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The H Files: Project Management, a New Series from Cornerstone Studios

Doug Segers

Head of Original Content at Cornerstone OnDemand

While it might not be in everyone’s title, most of us have at least some experience as project managers. HR departments use project management skills when orchestrating company-wide events, and design teams might also need them when assigning roles and tasks for an upcoming website redesign. People use this skill set outside the workplace too, like planning birthday parties or mapping out vacation itineraries.

Most employees already use project management skills on a daily basis, even if they aren’t a "project manager" by title. But in order for companies and their employees to succeed in the future of work, all employees need to master this skill set: According to the consultancy firm Bain & Company, by 2027 most work will be project-based. In fact, a study from the Project Management Institute estimates that employers will need 87.7 million individuals working in project management–oriented roles by 2027. The need for employees with project management skills and experience is growing and will continue to become more important into the coming decade.

Project management skills encompass a variety of competencies, including organization, time management, critical thinking and effective communication. Simply put, project management skills include all the strengths necessary to complete a project on time and within the optimal parameters. While everyone has at least some level of experience using these skills, most still need training to do it better. A 2018 study from the Project Management Institute found that organizations that take steps to mature their employees’ project management capabilities have higher project success rates (92% versus 32% of underperformers), enjoy more successful business outcomes, and waste less money due to poor project performance—only 1.4% of every dollar is wasted versus 29.1% for those who don’t pay attention to their workforce’s project management capabilities.

But there's a major gap when it comes to availability of training. Typical project management-specific certification and training programs are often too comprehensive for learners who just want to develop these skills, not pursue a career as a project manager. Project management training programs are becoming less common—a 2019 survey from the Project Management Institute noted that only 28% of organizations globally have planned development programs for the development of this skill set, and 61% of organizations rely instead on employees’ self-assessments to identify their project management capabilities.

There is clearly a need for better, more holistic project management skills training programs. But with the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, asking employees to spend time on L&D training and coursework can further overwhelm workers who are already feeling burned out. What if learning was more like watching a Netflix series than taking a class? Or a fun diversion from the typical workday rather than another item on employees’ to-do lists? With Cornerstone Studios new learning series, The H Files: Project Management, it’s possible.

The H Files Is Learning Content that Edutains Viewers

As Head of Original Content at Cornerstone, I oversaw the Cornerstone Studios team that worked on The H Files: Project Management series. This team—a scrappy group of learning content creators—is on a mission to create innovative content that’s entertaining, effective and geared towards the preferences of today’s media-savvy learners. In The H Files: Project Management, my team pulled inspiration from some of today’s most popular shows—we wanted to create a series that was as quirky as Comedy Central’s Drunk History but as educational and visually pleasing as Netflix’s "Explained."

When production for The H Files: Project Management began, the world was two months into the COVID-19 pandemic. With lock-down orders in effect, we couldn’t go out into the field to produce or shoot new content. We had to pull from existing sources so they turned to history textbooks. In each of the ten, four-minute long episodes, The H Files: Project Management uses archived footage, videos and images combined with original animation to transport viewers back in time to examine some of history’s mismanaged projects and how these blunders could have been avoided if basic project management skills were implemented.

Video of Introducing: H Files (full trailer)

But this series isn’t your average history lesson (or L&D course). It’s specifically designed to "edutain" viewers—to educate and entertain them at the same time. And with its tongue-and-cheek narration, fast-paced episode arches and quirky design and animation choices, The H Files does just that.

In each episode, viewers learn about the importance of certain project management skills, like setting clear goals at the start of a project, through the mistakes made during the construction of some of history’s most well-known landmarks, like Sydney Opera House and the Brooklyn Bridge. For example, in one episode, viewers examine the hefty consequences that one architect faced because he didn’t set realistic expectations on the costs and timing of a construction project.

The series is more effective and memorable because it’s connected to historic examples that individuals already know, understand and can imagine. And to help ensure employees are able to use the series’ takeaways in their everyday job tasks, each episode of The H Files comes with a worksheet that highlights key takeaways that employees can refer back to in the future. For example, if employees forget how to set up a risk table—a topic explored in the series—they can refer back to the worksheets to remind them.

Right now, employees don’t need another assignment—they need an opportunity to relax and take care of themselves, all while continuing to learn and develop. The H Files: Project Management aims to satiate both of these needs and entertain learners while giving them the opportunity to invest in themselves and their company’s future.

To learn more about Cornerstone Studios’ new series, The H Files: Project Management, and its project management skills training, click here.

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