One of my managers asked about the value of classroom training.
The conversation then promptly veered from that topic. Quite honestly - it is something that probably requires more than 30 seconds of conversation.
So this gives me an opportunity to revisit some of my thinking on the value and purpose of the classroom training model.
The problems I see:
- Classroom training is not scalable by
distance, time or human resources - especially when we are staring at a
few projects that will require us to provide training and support for
30,000 including a new China campus. Even if that was part of our
strategy - we won't have the resources (ie people) in place in time for
us to do that + perform all of the other tasks already on our plate that won't be (and shouldn't be) removed. And what about the future?
People say they want classroom training, then don't bother to show up,
then complain that we can't do training on their schedule or when they
need it. One of the other managers picked up on this right away.
- There is a level of fear for many adult students as soon as they step into a classroom. Mostly from negative early experience. That environment kicks up a lot of stuff for a lot of people. Highly educated people with multiple degrees forget how to read. A large chunk of my job is fear mitigation. The classroom environment - with its chairs and industrial strength walls and often orderly seating arrangements focused on the "front" doesn't help.
Our IT organization is moving to a new development model where they are
purposefully sending unfinished products out into the wild. The
developers are setting the proper expectation that they are doing this
to get feedback and quickly implement changes that will make the product
more useful. As a result - training has zero development time and a
dizzying evaluation cycle. Our current models don't adapt to that.
of us have made a career living the trainers nightmare. Not so sure
that is something I want to inflict on my peers. Classroom training
(particularly for the nervous) works LOTS better when the product is
complete (or really close to it).
- I have learned that
retention is minimal with single events. And research has proven that
out. Some of our more pro-active students will attend the same class
multiple times. I fear that this is a waste of their time. This is why almost all of the training I have designed
in the past has had the sole objective of finding help when you need
it. The other stuff (navigate the system, perform x task) is
secondary. It's nice if they remember the secondary - but very few ever
Classroom training definitely has its place:
During an implementation as an option for education. We want people to
be comfortable - and if they are comfortable in a classroom, then they should be given the opportunity of the classroom.
When the discussion is needed (IT example) "How do we fit this tool
into our processes?" Or "What improvements do we need to make to our
process?" Ideally - the end-users wouldn't need to ask these questions
at all because they would have chosen the tool and adapted their
processes to solve the problem the tool is supposed to solve. But I
don't live in an ideal world.
- When the discussion is needed (soft-skills example) - One of the most effective trainings I delivered was Magic classroom customer service training.
Lots of discussion, interactivity, peer coaching and mentoring designed
in the class. (I still wish I retained the recording of one mock phone
call). The other thing that made that particular effort useful was
higher management support and consistent, daily feedback after the
training. This was also a manageable audience (about 200 people across
Maryland) for the resources we had available (me + 1 other) and it was
done as it could be scheduled for each site on their time
So do I teach them to fish? Or do I give them the fish?
Do I meet expectations? Or give them what they actually need when they have to perform?
Sage on the stage? Guide on the side? Give them access to REAL expertise in the context they are in?
I'm thinking that if we are going to legitimately have a learning environment for staff, one where the staff is constantly learning, one where the staff feels EMPOWERED to reach out and gain expertise - classroom training is only one set of tools in the toolbox - like a crescent wrench set.
You can use the crescent wrench like a hammer, but it is not as good as a hammer.
You can punt if you have the wrong size crescent wrench, with some difficulty.
But to build a house - you need more than just one type of tool.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
This is the way I currently visualize and categorize the activities around our roadmap.
This post discusses the blue Content box in the middle. The one our team has "control" over.
We've had a reorg - so I spent part of last week updating my new management about the Learning Ecosystem and the roadmap.
I've shared part of this before.
"You know - we've been moving away from classroom training. There is demand for it. I see a real growth opportunity there."
Hmmm.... Do I take the bait?
In the slides that followed the one above (that I can't share) - I demonstrated that many of the activities we currently perform are firmly centered around Content and that 10% formal.
Our infrastructure supports the 10%.
Our models support the 10%
We've been doing the 10% for years.
