As you may know, I have a BA in History (Virginia Tech), an MA in History (Georgia) and spent a couple of years working on a PhD in History (never got the PhD).
Admittedly, it’s been a very long time (mid-90s) since I consciously thought about historical methodology or discussed my historical research outside of random conversations.
It dawned on me recently that I have been using the techniques I learned while collecting my History degrees in my IT life.
The benefits I have seen to using historical methodology in project planning, business analysis and training needs assessment:
- I can incorporate any lessons learned into my planning. Lessons learned are actually applied, vs a checkbox done after a project – then promptly forgotten.
- “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana.
- I’m not reinventing wheels – especially with project plans and budgets.
- If these items are baselined – I can see where estimates strayed and by how much. During the “oral history” step – I can ask about what caused the discrepancy.
- I get an idea of the personalities involved
- This is especially true if the majority of the project players are the same as the previous project(s). I like having a sense of what I am getting into.
- I get a feel for cultural trends and comfort levels around change.
- Frequently – the organization will tell me they want and are ready for change. Nosing into the history will give me an idea of whether this is actually true. Especially if the organization historically behaves in change-averse ways across activities and many of the same players are in the organization.
Once I have collected documentation, there are 4 steps I use to analyze the information:
- Document analysis – Looking at the information within each item, determining the purpose of each item and biases within the item
- Synthesis – Looking at trends across the sources
- Oral History – Getting answers to questions that surfaced during the first two steps. Confirming findings.
- Anthropological Inquiry – Using observation in various contexts to get a feel for the environment the project will be working within.
I’ll show you what I do during each step in the next 4 posts.