Thursday, December 10, 2009

What I Learned in 2009

I'm not going to entirely couch this in terms of "What I Learned About Learning" (this month's Big Question) because I think it is all of a piece this year.

Lesson 1: Learning how to play well with others

I find that playing well with others often means ceding control. This requires huge amounts of trust.

This year, the administrative team for our partially implemented LMS grew from 1.5 (the Veteran did a lot of work with the Instructor-Led tracking piece) to 4.

I trust the other team members implicitly.

Why? History. Having worked with them before and realizing (fairly quickly) that these are smart people with the best interest of the University at heart. They seem to feel the same way about me.

We also have the same goal - an easy place for our staff and faculty to find professional development resources.

As a result, we are finding ourselves asking each other more questions, using each other for feedback on various eLearning tools and topics (not just the LMS), and letting others know before the fact if we are doing something that impacts them.

It ain't policy - just common courtesy. Seems rare in the corporate environment.

Lesson 2: The difference between a functional and non-functional team is trust.

On the Vignette project, the team trusts each other. I've had more support from the Technical Lead and other Subject Matter Experts than I have on any other project in my professional career.

The resulting time spent in preparation + regular communication made the implementation and training less stressful than I anticipated. I also think the quality of the resulting training was better. At least, people walked away happy.

The follow-up calls I've received over the past few months have been more a result of them not using the system since the initial implementation and forgetting some of the details of how things work. I consider that success.

Despite having been working on another high-profile project the past few months, the team has kept me informed of changes in the system. The technical team has made changes to make the product more consistent and user-friendly. This can do nothing but make it easier to train.

My springtime project, develop an ongoing training and support program for Vignette.

I do this willingly because the team is so great to work with and I know I will get the support and information I need.

The project I just finished does not have this level of trust among the team members. As a result, meetings are more of the finger-pointing variety than of the decision-making variety. Thankfully, I have invisibility as a superpower. Another way my years as a stagehand have helped in my professional life ;)

The other result is that I find myself not wanting to perform any extra work. The politics and effort, plus the lack of support, just doesn't make it seem worthwhile. Even if it is something that DESPERATELY needs to be done.

Lesson 3: If you have to work with folks you don't trust, make sure you have a Plan B (and supporting documentation).

Thankfully, I learned this lesson much earlier in my professional career so I wasn't caught by surprise. Just received an unfortunate reminder this year that even in the best environments, you will occasionally get burned.

A nice thing about having experience is that when you run into the unpleasant situation again, you are less likely to get freaked out. You have a better idea of what to do next. And if it doesn't work, that's one other thing you don't need to try again.

Lesson 4: Having a smart, focused network is invaluable for professional development

Between Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader and the blog, I'm seeing the benefits of having a smart, focused network. I learn so much from my morning Google Reader and Twitter reading. I've gotten some fantastic feedback on the LMS and on other challenges I am facing.

Understand that the key word here is focus.

On Twitter, I follow eLearning and folks whose feed is more signal than noise.

My Facebook friends are also professionals in related fields. Pretty strange considering that the proportion of personal friends / professional friends has tipped to 60/40. Many of my childhood friends have put together some really interesting careers. I get great feedback from them that provides a different perspective from the folks I relate to more professionally.

This is like getting a PhD but with a better choice of professors, less time in the classroom, fewer office politics and without having to write a dissertation in academic-eze. All of the advantages (except maybe the title and diploma), none of the hassle.

You can see why I am having a tough time motivating myself to go back to school ;)

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I'm planning to continue the theme of teamwork for 2010. Why? Well, it's a skill I still need lots of practice in. Other reason: my success with social media I think really hinges on the ability to play well with others. Sharing. Trusting. Communicating honestly.

Thank you everyone for reading this blog and the twitter feed. Thank you for your feedback and ideas. You have made me a much better learning professional this year as a result.

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