The Future of Work is Project Work


The future of work, at least for me, is project work. At least it seems that way at the moment.

So… welcome to the new work order.

But project management is really one of my blindspots.

Working in education, I have a background in training, not project management, or any kind of management really.

I’m Ok with deep domain knowledge in my obscure field, but I’ve always felt out of my depth when it comes to project management.

It’s weird because in education we are constantly surrounded by the language of project management but my impression is that no one really knows what this language means.

As part of my DIY non-MBA, MBA, I’m trying to get some new ideas but also address my blindspots.

I’m slowly working through a list of things that interest me or that I think are going to help me:

Shoe school is a little left-field, I admit but that’s gonna have to wait for another time.

Most recently, I took the two-day Project Management course.

Afterwards, I caught up with the super wonderful, Wen Goble – Programmes Advisor at the Business School’s Education Education division.

She asked me a couple of questions which we recorded for the video above. Notes and other takeaways will follow soon.

 

 

How to Build a Do-It-Yourself non-MBA, MBA


Certificate of who's got time_

Who’s got time to do an MBA. Not me… that’s for sure.

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of great people out there with great skills. Some of these people even have MBAs.

I can see the need to reskill and upskill. Especially in this weird economy. However, I haven’t got time for another qualification. And I don’t want a divorce.

Google it. MBA often correlates with divorce. It’s a real thing.

What I really need though is some new ideas. And some new tools that allow me to move forward in uncertain times.

And not everyone cares as much about degrees and qualifications as they used to. 

I decided all of this at Christmas time this year. Christmas is always a great time for introspection.

And by introspection I mean the general disillusionment and existential distress that follows too much eating, drinking and time with relatives.

But what I realised is that the best way forward for me was to look at building myself my own MBA.

And not really an MBA at all. A kind of DIY non-MBA, MBA. So I put a very fuzzy plan in place earlier this year.

What I needed, I decided, was some new inputs… a combination of things that made sense to me.

I’m sure research would suggest that eclectic approaches lead to incoherence. However, while this might be true for groups, eclecticism works on an individual level.

In other words, my choices for my DIY non-MBA, MBA don’t need to make sense to anyone except me. And I can choose them intuitively if I want to or let one thing lead to another.

So that’s what I’m doing.

Everything around me seems to be changing anyway. And rapidly. If I know one thing is true, it’s that I need to adapt to this pace of change and change too.

I also know that the toolset that I’ve been using for the last 10 years is no longer enough. At least that’s my perception.

I mean… I’m sure that I can get by on my existing toolset. But I’m no longer sure that I want to. I’m looking forward to the change and disruption that lies ahead.

Well, kinda.

What I’ve seen though, when I gaze into my crystal ball, is a mixture of opportunities and problems that I want to understand better. But I feel like I don’t have the tools to analyse them or manage them.

So here’s what I did. I had a look at what I’m interested in personally and professionally. And then I booked myself into a series of short courses over the last six months.

Three were with the Executive Education programme at the University of Auckland’s Business School. I already had a relationship with Auckland because I’ve studied and worked there.

The three courses I’ve undertaken so far have been excellent and I’ve blogged about two of them.

One I wrote about extensively. This was Service Design Thinking.

Then a few months later I picked another one. This time it was about Critical Thinking.

The one I haven’t blogged about yet was Project Management which I’ve just completed. I’ve got a lot to say about this in future posts.

One nice thing about these two-day workshops is that they keep the disruption of my life to a minimum. Each of these has been a two-day intensive in Auckland.

This timeframe is about right for me. I love Auckland, but too long and the traffic gets to me.

I’m going to write more about this soon, but the short version, for now, is that I got a lot out of the Project Management course.

It was just an introduction. And I don’t have any real desire to become a project manager.

However, I think the future of work – for myself, anyway – is projects. I know this is true for me for the last 12 months. And it certainly looks that way for the immediate future.

And managing projects is really hard.

I struggle to manage my own time and projects, let alone projects involving others. But I feel that I’ve got a basic toolset now to make sense of my own and others’ projects.

So… watch this space for more on projects and project management.

And if you’re good at maths, you’ll realise that I’ve only accounted for three of the four short courses so far in my DIY non-MBA, MBA.

