Tag Archives: edward de bono

Learning in project teams

I’ve been thinking more about learning in projects and the infrastructure & processes to enable more effective learning and knowledge exchange and development. I see the experience of project working as the building block for ‘deep’ collaborative working. Learning in projects operates broadly on three levels:

Individual: often focused on developing new skills and knowledge but should also include reflecting on new experiences (of being a member of this project team, of dealing with that customer situation).Obvious individual learning is often captured through organisational performance management/ appraisal systems or simply becomes part of the individuals portfolio of competences. But, as Jay Cross and Keith Sawyer recently identified, learning is a social and collaborative activity requiring some form of reflection with and through peers

Team: can be seen as a collaborative and reflective process of:
– exploration: the deliberate search of similar and related experiences & knowledge from within and outside the team. Dialogue here should be open and constructive “yes and …” rather than “yes but …”
– analysis: fact-based analysis, testing potential options. I’ve found using a structured process works best here
– capture: documenting decisions, processes, meetings using photos, recordings, wikis, blogs and (even) reports
– do: test, review, reflect and get things done
Collaborative learning here has a twin function of (a) working through together how project objectives can be best achieved and (b) reflecting together on what the joint experience of the project is identifiable and transferable to other teams/ projects for further testing and so ultimately to co-create model processes, procedures and models that generate organisational learning

Organisational: where new/ emerged capabilities are transfered and absorbed as organisational practices – often incremental changes of continuous improvement.

I’m intending to write further posts on specific tools to build on the learning potential of projects and project teams.

Planning sessions

Interesting article on running a planning session using what they call a ‘storyboard’ approach – I’ve used something similar (described here) but utilising de Bono’s six thinking hats. Its interesing to see the glee in some people’s faces when we get onto the black hat stage of basically destroying ther initial plan!

I get knocked down, I get up again

Came across this post at Idea Sandbox on developing bullet proof plans:
Measuring twice means making sure you’ve thought of all the things that could go wrong before you launch. It means making sure you’ve thought of all of your different audiences… not just the customer, but the salespeople as well. Do you have a “Plan B” in case the project or program does not go as planned? What if the project or program is much less or much more successful than anticipated… do you have a plan to deal with either situation?

I like to use a similar approach in project planning drawing on de Bono’s six thinking hats using the red, yellow and red hats to develop our initial plans – it feels right, we’ve cranked the numbers an it works and we’re all feeling generally positive. At this point, getting negative and critical as possible can be really difficult – but ‘enabling’ negative thinking through the black hat seems to work (along with help from people outside the planning team – and is also really valuable. By knocking the thinking to date and kick starting a process of rebuilding the concept and plans to address identified weaknesses generates better planning, greater team commitment and senior management buy-in in my experience. I’ve also found it an excellent process to support team learning.

Where the size and complexity of the project or programme of work justifies it, testing initial concepts and plans against a set of future scenarios to test risks and assumptions as well as support team and stakeholder understanding of the broader context of the project/ programme. I’ve only done a few scenario exercises with stakeholders but the impact on stakeholder engagement later in the project has been immense.

As the theory suggests, the process of testing and exploring possible (risky) aspects of projects and programmes enables far better responsiveness by the team and stakeholders once implementation is underway.