Lee Mack’s phrase during the BBC Radio programme Museum of Curiosity signals the moment when that week’s panel are invited to pitch their contributions to be considered for admission to the museum collection.
In a similar way as the museum being ‘open and closed’ there are clearly times when project managers are ‘open to share’ or ‘open to learn’ (and when they are not) and the rhythm and routines that you establish to your knowledge sharing activity needs to be attuned to this timetable, if you are going to make an impact.
Let’s take a moment to unpack this idea of a ‘time for learning’ from a number of perspectives:
Those sharing and those receiving knowledge don’t necessarily work to a coinciding cycle.
The obvious time to capture and share immediate learning is shortly after an experience or following the end of an activity, when the events are freshest in the mind of the project team and they are most motivated to share. So you need to build lessons learned reviews into the requirements for your project management but also to allow time for them when the learning happens. Whilst you can predict some of the key points for this; on the completion of activities, work-packages or at the end of stage-gates, you also need to allow for adhoc ‘after action reviews’ to capture learning from unexpected events.
For the learners, on the other hand, before or at the start of a project is a great time to learn. Build in a requirement for a project manager to go and do their research before they start on a new project to give themselves some context for the challenges they are likely to face and the skills they will most likely need (consulting resources in the Major Projects Knowledge Hub would be a sensible part of that activity).
You can introduce simple structures to help encourage these processes become a routine. For example: 1. Provide a formal opportunity for dialogue between project managers who have just completed a project and those just about to start; 2. Invite new project managers to make three (or more) phone calls before they start – to colleagues who have recently completed other similar projects.
Of course this doesn’t preclude lunch and learn or similar sessions. We can still share and learn things outside of the optimal sharing and learning cycles.
Good routines are habit forming.
Creating a routine for some of your knowledge sharing activities has a number of benefits. Within the Major Projects Knowledge Hub, we have weekly and monthly routines. Thus our ‘Book of the Week’ posts appear every Wednesday so people know when to expect them and if they wish, they can make time to read them. Our Major Projects Knowledge Hub Masterclass interviews are monthly. When I am organised, this allows me to use the spaces in between the months to create and build expectations; trailing the next month’s interviewer and encouraging Hub users to allow time to listen to him or her and, even perhaps to have done a little mental reflection on the subject of the interview, before they listen.
In a world in which we are all rushing around, a regular routine for knowledge sharing offers much needed structure.
Little and often.
You can put both these two previous points together by serialising activities. I ask Major Projects Knowledge Hub Guest Bloggers to work with us over an arc of four or five blog posts for the period of a month. As with the masterclass interviews, it allows me to build expectation before a blogger actually starts his or her work. It also means that we can offer several perspectives on the same theme or develop an argument through the course of the month rather than being limited to a single short blog piece.
The digital scrapbooks, for which we tend to publish a new page once every two months during the 12 months or so or the scrapbook’s life, also allow for creating a sense of anticipation and expectation; as well as dividing the messages up into manageable chunks with a view to avoid overwhelming the learner with too much content. There’s one other time aspect to the scrapbooks. Because they run over 12 (or more) months, they allow us to capture emerging ideas; something that wasn’t apparent when we started the scrapbook but has come into evidence since.
Serendipity and random time.
One of the biggest challenges to learning is that individuals are often unaware of what they know, what they don’t know and what they need. So whilst there is a danger that anyone can lose themselves for hours browsing Pinterest or liking Tweets, there is also real value in the random nature of posts that we can share using the Hub and our social media platforms. An image, an idea, a technique or even a person can grab an individual’s interest and encourage them to reflect and, we hope, learn something about themselves and the work they do.
When I need to learn.
All of us are most open to learning something new when we are aware we have a need to learn. Courses or conferences act as a magnet for individuals who recognise this need in themselves. Timing Knowledge Campaigns to coincide with specific external events allows us to curate material for people at a time when they are open to learning. Within the Major Projects Knowledge Hub, we do that by taking selected Major Projects Association seminars, curating a collection of material from within the Hub and from the wider internet, that plays to the theme of the seminar and then sharing it with the delegates as well as the wider community.
February is Earned Value Month!
Whilst I am not sure we will ever announce ‘earned value February’, we do plan to use the calendar as another way of both framing knowledge and engaging with users and partners. The plan is (and I say this because we are only in discussions with Major Projects Association member organizations and we haven’t signed up a partner yet) to work with one or more members as Guest Editors.
Designating a theme for a given month will involve us directing and focusing all of our activities within the Hub (knowledge curation, video interviewing, blogging, social media and communication and even events) to the service of that theme, which will be chosen by our partner organization who will, in turn, use the theme to mobilize their communications theme, their PMO and their project teams to generate content for the Hub to support the theme. Whilst the organization may lack the maturity to sustain a culture of constant, engaged, knowledge sharing and may struggle to devote the resources, the focus on a single month and a single theme allows them to make a statement and start the ball rolling.
Time that is something that is precious to individuals and to organizations and something that is inherently tied up with meaning, memory and learning. This means that “when, how long, to what routine” is a fundamental part of communication and knowledge sharing.
In the next weekly blog, we’ll explore the importance of people as brokers of knowledge; intermediaries who can help others learn and how we endeavour to use brokers in the Major Projects Knowledge Hub.