The other one feels a bit weird to write about here.  But in the interests of full disclosure, I did a weekend course on sandal making at Shoe School in Wellington.

Before you judge me, there is a connection to all the other stuff I’m interested in. But I’ll have to leave that to another day.

In the mean time, check out the sandal workshop gallery here. If you see some black ostrich leather men’s scuffs. They’re mine. I designed them, cut them out by hand, then stitched and glued them together.

So much fun.

Critical Thinking in the Age of Disruption: Executive Education at the University of Auckland


IMG_2511

One of my goals this year has been to try and put together a kind of DIY MBA for myself.

Not really a proper MBA, mind you… who’s got time for that? I like my marriage.

What I mean is more of a collection of training and inputs from sources outside of what I would normally have access to on my own. Things to help me think differently.

My first step was to take a course in Service Design Thinking through the Exec Education programme at Auckland Uni.

The university has changed a lot over the nearly 20 years since I studied and worked there, but it still feels very familiar to me.

I like it there and I really enjoyed engaging with the Service Design content. I had done a little bit of reading beforehand, but much of it was new to me.

Professionally, those two days have laid the groundwork for a methodology that I can implement over the next couple of big projects I’m hoping to be involved with.

Because the first course was such a buzz, I enrolled in a second one in March. This time the focus was Critical Thinking.

My relationship to critical thinking is different to service design, however. Service design was a new subject area for me personally.

Critical thinking though is something that I’ve been reading about and working on for a long time. At least since my studies at Auckland as an undergraduate.

One of the things that really resonated with me with regards to this course was what provoked it. This was two things according to the course facilitator:

  1. The requirement for you (i.e. me) to change.
  2. To enable you (i.e me) to influence, lead and coach others.

This pretty much sums up where I’m at right now.

I’m aware of the need to foster a kind of radical open-mindedness about what I need to be working on. This applies personally and professionally.

As Bob Dylan almost said: “The times they are a-changin’ and in fact accelerating more rapidly everyday…”

For me, this means I need critical thinking skills more than ever. So the course seemed a good opportunity to brush up on things I thought I knew but also expose myself to some new thinking about thinking.

If I have a criticism, it’s that the course spent a lot of time defining critical thinking. So I’m not going go over that ground here apart from to say there are some really great definitions out there and lots of frameworks that people can tap into.

What I want to get to is some of the key takeaways for me that made the two days really worthwhile.

Here’s one: The connection of critical thinking to the age of disruption in which we live right now. Here’s an illustration:

The largest taxi company has no taxis – UBER.

The largest accommodation company has no real estate – AIRBNB.

The largest telephone company has no infrastructure – SKYPE.

The largest retailer has no inventory – ALIBABA.

The largest movie theatre has no movie theatres – NETFLIX

Eric Schmidt – Executive Chairman

Alphabet Inc

2018

 

If you don’t recognise where the reference is from, Alphabet Inc is the company that owns Google.

Here’s another below. This relates to the need for all of us to become better critical thinkers:

As we enter what has been termed the 4th industrial revolution (a period of rapid and fundamental change brough about by the convergence to the internet and technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics) there are a few skills that are becoming more valuable over time.

The 10 Skills You Need to Thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Future of Jobs Report

World Economic Forum 2016

I looked up this report… Here are there conclusions in summary form, by 2020:

  • Over one third (35%) of skills that are considered important in today’s workforce will have changed.
  • Advanced robotics, autonomous transport, artificial intelligence, machine learning, advanced materials, biotech and genomics will transform the way we live and work.
  • Some jobs will disappear altogether, others will grow and there will be jobs that don’t exist today that will be commonplace.

Based on their compared the top 10 skills needed by global employers in 2015 when the survey was done, to their predictions. Here’s what you get:

In 2015

In 2020

1. Complex problem solving 1. Complex problem solving (no change)
2. Coordinating with others 2. Critical thinking (+2)
3. People management 3. Creativity (+7)
4. Critical thinking 4. People management (-1)
5. Negotiation 5. Coordinating with others (-3)
6. Quality control 6. Emotional intelligence (new)
7. Service orientation 7. Judgement and decision making (+1)
8. Judgement and decision making 8. Service orientation (-1)
9. Active listening 9. Negotiation (-4)
10. Creativity 10. Cognitive flexibility (new)

Keep in mind these are just predictions, but it’s interesting for lots of reasons. One is that the need for critical thinking isn’t going away. It’s just going to increase.

