The influx of data has also been a catalyst for the education
field to adopt project management, explains Allan Alson,
EdD, senior consultant at the Consortium for Educational
Change, a not-for-profit organization in Lombard, Illinois,
USA that pairs with public school districts and their communities to break the links between race, poverty and
student achievement. The organization provides senior
consultants who work with leaders of urban school districts for engagements that may last up to 10 years.
In the United States, information gathering and reporting (and, in turn, project management) were significantly
increased by a piece of legislature, the No Child Left
Behind Act (NCLB) in 2001. There are sanctions that can
affect funding for schools that don’t meet standards.
“There was demand to disaggregate all that data by race,
poverty, socioeconomics and other categories,” Dr. Alson
explains. This enabled project teams to identify students
who were achieving or struggling, according to a wide array
Armed with that data, project leaders work with teachers and administrators to discuss what changes should be
implemented at a school to ensure its achievement.
“The key really is how teachers and administrators use
data to improve instruction,” Dr. Alson says.
Teachers are engaged in regular meetings with project
team members to discuss what patterns they notice in terms
of struggles and successes. Their involvement helps shape
individual initiatives, and they are encouraged to discuss
and push back on projects to integrate new techniques
and skills in the classroom. These stakeholders follow a
collaborative, iterative approach to fine-tune project scope
However, there are simply not enough project teams yet,
Dr. Alson says. Educators need help using data to change
behaviors. “They need training and support to be successful
and ultimately reach sophistication,” he explains.
The Panasonic Foundation, the program’s sponsor,
works with the school board office, central office, principal
leadership and teacher union leadership in school districts,
building collaboration among those stakeholder groups.
That interaction has shown that a culture shift is
needed—from one that discourages disagreement and
honest dialogue to one that encourages and supports
honest, open evidence-based discussion and constructive
“Administrators and teachers need to learn that it’s okay
to push back,” he says.
As organizations become more complex, they risk becoming unwieldy.
To accommodate rapid growth, Pesticide Eco-Alternatives Center
(PEAC), an organic agriculture nongovernmental organization (NGO)
in Kunming, Yunnan, China, adopted project management processes.
Project teams held regular meetings to clearly delineate strategic goals
and status check-ins to analyze achievements and setbacks before outlining an initiative’s next steps.
Stakeholder management played a key
role as well. “Project teams must be thoughtful and deliberate when they identify and
reach out to experts, who provide critical
guidance and support whenever we implement a project,” says Sun Jing, deputy
director and Asia Pacific project coordinator
The organization established a steering
committee of experts, government officials,
academics and NGO staffers. They come
together twice a year to evaluate the process
of each project in PEAC’s portfolio, including a research study to determine the success
of a chemical pesticide reduction campaign.
In addition, the steering committee will join
in the procedure of reviewing plans for the
next year’s projects, considering what processes could be strengthened and reviewing
Bringing together such diverse individuals contributes to buy-in. “We establish good
relationships with the government, from the
county and provincial levels to the national
level,” Ms. Sun says.
and reach out
to experts, who
In today’s unpredictable business climate, non-traditional sectors have
taken notice of the benefits of project
management. Whether the goal is to
increase transparency or shift the focus
to business value, more and more organizations are adopting best practices. PM