Call me back
We will call you back!

by Anatoly Levenchuk

Why three-day courses are not helpful neither for an engineer nor for a manager?

About educational approach in the School
Almost all of today's training announcements contain the phrase that the content is extremely practical - no theory, pure methods of work, "just take it - and use it straight away." Let's say we take the practice of JTBD (Jobs-To-Be-Done) from requirements engineering or project buffer management in option of the Goldrand project management. It does not matter whether engineering practices are being studied or managerial or entrepreneurial or educational or even some: "three days of pure practice - and straight in production" is not enough for a real deal.
The results of the three-day "pure-practical" training are strongly disappointing. Indeed, "system thinking: practical training" even sounds ridiculous. How can you change your way of thinking in three days? Projects "implementation of the results of training" are unsuccessful. We define success here as in system engineering: how to take into account the interests of all project stakeholders. These stakeholders for some reason turn out to be extremely unhappy. In the activity "by the method of training", suddenly you can find a myriad of errors.
There is more applied knowledge involved in any case than can be obtained in three days courses

A significant number of absurdities arise not from the actual misunderstanding of the fast learnt practice (for instance, in a three day course), but from the misunderstanding of its conceptual discipline. Let's say, in requirements engineering there is no understanding of what is important in these requirements and why: the requirements come from different directions, you need to communicate about the requirements with different people, and JTBD does not solve all the problems with the requirements - it does not solve, for example, the problems of requirements management, the use of requirements from standards and a lot of similar things. It turns out they told the truth at the trainings, but not the entire truth. In the case of JTBD, they did not talk about the discipline of "requirements engineering." Applied practices are usually simple and they are concrete and can be sort of easily understood, but conceptual disciplines require significant brainwashing, they are more abstract, more difficult to understand. And three days is not enough, it may take a semester of hard work in some university.

The same thing happens with the management of project buffers. As a result, good applied practice won't be used. The conclusion will be "let's try something else." Conceptual discipline is not set in peoples minds. Honestly nowadays very few people try to learn! But this "theoretical" knowledge is exactly what animates applied and practical discipline, it allows not to make silly mistakes.

The most experienced (literally: not anyone who has more than twenty years of experience, but at least one year's experience that was repeated twenty times) can unexpectedly cope with the application of the material of the three-day training: they have been familiar with many applied practices for many years and can "bypass the rake" by relying on the unconscious knowledge of a broader conceptual discipline.

But even here there is not much hope, the use of this discipline will not be possible when the collision with other people in the life cycle occurs. It turns out that there are even broader conceptual disciplines - system engineering in the case of requirements engineering and system management in the case of work management. And in system engineering it will be said that the requirements are derived in many respects from the results of concept development, and then they are used in architectural work and further in verification and validation. And a huge number of problems arise from the fact that in the heads of the people who passed three-day courses on a tiny piece of system engineering (JTBD) or system management (project buffer management) there is no understanding of how these works fit into the overall project work. And for the managers it turns out that in addition to managing the work in management there are many other things that they need to take into account: for example, leadership. In a three-day course, everything is good, only lacking in fundamentalism: the conceptual disciplines of the semester level (requirements engineering, work management) and conceptual disciplines of master's degree level (system engineering, system management).

Anatoly Levenchuk
Scientific supervisor of the School of System Management, director of research at the Russian branch of the International Council for System Engineering (INCOSE)
Applied knowledge is not enough: you also need to be able to read, write and think

And this is not the end of the story! Very often it turns out that system engineers who have completed a course (even university!) of system engineering or system managers who have passed a similar general management course simply do not possess any "caliber of personality", they just do not have the required level of fundamental education. Or they were not lucky enough to fall into some spheres filled with people who have required level of fundamental education, spheres where their grid of neurons could capture patterns of good thinking.We are talking about personal development, the results of which are involved in thinking about any applied practices, and moreover, thinking about different practices also occurs at this level - at the level at which we are trying to find out which competencies we lack for success.
To teach system engineering, on the West, it is recommended after an engineering or natural science bachelor's degree to work in the industry for a while, and only then pursue a master's degree in system engineering.

