Learning Styles for better leadership

Learning is an important characteristic of leadership. Leaders should be fast learners. Leaders need to understand learning ability of followers and change the style of education to make them understand the vision or purpose.

Different people have different ways to learn things. There is no right or wrong way in learning styles. Some people see things and understand. Some people do experiments to learn. Some people may just think and correlate. Leaders spend most of the time in understanding follower’s development levels, and change their teaching methods to educate them based on that.

Learning improves the working ability which in turn gives out the expected outcome, which is otherwise called as improved performance. Even those who fail to understand by one approach of learning, can understand things well if we change the learning style.

Number of theories evolved in learning styles like Kolb Experiential Learning theory, Honey & Mumford Learning Styles, Allinson & Hayes. These learning style models designed on Learning styles are both flexible and stable.

Out of these let me brief Kolb’s experiential learning. Kolb produced the first systematic and comprehensive exposition of the theory of experiential learning. His experiential learning theory has wide acceptance by academics, teachers, managers and trainers as truly seminal works. It explains fundamental concepts towards our understanding and explaining human learning behavior, and towards helping others to learn.

‘Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combination of grasping experience and transforming it’ – David Kolb

So, Experience + Understanding = Knowledge

Below picture depicts general learning cycle of individual learner:

General Learning Cycle

Kolb proposes that experiential learning has six characteristic features:

1. Learning is best conceived as a process, not in terms of outcomes.

2. Learning is a continuous process grounded in experience.

3. Learning requires the resolution of conflicts between dialectically (debating) opposed modes of adaptation to the world.

4. Learning is a holistic process of adaptation to the world.

5. Learning involves transactions between the person and the environment.

6. Learning is the process of creating knowledge which is the result of the transaction between social knowledge and personal knowledge

Kolb describes the process of experiential learning as a four-stage cycle.

Kolb\'s Experiential Learning Theory

The converging style (abstract, active)

* relies primarily on abstract conceptualization(AC) and active experimentation(AE);

* is good at problem solving, decision making and the practical application of ideas;

* does best in situations like conventional intelligence tests;

* is controlled in the expression of emotion and prefers dealing with technical problems rather than interpersonal issues.

The diverging style (concrete, reflective)

* emphasizes concrete experience(CE) and reflective observation(RO);

* is imaginative and aware of meanings and values;

* views concrete situations from many perspectives;

* adapts by observation rather than by action; interested in people and tends to be feeling-oriented.

The assimilating style (abstract, reflective)

* prefers abstract conceptualization(AC) and reflective observation(RO);

* likes to reason inductively and to create theoretical models;

* is more concerned with ideas and abstract concepts than with people;

* thinks it more important that ideas be logically sound than practical.

The accommodating style (concrete, active)

* emphasizes concrete experience(CE) and active experimentation(AE);

* likes doing things, carrying out plans and getting involved in new experiences;

* good at adapting to changing circumstances;

* solves problems in an intuitive, trial-and-error manner;

* at ease with people but sometimes seen as impatient and ‘pushy’.

Learning styles play a significant role in different fields – mainly in educational, professional career and adaptive competencies. The most relevant field to explore experiential learning theory is that of educational specialization.

Following words by Kolb tells us the need for knowing learning styles:

‘Learning styles represent preferences for one mode of adaptation over the others; but these preferences do not operate to the exclusion of other adaptive modes and will vary from time to time and situation to situation’.

A learning style is a ‘differential preference for learning, which changes slightly from situation to situation. At the same time, there’s some long-term stability in learning style’

To summarize the benefit, successful projects need to employ a range of learning styles to capitalize on the strengths and minimize the weaknesses of each style & it helps leaders to setup good coaching relationship.

What is Stakeholder Analysis? – Part 3

This topic is continuation of earlier posts what is stakeholder analysis? – Part 1 & what is stakeholder analysis? – Part 2

In this final post we discuss the three essential steps in stakeholder analysis in detail. Following are the vital steps in any stakeholder analysis:

* Stakeholder identification and documenting their interests (+ve or -ve) in the project

* Assessing the power of, importance of & level of impact upon each stakeholder

* Identifying how best to engage stakeholders in the project by analyzing their reactions or response in different situations.

