Thursday, May 31, 2007

Reflection: Workshop - HOD Workshop (3rd run)

Some things I did thatI thought were good...
(in fact, I did some of these because I anticipate I would forget, since I was conducting the workshop solo... so have to depend on the participants' memory)

  • Housekeeping: Do not undermine it... though it should not be placed upfront. If this is not managed well, the entire workshop will be clouded with some 'chaos' - which, I personally don't like chaos. I would like to see smooth processes. I don't like hiccups because that will be reaction. Being proactive to nitty-gitty things are important so that we can focus in managing questions arise from the workshop 'content' itself. This is part of 'Preparing Instructional Context'.
  • Organising the Participants: This time, did not group participants by colour. In fact, they could pick and choose the colour of card. Similar to the past runs, there are always happy greetings and catching up with each other in the HOD workshops. Why? Because they know each other. Why, despite the fact they are from different schools? Well, I guess that's where we see the 'cluster' system works! It really helps to build the network. By 'creating' the opportunity for the HODs of the subjects to meet and work, cluster activities become a 'gathering' time - in particular, for those clusters where people gel well. This is something less obvious in the teachers' workshop - 'cos there are fewer cluster-based activities or meetings among teachers in the same cluster. I guess, the 'hi's that went round the room liven it and makes the place warmer, too...
  • Expectations: This time, didn't use the blog at all... though a bit worry if I could manage such 'free-flow' talk well... But I think, at the end of it, I did. In fact, I tapped on the inputs of the participants to clarify the objective of the workshop and highlight to them some things we would touch on in the workshop. I thought it was a good start when the first participant shared about using 'rubrics' to assess the school - initial thought I had: "Oops!!!" that's not what we have for the workshop... fortunately, was quick enough to 'zoom in', to explain that BY(i)TES is a tool for the school to self-evaluate its implementation of ICT programme school-wide while baseline is one of the components that has an impact on the outcome of the bigger picture. Phew! Of course, the next one mentioned something that is related to baseline and integration at department level-wide. So, it gave me the opportunity to point out that, yes, in this workshop, they'll find resources that's useful and relevant for integration. Then goes the last one... who mentioned something quite generic...
  • In fact, the participants seemed to be interested to be engaged in discussions on issues that are close to their heart, and grabbed the opportunity to sound their concern that "IP is supporting IT"... which I hope I have successfully to clarify that it is "IT supporting IP", and that, one (secondary) objective to achieve to this - however, on the principle of "知己知彼”, so that we can supply all the HOD/IT needs so that the latter can better support the HOD/IPs! In fact, HP brought up a good point: ie. By going through the thorough process of planning, it helps the HOD/IP to negotiate for resources! Yes, in fact, looking back, what interesting role I had assume in the past - as HOD/IT and HOD/Maths - don't they have different agenda, conflicting interests? Well, see from another perspective, it's more like how each can tap on what the other party can offer and generate benefits for both.
  • Having an HOD/IT in the workshop helps... I think it's part of buying in of ideas, and things are straight from the horses mouth. Realise one thing: No matter how well-verse we are in matters to be communicated, the 'hat' we wear has an impact on the degree of reception among the participants. On the other hand, I hope that the HOD/IT will help spread the word of some good things we are trying to do for HODs/IT, too...
  • Learning Gaps: There's still room for improvement. Despite of the clear instruction - I thought it was clear - 'cos it comes in two forms - visual and verbal; still a group that moved on to fill up other columns. The 'moving' around helps to clarify things.
  • ICT Tools: First time facilitate this component - it took up quite a bit of time, although only asked inputs from 4 individuals (among all the groups). In fact, am impressed that one of the participants, Carissa, able to tell how the 'role' of the tool changes when used at different juncture. That "Division" template. She could rightly point out that, when it is used as the introduction of the topic, it serves more as a Constructive tool whereas, if it's used after the teacher has taught the class, it becomes an Instructive tool as it is able to provide immediate feedback. Certainly, when used after the topic's teaching, it can double up to reinforce the concepts taught. I thought, this is the part where we could share with participants our experiences and what we armed with. In fact, I feel good after facilitating this session :D
  • Another thing I thought I did well was, despite having to struggle with the limited amount of time, I managed to update their stuff in the wiki and gave them feedback. I guess that helps in pushing the quality a little more...

On the whole, I thought it was a workshop pretty well conducted :D OK, not 老黄卖瓜,自卖自夸. I personally felt good :D

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Innergy Award 2007

Was quite excited on Thursday evening... in fact, was distracted by the email and ended up not doing what I was suppose to do that night. Busily sms-ing to Timothy and San Chye, spreading the good news... probably because the "energy and motivation" levels have been pretty low recently, need something to perk-up :D

It came as a surprise... hahaha... just a suggestion to put up the blogging experience as a project - ok had to go through the 'dingdong-ing' process (with regards to the report)... not bad... get the Commendation award.

