Risk or Risky: An Entrepreneurial Mindset for our Organizations

Yesterday, I had the privilege of presenting a workshop on “Entrepreneurism is a WORKFORCE Issue” for the 35th Pennsylvania Workforce Development Association Annual Conference in Hershey PA. With 55 attendees, the energy in the room was high and ideas flowed freely. Thanks to everyone who attended for your contribution.

“I want my staff to have entrepreneurial spirit, but I don’t want them taking RISKS.”
How can we feel safe as we adopt an entrepreneurial mindset within our staff?

While there were many powerful conversational moments – those Ah Ha! moments, one of the most compelling was on RISK. The workshop centered around how an entrepreneurial mindset IS what today’s employers are seeking and desire of their employees. I broke the audience into team as we journeyed toward this way of thinking and explored attitudes and behaviors of entrepreneurially minded people. Part of the exercise to build this mindset with the attendees was to make distinctions between someone labeled an “Entrepreneur” vs someone described as having “Entrepreneurial Spirit.” Most of the teams included RISK to describe an “Entrepreneur.”

“I want my staff to have entrepreneurial spirit, but I don’t want them taking RISKS.”

“I want my staff to have entrepreneurial spirit, but I don’t want them taking RISKS” one attendee shared. I’m so glad this conversation took place. I knew a positive workshop atmosphere is in place when another attendee added, “But what about calculated risk?” So we dove deeper. What does “calculated risk” mean? We discussed viability with consideration to available resources and proper use of those resources, risk compared to change (or sameness), innovation and creativity. When the question of RISK first came up, some groups removed their RISK sticky note from their list of characteristics of those with entrepreneurial spirit. After we deconstructed the idea of risk, teams proudly put that RISK sticky back on the wall.

Our mental models of what entrepreneurial spirit is are everything regarding how we value those traits as ways to grow organizations and improve workforce development. The conversation moved into framing clarity around RISK. I asked the attendees if they’ve used a simple question in interviews. “Are you a risk taker?” Head nods confirmed. Having spent time in discussion, the group was primed to understand why that question wasn’t aligned with an organizational entrepreneurial spirit mindset. The question leads candidates down a rabbit hole. “Do they want me to be a risk taker? Maybe they DON’T want risk takers on their team?” Risk taking is an organizational decision. Interviews need to set clear expectations on how the organization views RISK and what they are looking for. I shared a simple shift in questioning technique. If an organization desires risk takers, how could we shift the question? For example, “When presented with an action you consider a risk, how would you evaluate the level of risk and communicate your ideas to your team or supervisor?” This question clearly lays out the expectation that an organization is seeking someone who approached risk as a valuable skill.

As the workshop continued, the attendees responded positively to the Model of an Entrepreneur which demonstrates Entrepreneurs assess viability (consider risks and risk mediation). There are many references in literature to entrepreneurs assuming the RISK of their ideas. Generally, references center around how an entrepreneur makes decisions that many consider high risk in order to pursue their ideas. For example, an entrepreneur may leave the security of their full-time job to start their business, or they may empty their life’s savings with no guarantee of return on their investment. That is what most of us think about when we think of RISK in regards to entrepreneurism.

On our employee teams however, we generally don’t want staff taking RISKY actions, actions that would put people or our organization at risk (reputation, regulation, safety, etc.). But, we do need staff that look at RISK through an entrepreneurial lens. Organizational change, shifts in markets, new design directions, customer-base departures, and others. These activities bring about RISK that when assessed can have considerable value when weighed against not taking them on. We need employee based teams capable and willing to take on risks so that we avoid RISKY actions.

The entrepreneurial mindset is a powerful tool for existing organizations. Entrepreneurism is a workforce issue. The skillset and mindset of those with an entrepreneurial spirit is needed and must be fostered within K-12 education through professional development programs within organizations. Is that a RISK? Yes. It means we have to shift our thinking that entrepreneurial spirit is only for those wiling to be an entrepreneur and take on their dreams alone. These mindsets are complex and simple definitions leave us down. Its time to interrogate our own biases and build our entrepreneurial workforce within our organizations.

Is HOPE Killing Organizational Thinking?

