Navel Gazing to Action

March 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

Not the face of one given to introspection with action - or any action really. (Gratuitous cute cat photos work elsewhere on the internet, why not here?)

Navel gazing gets a bad rap.  The term conjures images of lack of inertia and laziness, but the truth of the matter is, navel gazing without learning anything is a waste.  Action without reflection is just as bad. We’ve commenced the planning process for the 2012 Women’s Empowerment Conference with our partners, makingCHANGE and this week we’ve engaged in some retrospective evaluation in order to make this year’s planning process easier. To turn thought to action, we have been working through the following process that you can adapt for your own use on your next project whether it is a work-related event or a personal change.

Keep a log during the project. Throughout the planning process, I kept a simple text file and when something would come up, I would make a note about it.  I have notes about things we should not do again and why, stuff that went really well, and ideas that we’d like to incorporate but just weren’t able to accommodate.

Debriefing.  A week or so after the conference, everyone involved in the planning sat down and hashed through the entire event.  We talked about what we really liked and what didn’t work quite as well.  We informally chatted with others who attended or who were involved to solicit feedback.  We repeated the debrief several months later when we started planning 2012 just to refresh and capture things that we thought of later.

Evaluations. During the event we asked attendees to complete an evaluation.  We had a good response and we took the time to review the comments. While it’s not easy to read a critical comments about something in which you invested a huge amount of effort, it is probably the best source for understanding the experience from the perspective of your attendee.

So, now what do we do?  Based on this process we are instituting some changes:

Work smarter, not harder – we discovered that we duplicated our efforts in some places or invested time and energy into some areas that didn’t really impact the end result.  We can’t do everything so we are going to focus on getting “bang for our buck” with our time and effort.

We are getting started earlier and we have a template – we are farther along in our planning process than we were last year.  For this year though, we have a template and we aren’t  starting from scratch to develop our documentation. If you can, re-use or adapt documents, timelines, and schedules to save time and effort.

What tasks or responsibilities do we like and dislike by taking an honest look at which tasks we individually enjoyed completing, we are able to play to our strengths and interests and among the group, all areas are  covered. If you don’t have the luxury of delegating something you dislike, own that you don’t enjoy it and plan your timeline accordingly. Perhaps tackle that task first with something you enjoy scheduled behind it to “reward” yourself.

Changes to the schedule – based on feedback from attendees, we are lengthening the workshop sessions to allow more time for everyone to engage with the content.  We also know that summer is a slow period and we’d like to have as much planning done as possible earlier so we don’t get slammed in late August.

Put ourselves in the shoes of the attendees – our goals haven’t changed and as we mentally walk through the pieces of the event, we ask ourselves if our plans work for someone who has no background on the event.  Is the information clear?  Will attendees be able to quickly identify locations and times?

We need more help –  we are not superheroes and we can’t realistically do everything.  Many hands make for light work as the saying goes and we concluded we need more volunteers to help.  If you’re interested, let us know!

How do you document a major project or life change to better understand the process?  How do you use that information for the next time?

The 2012 Women’s Empowerment Conference will be held on Friday, October 26th at the Sheraton in downtown Columbia.  If you are interested in volunteering or would like more information, please email info at empowerctr.org! 

Posted by:  Heather Comstock

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