So, what did we do? It's really the use of blogs to facilitate workshops... and at the same time, to model the use of the platform in T&L. Of course, it gives everybody the space to air - and it helps to bring out ideas and thoughts of the quieter participants.

In fact, this reminded me that while I was away in July 2004, Agnes dropped me an email that our ESSS was awarded the best suggestion in the year... on the use of spreadsheet as a e-Teachers' Record book... Well, apart from the $ received, there was no letter or certificate that mentioned about that... so there wasn't any thing to keep for memory.

Successful Project Management: Technical & People Skills

21-23 May 2007 @ IPAM
Project Management: Initiation > Planning > Execution

One conclusion upon completion of the workshop:

Project management is everybody's business - irregardless of the role we play in the project. We may not be in the decision-making role, but being able understand the stages, it makes the implementation of the project easier - as we own a part of it. Looking back, our baseline projects would have yield better outcomes if we know how to manage it - right from the beginning OR was it an assumption that everybody knows what to do? I thought, the process helps in smoothening the journey of any project that we are going to embark on, it's also the thinking process - to set sight on the deliverables (and the goals) and to anticipate and how best to manage the risk - as said in the workshop, when we don't manage the project, the project will manage us... and we'll ended up firefighting - which I think it's what's happening now.
Some learning points
1. Sigmund S Curve
It's the first time I come across this curve. But an interesting one - that according to Miti (the trainer) research has shown that it applies to almost all situations - be it in life sciences on organisms or businesses - to describe the development over time. Here it goes:

As such, it is good to assess where the project is or where the organisation is at, hence getting a better idea and understanding on the current situation in the organisation. This also addresses to some of our unknown fear/uncomfort. For instance, it is quite natural that an organisation will reach a stagnant stage (either remain as a plateau or start to experience a dip) after sometime. And in the process of exploring and problem solving the current situation, we will probably be seen as 'losing' in terms of resources. In fact, this reminds me of what Mrs Cheng once said, no matter how good technology is, in its initial stage, we expect will expect a dip before we start climbing up the curve - the learning curve could be steep, could be gentle, depending on lots of existing facts. Now, I get it! She's referring to the S curve. On the other hand, how many school leaders are willing to see that dip and willing to take a risk (having the belief that it'll bounce back and grow to greater heights?) - I remember she added, let's try to minimise the amount of dip.


2. Triple constraints

Something that seems so simple (do not be deceived by it!) yet can generate such profound concepts and ideas!

This triangle explains how the 3 critical elements 'controls' the management and quality of a project. In fact, as far as one moves, at least one other element will change. Of course, there are occasions when both will change.

1st thing 1st: Always find out what's the drivin constraint, that is the one that cannot change.

Thumb of the rule: Know what can change and what can't change - in order to establish the ground for negotiation.

The example that caught my attention is the A380 case, in which giant airbus was delayed several times... as Quality is all above any elements, therefore the amount of financial re$ource$, the amount of time (extension) and the scope (the extent of testing) all have to change in order to uphold quality (ie. Safety). As a result, I guess, this triangle has actually enlarged several times because of the course of development.

The triple constraint triangle also comes in useful when we have to negotiate for resources. For instance, for a project that has a hard deadline (ie. Time is non-negotiable), then if the Scope is to be expanded, it will automatically affect the Cost (assuming that, and at all times, Quality has to be assured and therefore cannot be comprised in anyway). Of course, when a project scope is asked to be broadened or changed, it will have an impact in the cost and time.

The succes of project management is based on the objective(s) of the project and how its triple constraint come in place. Project management success does not necessarily lead to product success. A project is time-bounded. It comes with a START and END date.

Another term introduced is the "Project Sponsor". There's a difference in the role of Project Sponsor and Project Manager.


3. Leadership Competency

This was briefly discussed when we touched on the critical competencies of a project leader. The conclusion is: SOFT skills outweighs technical skills.

(a) The different types of quotients: IQ, EQ, AQ (adversity) and CQ (cultural). In fact, CQ seems to be a pretty new concept - that means understanding the culture and hence knowing how to fit the right strategy in the environment. CQ is dependent on who drives the culture in the organisation/team. It comes in different level: Corporate culture, Country culture and Individual culture. In fact, think about it, it is not something new. In preparing us for our overseas assignment, the SVO team actually brought us to a ulu-ulu village in JB to experience a different kind of culture there - where the mindset and behaviour of the locals are quite different from the urban creatures (ie. us). It was really a good experience, of course, that also caught us in many unprepared / at loss moments. The objective of that trip was really to prepare us mentally what are some possible setbacks and what are some things we can do to react to unknown situations in a foreign environment. Also, in the early weeks in Bhutan, in fact, the kind of support that YC gave me was important and necessary that helped me to pull through the difficulties and challenges faced. So, knowing the culture is important. 知己知彼!

(b) Project competencies where "Leadership qualities and skills" is the priority, compared to "Project Specific knowledge and skills" and "Project management knowledge and skills". In fact, "project specific knowledge and skills" is lowest because these technical skills can be easily availability and acquired.

