In our course e-book, The Project Management Minimalist: Just Enough PM to Rock Your Projects, Michael Greer states, “It’s important for project managers and team members to take stock at the end of a project and develop a list of lessons learned so that they don’t repeat their mistakes in the next project” (Greer, 2010, p. 42). We must always be learning from our successes and our failures. If we do not take stock of what occurred, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes and not understand what caused the success so it could possibly be replicated in the future.
When I was hired at Rancocas Valley Regional High School, as new teachers, we were told we needed to join in activities and committees to become part of the culture of the school. As a result, I found myself on the Curriculum Committee. I became a teacher later in life and was very interested in making my classroom the best it could be, and I believed (still do) that part of that is understanding how the curriculum is put together. I even completed a Master’s degree in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment to make myself a better teacher. I hope all that hard work has translated into better learning experiences for my students.
At that time, the Curriculum Committee was tasked with updating all curriculums in the school as it had not been done for years. During the first few meetings, I did “hang back” as I was in the learning phase and not quite sure what my role should be within the committee. During the planning stages, an issue of how to track the different curriculum and stages of creation and approval came up in discussion. As I had experience as a secretary tracking large amounts of data, I went back to my desk after the meeting and worked on a method of tracking using Excel. When I had it created to the best of my knowledge and skills, I went to the committee chair people and showed them what I had configured. They were pleasantly surprised and sat with me to figure out what I was missing, what was not needed, and how to show the columns in the correct order. At the next meeting, we presented it to the committee, and everyone was very happy to having a tracking device. Thus, it became my job to keep it up to date.
As the curriculum started to come in and go through the approval process, the committee wanted to have an online method of showing and updating the curriculum so it would become a living document and not just sitting on the shelf. Other members of the committee looked into various web sites and methods. It was finally decided to use a site called Taskstream. I was chosen as one the people to be trained in its use so I could help train the other teachers. We put a lot of time and effort into the process, but in the end, it was not exactly what we were looking for. One of the major issues we did not take into account was the lack of spelling, grammar, and punctuation skills of our fellow teachers. We were shocked at the lack of attention to detail that occurred when everyone was entering their own curriculum. Someone (or more than one person) was going to have to be appointed to review the documents and edit them. Part of the goal was to put the curriculum on our school web site, accessible to parents and community members. In this state, it was not possible; it would not make our teachers look professional.
After two years, it was decided that Taskstream was not working for us, and we would have to look for a different method of keeping the curriculum as a living document. Teachers were becoming too frustrated with the limitations of the web site and also with technical difficulties when using the site. Eventually, we moved to a wiki for the curriculum (http://www.virtualrvrhs.com/mediawiki/index.php?title=Main_Page), which has been successful in keeping the documents accessible. There are members of the staff dedicated to putting the information up on the wiki. The process has changed so that the curriculum goes to the supervisor first, who reviews it and sends it back to the individual staff member for revisions, if necessary.
As a committee, we attempted to follow a process, but I am not sure anyone on the committee had any true project management experience on the level that we were dealing with. It was such a huge undertaking that I do not believe we realized it at first. We were constantly looking at what we could do to make it easier on the staff, supervisors, committee members, and administration to ensure accuracy and accessibility. A lot of what we did was trial and error. In the end, after a few years, we had it down to a process that was successful, but it took a lot of time to get there. Staff members were getting discouraged when we changed processes for getting the information and methods for inputting the information. There was a lot of grumbling at times, but we all made it through and have living documentation of the curriculum, which hopefully can be updated on a regular basis.
Below I have embedded a YouTube video that shows what a bad project meeting could look like.
Beinerts, L. (2014, March 23). The expert (short comedy sketch) [Video file]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/BKorP55Aqvg
Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough pm to rock your projects! Laureate International Universities.