There was a rather awful experiment in the 1950’s performed by Curt Richter using domesticated rats. The rats were placed in a container of water. They began swimming. The time it took them to drown was recorded. The experiment was repeated but the rats were removed from the water just before they went under. They were dried off and allowed to rest. Then, they were returned to the water. This group swam for hours and hours. Much longer than the group that drowned. The difference? Hope.

Recognize the signs of HOPE that kill your organizational thinking.

Most of us would agree, the power of HOPE is an incredible force. It keeps us alive when many things fail. Hope can be a beacon of light, a source of strength. For the rats in the second group, it provided survival. Survival, by most definitions is a great thing. But, it can also derail organizational thinking, kill vision-mission work and devalue strategy.

Organizations with a legacy are particularly susceptible to counting on hope to survive and lead them into the next fiscal year. Over time, they build a list of strong “hopeful happenings” they begin to look forward to. For example, a non-profit that ends its year with a few thousand dollars in its account feels hope. That happening, ending with a little bit of cash, is like being taken out of the water for a rest. The organization gets removed from the struggles of swimming in their work. That swimming becomes drowning over time. But, just before they go under, they get removed, dried off to rest. The horrible feeling of ALMOST drowning fades a bit as they rest. The struggles seem distant now and start to feel oddly comfortable. A mindset of “well, at least we know what to expect” creeps into the team. To compound that, other “hopeful happenings” pile on. A congratulatory handshake from a board member on staying afloat, a business cycle shift and relaxed pace, a repeat donor donation. Hope builds, but sameness, survival occurs. But, remember, that sameness means at a point in the near future, everyone will return to the water, start swimming and start to drown again.

Hope is so powerful, it can blind an organization to the power of thinking. An organization that commits to thinking can craft an incredible Vision-Mission and build the systems and capacities to support that Vision-Mission. As part of that work, they can also build strategic thinking skills among stakeholders. That work however can get sidestepped for the work to remain afloat, to depend on Hope, to survive. Hope is comfortable. Scary, but comfortable. Thinking differently, change, is scary, unknown, not comfortable for many.

What can we do?

  1. Know your organizational “hopeful happenings”, expose them for what they are and ensure everyone understands they are a drug with side effects.
  2. Stay close to those who show a strong connection to those “hopeful happenings” and are willing to recruit others to follow them. Work with them. If they can’t join, figure out an exit plan for them.
  3. Keep reminding everyone that hope will return you to a state of “almost drowning” and that will be, as expected, incredibly difficult, stressful, and detrimental to everyone.
  4. Make a distinction between a state of hope and your Vision-Mission, a future state that is special, meaningful, fulfilling and powerful.
  5. Celebrate moments when “hopeful happenings” have been eradicated. When you end the fiscal year with more than just a bit of cash, when your business cycles don’t negatively change as they once did, when you don’t have high staff turn over year over year. Don’t let those changes go unnoticed. Those changes didn’t come about from hope, they were possible because of THINKING.
  6. Don’t build new “hopeful happenings.” Be diligent and continually aware of how hope can creep back into your organization. Create events to spend time measuring how well you’re doing and assign roles to purposely be on the lookout.

This is a big moment. If you’ve been swimming for survival in your organization, you’re out of the water for a bit drying off and resting. You have a choice. Hope will throw you back in, or you can commit to THINKING and changing.

Storytelling is Biz Planning

One framework…two perspectives. Learn how to tell a great story and you’ll learn how to build a strong business plan framework. If you’re on a journey to build an Entrepreneurial mynddset, you’ll appreciate having a tool for your tool belt, especially one that does double duty. There is an art to storytelling. And, there’s a technique. Today, let’s consider the technique (the framework).

Drum roll……Think 5Ps.

P(1) = Problem
P(2) = Promise
P(3) = Picture
P(4) = Proof
P(5) = Pitch

Jack and Jill went up the hill (nursery rhyme)
Great stories tell us what problem is being solved.

Jack and Jill went up the hill, to fetch a pail of water. So…what was the problem? What were they trying to solve?

Problem = They had no water.

The simplest of stories follow the 5P framework. They lay out what someone or some group’s Problem is or was. They describe the Promise in the”how this will be resolved” part of the story. At some point, the details, the HOW, or Picture of the solution is laid out clearly. How do we know the solution will work? Some evidence is provided, even in times of doubt or if a new solution is being attempted, some level of Proof it will work is presented. Finally, the process for how others can join in on the action is shared during via the Pitch.