(c) Change management skills that involves changing the mindset of people. There, it comes the circle of influence and control:

This reminds me of the circle of influence mentioned by Steven Covey in "7 Habits". In his book, he mentioned:

Circle of Influence includes things that one can influence directly whereas Circle of Concern comprises of all matters about which he or she cares, however, not within one's influence or control.

Hence, we should capitalise what we can do and expand our circle of influence instead. This, in fact, works hand in hand with the Emotional Bank Account.

4. Tools to manage the Project

5. Communication

One interesting communication activity (that I've not played before) to illustrate the importance of communicating objectives and asks to clarify when in doubt/at loss...

In fact, it once again proves that we all come with lots of assumption. As a result, we assume others understand and know what's going on, and therefore expect certain inputs or responses from the rest. This is especially important when one is at the leader position. Has the goal been clearly communicated? Have we checked the understanding? How well have everyone align their goals to the organisation's? Are we talking about the same language? Do we understand the term as what each of us have understood?


6. Stakeholders Impact Window (SIW)

This is another tool that generates a fair bit of interest. I thought this is really the tool that helps one to strategise how to garner support for the project.

Among all, it seems like Quadrant 3 is least threatening and most supportive.

Those in Quadrant 2 are going to have high and positive impact on the project and the first person to be included would be the Project Sponsor, as he's the initiator of the project! Hence, no much of energy is necessary to focus there, however we have to maintain their interest, otherwise they can easily move to Quadrant 1 and become terrorist!

The group to be given priority would be those in Quadrant 1, the 'terrorist' - as they are the ones who have high influence, and certainly can influence those in Quadrants 2 & 3, leading to a withdrawal of support.

The next group would be the Troublemakers in Quadrant 4. Though they have little or no direct influence to the project, they hold the resources! and if they feel threatened and refused to release the resources, the project will be affected!

Some ways suggested to manage users of low support:

- Roadshow: Get someone to speak to them (the change agent)

- Tell them the benefits

- Find out their concerns

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Focused Conversation Method (16 May 2007)

The Focused Conversation Method comprises of 4 levels of Questioning...

  • Objective Level Questions employed at the data collection level
  • Reflective Level Questions that elicit one's reaction to the data
  • Interpretative Level Questions get us to tease out the significance of the reaction to the subject, how we interpret to the reality.
  • Decision Level Questions lead to "What's next?", pointing to the future...

In fact, the above structure creates a very systematic way of questioning and reflection.

The workshop brought out something that the rational working environment often neglect - the "Experiential Aim" - that addresses to the affective part.

I guess, the most fruitful part of the workshop is the post-lunch segment, where we started to examine some close-to-heart issues.

  1. Reluctant participants to workshops
  2. Preparing for mid-Term review of Baseline Pilot (Sec)
  3. Integration of Technology in T&L

For Reluctant participants to workshops, in fact, I thought we revisited one of the cases discussed in the "Workshop Strategies" sharing session.

Yes, as far as professional development is concerned, it's always torn between "being volunteered" or "signed up voluntarily or involuntarily".

  • "being volunteered" type is definitely more challenging to deal with... there are many possible mindsets that we may have to deal with:
  • Some may not see why they were there? They don't see the relevance of the workshop to what they are doing... what's in their mind? "I'm here to have my attendance marked."
  • Some thought they already know everything. Should I say, there's blindspot in these participants' perspectives? In fact, that reminds me fo the mp1 days where teachers are to attend IT Power workshops. I volunteered to attend the workshop on Spreadsheet (although was exempted)... Though I know most of the stuff, I realised learning some new things when I look out for that...
  • Of course, most of these people will be less bothered to find out what the workshop encompasses and examine its relevance... Many have their minds closed... (that speaks its difficulty to engage them). Of course there are also exceptions who are volunteered and see it being an opportunity and come with an open mind (No harm coming... mindset) :D

The Monty Roberts Video

On one hand, Anita (our trainer) used the video to illustrate the method (creating an experiential learning experience!). On the other hand, I thought, the video in fact has brought us through some soul searching. Here are some interesting points brought up:

  1. How the horses are 'tamed' - the clip shows how Monty Roberts uses a more humane way of taming the animal. Yes, certainly when one saw the way horses 'used' to be tamed (using physical forces, he/she will bound to buy in his method - it's so (physically) painless.
  2. Of course, undeniably, it's a result of his careful and sharp observation, and being able to pick on the 'weakest' 'button' - the emotional aspect of the animal. ie. Isolation. Well, doesn't that apply to the 'human' creatures too? In fact, he has turned the horses' weakest point to an opportunity.
  3. Still on the outcomes - ie. the tamed horses. How are they exactly tamed? Through an emotion test! By subjecting the horse to extreme condition- that I think, it has in turned created fear! When it's subjected to the extreme, of course, it will probably not able to wait rationally. be continued...