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Opportunities & Challenges:

To develop a vision for American International School of Rotterdam (AISR), as well as action steps to realize the vision and guiding principles that will inform the thought and action of the school community. Accreditation guidelines require that the entire school population must be represented in the process, including board, faculty, staff, students and parents.

What we did:

M&B partnered with the Cleveland Consulting Group to facilitate the event. On each of the first two days, groups of about 70 persons, representing a diverse mix from our community—students from grades 5-12 (including learning support and EAL students), faculty, staff, parents and board members—were lead through an interactive process to explore our collective values and aspirations, how we might make our school an even better place to learn and teach, how we might express the essence of AISR and how we will put our values into action.

The knowledge we created in the first two sessions was correlated by our facilitators and presented on the third day to a plenary group consisting of participants from the first two days. This group then collaborated to craft working vision and mission statements for the school, and language for our guiding principles.

The beauty of this process is that the new knowledge produced is made—and owned— by the whole community, rather than by a few individuals. Everyone is represented and acknowledged and has an equal part to play in the outcome. The process itself has helped to build capacity in our community for cross-boundary/group collaboration, helping us to hear and understand each other and to work together to achieve our goals.

Thoughts from Participants:

At the end of the first two days, we asked for thoughts and feelings about the day from each participant. These are included in the report you may download. At the end of Day Three, we asked for comments from anyone in the group who would like to contribute their thoughts about the entire event. Here is what we received:

“I think it’s good we all got to share our opinions of the school and how we can improve.”

“We’ve grown together as a school. Not often do we get to sit down together to work on a common task and have everybody heard.”

“It was very interesting to go through the process and see what everyone’s perspective is. Provide everyone the opportunity to think about what the school is and should give more meaning every day when people walk through the gate.”

“AISR is a unique place to work and it was nice to meet students I didn’t know. We’re are a small school and have the chance to interact with others.”

“The teachers and parents should commend the students on their hard work.”

“Unique process that allowed all of us together to come up with something meaningful. I really enjoyed meeting the students and to see how creative you all are.”

“I am very excited to go this school and meet a lot of friendly students and friends. And let’s let the school be better to complete our dreams.”

“I think it’s great to see that even though there are some differences of what the school can improve upon, there are a lot of ideas that everyone agrees on.”

“I wanted to complement the school on the organization of getting this done and working with this method. We needed to stretch ourselves to come up with the results we came up with today. I’m thrilled and touched to see how committed everybody is.”

“It’s a big opportunity to be at this school because it’s a safe one. I really enjoy this school when many other children don’t have the opportunity. It’s perfect.”

Deliverable:

See the event report here!

View a short video feature on the event:

 

 

 

Opportunities & Challenges:

Faced with an aging population, declining income levels, critical skills shortages in new industries and the lasting impact of Tropical Storm Irene, the State of Vermont hired a team of consultants including Maverick & Boutique team to develop the 2020 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) in 2013-14. Although Vermont has developed an enviable reputation for its skiing, cycling, culinary tourism, green energy, craft beer, cheeses, ice cream and chocolates; the state faces a plethora of systemic problems that can only be fixed if everyone works well together.

For example, sprawl eats up farmlands while brownfield sites from closed industries from a bygone era and dying downtowns remained undeveloped. the permitting process designed to protect the beautiful environment is difficult for small to medium size entrepreneurs find to navigate. Unaffordable housing contributes to the difficulty of attracting talent for emerging industries. Residents desire their energy to be “clean and green” but don’t want windmills on hill tops.

What we did:

M&B facilitated stakeholder engagement meetings in nine regions, conducted workshops with cabinet level officials, developed some 70 initiatives in six key areas – with a strong emphasis on developing the capacity of the tourism and working landscape sector to capitalize on the trend towards consumer interest in high-value added experiences, the revitalization of villages as destinations, and developing skills in village scale government administration, green energy, agriculture, forestry, advanced manufacturing, health and IT.

Deliverable:

View the Vermont 2020 COMPREHENSIVE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY (CEDS).