Another thing is that this need for critical thinkers is going to be coupled with a need for the same people to be highly creative and good a solving complex problems.

Things that disappeared off the list for 2020 include quality control, judgement and decision making and active listening.

I don’t think that these are going away anywhere. But some of this will simply be automated and overshadowed by the need for a different skillset.

Also, new to the 2020 list is emotional intelligence and cognitive flexibility.

Food for thought: I’m writing this right now in 2018. This means we’re somewhere in the middle of these two lists.

  • How well prepared are you? Not for the next 20 years, but for the next two years?

If you want to brush up on your critical thinking skills there are plenty of great books and online materials.

However, if you’re after something more “hands on” that can set things in motion for you, you’ll find it hard to go past the Critical Thinking in the Age of Disruption short course at the University of Auckland.

 

Education is a wicked problem (AKA What’s broken in education and how do we fix it?)



This is a soapbox rant

Click away now while you can. You have been warned…

Houston we have a problem

From primary school to higher education something ain’t right… Like Neo, you know there’s something wrong. Even if it’s hard to pin down.

Actually, there’s no shortage of description.

Just google “education broken” for a quick look. Nearly everyone has something to say about what’s wrong.

And there’s no shortage of prescriptions for fixing the problems either. But these tend to be complicated, contradictory and emotionally charged.

Learner problems

What I see in my own work is that we have learners of all kinds in all educational settings struggling with things like reading comprehension or understanding what’s required in assessments.

Most learners can read, but many lack the literacy skills needed to succeed in their studies, let alone in the real world of 21st work and community life.

That’s aside from the fact that many of the assessment tasks seem trivial or meaningless.

And then there are numeracy issues.

This is not just the inability to deal with fractions, decimals and percentages.

We’re all crap at those…

But basic maths as well. And an inability to apply maths outside the classroom.

In fact, I have an unsubstantiated nagging worry that a lot of classroom-based maths and numeracy training doesn’t actually transfer at all to the real world.

And what about all the factors that we associate with poor literacy, numeracy and low employability?

Learners with drug, alcohol and behaviour problems… Enduring cycles of family poverty… Poor housing and other societal factors. Second and third language issues… Learning-related anxieties… The impact of repeated academic failure…

And that’s just the tutors.

Damn it! I mean the learners. It’s the learners.

Tutor problems

Teachers, tutors and trainers face their own problems too.

This includes overload and overwhelm, not to mention problems with the content that they have to teach while somehow trying to address their learners’ issues at the same time.

Add in layers of bureaucracy, compliance and professional development and you start to see why tutors are so stressed.

Why wouldn’t you go back to an industry-based job after a few years?

Or sell real estate instead.

I don’t really want to get bogged down in the specifics of description or even prescription.

Well… maybe I do a little.

But what’s interesting for me is how complex this has become.

And we haven’t even got to the organisational problems yet.

Wicked problems

What we are facing in education is what’s known as a “wicked problem”. This is a technical term.

A wicked problem is one that:

  • Is essentially novel and unique.
  • Is not understood until after the formulation of a solution.
  • Has no given alternative solutions.

We don’t know how to deal with the exponentially increasing and unceasing acceleration and increase of technology and knowledge.

We don’t know how to deal with the impact of this in our own lives.

We certainly have no idea how to deal with the impact of this on education in the 21st century.

Characterising education as a wicked problem which is hard to understand until after the formulation of a solution helps me understand the phenomenon that people can only tell you what they don’t want as a solution.

For example: “No…! Don’t fix it like that”.

I call these negative solutions.

This is when one or more possible solutions to a problem are eliminated, but can’t actually be eliminated until they are fully developed and also weren’t initially obvious at the start of the exercise.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. But it is time-consuming and frustrating.

No Stopping Rule

Another characteristic of a wicked problem is the following:

  • It has no stopping rule.

A stopping rule is a rule that tells you when to stop doing something. For example, if you’re gambling at a casino, a stopping rule would be something like “I’ll stop when I run out of money” or “when I’ve played five games of roulette”.

Not only do we not know what to do next in education, but I’m not sure that we know what the conditions would look like that would tell us that we fixed it.

