Monday, January 13, 2014

Engage Team In Informal Learning to Support Mentor Program Growth

It's National Mentoring Month and on social media many are showing how they have been involved in a mentoring program and others are telling stories of the impact of mentoring. However, I don't find many talking about strategies that increase the number of programs, the quality of programs, the distribution of programs into all neighborhoods where youth would benefit, or the mobilization of increased operating resources needed to support all of these programs.

I received a paper this weekend via my social media, titled "The Fall and Rise of Strategic Planning", written by Henry Mintzberg, who is now Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies at McGill University. This paper was written in 1994, prior to the Internet providing us the ability to connect, share ideas and innovate ways to solve complex problems.

I hope you'll read it. I've highlighted my own copy to emphasize how this paper relates to efforts needed in making mentor-rich programs available to youth in more places. Here are some quotes from the paper.

"The most successful strategies are visions, not plans."

What the strategy making process should be: "capturing what a manager learns from all sources (both the soft insights from his or her personal experiences and the experiences of others throughout the organization and the hard data from market research and the like) and then synthesizing that learning into a vision of the direction that the business shold pursue."

"Planners should make their contribution around the strategy-making process. They should supply the formal analyses or hard data that strategic thinking requires, as long as they do it to broaden the consideration of issues."

"Strategic thinking is about synthesis. It involves intuition and creativity. The outcome of strategic thinking is an integrated perspective of the enterprise, a not-too-precisely articulated vision of direction."

"Such strategies often cannot be developed on schedule and immaculately conceived. They must be free to appear at any time and at any place in the organization, typically through a messy process of informal learning that must necessarily be carried out by people at various levels who are deeply involved with the specific issues at hand."

"Strategy making needs to function beyond the boxes, to encourage the informal learning that produces new perspectives and new combinations."

"Strategies can develop inadvertently, without the conscious intention of senior management, often through a process of learning."

"Real strategists get their hands dirty digging for ideas, and real strategies are build from the occasional nuggets they uncover."

"Planners can assist managers in finding fledgling strategies in their organization's activities, or in those of competing organizations."

"Planners can snoop around places they might not normally visit to find patterns amid the noise of failed experiments, seemingly random activities, and messy learning. They can discover new ways of doing or perceiving things."

"Some of the best models that planners can offer managers are simply alternative conceptual interpretations of their world."

Throughout this article there is an emphasis on learning. Within the corporate structure, where people are earning a pay check for their involvement, there is some degree of motivation for deeper learning. Our challenge in the social sector is motivating all those who need to be engaged and involved in on-going learning that leads to better programs, in more places.

I believe that volunteer involvement in a structured tutor/mentor program is a form of adult "service learning". This animation illustrates that belief. Involvement in a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program can be a strategy for informal learning and out of the company-box thinking.

I've written many articles on "learning" in this blog. I hope you'll review some of them in context of this article.

In order to make mentor-rich programs available to youth in all places where they are needed, and keep such programs in place, and constantly improving for many years, we need a commitment by leaders from every industry that supports this process of learning. Read this ROLE OF LEADERS presentation. This envisions a role similar to the planning support described by Mintzberg. It encourages CEOs to advocate for employee involvement in tutor/mentor programs near all places where the company does business, as part of its own employee learning and workforce development.

In the articles on this blog and the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC site, we envision a constantly-expanding, source of information, ideas and data that can be used by anyone who wants to help more youth connect with mentors, tutors and extra learning as part of a long-term process of helping kids move from birth to work.

If National Mentoring Month has captured your attention, use this article to inspire your strategic thinking. Through the Internet CEOs, Board Members, policy makers, youth, volunteers and program leaders can connect with each other, and with a wealth of ideas that can stimulate their own thinking of ways to reach youth, expand aspirations and support habits that are needed to compete in 21st century corporations.

3 comments:

MMG said...


It takes a village to raise a child, after all. In our very individualistic culture, I guess people forget how important it is to be a community and how much of an impact a mentor or a role model can make on a child or a young person.

"Strategy making needs to function beyond the boxes, to encourage the informal learning that produces new perspectives and new combinations."

Learning isn't about memorizing which circles to fill in, or how to do something on autopilot in order to get the grade. We need a movement in this country towards education based on concepts, understanding, and exploring different ways of learning a particular concept.

Barbara Passero said...

I'm a member of the Mass Mentoring Partnership because our education programs include teachers, peers, parents, experts in the community who are mentors/role models for varying amounts of time . MMP is an active organization with many members and could offer some answers to your questions. On Tues., Jan. 6, I attended a Boston regional MMP meeting about violence prevention and other ways that mentoring can help youth. Several organizations that attended offer tutoring services.

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

+Barbara, Thanks for posting. I'm a big fan of Mass Mentoring Partnership and follow their group on Linked In. Every state should have the level of support for Mentoring that you have.