EDU627: Executing, Monitoring and Controlling the Project

This is the fourth and final blog post for edu627 Managing Instruction & Technology. In the first part we examined how instructional design and project management overlap as well as essential elements of project management and how it relates to technology.  The second post emphasized the initiation of the project and designing the document as it pertains to PM and ID.  The third blog post focused on some of the key components to consider when planning a project as well as how healthy communication could enhance the overall experience of planning and participating in any project.  Today’s post will focus on key components of project execution as well as managing change and ensuring quality.

In unit 6, I became familiar with the process of executing a project while applying these concepts to my own actual project. I’d like to share the background of this project and provide areas of concern for my project.

My Current Project:

Currently, the district I work in, Lyme-Old Lyme, is attempting to address the following question as it relates to the ISTE technology standards for student achievement: What type of digital learning environment does LOL want to offer its students?  With a multitude of questions revolving around types of devices, accessibility, learning management systems (LMS), professional development and overall technical support, this district is at a critical juncture to implement a new instructional design plan for how technology will be used with its students and teachers. An attempt to thoroughly address this question will serve as the purpose of this paper as the project manager will be collaborating with the director of technology as well as the director of curriculum to ensure project completion.  A strategic planning committee has been created to allow for ample discussion and testing of applicable technologies in response to the leading question of this project. The end goal is to develop a course of action that can be implemented at the start of the 2014-2015 academic year.

Executing the plan requires but is not limited to the following:

  1. Defining what the project is
  2. Determining what kinds of people you will need
  3. Creating team and select members
  4. Developing and managing relationships pertaining to this project
  5. Informing stakeholders and/or distributing information (pull vs push, email or face to face) (Unit 6)
  6. Organizing: services, technology (software/hardware), vendors, contracts
  7. Investigating of multiple products (due diligence)
  8. Developing a way to measure how well the project is going according to plan (i.e. scope and budget) (Cox, 2012)
  9. Assessing potential threats or risks to the project’s completion

Image

(picture from http://www.creativecommons.org)

Two areas of my project that are the least developed and concern me are communication of the project and risk assessment.  The communication that is occurring to all of our stakeholders and committee members is actually quite however there are many individuals absent for important meetings.  They do receive email with summaries and documents but it’s clearly not the same as if they were present so I feel that we are missing some valuable input that might help steer us one way or another.  My other concern is that the work of our committee is not being shared with the rest of the district and this causes unintended alienation.  How can we ensure that participants are fully informed and that other non-participants still are abreast of the important conversation that is going on within this committee? 

I think one possible solution is to encourage administrators to report back to their respective schools and inform all teachers and staff of any developments and also ask for any input even though they might not be directly involved in this project even though the results will surely affect all of them in the future.  I believe the more ownership there is for the project, the more difficult it will be for governing bodies like the Board of Education, to say no.  A second area of concern for me is assessing risk and the roadblocks that can occur along the way.  Right now, our Superintendent and several Board of Education members are actively participating in these strategic planning meetings and I feel their support.  However, with budgets being determined, hiring freezes and personnel issues occurring, their stance could easily change to meet other agendas-or worse their own.

In unit 7, we focused on change management and project quality.  Managing change in any organization can be a challenge. Humans are typically used to routine and desire security and predictability. With a tremendous influx of new types of technology in the workforce as well as in the educational world, this can be threatening to individuals that don’t have the confidence in themselves or in their leadership. Others may interpret change as a lack of pay off or ‘nothing in it for them’ in return. The rate of change is almost too quick to control coupled with economic conditions that change continually and affect how people interpret and perceive new ideas and strategies.  Managing that change, according to Kotter, is possible by creating a strong group of participants and owners of a project. Creating a sense of urgency as well as a strong vision and plan to implement something new can also help foster change. Finally, identifying and removing as many obstacles as possible as well as creating short-term attainable goals for participants to succeed in can help.

Quality management is comprised of product quality and process quality. Quality control and quality assurance focus on removing any part of the product or process that does not work and maintaining what does work. Creating measurable outcomes that are clear and identifiable can often enhance the final product. This can be done by testing out the product in small groups or individually for releasing to a larger audience. One quality model focuses on PDCA: plan, do, check, act.  This can be repeated multiple times to ensure overall quality is satisfactory.

Image

(picture from http://www.creativecommons.org)

With any project, there must be ownership from the people or participants. The more people that have a stake in what’s going on or can experience the benefits from a learning opportunity, the more likely they are to engage in that activity or project and share with others. It’s imperative then that the administration or individuals in power create an environment and culture that is inviting to this new opportunity and are expressive of benefits to students, learners or customers. Specifically in the educational world, there are many teachers that are resistant or reluctant to learning new technologies usually because they do not have a technological background and they are not digital natives. Learning does not come easy for some of these teachers and they are fearful because they think they need to master the technology in order to allow their students to use it. Convincing teachers that they do not have to be the ‘masters’ of a particular piece of technology and that their students can in many cases ‘figure it out’ on their own without being formally trained, can be a difficult task.

Reflection

Probably the most important components I’ve learned about these past two weeks have revolved around understanding how proper communication serves as the backbone of any well-executed plan or project and to plan for change with a backup or contingency plan.  The more people that feel involved in the process and are comfortable with having their opinion heard, the more ownership they will take in helping to implement change. Right now we are halfway through our strategic planning committee process and we are at the point where we will begin to investigate new and different types of technology that we may want to include as part of our vision plan for the next 2 to 3 years. This will require several participants to investigate new products and ideas and report back to the larger committee for review. This process only works if participants feel valued and part of the process. And along the way through this exploration, it will be important for us to acknowledge the hard work and efforts that all participants are giving for the betterment of our students and teachers throughout the district.

References

Cox, D. (2009). Project management skills: A practical guide. New York: iUniverse.

Unit 6 Lecture, Post University, 2014.

Unit 7 Lecture, Post University, 2014.

Additional Resources to consider:

Quality Planning Checklist: https://wiki.cac.washington.edu/display/pmportal/Quality+Planning+Checklist

Integrating Change Management:

http://www.change-management.com/tutorial-integrating-cm-pm.htm

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