Now, let’s look at what a good business plan needs. Hummm…..let me think. Give me a minute. So…, we need…wait! A great business plan needs those some structural components. Interesting. A good story framework is a good business framework.

It’s a myth to think businesses need a super complicated framework to be great businesses. If you’re struggling to define your business plan, think about the 5Ps. While you build the business framework, you also craft the business story.


Leadership vs Skill

In 1987, the year I graduated from high school, I remember hearing a coach at an awards banquet speak of how many leaders there were on the team. The coach boasted about their high level of skills and how they set an example for others. They were role models as evidenced by their dedication to on and off the field preparation according to the coach. At that time, I remember feeling confused. Was the coach saying that by being really good at what we do, we are leaders? I wrestled with how simple this sounded. Be good at something, be a leader. But was that true then? And, now after reaching the 50 year old milestone in my life, is it true now?

Young American football team on field.
Leaders focus on the performance of others.

Simply…NO! I’m frankly amazed at how easily we confuse leadership and skill. We can be skilled leaders. But, just because we have a skill, are we leaders? Or, are we as the coach added, capable of being great role models? And, is skill acquisition an automatic pass to being a role model. Certainly not. So, likewise, skill level is not the same as leadership.

Why do we confuse leadership and skill?

  • Because our Mentors Did/Do the Same. Too many coaches, teachers and mentors create confusion for young minds. When a student excels at a sport, artistic or academic pursuit, too often, they are given the title of “leader.” While they may “lead” (as in outperform) others in their skill, their leadership abilities should be assessed uniquely. That mindset (mynddset for me) carries through into adulthood. In fact, we start to feel that if we aren’t given leadership roles when we excel at what we do, we must be doing something wrong. Worse, we suffer when over-promoted at work. In this case, we excel at what we do skill-wise and are promoted to a leadership role. Without leadership capabilities, we struggle. We often fall back on what we know and “do the work” for the team. That’s an entire post on its own. Without intervention, we either learn our mynddset was wrong, or we failed and aren’t a leader. We were duped actually.
  • Because Leadership Needs Defined. I love this definition by Kevin Kruse (Author and recognized Leadership Authority).

DEFINITION: Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.

  • Because We Forget Leadership isn’t about US! When someone is really, really good at something, and they do that something in a way that inspires others, that is AWESOME. But, it takes more than that to be a leader. Leadership requires influencing others in a purposeful, MINDFUL way for the intent of maximizing their efforts to achieve a collective goal. For example, is the star quarterback a leader just because he hits the gym every day after school or is the water boy a leader because he gathers a group of younger friends with a goal of playing varsity at the field after school and teaches them the drills he knows they will perform when they get older?

If you’re not sure if you are a leader, which are you, the quarterback or the water boy from the above example? Are you attempting to lead based on your skill or are you practicing the act of leadership? Have you recently labeled someone a leader who you now see falls short of the definition?

This shift is a mindset (I call it a mynddset) shift. Within your organization, be sure you’re crediting those with high skills for their achievements while also reserving the label of leader for those with the right mynddset.

Five Components of A Vision-based Work Culture

2017 has brought a new vision for THINK’ID8.  It’s fitting that the first post on the new site focuses on vision and how vision impacts work culture.  Crafting a vision for your organization is hard work, and it should be.  After all, vision is what defines your organization.  Vision establishes a picture for your organization and like a good snapshot, needs a defined, in-focus subject that is attractive to many.  Vision informs every activity, every system, every product, every customer interaction and every employee’s role and performance.  Yes, vision is THAT important.

Walk into your morning coffee or bagel shop and start observing the environment, the team, the food, the other customers.  Can you tell what their vision is?  How does the staff respond to your arrival?  Do they care that you made a choice to visit their shop?  Do they share their enthusiasm for your patronage?  Does the team understand their individual roles in meeting your needs?  The reason you return to the shop frequently  is related to their vision.  An organization without vision will do little to attract customers, regardless of the type of organization. Staff will feel lost and not understand how to interact with each other or those they serve.  And, the products and service will have limited appeal and quality.

