Friday, June 17, 2016

Slick Translation Use Cases

Elizabeth Cox, from Belmont Middle School (and the wife of one of my co-workers), put together a very slick use case for helping international students with English.

The solution leverages tablets, voice recognition, and Bing Translator.

Microsoft in Education featured the solution recently.  Worth the 3 minutes to watch...

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Knowledge Centered Support

Screenshot of WKU's IT Help Desk Client Portal.  This particular one is run off of TeamDynamix Service Management solution.
During a conference I attended recently, I encountered the concept of Knowledge-Centered Support.

Kaliegh Belda at Western Kentucky University gave a presentation on this topic that turned out to be the hit of the conference.

This concept is taken from IT Help Desks and Service and is one way to think of learning in bite-size, easily consumable chunks that are updated by the people on the front-lines of support - taking some of the pressure off the training team to update materials. The other benefit I see (and that Kaliegh touched on in her presentation) is that the act of writing the article helps her staff become more familiar with whatever tool they are supporting.

An even bigger benefit is the growth of an up-to-date, easily searchable knowledge library for both the IT staff and the university community. 

This is, essentially, one of the best implementations of micro-learning I have seen in action.
Brief notes on how this works (from my conference notes):
  • This particular solution uses TeamDynamix ITSM Knowledge Base engine.  You can do the same thing with RightAnswers, or any wiki or knowledge base engine.  Heck, you could probably do this using WordPress.
  • All responses to help desk tickets MUST include a link to an article.
    • This is enforced by the help desk management.  I believe they are copied on all responses.
    • If the ticket was a phone call, the help desk personnel still send a follow-up email with the appropriate article linked.
  • If an article does not exist, the help desk person must write one.
    • As part of their process, they still track turnaround time.  I didn't catch whether they had a way to track time spent writing.  I know they are paying attention to authorship and using that as part of their metrics.
  • They created a standard format early on.
    • It made it faster for the author to write the article.
    • It created a fairly common UI for the reader.
    • As part of that format, they enforced tags and created a common library
  • There is a review process for each article, but it was a short one.
    • Initially - the help desk person wrote it, then it was reviewed quickly (same day) and published by the help desk manager.
    • Later - they got the experts writing articles as tickets were escalated to them, which were reviewed quickly (same day) and published.  Escalated tickets still had the requirement of having an article attached before closure.  This is done by the help desk staff and is slowly being done by the tier 2 and tier 3 support as well.
      • It was very impressive that she managed to get the engineers to start writing articles.  She admitted, it took some doing - but the engineers started quickly seeing how by writing articles, fewer tickets were escalated to them.
    • Finally - as they found people who were really good at writing these articles, they created a group of approvers.  This allowed the articles to be published even more quickly.
They found that as they applied this technique, end users would start looking up articles on their own, reducing help desk calls. This is a good thing.

Throughout her session, Kaliegh emphasized "writing as needed" vs "unnecessary pro-activity".

During implementations, we often find ourselves guessing what the most frequently asked questions will be and creating materials based on these.

Her observation - "What we THINK we will get questions on and what we ACTUALLY hear are often worlds apart."

I know I spend a ton of time creating materials based on how I and the rest of the project team think the end-user will use the tool.

"Not necessary" Kaliegh argued.

And it boils down to giving our end-users more credit for figuring stuff out.  Especially as tools become more user friendly and as people are forced to become more adaptable to changes in how their tools work on a regular basis.

I admit to a bit of discomfort - only because I get the brunt of the "We've never been trained" whining from people who refuse to take responsibility for their own learning. 

But she has a point.  I have a lot of materials I have developed "just in case" that have never been touched after the initial implementation.  Either because people aren't using that feature or the feature is so blindingly obvious to use that it doesn't require instruction from an "expert".

And if the search and tagging are done right, the reduction in duplicate effort and the ability to update and refine information quickly would be more than worth it.

With the increased growth in cloud-based solutions built using Agile techniques and the resulting loss of control over user interfaces and features - I think this just-in-time, as-needed approach becomes more necessary.

There is no way the training team can keep up using its traditional methodologies.
The Consortium for Service Innovation has some great material if you want to learn more about this technique.

