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What Everyone Should Understand About True North’s Mastering Projects Workshop

This workshop is unique.

To claim uniqueness, however, does not explain much. This description might elicit many different negative comparisons, such as, “it is almost, but not entirely unlike this other workshop.”

How is this workshop unique? Most project workshops focus attention upon transferring explicit how-to skills: how to plan, how to track progress, how to control execution, and how to build a team. They focus upon the transfer and acquisition of explicit knowledge without ever considering how it is that one goes about acquiring and actually using that knowledge.

This is a different kind of learning, one not encapsulated in any method. Agile, for instance, represents a specific context within which certain techniques are appropriate and others are not. Becoming an Agile practitioner entails exposure to specific techniques, for instance, but practicing agility requires something else, too. It requires a level of awareness about who you are within that context, and not simply the ability to repeat pre-defined practices.

We consider all techniques situationally useful and none universally appropriate. So we focus upon how one might meaningfully pick and choose from among the array of possible approaches to discover, to design the approach best suited to a specific situation. This is at root a design process which includes both knowledge of explicit practices along with a deep awareness of tacit knowledge and personal preference.

To master a project is quite different than to manage a project. Mastery entails both a keen understanding of techniques and methods and a presence of mind while employing them. Mastering Projects focuses upon conditioning that presence of mind which is fundamental to adequately designing any complex undertaking.

How do we accomplish this? First, we ask each participant to bring their own set of learning objectives. Rather than pre-determine the purpose of the workshop for you, we ask you to deeply consider what, in your practice, you want to pursue. This means that the workshop will be pursuing at least as many different objectives as there are participants in the workshop. This context seems to more realistically mirror the context within which real-world projects exist. While a project might have a well-advertised public purpose, every one has imbedded within it innumerable personal purposes: why each individual is engaged. And no project succeeds without attending to these personal purposes as well as the publicly acknowledged ones.

In this way, like on real-world projects, the workshop becomes the medium within which each participant can deeply consider their own objectives and learn to use the workshop to achieve these. Along the way, participants discover clues that inform them about how they form and pursue objectives, and how these pre-conscious patterns of engagement help or hinder achievement.

These learnings take many different forms. Some appear as brilliant a-ha insights, others as less inspiring “oh Shit!” experiences. We employ a simply ethic, “learned if you do and learned if you don’t.” We help you appreciate whatever form your learning might take. We enlist every participant as both a student and a teacher, understanding that your most enduring insight might come from anyone in the room.

We also ask you to bring your own project to use as your own personal case study. Rather than feed you pre-packaged case studies, we help to properly situate your pursuit of your learning objectives by using your own project as the primary case study in the course. We guide you through a series of focusing tools intended to elicit a deeper understanding of yourself, as well as a deeper appreciation of the nature of your project and of the organization sponsoring your project. Not just what to do, but who you, your project, and your organization might be in the context of your specific project.

... More in the next installment ...

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