One of Hoosier Energy’s strategic priorities is Continuous Improvement. Among the initiatives falling under that umbrella is Project Management Training for employees. That task was taken on by Vice President of Operations Matt Mabrey and his team, including Continuous Improvement Program Coordinator Chrystal Hoffmeister.


With the aid of Chad Harding, Misti Beiser and Warren Hopkins with facilities, Hannah Knutson in safety and training as well as technology support from Heather Hughet, Jacob Repollet, Zach Horstman and Lynn Hubbard, Mabrey completed 15 training sessions spanning 20 days with two makeup sessions over three days remaining.


In addition to Mabrey instructing on project management, Denise Drury presented on RUS financing while Damon Crain and Tammy Magerlein presented Hoosier purchasing procedures at each session. A total of 196 Hoosier Energy employees were identified to receive the training with 166 having completed it so far.


Mabrey recently spoke with GridLines about Project Management Training.


Q: Who or what was the target with Project Management Training?


A: The objective was to train all of Hoosier Energy’s management people, including the area general foremen and working foremen from the transmission area. Those are the primary employees we targeted, but the training was also designed to introduce the concept of project management to all Hoosier employees based on one of our strategic initiatives.


That makes for a very large scope. We’re moving towards enterprise-wide project management and working to get all groups doing the same thing, utilizing the same tools and processes. We’re making progress but have a way to go yet.


We started with a four-hour training session for senior staff, then assigned everyone else either four-, eight- or 16-hour training, depending on their position.


Q: Some employees are very familiar with project management, others not at all. How did you handle that?


A: I recognized early on I’d have a diverse project management experience level ranging from one extreme where employees might say, “I’ve been managing projects my entire career and I don’t need project management training. I know what to do,” to the other extreme where employees might say, “I’m never going to do project management, why do I need the training?”


That’s what we had to balance. Some did have tremendous experience, but the last formal training was in 2012, 10 years ago, and some things have changed. For that group, it’s refresher training.


For the other group, it was more orientation, introduction, standardization. Project management is a framework and way of working which can be applied to many business settings. One of my first questions I asked at the beginning of each training session was, “How many of you have had different jobs at Hoosier?” Except for new employees, almost everybody raised their hand. I then said to the group, ‘You may find yourself in a job then, where you can utilize these skills, even though you don’t think you need them right now.” The Hoosier way is to be in multiple jobs over a career and you just never know.


In the process, it was challenging to instruct at a level that didn’t go over some people’s heads while also not oversimplifying for the people that do it for a living. I think we found a good balance.


Q: You’ve done some project management training before. How was this both similar and different?


A: Before I was Vice President, I was Senior Manager of Power Production. I had credentials as a professional project manager (PMP) and as new employees were coming into the organization, we recognized those employees needed some foundation in project management, so I volunteered to provide the training. In doing so, I covered universal project management principles as well as Hoosier-specific processes while also receiving professional development units for my certification.


I created the materials and did two training sessions, one in 2019 in the training room and one in 2020 in the board room. Then when the Board and Members adopted Hoosier’s new strategic priorities in March of 2022, I was assigned the project management training. I actually just enhanced the materials I had, making them better and more inclusive.


We also added some Kahoot quizzes for fun and to break things up. Having been on the receiving end of training for decades, it is challenging to listen to someone speak for eight hours. To combat that, we had Kahoot, guest speakers with Damon, Tammy and Denise, plus four exercises that allowed people to break into groups if they wanted to in order to get familiar with the tools and apply the principles to reality.


This was truly a joint effort.


Q: Overall, do you feel like the training was successful in doing what it set out to do?


A: I think so. I believe the initiative did meet its objectives, and judging by the post-training surveys and feedback I’ve received, it met the objectives of the program. For the employees who’ve had the training before, it was a refresher and really engaging. For the employees who never had training, now if they hear about milestone schedules, stakeholder identification and management, risk or scopes of work, they have a basic framework to understand what others are doing in the company. And we took any questions asked during training and put the question with response on the One-Drive file, which everyone can access and see.


One incidental bonus from this was for the Project Management Office. It was just formed in July of 2021, so they’re working to standardize processes across the company. We got feedback that people don’t know about this, so we’re helping the PMO understand where the gaps are, what is missing, what’s most important to people. There’s a convergence between our initiative and the Project Management Office we didn’t expect when we started the training in June.