Crafting a vision is just part of a vision-based work culture.  An organization with a well crafted vision has little more than a statement to be framed or posted on a website.   If you’re looking to build a vision-based work culture, start by considering the following five components.

  •  An easy to remember, shareable vision.

Too often, vision statements are LONG and cumbersome.  Vision statements can’t be hard to envision.  The simpler the better.  Your team can’t remember a complex statement that isn’t easily thought about during the course of their day.  Your vision should also be something easy to post in a variety  of places.  Use this rule.  If you can’t put your vision onto your business card, it’s too long.

  • Vision-based work cultures talk about their vision…A LOT!

Start meetings with a review of the topic and how it relates to your organizational vision.  In organizational communications, include your vision and again, relate the message of the communication to your vision. Be sincere, and NEVER make light of your vision or assume everyone’s tired of hearing about it.

  • Establish an understanding of anti-vision behavior and performance.

Knowing what DOESN’T match your vision is as important as knowing what does.  As your team goes about their day, each person has a responsibility to watch and listen for anti-vision behavior from others.  Each person should be empowered to react in an instructional way to help others.  And, everyone must be open to receiving this instruction.  The key is to not make this peer level support feel like criticism or compliance.  Respect and empathy must be at the center of changing anti-vision behavior and aligning performance standards to your vision.

  • Create a vision-based working environment.

 Space, or better, use of space, is an important part of managing a vision-based work culture.  Your team’s space must support the organizational vision.  Also important is work time and place.  With many organizations harnessing the power of the conceptual age we’re experiencing today, work is becoming less about time and more about results.  As such, remote work, flexible office spaces, functional shared and open spaces are becoming more important and prevalent. Create recurring moments for your team to reflect on your work environment and build flexible, reactive systems should  changes be identified.  Set policies and permission-oriented procedures may be needed but not to a point where they create barriers.

  • Align services, products and projects to the organizational vision.

Every effort of the organization needs to have a clear relationship to the vision of the organization.  Before launching any project, spend time as a team outlining how the project will help the organization approach the vision.  If the team struggles for more than a few minutes, that project may not be of value.  If you start to notice none of your projects are related to your vision, then your team may be working form old habits, your vision may not be clear, or worse, your organization may have a vision that just isn’t valid.

A vision-based work culture is yours if you’re willing to invest the energy and persevere.  If you’re the leader of your organization, you’ll be the main character in this effort.  But, building vision-based work cultures is far from being a top-down effort.  Vision-based organizations are highly communicative, focused on learning, flexible and quick to change as needs and opportunities arise. Practice the five components above to get started and let me know the results of your efforts.

Mark T. Burke
CEO, Founder of THINK’ID8

 

 

 

 

Sharing a Mission Moment

Mission Moments are sacred. I learned that from my friends Derek and Laura Cabrera.   Those moments of interaction with my customers (my clients) that matter…matter deeply.  Not just those instances when something cool happens.  Mission Moments are moments when the work we’ve done together gives birth to a new reality.  Deep?  Yep. That’s the point.

I have four parts to my (THINK’ID8’s) mission.  THINK.Design.Innovate.IDeate. There’s nothing too profound about each separately.  I put these four words together years ago to guide my daily work more so for how each relates to each and how that relationship helps me help others.  They represent a system of processes that when working together bring about BIG shifts in people, teams, departments and whole organizations.  They are never done but always starting.  I know…deep again.  I’ve built my own ideas on Mission Moments over the years.  When helping others think, it’s great to co-celebrate moments of clarity.  But, that’s not enough from my perspective to create a Mission Moment. For me, Mission Moments are those moments when all four of my mission parts come together and are witnessed as the system they are for my clients through some revelation.  That “holy sh…” moment, goosebumps and all.  That’s a Mission Moment for me.

Like most consultants, I have a bag of tricks to help those I work with THINK.Design.Innovate.IDeate.  I heard Mathew Chow (IDEO) speak about managing to change and one of his techniques hit home.  The question was “How do we manage to change within our organization?” and can we articulate our practice, either written or in unwritten format? He shared a simple method of placing a group into a situation that has them reflect on how they would manage to a specific change.  Awesome…a new addition to my sack.