1) Stakeholder identification and documenting their interests (+ve or -ve) in the project

This is the first step in stakeholder analysis. In Stakeholder identification process, project manager with the help of project management team need to identify all individual or organizations impacted by the project, and documenting their interests. Stakeholder identification is critical for any project – usually it is done early planning stage, and complete knowledge about stakeholders increases probability of project success.

Key stakeholder identification may be easy task to do. General list of key stakeholders are:

Project Manager,

Customer/user, Project team members,

Performing organization,

Project management team,

Sponsor and

major influencers.

Above key stakeholders are actively involved in the project & whose interests may be affected as a result of project execution or project completion.

Identifying other or secondary stakeholders can be done either brainstorming or interviewing with experts/project management team on the project area. Project manager can start with an analysis of the stakeholders and then link them to specific threat and opportunity factors.

Some of the key questions project manger may ask at this step include(not limited to):

• Who is threatening the target of this project?
• Who is most dependent on this project?
• Has there been a similar project in the market? If so, to what extent did it succeed? Who was in charge and how did local stakeholders respond?
• Who possesses claims – including legal jurisdiction and customary use – over the project/resources at stake?
• Is any government departments to be involved in this project?
• Are there national and/or international bodies involved in this project because of specific laws or treaties?
• Who are the people or groups most knowledgeable about, and capable of dealing with the project at stake?
• Are the stakeholders and their interests stable across the globe or is there any identifiable pattern exists?
• Are there major events/trends/activities currently affecting the stakeholders?
• Is this project replaceable by other project(s)?

Best tool in identifying the key stakeholders and their interests is brainstroming. Begin by brainstorming all possible stakeholders using a questionnaire(like the one listed above). Then research the general stakeholder behavior. Talk to various stakeholders, and ask them who they would see as potential stakeholders for the initiative in question. The list of stakeholders may grow or shrink as the analysis progresses, and the understanding deepens. Further, try to learn about each stakeholder group in as much depth as possible.

2) Assessing the power of, importance of & level of impact upon each stakeholder

In this step, stakeholders are organized and categorized according to their likely influence over decisions to be made, and the likely impact of project decisions upon them.

Key questions for this second step in a stakeholder analysis include(not limited to):

• Who is directly responsible for decisions on issues important to the project?
• Who holds positions of responsibility in interested organizations?
• Who is influential in the project area (both thematic and geographic areas)?
• Who will be affected by the project?
• Who will promote/support the project, provided that they are involved?
• Who will obstruct/hinder the project if they are not involved?
• Who has been involved in the area (thematic or geographic) in the past?
• Who has not been involved up to now but should have been?

Power – Interest grid (as shown below) is the best tool to plot the stakeholders based on the outcome of above questions. Depend on the quadrant a stakeholder plotted, project manager need to plan his future actions.

Explanation on actions for these quadrants already available in Stakeholder Analysis – Part 2.
Power-Interest Stakeholder Grid

3) Identifying how best to engage stakeholders in the project by analyzing their reactions or response in different situations

Finally, the third step involves determining how to involve the different stakeholders. Different types of stakeholders will be engaged in different ways in the various stages of the project, from gathering and giving information, to consultation, dialogue, working together, and partnership. Determining who needs or wants to be involved, and when and how that involvement can be achieved provides the basis for developing collaborations.

Once stakeholder views are understood, a decision can be made on whether to pursue collaboration. The importance of the process in planning and conducting successful collaborations cannot be overemphasized. Good-faith efforts are often derailed because the parties are not skilled in working together, and because insufficient attention is given to designing and managing it. Using an inclusive, transparent approach during project development and implementation will help build ownership and commitment. If it is not possible or realistic to have all key stakeholders involved from the outset, then a process for gradual involvement may be needed.

( Reference : Stakeholder Collaboration by Ecoregional Conservation Strategies Unit, Research and Development, WWF, Washington)

What is Stakeholder Analysis? – Part 2

In earlier post, we reviewed few basics on Stakeholder Analysis. In this post, let us review few more important information.

Whatever method is for stakeholder management used, following are essential steps for stakeholder analysis:

* Stakeholder identification and documenting their interests (+ve or -ve) in the project

* Assessing the power of, importance of & level of impact upon each stakeholder

* Identifying how best to engage stakeholders in the project by analyzing their reactions or response in different situations.

There are multiple category of models available, some of them:

  • Power/Interest grid
  • Power/Influence grid
  • Influence/Impact grid

Power/Interest grid is widely used tool in stakeholder analysis & it is used in assessing stakeholders (step 2). In this model, each stakeholder is mapped to different quadrant based on their interest on the project against the influence (power) they have over the project.

