on fans to keep the room cool. The PRINCE2® weekend course delegates gave up one afternoon and just went home. No doubt with homework.
Why you might consider it
While my experience of training over two weekends wasn’t great – although that is no reflection on the excellent trainer – weekend study might work for you.
Contractors taking PRINCE2® or MSP® have to take 5 days out of work to do it the ‘normal’ way: that’s 5 days not earning and having to pay for the course – a double whammy.
If you have flexi-time options at work you could find that weekend courses mean you don’t have to take any time away from your day job. If your manager is reluctant to let you out of the office for a complete week you could negotiate to take the time back in smaller chunks, like an afternoon off each week for the following month.
The main advantage for me was that I had a week between Foundation and Practitioner exams. This meant more time to assimilate what I had learned, more time for practice papers and generally less of a rush to fit both the exams in. And I passed them, so it must have worked!
Have you considered studying at the weekends? What does you employer think about it?
Good points on working 13 days straight by the 2nd test. It hadn’t occurred to me that you’d essentially be working 3 weeks straight.
While the scheduling became an issue, how was the course?
You mention at the beginning that you’ve taken Maven Training in the past and that’s why you chose this one. You also mention the instructor was excellent. Was the coursework/load reasonable?
Did you have take-aways you can really apply, or was it more of a beginner course?
Just curious all around. Love reading your work.
The way I did MSP it was both a beginner course and more advanced: the first three days get you to Foundation level, which is comprehension, and then the final two get you to Practitioner level, which is the ability to apply the learning in a practical sense.
The course was good, although I got bored quickly on the final two days – again, that isn’t a reflection on the trainer (who was lovely, and drank as much coffee as I did) but more on my ability to sustain working effectively over such a long period. There was very little homework, certainly less than I had been led to believe, and as it was a certification course it was mainly doing past exam papers and practice questions.
I do have take-aways I can really apply, specifically, programme blueprints, which I think I’ll probably write more about in the future, and a focus on benefits and making sure that projects tie into strategic objectives. I suppose I always knew that you should do only those projects that deliver benefit, but MSP has given me a framework to actually apply that.
By the way, thanks for your email – I’ll get back to you in a day or so!
You raise some interesting issues Elisabeth about training and when it should be or rather which days suit.
The current economic climate (here in the UK) is pretty bad. The demand for training generally seems to have fallen and there is clearly a demand for other approaches (e-learning, shorter sharper sessions etc).
I think the key issue for staff in employment is that the working week is pretty full on with long hours and even weekend working. To attend a weekend course means no time for the body (and mind) to refresh yet my guess is that weekends and evenings will be targeted for training in the future.
Elizabeth – thanks so much for your comments and yes, we loved the t-shirt. It is not often we get our weekend courses publicised and it is only through getting clear feedback that we can change things so here goes….
1. We have moved our Centre – thanks to Crossrail digging a large ventilation shaft behind our Liverpool St centre (a project certainly worth tracking), we decided to move our venue to Maven Centre, 10-15 Queen Street, London EC4N 1TX. We have got the penthouse (8th floor) with great views and more importantly independently controlled aircon. So even in the coldest winters or hottest summers, you will be able to wear your t-shirt in comfort.
2. What else in the area – well much to the delight of the females within Maven and also our delegates, the new One New Change http://www.onenewchange.com/ shopping centre has just opened up. I did not make it past Hotel Chocolat but the centre looks amazing. Most importantly, it will be open weekends so you will be able to get not just essentials but also some of those little luxuries. Elizabeth.. next time you are around, I will take you round and buy you a Starbucks.
3. No downtime – this is true. Combining a full week working then doing the weekend event is not a breeze. That said, the financial benefit to delegates that are contractors is significant and most over come this. Interestingly, the pass rates for delegates on our weekend PRINCE2/MSP/Change courses is higher than for a straight 5 days and the structured homework between the two weekends allows more of the knowledge to filter through into usually over-worked brains.
If anyone who is thinking about a weekend event or just wants to visit our location before booking up to check out the location, we will be more than happy to show you around so just get in touch.
William – thanks for your response. I had a great service from Maven, and I think the change in office location will just add to that for delegates in the future. I will take you up on that Starbucks offer at some point…:)
Ron – when I signed up for the course I genuinely thought that weekend training was going to be the best thing for me, but having lived it, I have changed my mind. Still, I think you are right and that delegates and training companies will start to look for more flexible options, like Maven has already.