Tag Archives: design

Lead with Training? Look beyond the recipe

15 May

I’ve seen it time and time again. An organization has a new technology, often joined with a new process and vision for processing, customer service, data alignment, sales, etc. The knock comes on L & D’s door, and we are thrilled to be able to get in on a new initiative without the baggage of poor performance leading the request.

But just as we should pause and assess if training is the part of the solution to substandard performance or a new change initiative, we need to also pause to think about the appropriate timing and type of training that will advance the strategy initiative. While it might seem counter-intuitive to those of us in the instructional design and training game, we need to think about training as an essential element in the organizational kitchen remodel — a part of a well-designed program, but not the driver.

OK, I’m not entirely sure a kitchen is the best analogy, but let that marinate with me for a moment. A kitchen needs a workflow plan, a place to store fresh and nonperishable items, ample space to store tools and cooking utensils, and a set of good cook books (explicit knowledge), at least until the cook moves through competence and proficiency to become an expert intuitive gastro-artist (implicit knowledge).

So, training can carry the novice cook along the path to competence, and even proficiency. However, if the goal is to build expertise, training can’t carry the load the full distance. Similarly, the training program, no matter how well designed and implemented, can’t deliver the tools, materials and setup necessary to get the anticipated results.

Cathy Moore has done some excellent work on how to evaluate the need for training to address performance issues. But what I’m suggesting here is to take that to another elevation: Even when training is part of the issue, are the conditions for applicable success present? Seen this way, each training design should be a mini (or full-blown) change management program. Per standard practice of change management, skills are an essential ingredient. But so too are organizational support, vision and incentives to follow through.

complex change matrix

Complex Change Management Matrix

So, if you are already in the discussion that Moore (and I) suggests, take it to the next logical step: How does training fit into the change the organization wishes to see?

We don’t spend the money to build a beautiful kitchen without the hope that we’ll become better cooks. But design and appliances don’t get us there. Neither will skills alone without the proper tools and support for experimentation, failure and improvement.

From Auckland, a charge to curate

24 Jul

Nigel Young, a professional colleague via my Twitter PLN, pointed me to a live broadcast from eLearnz 2015, a New Zealand eLearning conference that I could watch while at my desk in Portland, Oregon. Randomly, and quite fortunately, I saw some of Nigel Paine’s remarks. (A classic case of serendipity, but that’s a topic for another time!)

Wait! I was watching a live broadcast of a conference happening in as far away place as could possibly be! That, in itself, should highlight how very different our world has become. But, that’s not what I want to discuss in this current post — just a rather amazing set up.

A comment he made, among many important comments on MOOCs, neuroscience and some serious debunking of “rubbish,” that really made me sit up and pay attention was his discussion of the wastefulness of content creation for almost all learning programs.

L & D, training providers and their kin serve their clients’ needs, whether they’re internal or external. As a service provider, I think we do our clients a disservice if our first thought is to

Create your own learning boutique from the abundance around us. Or better yet, let your learners put together the collection themselves!

Create your own learning boutique from the abundance around us. Or better yet, let your learners put together the collection themselves!

create something new for the learning need (real or imagined). For the vast majority of topics, there is nothing we could create that does not already exist. Like a good librarian or boutique shopkeeper, the value is in the careful curation of artifacts that take the customer (learner) on a journey of discovery. If I ask a librarian to help me learn to fix my bicycle, I certainly would not expect him to write me a guidebook! He will find the best existing materials to recommend.

As Nigel Paine said, people will yawn their way through a corporate training event, and, later that evening, happily turn to YouTube to repair their dishwasher. Can’t we learn from this new reality? The feeling among some of our colleagues is that our learning problems are so complex, so unique that no video or website could adequately address them. That may be, but in aggregate of sources, via a collection of various bits and parts? I’m guessing we could get just about all the way there. Our own sense of importance becomes our blinders.

The key is to make sense of the overabundance that exists in our digital, connected world. The skills adults need to find, connect, synthesize and share content are not instinctive. It’s not a matter of some “having the knack” and others out of luck. It’s a learned skillset.

Taking this to its logical conclusion: For your next learning activity, direct your cohort to curate their own resources. I had discussed this once before, in a much earlier post. While my thinking and practice have evolved quite a bit in the two years since then, I think that the idea remains valid. By learners curating their own learning, then sharing it back with a cohort, it allows for learning skills, reflection, demonstration, defense, social interaction. That’s how people learn!

You’ll not only have a great collection of learning resources, but you’ll help your learners learn the skills of the digital age at the same time. Oh, and you save your client a lot of time and money, too.

Quality, efficiency or efficacy? Hmmm … I’ll take all three!

22 Sep
fast-cheap-good,

Triangle of compromises, from 11 Bridges.

You’re likely familiar with triangular development tradeoffs: good, fast or cheap—pick two.

However, I suggest that when people are empowered to control their own learning, at their own chosen times, and within a framework that supports personal exploration and mastery, it is the epitome of learning efficiency. That is, better, faster and cheaper!

