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Over the years, this course has evolved from lectures by subject-matter-expert faculty to a more interactive, team-based learning curriculum. Program management is full of complex challenges and dilemmas requiring effective analysis and timely decisions. Individual decisions are based on how you think and process information.
Critical thinking improves your decision-making abilities by raising your awareness about the influences on your thinking. While our students already have experience in analysis and decision making, we focus on practical skills to improve the quality of their thinking. We have observed that the more our learners understand how and why they think a certain way, the better they become at evaluating and improving their judgment in the acquisition environment.
This is illustrated in the following review of our case studies, simulations, and experiential exercises. These case studies provide an opportunity to explore how program managers think and make decisions in a variety of acquisition scenarios. Our focus on real dilemmas facilitates a deeper understanding of management and leadership challenges in the acquisition environment.
It also prompts students to reflect on how and why they think and make decisions on their own programs and to share best practices with the class. Case studies remain an important part of the PMT curriculum, but we have cut in half the number of case discussions.
We found that while the case method is still applicable, there is a limit to its effectiveness as a prevailing methodology. We also have carefully scheduled the sequence of cases to provide increasing skill development of our key frameworks and learning objectives.
As an example, students learn a framework and process for stakeholder management on an acquisition program starting in Week One. They practice using the framework in later case studies and then must apply the framework in our final simulation exercise and in their day transition plans. These exercises typically are very engaging, competitive, and fast paced. We have integrated simulations throughout the course to replicate real-life scenarios that help students demonstrate their leadership skills and strategies in negotiating, communicating, and implementing solutions in different situations.
These simulations provide firsthand benefits and consequences that result from their thinking, actions, and decisions.
They also offer insight into how their peers work, think and act—insight that is invaluable in leading teams in the acquisition environment. In the Everest leadership and team simulation, teams of students compete to reach the summit of Mount Everest. During the 6 simulated climbing days, participants face different individual and team challenges. Judgment in a Crisis is an organizational behavior simulation used in the critical thinking session to have students practice their thinking and response to a managerial crisis situation in order to gain a better understanding of several factors that impair judgment and decision making.
The scenario features a consortium of developer, industry, and shipping concerns interested in building and operating a deep-water port. The negotiations include environmental, labor, economic, and government oversight issues. The simulation was developed by the Harvard Program on Negotiation. The simulation is based on real-world issues faced by current acquisition programs with a goal of helping students use the key frameworks and tools taught in PMT to address these challenges.
The simulation includes leadership roles where many students work on problems similar to those they will face back in their jobs, after which they brief a senior acquisition executive who acts as the service acquisition executive in this exercise. The exercises used in both small and large group settings require team members to analyze information, negotiate, and collaborate with one another.
These activities encourage individuals and teams to develop their creative thinking, leadership, and communication skills, while building group cooperation and consensus. This was discontinued in favor of a team or peer feedback process. The SBI model is designed to elicit clearer and more direct feedback from a broader group of students and faculty members.
Use of the SBI process not only produces better feedback to students during the course, but it becomes a process students can take back to their workplace and use with members of their real-world project teams. Each student is interviewed in a print, Skype and taped format. These interactions provide realistic acquisition scenarios with faculty role-playing as media interviewers. To ensure that candid feedback and observations are received, video recordings are immediately reviewed with student groups who experienced the same scenario and with public affairs experts.
Being able to see yourself on camera, receive critiques and develop confidence in your ability to navigate the media was invaluable. Well organized and realistic. A simple template is provided for students to list their near-term goals along with , and day action steps to accomplish the personal and organizational goals. Students discuss their plans with their team and faculty advisor to help clarify and improve their product. Faculty advisors then are asked to follow up with students 3 to 6 months after graduation to check on their progress and provide any help if needed.
The focus of design thinking is human centered problem solving, innovative solutions, and early prototyping. After a session introducing key concepts in design thinking, each student group is chartered to work on a real world problem currently impacting one of their workplaces.
This includes interviewing a broad range of workforce members affected by this problem. Student groups work on their projects during the last part of the PMT course, then present their prototype solutions as part of their graduation exercise see photo of student outbriefing.
Program leaders must clearly communicate their visions and plans, set high standards, and motivate, and guide team members to achieve positive acquisition outcomes. As PMT has evolved, the curriculum has expanded from a primary focus on program cost, schedule and performance to a broader acquisition leadership emphasis. This shift was driven primarily by our students.
In fact, they demanded it whenever we asked them what they most wanted to learn. But rather than teach leadership, we chose to refocus our case studies and class exercises on the leadership issues and lessons inherent in each management dilemma. As a change to its earlier history, the course has fewer lectures, guest speakers, and even case studies—and more interactive seminars, small group discussions, and one-on-one coaching from faculty and student peers.
This decentralized approach to interaction in small groups was designed to promote greater skill building and behavior change. Faculty members encourage student peer teaching and facilitate this reciprocal teaching in all learning activities. As the course continues, the faculty and students gradually merge into a learning community.
I have made additional professional colleagues that I know I can reach out to in the future, and, for me, those connections are immeasurable. Seeing and hearing how others would address an issue was invaluable. This is something that could never be done virtually.
It is not uncommon for direct communication to continue between students and faculty for months or even years after their course was completed. Most of our workplace support mission assistance projects come directly from graduates of our level executive courses, especially PMT When students have developed strong bonds with our faculty, we are the first place they go when acquisition support of any kind is needed.
Over the past year, the team has researched, piloted, and refined several learning activities to ensure that the course is relevant to acquisition professionals now and in their immediate future. After each course offering, the faculty and staff review and evaluate student feedback and faculty observations of each learning event. Gadeken dau. DeLeon dau.
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