Or even fixed some part of it.

There is no Omega point.

And given that we’re on some kind of exponential curve of accelerating change including technological growth that now permeates every aspect of life and work we may never know what it looks like to “fix” education or when we’ve “got it right”.

At least not in the ways that we think we could at the moment.

One shot…!

What’s more, any solution to a wicked problem is a kind of ‘one-shot operation.’ This is compounded by the fact that solutions to wicked problems are not right or wrong.

You can see this in history partially thought out, half-solutions that get proposed, funded, rolled out with enthusiasm and then thrown out, scaled back, defunded or otherwise scrapped.

It’s not anyone’s fault. It’s just the nature of the problem.

Actually, it might be someone’s fault. But let’s not get on that train.

It’s a mess

This kind of problem is also known as a mess. Yes, that’s also a technical term.

This is when every problem interacts with every other problem. It’s a set of interrelated problems.

A system of problems.

(I wish I’d thought of that turn of phrase myself, but I lifted it from a Wikipedia entry).

If you want to look at the problem, you can’t really separate out the variables without losing the bigger picture.

In the past, when I’ve done professional development work with tutors I’ve referred to the problem of low adult literacy and numeracy as an ecological problem.

I didn’t use those words exactly. I called it a kind of swampy mess.

A swampy mess is something that ecologists understand but educationalists often don’t.

For example, in a swamp, you have to study the frogs, the mud, the old rubber tires, the decaying vegetation, blood-sucking mosquitoes, rotten tree trunks, slime and muck and all of it as a system.

When we’re looking at low literacy and numeracy our conversation might need to include poverty, colonisation, technology, poor schooling, anxiety, and fill-in-the-blank with a lot of other things.

In this kind of swampy mess, everything is complex.

Here are some things you’re likely to find when you’re dealing with a mess like this. See how many you can recognise from your own experience in education:

  • There is really no unique “correct” view of the problem;
  • People and organisations have different views of the problem and often pose contradictory solutions;
  • Most problems are connected to other problems;
  • Data are often uncertain or missing;
  • There are multiple value conflicts;
  • There are all kinds of constraints including ideological, cultural, political and economic;
  • There is often a-logical or illogical or multi-valued thinking (i.e. many possible truths are possible rather than a black and white view of the problem);
  • There are many possible intervention points;
  • Consequences are difficult to imagine;
  • There are considerable uncertainty and ambiguity;
  • There is great resistance to change; and,
  • Problem solvers might be out of contact with the problems and potential solutions.

Not finished yet…

The wicked problem and swampy mess are further compounded by another set of problems which I don’t have time to get into right now but I’d love to at some stage:

  • Groupthink.
  • Analysis paralysis.
  • Activity inertia.
  • Non-agile thinking and solutions.
  • Inability to “ship” any kind of solution.
  • Dysfunctional teams.

I realise that I haven’t said how to fix education. And I realise this was promised in the title.

Whatever the answer, I don’t think it’s another prescription.

Perhaps, more of an approach.

How do I enrol in TEACH BETTER NOW…? How do I enrol in the NZCALNE (Voc)…?


If you are teaching foundation education at any level, you need to be qualified and on a continuing professional development journey.

You need to start this journey through the Teach Better Now programme available on Pathways Awarua.

At the heart of this is the new New Zealand Certificate in Adult Literacy and Numeracy Education (Vocational/Workplace) – the NZCALNE (Voc).

There is a cost for assessment and gaining the credential. But it’s free to register on the website and you’ll have access to all of the course content.

Here’s what you need to do to kickstart your foundation learning professional development journey for this year:

 

  1. Register on Pathways Awarua if you haven’t already.
  2. Join our virtual classroom.
  3. Enrol in the qualification.
  4. Get started on the coursework and first assessment.

FIRST: Register on Pathways Awarua

1. You need to register on http://www.pathwaysawarua.com as a tertiary educator. If you are already registered, then go to step 5 below and join our virtual classroom.

2. Enter your details in the form including a username and password.

3. If you start typing the name of your organisation or employer it should appear in the box. Then add a name for your class, accept the terms and conditions and click Register. If you are an independent contractor please use the code 8888.

4. Once registered you should see a screen like this below. Ignore the code on the right. This is for you to use with your own learners later. Right now you just need to click the link on the left for the new NZCALNE (Voc).