What does that look like?

Let’s take a look at a common professional services business topic: managing client expectations. It could have been any number of hard or (especially) soft workplace skills, but for our purpose here, let’s go with managing clients.

Traditional training and L & D approaches call for a comprehensive set of learning and mentoring activities. These may include classroom time with role-plays, eLearning courses sequentially laid out in an LMS, conference attendance, webinar sessions, readings, etc. There is nothing wrong with these approaches, but they don’t sit comfortably on two points of the tradeoff triangle, and certainly not all three. If done well, and tracked to metrics to demonstrate efficacy, the traditional treatment is a large, expensive endeavor. It may be worth it in the long run, but it is hard to get support for such rich projects.

Imagine an alternative program, one in which individuals are able to control their own professional development with thoughtful guidance. The added element is that the learners have to demonstrate their work—that is, work out loud as they collect information, connect ideas and form practices that fit into the working culture.

Perhaps you begin by providing a curated, annotated list of articles, videos and websites. Ask the learner to review and reflect on those items. Then, assemble additional resources into a collection (social bookmarked via Diigo, Scoop.it, Delicious, etc.) The collections are open to others, so that they share as they save (share is the new save!) via the enterprise social network (if one exists) or Twitter, Facebook or any other available platform. Every week or so, learners come together to present, discuss, compare and practice together for a short time (say, a working lunch hour, in-person or via web-based meeting platform), under the direction of a mentor and/or learning professional.

What have you gained? A cohort that is mostly self-directed, taking responsibility for their own development, creating a learning and collaborative culture, and normalizing how to manage client expectations (see how the topic almost becomes secondary—in a good way!) together with the manager’s direction.

If you have one or two great ideas for good interactive modules or focused, purposeful webinar topics, great. This framework allows targeted, well-designed instruction to take root in the larger learning culture.

What you end up with is an effective learning program, potentially bringing higher and more diverse quality than is possible from even the best L & D team on its own, while saving the cost of numerous eLearning courses or formal learning events. It drops the assumption that the established practices for client management already in place are better or preordained, welcoming ideas from across the networked world.

It covers all three corners, enabling a full 180° horizon, overcoming false choices that stand in the way of organizational agility and vision.

Open the triangle and see the horizon of learning (and perhaps, the reading rainbow).

Open the triangle and see the horizon of learning (and perhaps, the reading rainbow).

Flipped classroom and Instructional Design: Flip me!

19 Jul

My workplace’s primary historical purpose was to improve, support, and supplement classroom teaching. And while Education Northwest’s scope has expanded over the years, there are thankfully still many very smart people steeped in the world of education and scholastic excellence.

I am not one of them.

My background, as you know if you’ve read this blog before, is in Instructional Design (ID) and e-learning, especially for adult workers (i.e., training). This is both a challenge and opportunity. On a day-to-day level, it means learning each other’s terms, nomenclature, and assumptions, so we are speaking a common language when we talk about projects and solutions.

A colleague recently pointed to th

Interaction is essential for class room learning.

Interaction is essential for class room learning.

e (terrific) trend toward “flipped” classrooms, where teachers spend most of the class time coaching hands-on activities while allowing students to watch the “lecture” online, suggesting that this was a step closer to what I do. Yes, a challenge and an opportunity.

While watching lectures, TED talks, videos, and other infotainment is all well and good, it is in fact not what we IDs and e-learning designers do. When instructors or trainers stand in front of learners, whether to lecture or to train, they have an immediate feedback loop: The learners are engaged, bored, eager, confused, frustrated, etc. Through conversation, application, and exercises, the instructor has an immediate way to judge success and failure. It is a true two-way give-and-take, and good trainers (and teachers) thrive in that environment.

When we think about e-learning, we start with the learner—alone, at a screen, hoping at best to have a useful and mildly engaging 15 minutes, but fearing pages of text that bore him to tears and from which he will retain next to nothing. (Well, there’s always email, solitaire or less wholesome ways to pass the time if forced to sit at a screen.)

An ID’s job is to design something to surprise, delight, and exceed those dreary expectations.

IDs think about the lonely learner: "How can I reach these kids?"

IDs think about the lonely learner: “How can I reach these kids (or adults)?”

How can we replace that human classroom experience with a learning experience that engages learners and, in its most elevated form, allows them to transfer the knowledge and skills to their work performance? That is our starting point. Creating that design is part science and part art. It requires a deep understanding of the topic, and then combines it with the science of how people learn, how they might apply what they’ve learned to real life, and what kind of activities convert a screen watcher into an immersive participant in his own learning. That’s what e-learning specialists do.

Anyone with modest proficiency can tape a lecture or throw slide sets online and call it learning. At best, it’s an interesting invitation that might lead to learning: The flip in the flipped classroom is where the magic happens. E-learning delivers the flip, not (just) the lecture.

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