how to make professional development happen (or a quick word on systems change)

a few weeks ago i was in a conversation about professional development (pd) and i offered this comment up to the group: professional development (individual or organizational) fails unless people actually sit down and take the time to adjust their work load (often via calendar). if it just stay at the level of an idea, the work load stays the same, people don’t adjust their schedules, they fill their plates like they usually would (which typically means overwork), and they end up with no time or mental energy to do any pd.

i’ve been in three organizations where i watched this happen. at this point, in my mind it’s pattern, not anecdote.

in the pd context, i can think of at least two potentially easy fixes.

  1. starting early in the early, block off five days (or however much pd people want) on everyone’s calendar.
  2. if you want 12 hrs of pd per year, every month, block off one hour on the calendar. in this hour, people can do ongoing training work (asynchronous online courses, reading, whatever). or that time could just be built into a budget to be used on pd at some training in a room or a course or something.

i’m sure there are other strategies, but the point for me is it’s got to be made concrete or it’s not gonna happen.