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May 06, 2016

Projects As Platforms For Learning And Change

May 06, 2016

Tell me if this sounds like your company.

You have a list of projects that need to get done, but can't seem to gain momentum. You have talented people that feel frustrated by organizational silos and bureaucracy. On top of this you are stretched for money and time.

How can you make all these investments in things like finishing internal projects and improving collaboration while also keeping up with the general chaos of business?

Here's my a-ha moment: why not bundle your efforts by designing projects as learning experiences? Essentially, you're getting 2 for 1. As an example, let’s take a typical organizational project: a website.

A new website is mostly seen by companies as a box to be checked. A bullet item in a strategic plan that falls into the tool bucket. Why not bundle it? What else do you have in that strategic plan? Do you have cultural changes you want to see happen? Are you looking to improve teamwork and collaboration? This work is often placed in the human resources (HR) bucket. And they do their best to create programming to support these objectives. Bringing in speakers, sending people to conferences, paying for continuing education. All great activities but why not bundle the cultural change you need with the project you need to check off your list?

Almost any project can be designed as a learning experience, as long as you do it intentionally. Let’s go back to that website. Instead of hiring an agency to just build your website, ask that they also teach their creative process along the way. Think of it as a “class" project, if you will.

A website project almost always begins with discovery – seeking to understand and empathize with the people that will be using the website, internally and externally. Would your company benefit from becoming more empathetic and understanding? Great! Let’s build that experience into the project. Your employees can be taught by the creative agency to facilitate and interview, learning to see through another person’s perspective.

When it comes time to design the way the website will work most agencies will do wireframes (basic sketches of page layouts) to show features and content. Would it benefit your company to have your people trained in presenting ideas and receiving critical feedback? Ok! Let's make that part of the wireframing experience.

All of the skills they are developing through the project experience – empathizing, facilitating, presenting, receiving feedback – will also improve how the company collaborates, addressing the cultural change you want to see happen.

When this happens we’ve seen a domino effect happen, the project team begins to change the way others work. They bring the methods and thinking back to their work, and it spreads to other areas of the organization. As long as this change is supported by leadership it tends to stick.

Projects are the perfect platforms for learning and change. But most companies fail to capitalize on this opportunity. They push projects through, neglecting the potential they hold to change the way the company works. Here’s my advice: don’t let a good project go to waste. If you need help turning projects into learning opportunities, let us know, we want to help.

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