Friday, January 18, 2008

The Legal Training for Staff kickoff

Disclaimer: All names and players have been masked. There is not a Legal department (by that name) at the university where I work. And the folks who do that sort of thing are not involved in this project.

I speak for myself - not the University where I work or my co-workers. This is just one person's perspective....
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I finally had a chance to meet the players for the Legal Training for Staff (LTFS) project. The names I give them are not their real names.

Soft-Skill Training Director (Stacy) - She's been doing this for years. I was impressed by both her openness and understanding of the difference between eLearning and classroom learning. She's going to be the one leading the project.

Soft-Skill Instructional Designer (Sydney - or Sid for short) - eLearning is a new initiative for the Soft Skills group. Fortunately, this woman came on board with significant programming chops. She's familiar with Captivate. Has done some jury-rigging in Flash. And has dug through some of the code in the Java files. We seem to come at this project with similar skill levels - just different application experiences.

The Mid Level Mucky Muck for the Legal Department (The MuckyMuck) - Apparently, he's been talking to everyone he can grab attempting to convert this course to eLearning for 6 years! He HATES teaching the course and is open to any changes for this to work in the new environment. His big deal is reporting. Or, as he put it -

There is absolutely no point in doing this exercise unless we can run reports and see who has done what.

The Mucky Muck's Right Hand (RH) - He is the one tasked with being our Subject Matter expert. He comes at the issue with a slightly different perspective from the MuckyMuck based on his education - but he is also very experienced in the field. He also seems to be open to our recommendations.

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Stacy, Sid and our team met the day before the kickoff meeting to make sure we were all on the same page. To our relief, they saw the same problems with the course as we did.

When we all walked into the conference room to meet with the Mucky Muck and RH - we came in with some idea of the roles our departments will play. Stacy will lead the project. Sid will do most of the Captivate work. Our group will help get the material into our new LMS (a whole 'nother story that I'll update in a future post) and serve as a sounding board for the instructional design.

This is the first time I've been to a kickoff meeting where the players didn't know each other that well. In prior jobs - project kickoff meetings consist of the boss telling the employees "here's what we are going to do" and the employees doing it. Scope, objectives and timelines are already determined.

This particular project is more open-ended. Partially because this is the first project of its type (from what I can tell) - an eLearning conversion using multiple training departments. The other reason for it's open-endedness is because everyone at the table understood that there had to be a major redesign of the course.

The MuckyMuck wants that course to be expanded into a curricular series. He wants to ultimately take all of the various trainings pertaining to Legal stuff and create a job-specific curriculum for each employee. He then wants to be able to pull reports to prove that the employee took and passed the curriculum.

I think this is entirely reasonable (actually, the training groups were happy to hear that he wants to split the course into more job-specific buckets). But more complicated issues came up during the conversation. Who is going to be responsible for determining the correct curriculum for the employee? Who is going to get the reports?

This is where some re-education comes in. The MuckyMuck is thinking that the LMS will do all of this stuff automatically for him. The problem is that there is a policy piece that has never been addressed at an organizational level. The LMS can't help unless some basic decisions have been made. I don't think he wanted to hear that right then.

The Legal department seems to understand that we are staring at a long term project with multiple components. I'm personally thinking 1-3 YEARS before all of the pieces are in place. And we are probably staring at more committees before this is all said and done.

For our next meeting - scope determination and organizing the project plan.

This could get very complicated very quickly.

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