Working in a global context: some other analysis frameworks

This posting is also linked from my response to Deepika’s analysis of a development project in India in which she participated. Her cube analysis described the project, its aims, its activities and results.

It did not go well, and this I believe may be common in development projects where many contextual factors are in play simultaneously making it extremely difficult to manage the environment in which a project design is both engineered and implemented.

There are guidelines for this kind of work that are published by international development agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The approach is often one of extensive pre-planning to ensure that development funding is used in an optimal (and not necessarily “ideal”) manner. Below are two versions of a common framework called the logical framework approach (LFA). One is from Australia’s development agency. The other from Norway.

AusGuideline – Australia’s LFA guidelines

Logical Framework Approach: handbook for objectives oriented planning – Norway’s LFA guidelines

No matter how well planned a project is, it plays out in a context that is often beyond your control as a project manager or participant. What is is often more useful than “the actual plan” is a way of analyzing what is happening in real time in order to make mid-course corrections

One theoretical framework for this kind of project monitoring and improvement is provided by activity theory (AT). AT provides a way of understanding data within the project so that you can take steps to change things in mid-stream. In a sense, this is what may have happened with Recombo over its multi-year set of pitches and business model adjustments to achieve a new and more optimal model as a fit with its technology. The organic sense of something not working ran up against the business reality, and a change of course was needed.

The AT approach is often used by experience designers and human computer interaction (HCI) specialists as a way to understand how people react to technologies in various situations. It is very much a contextual approach to analysis that can apply in a broad variety of projects. A nice metalink to the University of Colordo’s AT resource page can be found below.

Activity Theory

You may also have some other ideas about working in a global context, based on your experience or previous reading or research findings.

What I’m trying to emphasize here is that you do often have a hunch when something is not working or will not work. What is essential is to understand that hunch within a framework of practice that allows you to vett future experiences and act upon them.

We’ve offered the Cube, LFA, and AT as potential frameworks for analysis. Are there others you know about or use?


1 Gillian Gunderson { 09.21.08 at 6:51 pm }

I remember reading about activity theory in ETEC 512. Analysis of a situation seemed to require a complex, long-term effort.

It’s interesting to find that it actually can work within a business environment to provide real-time help.

2 davidp { 09.22.08 at 8:42 am }

The AT strategy for me is about taking an ecosystem-like view of the context in which a venture, project or activity is talking place, and using that view to make some quick choices.

Like what is called “discount usability.” A small number of cases can be used to surface the majority of the usability issues – sometimes as few as 5.

Applying a similar logic to contextual factors using an AT framework can help to pinpoint where issues may arise in project, quickly.

3 Marc Kampschuur { 09.22.08 at 6:48 pm }

Thank you for the frameworks, quite interesting.

From my sense of the LFA tools, these are really a project management guide to superimpose over a project – almost a paint by numbers approach.

Though comprehensive (Objectives, KPIs, Verification…), the missing element is cultural sensitivity. It may not be within a culture to “produce” a metric different than expected or to engage in verification. I think that the AT tool may offer an advantage in those situations where the culture that is providing the product or service is different from the target market.

4 Laura Macleod { 09.27.08 at 11:38 am }

I’ve made a couple of comments today about cultural sensitivity (i’m catching up from a week on the road!) – I want to make the argument that we need to think not just about other cultures the way we normally do, but other cultures within our own institutions. I just got briefed on the results of a focus group my company ran for a proposed new technology product and, as far as I can tell, one of the big issues was the shift this product would require of teachers – ie., the academic/institutional culture isn’t quite ‘there’ yet. I’m sure the history of technology is littered with examples of really interesting, innovative ideas that were out of time.


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