Global player: standardising project management across NORMA Group
Executive Education / 26 February 2020
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Project Management Product Manager
Barbara Rave (M.A.) is a product manager in Frankfurt School’s Professional & Executive Education department. She designs continuing education programmes covering Strategy & Change Management and Technology & Operations.

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According to DIN 69901-5:2009, “a project is an undertaking that is primarily defined by a set of conditions that as a whole is unique, including e.g. defined objectives, timeline, budget, personnel requirements and other scope-related factors, differentiation from other projects, and project-specific organisation.”

Completing a project successfully is especially challenging if those involved work in multiple locations around the world, do not speak the same language, and have different cultural backgrounds. In such cases, it is vital to start by standardising the project management approach and ensuring that every project team member shares the same understanding of what the project involves, regardless of whether they are based in China or Mexico. To address precisely this challenge and harmonise project management across an entire international group, Frankfurt School designed a training course for NORMA Group, a global player in mechanical engineering and an international market and technology leader. The company manufactures connector technology such as clamps, fasteners and fluid systems in more than 30 production facilities worldwide. The Group has subsidiaries across the EMEA region (Europe and the Middle East), the Asia-Pacific region and large parts of the Americas.

The big challenge

NORMA Group first started discussing the possibility of an educational partnership for project management in late 2013. At that time, Thomas Weigl, NORMA Group’s Vice President of Project Management, was taking part in a Frankfurt School course on Leadership, Strategy & Innovation. From this initial contact sprang the idea of devising a global training programme jointly with Frankfurt School’s Project and Process Management Competence Centre. In view of the general shortage of skilled personnel, one of the Group’s declared aims was to establish a common level of knowledge among all employees around the globe. A project specialist from Mexico should be able to work on a project on one of the Group’s Chinese sites with precisely the same understanding of and approach to the project as his fellow team members in Asia. Effectively, all those involved in the Group’s projects should speak the same universal project management language. The overriding objective was to minimise any misunderstandings arising as a result of cultural idiosyncrasies and focus the attention of the entire workforce on finding effective solutions.

Consequently, the two partners developed a unique concept tailored to NORMA Group’s specific requirements. The resulting global training and certification programme was piloted in 2014. Around 600 employees have taken part in the programme since it was launched in 2015, and the number continues to grow.

Delivering the training programme

The programme is divided into four successive competency levels: PM Essentials, PM Advanced, PM Professional and PM Master. All training sessions are delivered in English, with explicit consideration for the needs of non-native speakers. Thanks to a global network of project management trainers, the face-to-face classes on the Group’s various sites are led by local trainers. Course content is generally based on the globally recognised Project Management Institute (PMI) standards. Levels 1 and 2 are taught using a blended-learning approach; participants start by exploring project management theory in a preparatory web-based training course on Frankfurt School’s online campus. After completing this self-study component, classroom-style workshops allow them to apply what they have just learned in realistic scenarios. Preliminary assessments and final exams are used to ensure that all participants finish each training course with the same level of knowledge. Levels 3 and 4 are for training and certifying full-time and multi-project managers. On these courses, participants acquire the tools and skills they need in small, interactive training groups.

The certification programme concentrates on social skills and abilities, with the aim of improving employees’ ability to network with each other. Consequently, all NORMA Group employees are entitled to take part in the project management certification sessions. The extent to which they then continue this professional development work in the course of their careers depends on their areas of specialisation and positions within the Group.

Feedback across the industrial group has been consistently positive – participating staff and decision-makers enormously appreciate the inclusion of Group-wide requirements in the delivery of classes and training sessions, as well as the programme’s organisational solidity and high-quality content. The flexible deployment of cutting-edge learning methods, coupled with standardised project management language in use worldwide, are what makes this training programme so useful for boosting the efficiency of NORMA Group project management.

NORMA Group’s project management programme has been running very successfully for the last five years and is firmly established in the Group’s professional development plans for the future. Very shortly, the Group will hold its first training course in India. The programme and its unique underlying concept have already been presented at Project Manager Days events. And in March 2020, Barbara Rave and Thomas Mann from the Project and Process Management Competence Centre presented the project at this conference.

For anybody interested in project management, Frankfurt School offers a Project Manager certification course in German and English. Please visit our website for further details.