Once upon a time, we thought of major projects as space exploration, new warships, armored vehicles or fighter planes, and infrastructure investments in roads, electricity and telecommunications.

Now we must add to that list just about everything we do. Any project or program that involves multiple suppliers and distributors of products and services that work like an integrated web has become a complex major project. Think of how we get the thousands of fresh foodstuffs that are available to us into stores, set up the systems to sell books, hotel and airline seats over the internet, treat the huge variety of diseases we can now diagnose and deal with, provide a seamless integrated public transport ticketing system for a large city or launch a new product or service everywhere around the world.

Many major projects fail to live up to expectations, and they do so for a variety of reasons: underestimating the cost in order to win support, requirements creep or the use of unproven technology or technological change during the course of the project. A tremendous amount of effort goes  into dealing with technical risk, specifying the requirements and tightly defining contract terms, as if these entirely logical measures will solve all the problems.

But now, projects  increasingly fail due to human factors: the absence of leadership, stakeholder battles, cross-disciplines communication gaps, abrupt changes in the political environment and seemingly unpredictable social shifts in parallel with technological shifts, which we do not see coming.

We live in a world of rich professional and cultural diversity, all of which is required to maintain the infrastructures on which we have come to rely. Also required is consistent, ever-developing creativity, so we can continue to invent better ways of doing things. The educators, the technicians, the builders, the designers, the financiers, the shippers, the carers, the repairers, and the nurturers are all necessary to get it done.

Until now, we have focused, and placed high value, on technological skills at the expense of the so-called soft skills, many of which are critical to successful management of major projects in today’s complex and rapidly changing world.  Most project managers have the traditional technical skills; but only one in 20 has the high level leadership, facilitation and knowledge integration skills needed to navigate the rapidly evolving terrain.

To develop and run these systems we need people who have both the technical competence for efficiency and certainty at both the micro and the macro level AND the flexible leadership and communication skills to work well with many people in multiple locations as if each were a close personal relationship.

Project managers must support their people in playing to their strengths, being creative and delivering high level results while facilitating the integration of  different opinions, cultures, capabilities and viewpoints so that the new systems or programs are developed and operate in ways that serve everyone’s interests.

So here is a workshop you might like to consider :

1. Thinking about the activities of your organization, what activities could you consider to be a major complex project e.g. IT system roll-out?
2. What are some of the major issues you encounter in trying to design, develop, commission and operate complex projects or programs?
3. How does your organization go about resolving differences or integrating the interests of the suppliers and professionals who develop or maintain the systems and the stakeholders who have an interest in a project or program?
4. What skills are now needed to be able to successfully develop a complex project or program, especially to deal with stakeholder interests integration, conflict resolution and relationship management.

Opportunities & Challenges:

In 2011, Maverick & Boutique was engaged by the New Jersey State Library and LibraryLinkNJ, the New Jersey Library Cooperative, to facilitate the development of a state-wide strategic master plan for the 2000+ libraries of all types in New Jersey.

Libraries continue to face substantial challenges, both as an institution and on the ground day to day. Public libraries, for example, are receiving unprecedented demand for services such as citizen access to the internet, the lending of materials that people could not otherwise access or afford and help with writing resumes to get jobs or studying for new careers. Yet the services of public and school libraries are being reduced or curtailed to help balance state and municipal budgets. Libraries of all kinds are having to redefine their value to their communities and, in many cases, reinvent what they do to remain a vital part of 21st century life.

What we did:

Maverick & Boutique helped the New Jersey library community cooperatively create a “living” strategic plan that put in place not only specific goals and measures—including some 33 initiatives—but also one that delivers an ongoing process for reinvention that any library can use, guided by the plan, as the need arises.

The planning process included multiple community engagement sessions held around the state to obtain the broadest possible range of input from stakeholders, extensive research into promising practices around the globe and close interaction with the directors and staff at LibraryLinkNJ and the State library.

Deliverables:

View the July 2013 Executive Summary, Statewide Strategic Plan, and the “Create Our Future” sheet.