Power-Interest Stakeholder Grid

High power, interested people: these are the people you must fully engage and make the greatest efforts to satisfy.

High power, less interested people: put enough work in with these people to keep them satisfied, but not so much that they become bored with your message.

Low power, interested people: keep these people adequately informed, and talk to them to ensure that no major issues are arising. These people can often be very helpful with the detail of your project.

Low power, less interested people: again, monitor these people, but do not bore them with excessive communication.

Even the identified stakeholder is an organization, it is better to exactly document the key person’s name for the organization to have better control over situation at times.

As a Project Manager we need to know – when to do & use stakeholder analysis outputs in Project Management Life Cycle?

Let us try to answer this question in detail.

Stakeholder analysis can be undertaken throughout all stages of the project cycle, but it definitely should be undertaken at the outset of a project. Moreover, project stakeholders have high influence over the project at the start and it decreases as the project continues.

In particular, during the Initiating phase, process of identifying stakeholders impacted by the project is crucial. Project Manager can get list of key stakeholders from earlier projects executed in their organization. Project manager should document relevant information regarding stakeholders’ interests, level of involvement, and their impact on project success.

During the Planning phase, a detailed stakeholder analysis, involving all key stakeholders, will help shape the development of strategic actions and risk analysis. Stakeholder analysis is an important input for Project manager in Communication Planning.

In the Execution phase, stakeholder analysis will help identify who, how and when stakeholders should be involved in project activities and whom to communicate regarding project progress depending on their responsibility & authority levels.

During the Monitoring & Controlling phases, the stakeholder analysis serves as a tool, providing a baseline against which projects can monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of their engagement with stakeholders, both supportive and opposing.

What is Stakeholder Analysis – Part 3 discusses about the three essential steps in stakeholder analysis in detail.

What is Stakeholder Analysis? – Part 1

After review of definition of stakeholders and roles & responsibilities of few stakeholders like Project manager & Sponsor, it is good to deal in detail on Stakeholder Management & Analysis.

Just a recap of definition of project stakeholder:

Project stakeholders are individuals and organizations that are actively involved in the project, or whose interests may be affected as a result of project execution or project completion.

Stakeholders are all those who need to be considered in achieving project goals and whose participation and support are crucial to its success. So identification of all stakeholders is an important activity of the project manager to ensure project success.

As all we know, stakeholders can be 1) individuals within the project 2) individuals or departments within the organization & 3) individuals or groups outside the organization (can be influencers)

Stakeholder Management processes for a project involves (but not limited to)

1) Identifying all stakeholders

2) Documenting stakeholders needs

3) Assessing & analyzing stakeholders interest/influence

4) Managing stakeholders expectations

5) Taking actions

6) Reviewing status & repeat

Stakeholder Management Processes

What is Stakeholder Analysis?

Stakeholder Analysis is an important technique for stakeholder identification & analyzing their needs. It is used to identify all key (primary and secondary) stakeholders who have a vested interest in the issues with which the project is concerned.

The aim of stakeholder analysis process is to develop a strategic view of the human and institutional landscape, and the relationships between the different stakeholders and the issues they care about most.

What are the benefits of Stakeholder Analysis?

A stakeholder analysis can help a project to identify:

• The interests of all stakeholders, who may affect or be affected by the project

• Potential issues that could disrupt the project

• Key people for information distribution during executing phase

• Groups that should be encouraged to participate in different stages of the project

• Communication planning & stakeholder management strategy during project planning phase

• Ways to reduce potential negative impacts & manage negative stakeholders

Engaging stakeholders throughout the project life cycle is a key to (but not a guarantee of) project’s success.

Managing stakeholders expectations & ensuring their active involvement is very much important to project as:

• It is indispensable for continuation of the project & its successful completion

• It gives opportunity to individuals or groups to express their ideas/issues/concerns over the project

• It gives a sense of accountability and enhances responsibility

• It enables effective risk identification & response planning

• It opens up excellent learning opportunity for both the project team and stakeholders

Let us review – what are the essential steps for stakeholder analysis, stakeholder assessment models, when to use stakeholder analysis in the Part 2 of this topic.

And What is Stakeholder Analysis – Part 3 discusses about the three essential steps in stakeholder analysis in detail.