Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lights On Moments

Most of this blog has been about my travels around India since I've been here. I haven't gone into too much detail about work things. That's mainly because I think generally hearing about my work isn't as exciting as my trip to a Tiger Reserve, or being rushed into hospital. I could be wrong, but consultancy generally isn't too glamourous ;-)

I'm going to break with tradition a bit though. This weekend we had a bit of a "state of the union" meeting. I'd been pushing for it for weeks. I wanted to get it held before Suzie arrived, otherwise it wouldn't happen until May. I'm not going to go into details on the organisation, suffice to say, anyone who's tried to organise an event in India has faced all the challenges I did....

The first half of the day was pretty standard. We are making a few organisational changes and wanted to explain those and allow people time to ask questions. So far, so normal.

After lunch though, I ran a bit of an ad-hoc session. I'd done a bit of planning, but had no slides, no materials, just the thoughts in my head. I wanted to talk about reporting.

A bit of background. We're currently trying to produce our annual report. It's supposed to detail our achievements over the past year. I've received some first drafts from various projects. All I can tell you is that we've organised a lot of meetings. I have no idea if we've achieved anything from them, but we've definitely had them. I can tell you the dates, the attendees, what people had for lunch, who farted at 11.27am*. Unfortunately I have no idea from these reports about whether anything was achieved in these meetings, or on the project in general.

I started my session by explaining I wanted to talk about reporting, specifically about the difference between activities and achievements. Blank faces. Lots of them. Not an auspicious start. Different tactic required....

Ok, example time. I asked them to imagine I was a teacher. I was actually in India to teach French. They had to imagine they were paying money to send their children to me, for a year, to learn French. At the end of the year they would want some evidence of their child learning French - instead I provide them with the attendance register to show that their children had attended one lesson a week for the year. Result? Not happy parents - they don't know if their child has learnt any French.

There is a flicker of recognition passing across some eyes now. I plough onwards....

"Ok, what if I give them an exam at the end of the course?" I ask. Imagine your child scores 70%. Would you be happy now? Lots of nods - yes, that would be good.! "Ok, but what if I told you after 2 weeks your child had scored 65% on the same test". Now that 70% isn't looking so good.

We're beginning to get somewhere. People are realising that doing work does not equal achieving the goal. Next we worked through a more relevant example, more closely linked to their day-to-day work. Result? Even more lights popping on. People are beginning to understand the general principle, this is good.

The final step? Apply what you've learnt. I asked them all to think of one objective on their projects and then think of an indicator for that objective. Fairly concerning was the inability of some people to identify an objective for their project (given that this group was the project managers), but that's another subject. After some mis-steps with some indicators the group started to get the hang of it. They were correcting each other. Adding ideas. Enjoying the experience!

I sat down yesterday (yes, Sunday - some of us work hard over here!) with one of the PMs and we went through his report, section by section. There's lots of evidence of work done. Little evidence of work achieved. As we went through it he moved from seeming confused each time to grasping the concept quickly.

These are the moments that make this all worthwhile. Watching people learning, growing, developing. Sometimes it feels like there's a long gap between these moments, but when they come along, they really are special...

*some artistic license taken here.

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