I headed to my local 5&10 cent store, I love Beiters by the way.  I’m working with an amazing private school, the West Branch School in Williamsport, PA.  I was looking for a blue hat and wow, I found the perfect blue hat.  Totally blinged-out with sequins and a butterfly.  West Branch’s logo includes a Monarch butterfly.  Perfect!

I pulled out the hat and posed (and posed with the hat on by the way) a simple change.  Everyone in the organization would receive and wear the hat, every day, all day.  How would we manage to that change?  Now, the conversation was great, lots of process, decision making, communication planning and other aspects of change management were shared.  But then, the Mission Moment.  “Change should be done to support our Vision.”  Wait…what?  “All this stuff we just talked about, the change, if we want to change, we need to show how it supports our vision.”

The conversation that followed was for me a Mission Moment.  My clients created a new reality for themselves.  Our time together on our new Journey (which we branded #SojournTogether….Reflect Together.Delve Together.Stay Together) to explore their Vision and establish new organizational development practices had come into crystal clear focus.  This clarity was personal, organizational and unique to them.  That’s why its hard to write about.  From the outside, maybe even hard to see why it was special let alone sacred.  But for them, for us, for me, it was a sacred moment that I had to capture.

Why are Mission Moments critical. My vision for the last several years has been “A VISION’ABLE” world.  My Mission supports my dream that all organizations have the capability to create a vision and work toward it and I do my part to help raise them to that level.  Using vision and mission, we give organizations and the people within them purpose.  Mission Moments highlight purpose, create connection and motivate us to dig deeper and continue our vision-focused journeys.  That’s pretty awesome.

 

 

Vision and Mission

Am I on a Mission, or do I have a Vision?

By Mark T. Burke

Confused about Mission vs. Vision?  These words are often used interchangeably within organizations.  But that leads to confusion.  A common phrase, “I’m on a mission” tells us something important about the distinction between Mission and Vision.  Let’s explore.

Vision and Mission

Spend a few minutes on the Merriam-Webster site and you’ll find a variety of definitions for both words.  Keep in mind though, we’re exploring the distinctions between these two words.  I found the graphic above and it speaks to the important distinction.  Notice that Vision is all about Ideas, Foresight, Concepts, Seeing and Direction.  Mission involves Plans, Scales, Paths, Tools and Goals or Accomplishments.  This graphic showcases well that Vision is an idea and Mission is the path to help you accomplish an idea.

If you’re a Sci-Fi fan, you probably know about MARS, the series on NatGeo.  I believe this series does a great job of making the distinction between Vision and Mission clear.

Vision = Colonize Mars

Mission = Build rockets that can land and take off again, Build systems to support life, Gather tons of money and support, Train experts, Break the laws of physics, etc. etc.

Vision is the DREAM, Mission is what we do to achieve that DREAM (Vision).

The relationship between the two as well as the distinction, helps organizations create clear internal and external facing documentation of both.  And, as we aim to ensure we have a powerful Vision and a clear Mission, understanding the two clarifies the development process.

If you have any questions about Vision and Mission or you’re ready to explore your organization’s development and application of both, use the Contact tab above to send me a message.

Project Management Isn’t About Tasks, It’s About Relationships

Crack open the PMBOK, the Project Management Book of Knowledge, and you’ll learn a TON about Inputs and Outputs.  You’ll learn about creating value for your stakeholders, with differing needs and priorities.  And you’ll learn about process.  The process of Project Management (PM) often attracts people and more so organizations to the field of study.  Have a large effort to accomplish?  Look to PM to help…it makes sense.  But PM is nothing on its own, it’s the people (us) that make PM live.  People build relationships.  When we SEE things that relate, we have the potential to take action to foster or prohibit that relationship.  That’s what PM is all about.

When we take action to foster a relationship, we see a new reality, an undiscovered pathway toward something larger IF we build on that relationship.  If we see harm based on a relationship, we also have the potential to take action to prevent that relationship from growing into an equally, less desired situation.  Notice, I haven’t mentioned PM as an effort to manage tasks.  There’s a reason for that.  While the PMBOK is about the driest read you’ll find, the value in the information is what you do with it.  If you can SEE that PM is about building relationships and not tasks, each paragraph can have a profound impact on your work and life.

