Yes, once again, I am online at a ridiculously early hour of the morning - anyone would think that I had got in very late last night and having woke up briefly whilst it was still dark decided that the best way to avoid over-sleeping and missing our presentation completely is to get up, drink coffee, take caffeine tablets, put the air-con of "freezing" and just keep on typing. Quite a long post, sorry, but outcomes are important...or might be if I understood them...
Yesterday afternoon I decided to apply another "how to choose sessions" maxim. In general, at this conference, I find the client sessions very variable (as evidenced in earlier posts) but I do really like the set pieces (keynotes etc) and the company sessions (not so much the sales pitches, but when they do briefings, demos and listening sessions etc). So I decided to try a Bb presentation on the Outcomes System. I know that might seem strange, but I'm nothing if not resilient. I have seen somewhere in the region of 10-12 presentations on the Bb Outcomes System in the past and despite concentrating really, really hard I still don't entirely get it (or should that be "I still don't at all get it"?) but I will not be beaten...I will just keep putting myself through it until I can look at it without wrinkling my forehead and can describe it to someone else in a couple of short sentences with a straight face.
So the session was entitled "IT Leading the Way to Institutional Effectiveness" pluses for the session were:
- not David Yaskin talking about it (don't get me wrong, I really like David, but he went to the Michael Chasen school of well-paced public speaking and tends to talk about the outcomes system at approx 100 miles an hour which does not aid my comprehension issues)
- guy from Global Services doing presentation (so hopefully not too US-centric)
- abstract used language familiar to me - "research question", "gather and track pertinent data"
- Paul already in the session (scheduling malfunction) - is it worth both of us hearing it?
- sitting too far into the room to leave discretely.
Decided that with Outcomes there is strength in numbers and I thought that being able to talk to someone else about it might help me get the hang of it afterall, so I stay.
Soooo, Kendell Rice (presenter) started talking through some very, very basic management evaluation stuff (plan, do, assess, revise) and the importance of keeping vision statements up to date. Interestingly, Kendell is from the deep south (don't know where, but I'm sure of it) and if he doesn't want to stay at Bb, there is a career awaiting him as a TV evangelist. So the session was quite surreal - I was expected declarations of damnation for anyone in the room who did not effectively assess their academic outcomes - he was a nice enough guy but made as much sense on Outcomes as everyone else I've ever heard. "There are only two things you can ever evaluate - quality or quantity".
btw - the Outcomes expert in the UK is Demetra so next plan is to ask her to explain it to me with concrete UK-HE examples of where it might be applied. However, if Demetra is not available it won't be too much of a problem as Mary and I have discovered an interesting stand it. Paul does an absolutely uncanny impression of Demetra...in fact Mary and I were so impressed by it, it took a full 36 hours for us to process just how good it is...definitely one for the Xmas party.
OK, back to Kendell. Many of you will know that the example that David Yaskin always used to explain the Outcomes system was the analysis of the critical thinking skills of engineering students on a scale of 1-4 (I have long suspected that it is this very example that makes it so hard for me to grasp), Kendell had a better one, I tried to explain it to Mary last night (and failed) but luckily for you'all I wrote it down verbatum:
"This can be used to assess the outcomes of Improvement Initiatives, for example the IT Improvement Initiative, which is (to clarify) the initiative within which the IT department initiated a continuous quality improvement initiative to drive forward improvements in areas of functional interest to them" ...boom boom!! bring back the engineers!