We've GOT the 10%
Where the growth opportunity for us TRULY is - helping develop and support the environment that allows the organization to use the 20% (Coaching / Mentoring / Collaboration) and the 70% (Learning-on-the-fly, as needed, in context).
20% - Our collaboration tools are in development and I'm hoping we can start accessing them and REALLY figure out how to build communities that leverage the expertise that is all around the University.
70% - Our "learning-on-the-fly" tools are all over the place. That person really needs to have a good manager who happens to know some people to figure out where all of the information they need is housed.
90% and getting that right vs. 10% which we already have.
I know where I see the growth opportunity.....
Thursday, September 19, 2013
When we compare the activities performed with and without the aid of a reminder list, we see that the conclusion one draws depends on the point of view being taken. To the outside observer (who takes the system view), the same actions are intended to be performed with and without the list, but (usually) they are carried out more accurately and reliably with the list. To the individual user (who takes the personal view), the list is not a memory or planning enhancer, it is a set of new tasks to be performed, with the aspects of the list relevant to memory and planning separated from the aspects of the list relevant to performance. - Donald Norman, 2007 (Thanks Clark!)
Many of the process improvement activities I've seen recently have consisted of creating artifacts (checklists, tools, applications) where there are none. Formalizing "known" processes.
System view says that the development of an artifact to help aid memory and guide the performance of a task is an awesome thing! Consistency, repeatability, not missing steps. Tack on some governance in between to assist with prioritization and awareness and life will be perfect.
Personal view says that tacking on the use of this "thing" = slowdowns, unnecessary work, loss of freedom and obstacles to getting stuff done.
So much of what I do as an applications trainer consists of selling the system view of a new artifact (often a software application) to a person.
Much of the pushback I receive is based on the personal view.
Often, that personal view is absolutely right.
That new artifact WILL cause slowdowns, unnecessary work (because they have to feed the artifact), loss of freedom (because they have to wait for permission vs. just doing it) and obstacles to getting stuff done (time spent justifying WHY they are doing it - meanwhile, the person is being pounded on by others to just get it done).
Are you creating the artifact to make the process go faster?
Are you creating the artifact to ultimately reduce the workload - both individually and collectively?
Are you creating the artifact to prevent harm? (e.g. patient death, airplane crash, massive IT system failure)
Are you creating the artifact to track activity to prove that you are performing activity? (Look! I work really HARD!)
Are you creating the artifact in an attempt to "control"?
If you are creating the artifact to make the process go faster, reduce the workload and prevent harm - that is an easy sale. If you make it easy for me to see HOW the artifact will do that - even better.
However, if you are creating the artifact simply to increase tracking and control - for the sake of tracking and control...the chances of that artifact being adopted are very slim.
Often, this results in retraining (hooray job security), the development of "punishments for not using the artifact" and ultimately abandonment (wasted money, time and energy).
Why are you creating the artifact?
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Many organizational processes look like this.
During a recent project, one of our SMEs kept INSISTING "Everyone KNOWS the process!"
Then in the next sentence she complains about how they are doing it wrong.
Don't know about you - but in my "professional" opinion, this tells me that their target audience either:
a) Does NOT KNOW the process
b) Doesn't understand the process
c) Doesn't like the process because it is too slow/awkward/seemingly unnecessary
d) All of the above
In this case, judging from her examples of how they are "doing it wrong", I figured the answer was a).
The likelihood of the answer being d) was also very high. Generally - I'll choose d), then design with that assumption in mind.
Proven wrong - the audience gets a reminder. Repetition helps learning.
Proven right - the audience gets what they need.
Now all that needs to happen is a simplification of the process so that we don't have to worry so much about a-c. ESPECIALLY c.
Since chance of that happening is next to nil (gotta leave room for a miracle) - I will remain employed.
Thursday, September 12, 2013
As far as your fans know - you are only capable of hate.
I don't hate golf....
A couple members of my team have just finished one of those trainers nightmare implementations.
As a follow-up, the subject-matter experts are doing further sessions on process and workflow.
From experience, I know this is a good thing.
My colleagues aren't so sure and feel like they fell short.
Previous managers spent years drilling into my head that “image is important,” and I just can’t help but feel that ...the need for these sessions damage our credibility and image in some way.