Why is this distinction, PM as a relationship effort and not a task management effort important?

  •  We too often get stuck on what to do first.
  •   We  ask “Where are we?” more than “How are we?”

Here’s a great podcast from Todd Henry with David Allen, author of “Getting Things Done.”  They discuss the reality of how difficult it is to identify and act on the first thing we need to do to accomplish a larger effort.  If you’ve ever felt stymied when taking on a new project, you’ve been there.  That feeling of being trapped behind the “What do I do first”? wall is terrifying.  The effort seems SO big that knowing where to start seems impossible.  What I’ve learned over the years when creating something out of nothing (a project) is NOT to focus on what I believe are the first tasks, rather, focus on the first relationships that come to mind.  Who cares about this project?  A human relationship.  What systems will be impacted by this project?  Technical and/or process relationship.  What finances will be changed to address this project?  A cash flow relationship.  I could go on.  The point is, I think about the relationships as a way of helping decide WHAT (a task) needs to happen first.  The tasks evolve easily from this effort. Some would say organically. If the tasks aren’t developing, you haven’t thought enough about the relationships.  Keep digging, the tasks will come.

Last evening I watched Jurassic World for the second time.  Actually, a scene in the movie inspired this post.  Claire is flying in the helicopter with Mr. Masrani and he turns and asks “How are we doing?”  Claire being the stalwart manager she is proceeds to answer “Our year-over-year profits are up, while our visitations remain stagnant.”  That wasn’t what Mr. Masrani was asking so he asked her again, “Yes yes, but HOW are we doing? Are the guest and the animals having fun?”  Claire stumbles but offers the satisfaction rates of the visitors and explains they don’t have a way to measure if the animals are having fun.  Claire, responsible for managing tasks, had become SO focused on the WHAT and the WHERE (status), that she was blind to the “how”, the impact, the feelings, the RELATIONSHIPS.  In the end, glossing over those relationships would be the park’s doom.  Hopefully, that level of project failure isn’t something we all experiences in our work.

What can we do?

  1.  Adopt the mental model that as a PM you are responsible for managing relationships.
  2. Recognize you will oversee tasks, but those tasks should be built around relationships.
  3. Trust that HUMAN relationships are key in all PM efforts.
  4. Use practices and a PM tool that fosters relationships over tasks management.  My tool of choice, monday.com
  5. Use practices and tools to create ideas based on relationships.  My tool of choice, Plectica.
  6. Develop the skills to explain HOW your project is progressing by using storytelling.  (Feel free to email me for information on services and online courses I’ve built with my professional development partner.)

Thanks for reading.  If you have questions or additional thoughts, I would love to hear from you.

*****

Mark is CEO and founder of THINK’ID8.  THINK’ID8 helps organizations build transformative systems to help grow programs and internal capacities.

 

 

Project Management: A New K-12 Core Subject

By Mark T. Burke

Project Based Learning (PBL), Graduation Projects, team, short and long-term projects, these are all common educational frameworks in our K-12 schools.  I call them frameworks because they are more than “assignment types.”  Yes, students are assigned projects.  But, those projects are not isolated activities.  They are connected (or should be) to previously acquired knowledge and skills as well as lead toward new knowledge and skills.  And, projects are often interdisciplinary.  Math is connected to science, science to social studies, social studies to art, and so on.  Projects by definition in our K-12 school systems are from my perspective:  “Opportunities for students to connect a variety of subject knowledge to build solutions to complex problems.” 

THINK’ID8 PM Tools for K-12

Looking at the most popular trend today, PBL, there are several definitions.

“Project-based learning is a dynamic classroom approach in which students actively explore real-world problems and challenges and acquire a deeper knowledge.”  Edutopica (https://www.edutopia.org/project-based-learning)

Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge.” BIE (https://www.bie.org/about/what_pbl)

The trend is certainly valid.  Exposing K-12 students with real-world problems to solve is a fantastic educational framework.  In fact, I believe all work students complete should serve as some type of a valuable output to something bigger (more specifically defined than simply getting a good grade or earning a diploma).  While we in education space have spent time developing what PBL (and projects overall) should include and provide, more thought is needed in regards to actually managing those projects.  Yes, we can guide students through the work for a project using a series of reflection and inquiry questions.  But, in order to work on a project OVER TIME, students need a structure to stay on track, communicate progress, share results, and determine project success.