More interesting is the fact that the knowledge based of fundamental education has changed over the last couple of decades: the fundamental education of the past works well, but approximately as well as the phlogiston theory worked in physics until modern physics came. It was replaced by more modern theories, which gradually fell into education. So even experienced engineers and managers need to learn system thinking, attention management techniques, ontology basics as well as they need to learn to make Bayesian assessments when choosing any alternative activities - that is it, they literally need to be enlighten, not taught something that can be applied. I call this the Enlightenment 2020 (enlightenment of the 2020 model), when the entire society needs to be re-taught to the very basics of rational thinking, the motto here is the eradication of the emotional and mythological beginning in the thinking of all the people and the promotion of the emergence of rationality, awareness, adequacy, abstractness in the thinking of all the people. And yes, we also need to teach collectivity in thinking. We need to teach to not wait for these properties to appear "from experience."
Here I have a sample schematics from the example of this post, except that I have a modern "kanban for development" instead of the older Goldrat "project buffer management":
In this scheme, the higher "applied" education is higher than the dotted line, but the overall development for all, "enlightenment 2020" is below the dotted line.
My thesis is that the failure of the three-day courses depends on poorly developed individuals who "pass by" these courses to a much greater extent than from the actual content of these courses. The content is good, but to apply it, you need brains.

What to do about it? First of all - to provide a fundamental education for people who receive applied knowledge in three-day courses. First of all, educate and achieve some sort of "caliber of personality", some non-zero level of personal development, some level of thinking, then demand knowledge of conceptual disciplines in selected applied areas, and only then hope that the result of the three-day "practical "purely applied and specific courses will be successful - meaning, the results from the course will satisfy all those involved in the projects where the competences received at these three-day courses were used.

Indeed, what kind of system engineering we are talking about, if no use of system thinking? If there is no understanding about the boundary of the system in peoples minds - then there is no way to understand about the requirements, no way to understand what exactly there is to worry about in applying the practice of JTBD. If there is no concept about the life cycle in peoples minds- then there is no way to understand what there is to worry about in managing work buffers.

And what kind of system thinking we are talking about, if there is no understanding of how the models of the world are correlated inside the head, in the computer, on a piece of paper, in the textbook (and slides of those three-day courses!), And real objects in the physical world? How will we make decisions, assess the likelihood that the decisions will work? There is no system thinking, if the basics of ontology are not understood. And it is better to not only learn the basics, but also to learn some deeper competencies.

Ontology itself is already very abstract and unclear discipline. How we will get ourselves together by not being distracted by facebook, LJ and so on and so forth? This must also be taught! We cannot hope that this skill will appear by itself. This is all basic education, personal development, fundamental competence. It is necessary to educate, to struggle with the ignorance of such foundations exactly as in the twenties people struggled with illiteracy - both for adults and children.

Here is the generalization of the previous picture as a "reverse pyramid" of different thinking, which have a different degree of survival in time - I discuss this pyramid in my textbook "System Thinking":

Thus, the way out is to provide yourself not only with applied education, but also to educate yourself in the field of the modern scientific and system worldview - teach to think, learn to control your actions, learn to coordinate your activities with the activities of other people, teach to plan your work using computer technology and more. Applied education is good, but without a fundamental education it turns out to be useless, and even harmful: resources are used, hard work is on, and there is no success.
Not ready yet to enroll in our course? Well we created something very useful and absolutely free for you: project analysis check-list
Get the checklist and start applying it right now!
Do you want to make sure that your project is on the right track? Check-lists for project analysis - a convenient and effective way to diagnose the project at any stage.
Using check-lists, you can:
  • check whether all hypotheses, perspectives and risks are taken into account at the planning stage;
  • Structure available information on the project;
  • get feedback from the team;
  • establish a way forward;
  • be sure that there are no "blank spots" - the check-lists cover all possible aspects of project management.
The checklist is a document that helps to check ourselves. For example, a list of actions to be taken, or items that you need not to overlook taking with you. Check-lists are used in aviation, medicine, construction - places where errors are unacceptable. If you are responsible for project management, we suggest that you use checklists - a truly reliable method of control.
This is free of charge!
Other important articles