KCS Principles and Core Concepts
KCS Adoption Guide . Though the information is in an IT context - it would be worthwhile to see how this concept applies in more soft-skills and business process contexts.
BTW - I ran this article by Kaliegh before I posted this to make sure I didn't misrepresent her or her talk.

If you have any questions, she's invited you to contact her at Western Kentucky University.

She'd love to answer your questions.

Thanks Kaliegh for reviewing this blog post and for introducing me to Knowledge-Centered Support :)

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Presentation: Leveraging an Implementation for Process Improvement

Back in May, I gave a talk at the TeamDynamix user conference.

TeamDynamix provides project management and IT service management solutions for higher ed.

I created a short movie of the 5 minute presentation. 


I'd like to thank Aaron Crane and Kris Kennedy (TeamDynamix) for encouraging me to speak.

I'd also like to thank Sharon, Lucia and Kylie (TeamDynamix) for their hospitality at the conference and the folks at GW (Leslie, Greg N, Claire, Jim and Michael) for their feedback on the presentation and other colleagues from GW (Greg W, Cynthia G, Denise) for their support during the lightning talk round and panel discussions.

Oh yes - and for other colleagues around GW, including the CIO, for allowing me to turn them into cartoon characters :)

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

The Hardest Thing (Sometimes) is Deciding What To Do

As I write this, I'm paralyzed by choices.

What to do next.

I have some blog posts to write. Detailed, high-mental bandwidth blog posts.

I could write another to-do list, but fear if I do THAT I will be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of the things I think I should do.

I have a bunch of meetings I need to set up.

A new computer I need to set up.

New tools to learn - quickly.

Niggly personal stuff that needs to get done - like get my car inspected, make an appointment to get more fillings, talk to an accountant and other responsible adult activities (bleh).

For me...big things are easier to break down in small pieces and execute on.

It's all the random small stuff.

  • Write thank you letters.
  • Read up on the current state of xAPI and the JSON space
  • Mess with SharePoint SLK and see if I can't get that working for some old tutorials
  • Fix my Quickbooks
  • Write the conference organizers to get permission to share my recent presentation with the blog
  • Write people to get sponsorship for a conference
  • Get off my couch and get another cup of coffee
  • "Meditate" (ie - sit on the couch and think while trying to get myself to focus on SOMETHING that is not thinking)
  • "Exercise" (ie - get off the couch and pick up a dumbbell x number of times, then go get more coffee)

It's enough to send me screaming to Facebook to look at my family and friend's current political opinions, pictures of idealized lives, game requests and funny cat videos.

Next right things (since I'm here) - get off my couch, get another cup of coffee and write another blog post. 

Thank you for letting me break through my log jam with you.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Walking People Through the "Getting Your Ass Kicked" Part of the Program

The majority of my career has been spent in change management.
The front lines. I'm the one who gets the brunt of people's fear about the change.
The anger. The frustration. The sadness. The discomfort.

We spend so much time talking about how "great" the change is going to be.
Selling the change.
Marketing the change.
Often, with little acknowledgement or accommodation for the natural dip in productivity the change requires to stick.

We get so focused on the "event" of change that we forget the day-to-day reinforcement that change requires to stick.
And because training is often "the event" - any negatives around the change (like features that don't work or the change not being nearly as "positive" as the higher ups anticipate) are expected to be fixed by training.

We know how well that works.
I've been reflecting on my career to date.

I'm thinking I could do a much better job of walking people through  the "getting your ass kicked" part of the program.

I could do a much better job of acknowledging - to the end users AND to management - that a productivity dip exists. And it is OK. And, for the change to stick, needs to be accommodated for a period of time.

I could do a better job of helping to shape the support environment around the change.

I could do a better job of helping people feel safe.

I often forget that my practice of regularly making myself uncomfortable so I can learn something new is not the way the vast majority of humanity works. 
Comfortable is good. 
Feelings of mastery are good, and my audience has worked damned hard to achieve that mastery.
I'm asking them to feel stupid for awhile.
And most people, rightly, resist.

I could do a better job of helping people get comfortable with the "stupid" feeling.
That might be the most powerful thing I could do.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The "Getting Your Ass Kicked" Part of the Program

What Snowboarding is supposed to look like.
I don't aspire to jump off of 50 foot rocks.  I just want to be able to turn pretty.

