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Posts Tagged ‘management

This semester I had to resort to something I might have done as a classroom teacher 21 years ago. I had to manage expectations with a warning prior to a cooperative learning activity.

Some context: I model and teach assorted pedagogical strategies to future faculty. One of these strategies is a variant of the jigsaw method. This is a cooperative learning activity that replaces a long and boring lecture on even more pedagogical strategies and theories.

I have done this for many semesters, but I something changed last year. During the jigsaw, a few individuals would resort to selfish behaviours. I vividly recall three individuals at separate sessions: One shopped online, another used social media to chat with people outside class, and another played a mobile game.

An outsider might baulk at the actions of these three. They are Ph.D. students who are privileged to attend a well-respected university. Most students at this level are also sponsored for their studies, so this raises the privilege ante further.

I confronted these individuals to let them know they had responsibilities to their group — in a jigsaw cooperation, they were individually accountable and yet dependent on one another.

I realised I was reacting to this instead of preventing it. So this semester I set expectations like I used to as a classroom teacher. I told my learners that I would give them a verbal warning if they engaged in selfish behaviour, and if they persisted, I would ask them to leave the class.

No one crossed that line this semester even though a few were tempted. But I do not think that it was the threat of being confronted that led to positive behaviours. I also emphasised the rationales managing one’s self for the good of a group. The social pressure to conform and cooperate did the rest.

I enjoyed this personal piece by Mimi Ito, How I Bonded with My Son by Ignoring Gaming Limits.

She shared her thoughts and distilled approaches from research, expert advice, and her personal experience. I distill them further into these four bullet points.

  • Negotiate limits
  • Set clear expectations
  • Provide guidelines, not rules
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate

I wonder if Ito might agree with me that strategic and open communication is the most important element in managing a child-gamer. After all, gaming is an opportunity to teach, learn, and bond. In Ito’s own words:

Reflecting helped me realize that our good times are when my son and I respect one another’s interests and integrity, and bond over shared values. This can mean valuing genuine curiosity and learning over a single homework assignment, or respecting that family dinner is as important as gaming with friends. It has also has meant my appreciating that both of us actually understand what a healthy bedtime is, even though at times we ignore it to nerd out on something fun.

Gaming is important to child-gamers. It provides context in lieu of life experiences, shapes their experiences, dictates what they consume, and inspires what they create. Why stand in the way when we can stand beside?

I share my own perspectives that I have collected and created with image quotes.

We do not stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.

How to see possibilities Open your eyes to read. Open your hands to try. Open your mind to new ideas. Open your heart to being a kid again.

Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time.

If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow. -- John Dewey

…a stack of pancakes, but not as nice to experience.

Any good stuff, like syrup, that you pour from the top down, might be absorbed at the top and perhaps dribble down to some of the periphery.

It is very unlikely to penetrate the core and all the way down with the same intensity and flavour. This is how messaging gets lost.

Good things that start at the bottom are even more unlikely to make it to the top. Things are stacked against the ones at the bottom and gravity takes its toll.

Grassroots efforts are even more unlikely to rise to the top. But they might soak right to the centre of that layer.

Moral of this story: If you want your pancakes and eat them too (with the best of top-down and bottom-up), make low, flat stacks.

Or try something different: Middle up and down. This is something I used to teach in a change management course. I still offer it as a series of workshops (pancakes not included).

365.324 - ABC easy as 123 by nettsu, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  nettsu 

To spark and sustain change, change agents need to create:

  • Awareness
  • Buy-in
  • Commitment/Control

Awareness is the first step. Stakeholders need to be aware of the issues (problem definition) and possible ways to deal with them (problem solving). If they do not know, they do not have to care.

Buy-in is a state of mind. It builds on the awareness of “I know” and create states of “I believe in…” and “I want to…”. It is an indication of how much people care about an issue.

Commitment and control are action-oriented. They are indicators of ownership of both the problems and solutions by various stakeholders. Achieving this steady state is critical if the change is to live beyond and without the person who started it.

I have observed some leaders of change start with awareness and stop at buy-in. They imply ownership but do not always create that condition.

Decentralized ownership is the most difficult condition to create. But it is also the element that sustains change and evolves with the circumstances.

Today I would like to share three lessons on change management that one might draw from a utility bill.

It may sound strange, but there is one monthly bill I almost look forward to receiving every month. This is my utility bill for electricity, water, and gas.

I do not actually look forward to paying money. I like seeing the comparison table that I get via an e-bill.


This is my August summary. I take some pride that despite having a large apartment, I use comparatively little by way of utilities. The asterisks refer to comparisons with other apartments in my building and the national average based on the size of my apartment.