Many may not know that Project Management (PM) is a field of study.  PM dependent industries exist across our economy.  These industries require highly skilled PMs (those who have earned degrees or are specifically PM certified).  I don’t want to trivialize the field of PM study but for K-12 students, there is no need for a complete PM certification program.  In fact, I believe use of a good PM tool can meet many of the PM needs for students.

I use DaPulse for all of my client-based work. The more time I spend in this tool, the more I recognize how valuable the tool would be in a K-12 environment.  The tool provides a simple to use interface for listing tasks (Work Breakdown Structure), documenting dates (Earliest Start Dates, Earliest Completion Date, and any other customized date), notes (Status, text based updates), people (Responsibility Roles), and more.  For each task, a complete communication channel can be created for the team including comments, updates, files and even social media style “reactions.”

Why are these features important?  Because they point to the valuable skills we should be spending time addressing as we support students on the PBL journey. If teachers simply added a tool such as DaPulse into the workflow of their PBL opportunities, and explained the core features, students would be exposed to topics including:

  • Planning:  Breaking down complex tasks into a set of actionable, measurable efforts.
  • Inputs:  Assimilating information valuable to the start and ongoing management of the project.
  • Time Estimation:  Determining the efforts to complete the tasks requires thinking about the effort and relating it to efforts the student is familiar with.  This requires extrapolation.
  • Status:  Updates require tracking and communication.
  • Reporting:  Developing stories and showcasing data.
  • Outputs:  Showcasing real products.

If these topics are not directly addressed, PBL and projects overall, exist as assignments to be completed and checked off like compliance issues.  If a PM tool is used in the classroom, students have a hands-on method of teaching themselves about the value of planning and ultimately results.

Another reason to support growth in PM skills is the direct relationship to possible careers.  PM skills are in growing demand.  For more information on this topic, please review this report from PMI (The Project Management Institute, the world’s leading PM Organization).

How have you taught PM skills or used a PM tool to benefit your students?

Who’s On Your Thinking Team and How Do You Think?

Being a leader can be lonely.  Whether you’re a “C” level administrator, Division Leader, General Manager or a Solo-preneur, you’re expected to be a thinker.  Your day-to-day work places you in situations where solutions aren’t “in the manual.”  No, you must generate ideas and solve complex issues from original thought.  How do you do that?  If you’ve been struggling to describe how you think and you can’t seem to find a method that works, you are NOT alone.  In fact, being alone is a problem you need to fix, TODAY!

If you’re ready to learn more about thinking, register for the THINK’ID8 CO.LAB Design Thinking Training @ The Central PA Chamber of Commerce.  (Learn More)

If you’re feeling alone in your thinking, it’s time to gather your team and get thinking.  If you oversee staff, pull your team together from within your organization.  If you’re a Solo-preneur, seek out your trusted friends and advisors.  BUT, before you step into that thinking session, you need a plan.  Your team is counting on you for several things:

  1. They need you to have a clear understanding of the problem you are asking them to help you solve.
  2. They need to know you are not going to waste their time.
  3. They need to know HOW you plan to organize the group’s input.
  4. They need to feel secure sharing ideas.
  5. They need to know you will leave the session with an action plan and that the ideas will not disappear.
  6. They need to feel engaged in the entire process.

If you’ve read this far, you most likely don’t have an answer to the question, “How do you think?” and could use some help prepping for your next team think session.

The THINK’ID8 CO.LAB is designed to teach you the essentials of thinking and provide a structure for think sessions known as Design Thinking.  You may have heard about Design Thinking.  The process has been around for over 30+ years and has helped many great organizations achieve their goals.   After completing this full-day training, you’ll feel more confident in your abilities to lead a team in the efforts to solve your complex organizational problems and build solutions to new opportunities.

Click over to the THINK’ID8 CO.LAB page to register.  The full day session is $100.00 per person.  There are currently two dates to pick from.  Thanks in advance for registering.  I look forward to working with you.

Mark T. Burke
Founder of THINK’ID8