SECOND: Move yourself into our virtual classroom

5. Now you should see the main NZCALNE screen below. Next, you need to join our virtual class. Click the head icon to go to your account settings. If you’ve already done this you can go to step 8 and enrol.

6. Enter the join code 1622DD to join our virtual class. Then tick the box to move to this class.

7. Save your settings and return to the main NZCALNE pathway.

Third: Enrol in the NZCALNE (Voc)

8. Now you can enrol in the programme. Make sure that the enrolment module is selected. Then click start. If you’ve already enrolled and you’ve also moved into our virtual classroom, you can go to the last step.

9. Read through the enrolment information.

10. Fill in the enrolment form with as many details as you can. Then save and move to the next screen.

11. If you can’t fill in everything, you’ll see a screen like this below. But you’ll still be able to move forward. Just click the arrow on the right. Or click Retry to add more info.

12. From here, you need to show that you understand some of the conditions of enrolment. And you need to let us know if you have access to learners of your own and whether you’ve done other study at level 4 or above.

13. Nearly done… Add your employer and supervisor’s details.

14. Complete the self-assessment. There are two pages.

15. If you are an experienced TESOL teacher please add details here. Likewise, if you are a very experienced trades or vocational trainer with existing evidence and you want us to consider this please add details here.

16. Add your timeframe

17. Review the summary of your enrolment and save

18. Drag the box ALEC1 Admin to submit for comment

19. You’re done…! Click the link for the new NZCALNE (Voc) to return to the main course pathway.

FOURTH: Get started on the course

20. Get started…!

Teach better now – Where’s the new content for Assessment 7 of the NZCALNE (Voc)?


Kia ora and welcome to Collection 7

If you’re reading this then you are up to Assessment 7 in the new and improved NZCALNE (Voc).

That means you are up to the final assessment task in the programme…! This next part is about assessing learner progress, reviewing your teaching and working out the next steps.

As always, you can find this content on Graeme’s blog first. It will be live on Pathways Awarua shortly.

If you do stop by Graeme’s Blog, please comment. Let us know what’s useful and what’s not. Our model is a dynamic one and we’re always tinkering with programme content and assessment tasks where we can. You can help us continue to improve the experience.

There are four sections in Collection 7:

  • 7.1 Just do it: Progress assessment
  • 7.2 What does it mean?
  • 7.3 Collecting some final information
  • 7.4 Reviewing your teaching and next steps

If you find that you already know what you’re doing for a particular part of this collection, then feel free to skip ahead to the next relevant section.

Or start with the assessment template and dip into this material as you need to. Email us if you don’t already have the template and checklist.

Otherwise, work your way through as usual. Here are the links you need to different parts of this collection.

Follow the links below

Here’s the overview for the final collection.

7.1 Just do it: Progress assessment

7.2 What does it mean?

7.3 Collecting some final information

7.4 Reviewing your teaching and next steps

If you’re stuck, please get in touch with us by email here: assess@alec.ac.nz or by texting or calling Graeme on 0800-ALEC-1-2.

AFTER: What are the reflection and review questions?


You’ll find the reflection and review questions to finish off this part of the programme below. Your answers are your own evaluation of what you’ve done and how effective it was.

  • You can download the questions here in a form that you can print out and write on if you want to take notes. Otherwise, don’t forget that the template is in Assessment module 7.

THE TEACHING SESSIONS OVERALL

What went really well for you?

  • The best thing was …
  • One thing that surprised me was …

What would you do differently?

  • Something I’d do differently if I was doing this all over again, is …
  • Also, …

How do you feel you managed the delivery of embedded literacy and numeracy?

  • I think that …

What was it like collaborating with the learners on different things?

  • For the learning plans, I thought that …
  • Another thing was …

What about any collaboration with your supervisor? Any comments there?

  • One thing …

Any comments on your learners’ evaluation of the sessions?

  • They said that …

MOVING FORWARD

Are there any key changes or improvements that you will make to your teaching?

  • One change that I’m considering is…
  • I know I need to …

What kind of goals do you think you need to set for your learners from here?

  • Learner A needs to …
  • Learner B needs to …

What are the implications for you now for designing literacy and numeracy teaching and learning?

  • One implication is that …
  • Another thing is …