My household keeps our electricity bill low by using LED bulbs, using energy efficient appliances, rarely using the air-conditioner, and having devices that switch standby devices totally off. I am also a tyrant about electricity discipline.

We keep water waste to a minimum by having low-flow taps and adjusting the WC flow to its most efficient. I am not sure what we do with gas except that it is sometimes more efficient to microwave small amounts of water than to heat it over a stove. It boils down to good personal habits.

I have invested the most time, money, and effort in saving electricity because that is what I have the greatest control over and there are a variety of devices and processes at home that use it.

I have not changed any major appliance since I bought them almost a decade ago, but I got the most energy efficient ones I could then. I put the computing devices on power schedules so they do not run when we are not using them.

I initially had CFL lights (which were energy savers) but changed my often used lights to LEDs (which use even less electricity) despite the high initial cost. I also invested in two devices that prevent standby devices from using electricity (IntelliPlug by OneClick, exact model here).

I found out as much as I could about these devices, tried a few, monitored the results, and bought more when they seemed to be working.

The savings paid off almost immediately. Each month, I get reminded that what I started keeps working. When there are utility hikes, I do not see appreciable jumps.

So what are the lessons that might be scaled up and applied to change management?

First, it is important to invest in the long term. The short term might involve cost (money, time, effort, manpower, etc.) with no clear results for months or even years. But if you have a well-researched and/or proven strategy, you can be confident that it will pay off in the longer term.

Second, you must monitor the effects of change implementation. You must have a constant source of data to let you know that what you are doing is working or not. Objectively collected and analyzed data that yields good results is a morale booster and motivates change agents to keep pushing forward. Data that consistently points the other way is a clear sign to try something else.

Third, keep at it even when things are going well. The worst thing that can happen is to get complacent. Every process can be more efficient or more effective or something can come along to threaten a time-tried technique. It is important to stick to your guns when things do not seem to be going well or know when to switch tactics even if they are.

If you are ahead of the curve, your biggest competitor is yourself. If you want to keep staying ahead, keep establishing new long term goals, monitor your progress, and embrace constant change.

Video source

Last week, my son and I caught Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy (GoG) on the big screen. I was more entertained than I thought I would be, so I wondered why.

I also peered though my lens as an educational technology consultant and examined my thoughts against what I facilitate at change management workshops.

There are five main heroes in the movie and the creators did a pretty good job explaining the backstories of four of them. This is quite a feat given that backstories sometimes slow the main story down.

But the individual stories, brief and spread out in the movie, only strengthened the connection with the fictitious characters. They not only seemed more real, you also understood why they did what they did.

In any change management, it is easy to lose sight of the change agents in favour of the change processes or products. One tenet I stand by is that the most important and difficult change involves people.

Products like programs will change with affordances of newer technologies. Processes will change to take advantage of those technologies. But people tend to hold these processes and products back.

For ICT-mediated change to be effective, each person must develop their own story of technology integration. This might involve a process they use that results in a product, or a product they use to create a process. People only start to write and tell their own stories when they buy in to the benefits of using technology and take ownership of both the problems and solutions.

The other concept I took away from GoG was how the Guardians abandoned their personal agendas to adopt a common mission. It was only when they focused on something larger than themselves that they started to support each other and fight a common enemy.

Sometimes that common mission, enemy, or goal is not obvious. It takes a leader, often one that emerges without a top-down vote from the pack, to inspire by example, articulate a group’s purpose, and show the way. Taking any one of those three ingredients out leaves you with change entropy.

Like a good movie, positive change can be designed. But instead of focusing on special effects or the budget, I say we start with a good storyline. When the going gets tough, we should return to the narrative because that is what people relate to. It is what brings people together so that they can tell their own stories. When those stories intertwine, you see the change happening.

Video source

Or later?

If you are a half-empty kind of person, the process is procrastination. If you are a half-full kind of person, it is prioritizing.

The first type of person tends to not get things done or not done as well as can be. The second type of person does.

Procrastinate now or prioritize for later. You choose.

myopia by haglundc, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  haglundc 

A colleague shared an article, The Myopia of Farsightedness, with an email distribution list. The premise of the article: “The irony of the ‘suffer now, be happy later’ philosophy is that the happy future never arrives”.

The content of the article is easy to agree with if the prescriptions are applied to individuals. I wondered if the same advice or principles could be applied to an organization.

I could only agree to the extent that there needs to be a balance between dealing with the here-and-now and preparing for what-may-come. The other principles do not necessarily scale up.

Organizations need to be farsighted when it comes to change. But there is an imbalance when it comes to being farsighted enough.

Far too many have little or no succession planning. Universities can smell trouble in the face of open and online learning but are too slow to respond. We reject the prophets from our own village.

Being myopic about change is myopic. Being deaf, unfeeling, or otherwise unsensing is myopic.


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