For years, I knew the feeling.
The lot of the IT implementation trainer is to be the scapegoat of all that is wrong with the product and the project.
Be the rescuer of the ill-advised, the ill-planned and the ill-executed.
Make sows ears look like silk purses.
My initial response to my colleague was something along the lines of "We're OK. The SMEs aren't out to get us or make us look bad this time, so we're ahead."
But the more I thought about his comment, I realized that there was something else that bothered me...
A lot of leadership advice is filled with "fake it till you make it."
Watch your body language.
Wear the appropriate costume.
Use x words.
Apply x tone.
What I have observed is that I get real uncomfortable when I run into someone or something that practices all of the "right" things.
Tutorials that are too polished and pretty.
Voice-overs that are too professional.
Salespeople and executives that look and sound "just right."
Trainers that are a textbook example of "good trainer."
I find myself looking for the catch.
Over the past few months, I've received some interesting feedback about my work.
The telecommuters seem to be responding to the unpolished nature of Tuesday Morning Telecommuter.
My colleagues have informed me that they appreciate my "honesty" when I train.
Other peers tell me they like my voice-overs - with the dropped letters, slight slurring, popped Ps and breathing noises.
When I look at my favorite trainers / bloggers / mentors / vendors / people - they all have authenticity about them. There's something messy, human and integrated that makes me trust them more.
This perspective is likely the result of me being terrible at "image control."
My moods are written all over my face (despite my best efforts).
I tend towards the rumpled.
I get obviously uncomfortable if I have to skirt issues or not answer questions or withhold information.
But I also wonder if we are doing people a disservice if we keep preaching "Image is important."
How about "Authenticity is important."
"Connection is important".
The hypothesis I am currently playing with in my own life....
If I am as open, honest and above-board as I can possibly be...
Image takes care of itself.
I'll let you know what I find....
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Thursday, September 05, 2013
So far, subscription-based learning has been a resounding success. At least in terms of popularity. I've received a lot of comments that they love the material. Find it useful. Look forward to each week's post (which is saying something with the amount of bulk mail clutter we get in our inboxes each week). I've even gotten the first rock thrown. Mostly about the color of the blog template. And everyone KNOWS how I feel about complaints about the color. I've also started spreading the idea to colleagues. The next thing I need to figure out - whether there has been any actual performance improvement as a result of these posts. ------------- Other things I found helpful... Pre-scheduling posts. Helps me stay on track...mostly. Also helps me space out the information they need to know for better absorption. Keeping 1 main concept in mind - Collaboration. I have made detours to more personal work efficiency and compliance issues upon request. These detours have not worked nearly as well. I will need to do a better job in future posts of looping these "detour" concepts into the idea of better collaboration. I'm thinking that if I am able to personally work more effectively (and keep myself out of trouble), I am better able to collaborate with others. The occasional "circle-back" to previous posts. This applies the repetition that Dr. Thalheimer found to be so important for retention. Flexibility in scheduling. Striking while topics are top-of-mind for the audience also helps retention and seems to fuel more discussion and participation by the audience. Also - if it seems applicable to their immediate needs, they are more likely to act on the information. Which is what I want. --------------- Stuff I need to work on.... Audience Participation. I'm getting better participation than expected. However, Tuesday Morning Telecommuter is still pretty-much me, myself and I. Besides, if I want to have my theme be collaboration, it would help if my learning model was more collaborative. Better administrative workflow. Right now, Tuesday Morning Telecommuter is still a personal Wordpress site with the "newsletter" being sent by hand through my own work email. I've hesitated to use the tools available at the University because what is currently out there is governed to death and would double the 8-10 hours I already spend each week creating the emails, videos and posts. Tagging and Navigation. I want this thing I am building to also be a referenceable resource. I just started experimenting with tagging and navigation. Eventually - I will be transferring all of this to a SharePoint site. The vision is that SharePoint will be a University resource that does magical things (from what I gather). We have such a problem with folks finding the information and support they need in my organization. I really don't want to add to the problem. Figuring out whether this is making changes to the metrics that matter. As in - is this REALLY helping people do their jobs better or is it just popular?