This winter I decided it was time to get serious about learning to snowboard.
I figured I was never going to learn by taking a beginner class once every 3-5 years.
The repetition needed to be more regular.

The beginner class went OK.  By the end, I could make it down the bunny slope.  Mostly.
Turn one direction. Stop. Get going again. Turn one direction. Stop.

Took a second class.  Could get down the hill. Turn one direction. Stop. Make it on the chairlift without tripping. Make it off the chairlift without harming myself or others. Scramble to get out of the way as I inevitably fell when I picked up speed down the chairlift ramp and lost my balance. Get down the hill mostly by scooting to one side of the run. Stop. Attempt to change direction. Fall. Get up. Go to the other side of the run. Fall. Repeat until I get down the mountain.

Because I hadn't wound up in the hospital - I decided to venture out on my own.

Over the course of a few weeks of runs:
- Got into the habit of getting on and off the chairlift with minimal drama (ie - not falling at the base of the chairlift and having to scramble out of the way)
- Was able to get down the hill without harming myself or others - admittedly only toe side OR heel side vs looking like a real snowboarder.

I can stop and start and turn and steer - so I personally don't see a problem with going down either toe side OR heel side. My snowboarder partner, however, tells me I am doing it wrong and I am supposed to be transitioning between toe side and heel side with only one foot in front (left OR right) vs rocking back and forth down the hill (for me - preferably heel side so I can see where I am going).

So at the behest of my snowboarder partner (otherwise known as making fun of me), I decided I was going to practice transitioning "correctly"(hmph).
And then I hit the true "ass kicking" part of the program.
Turn. Eat snow.
Turn. Turn. Bang head. Eat snow.
Turn. Turn. Rock back and forth on the hill for awhile. Attempt turn. Bang head. Eat snow.
Rinse. Repeat.

Before this slump - I was making rapid progress.  I could stand on the board. I could get down the hill (albeit slowly and in a highly unorthodox manner). I could control my speed and stop.

Sadly, I ran out of winter.

So at this juncture - I have some choices around how I am going to react to this slump.
1) Quit.
2) Rage and struggle through it (the way I normally approach things)
3) Calmly work through it... knowing that the next level of mastery will come eventually.

I see this process play out in any change - either chosen OR inflicted.  Individual or organizational.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

On Influence

The wonders of Google search uncovered Jewelpet Magical Change anime.
Seems appropriate.
The full video is here.

Recently - I've been asked the following question:
So how do you influence people to change?
It's asked in different ways.  It's been asked by friends and strangers in a wide array of contexts.
And I've been asked this a LOT in the past couple of months.

The tone of the voice and/or the look in their eye seems to expect me to provide the magic bullet that makes everyone do their bidding.

My response has been to provide the techniques I tend to use (questioning, listening, figuring out where they are at and why)....but at the end of the day, they have to meet me part-way.

They always seem disappointed in the answer.
Because it is not a magic bullet.
It IS time-consuming and requires building relationships and repetition vs. one and done.
And sometimes, you just can't.

Because you are the wrong messenger.

Because there are no environmental factors either nearby or far away that supports what you are asking them to do.

Because the environmental factors AGAINST what you are asking them to do are much stronger.

Because that may be just the wrong person and, if other environmental factors are at play, may just need to be worked around or removed.

Or....if the environmental factors are against you and the person is in a specific spot of power and there is no way to work around these things, it may just be that you need to remove yourself.

It happens.

All I've been able to do when answering that question is tell them what I've tried.
What worked. What didn't. Why.
But at the end of the day - I have to be met part way by the person and supported by the environment.
Otherwise, I'm just banging my head against the wall.

It's never the answer people are expecting.
And maybe they are looking for me to be the magical change fairy. And to sprinkle the magic fairy dust on them.
And I'd love for that to be the case.

But we can only control what we can control.
I can't control others (as much as I want to sometime).
I can't control the environment, though I can do my best to model what I want to see.

ANY "control", any change, starts and ends with me. 

Am I modeling that change?
Am I asking them to do something I wouldn't (and haven't) done myself?
Am I providing consistent, practiced repetition over an extended period of time?
Am I able to demonstrate the benefits of the change in my own world?

It's the best I can do.