Congratulations! Your e/online/innovative learning program has been given the nod but now you have been assigned a project manager from Finance or Operations. Or even worse they just made you the project manager and provided four ring binders of processes to follow before you can start. Immediately you feel the left hemisphere sucking up all the blood supply to your brain while the right hemisphere goes into hibernation along with your creativity, passion and enthusiasm. Yes, processes and software such as Microsoft Project, designed for building linear/parallel complex structures such as bridges and power stations, are now dominating your program.
Bridges are complex. Yet they are linear. And once the designer/engineer has applied the creative bit it gets down to A goes into B goes into C. We have been building these things for several thousand years.
Implementation of new learning and performance programs on the other hand are not only complex but also complicated with multiple unknowns. Why? Because they involve people. And even harder, they involve changing people. Unfortunately we can’t apply the laws of physics to humans (except perhaps in car accidents…) and so we can’t predict the outcomes of our efforts with any great surety. In addition to individuals being unpredictable in the face of change, so too are teams, divisions and even whole organisations as they take on the attributes of the people who make up their numbers. That is organisational culture is also unpredictable. Some new technology, process or programs succeed. Many fail or don’t deliver expected outcomes. Often we can’t predict which will occur. This is why I have been applying Synergistic Design to organisational change. To try and reduce the number of failures and provide increased confidence about the chance for success. It doesn’t mean I have all the answers. Though there is one thing I am zeroing in on. That is the evidence that Project management will not improve your chance of success in complicated organisational change projects. And that means virtually any learning, process or cultural initiative one carries out inside an organisation. All learning produces change. All change is about learning.
In a recent learning program I implemented for a client Change Management was a one line item in the task list of the project manager’s to do list. When I questioned how that would happen she replied that someone from HR would do that. There was a date by when this magical event had to be completed. (I was hoping for a wizard with a wand but instead we just got someone from HR).
The process for allowing people to accept the need for change, investigate how to and then finally shift their beliefs, behaviours and actions to accommodate change is always complex yet it can be a wonderful and exhilirating event. It can also be an unmitigated disaster if dominated by timelines, budget and organisational convenience. Flexibility, compassion and support are the required ingredients for successful change. You may want to use project management as the hard chocolate in the centre. But it must have a soft marshmallow coating if you are going to entice the population to ’suck it and see’.
And there are alternatives to the rigid nature of project management. Instead of following linear algorithmns think heuristically in pursuit of your goals. Give people the communication and the time to change. Use newer methods for management such as Agile Project Management which is based around a collaborative approach as is Synergistic Design. You may just find that people want and enjoy change. Yet I bet they will want to feel in control of their change rather than being part of some project manager’s chronological, budget-centric megalomania!
Some more information on Agile Project techniquesÂ is here on Scott Ambler’s site. Scott Ambler - Agile Project Planning