Friday, September 25, 2009

The Details

You all may have sussed out by now that I am a HUGE process junkie. How do things work? What are the steps to get there?

During one of the exercises, I noticed that Disney not only focuses on the overarching processes related to the bigger vision, they also focus on the smaller, almost individual processes that impact their front line staff.

The only way I am able to explain it:

The Eiffel Tower = the vision
The bits of scaffolding = the processes supporting the vision.


I'm not entirely certain how to graph that out or explain it effectively, but it seems to me that Disney is in the process of developing a culture that encourages innovation among their front-line employees. They regularly ask their front-liners:

What are you doing to make your job easier? What are you doing that is solving a problem?

Sometimes, it's not an overt question, but a process of observation.

The resulting details help fine-tune the larger vision - with the ultimate goal of an amazing guest experience.


All of this is driven by a desire for constant improvement. "Is there a better way to...."

The instructors informed me that this desire is driven by the regular (and extensive) feedback they receive from their guests. They invite feedback from everywhere. Focus groups, informal interviews, surveys, front-line employees. Disney then processes that feedback using an extensive "research" organization that looks at trends.

Beyond using the research organization, there seems to be a lot of gut-level "hey, lets try X!!!!" To their credit - they take these experiments seriously. They also know when to cut bait if the experiment doesn't work.


How does one turn an organization into one that constantly seeks improvement? Invites feedback (no matter how negative)?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My Sulking Control Freak

I spent this morning preparing for a training session. One where I am giving away administrative authority.

The control freak perched on my desk - sulking.

You NEVER listen to me anymore.

I listen to you - I just choose not to take your advice right now.

WHY are you doing this?

I need the help. I need the feedback. I need other eyes.

You know that you are creating more work for yourself. Other people always screw stuff up.

I dunno - I think this time I'm working with some good, competent people. Besides - it's good for me to work with others.

Uh huh.

The control freak gives me the "...and I'm supposed to believe THAT" expression as she drools on my desk.

I've worked with both of these people on other projects. One comes with more technical chops in her pinky than I have in my entire body. The other has a solid project management background and sound process mind. They haven't disappointed me.


Listen, I KNOW this is different from our usual modus operandi. But I think this is really going to help BOTH of us in the long term.

Really - how is this going to help ME?

Well, you have been working really hard the past 35+ years. Besides, you've been an awesome motivator for me to learn new skills. I'd love to let you focus more on the learning side of the program.


The control freak folds her arms and makes a pointed effort to ignore me.
I know I hurt her feelings, but I also know this change needs to happen.

We have to learn to work with others. To trust that others will work with me. We have to learn how to build solid, productive relationships.

It's a change that has been a very long time coming.

And, this time, I'm optimistic that my trust is not misplaced. Whether the control freak believes this or not.....

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Environmental Fear

Please correct me if I'm wrong. I've been thinking and just want to get this out of my head.....

I'm guessing that for many readers of this blog, the classroom is a comfortable place.

We know the rules.

The rhythm and flow are predictable.

We are confident that we can at least be in the middle of the pack - if not the top of the heap - in any given classroom situation.

We've seen all sides of the environment.

And, chances are, we've had more positive experiences in the classroom than negative ones.

As a result, going into education as a profession wasn't that much of a leap.


How comfortable is that environment for our students?

How many walk into your classrooms with nightmares of past experiences? Being told that they were stupid? Lazy?

How far back do these memories go? How deep-seated are they?

Are they going in with an expectation of failure? Being made a fool of? Exposed as a "phony"?


I'm beginning to understand how powerful past experience can be when walking into a given environment.

Each time I walk into the gym, memories of all of my athletic failures come flooding in.

Being picked last for kickball / dodgeball / softball / soccer.

Disappointing teammates with my inability to catch the ball / make the point / get the out / close the frame.

Coming in last in running / swimming / rowing / bowling.

Being the slowest / weakest / least coordinated person in the group.

The resulting demons haunt me before each workout. Nevermind the welcoming environment, supportive coaches and friendly gym-mates. Nevermind that after 98% of the workouts I look back proud that I've accomplished something (and had "fun" in a masochistic sense). Just setting foot in the gym some days is a victory.

Watching the members of the coaching staff go out of their way to make people feel welcome, I wonder if there really IS anything we can do as instructors to alleviate the anxiety.

Celebrate the small victories?
Encourage a focus on the small personal triumphs?
Discourage comparison with other people's performance?
Just be welcoming?

I suspect it all goes back to what motivates you.
What drives you to overcome past performance.
What makes you work towards a goal.


What do you think?

Friday, September 04, 2009

Thoughts on Focus

Jon M. is one of the trainers at Potomac CrossFit.

In his blog (thankfully, not just workouts and list of things he ate today), he hit on an issue that dogs many instructors who teach complex topics with many interlocking skills.

Me: So, what are your goals…. what are you bad at?

Person: Well I really need to get better at running. And I am soooo bad at pullups and dips. I just feel so weak with barbell stuff, and I don’t even know how to snatch. Plus, I have to learn how to do the butterfly kip.

Me: And you graduated from Foundations when….three weeks ago?

I also see this, when an athlete is talking about their warmup: “I’m going to practice double unders for 10 minutes, do PNF 4 times a day, then hit some squat therapy. I’ll do the WOD, then I’m going to work on abs, double unders, and my pullups.”

Its the same problem, shown in two different ways. Anyone else see the issue here?

Did I mention that I was one of those 15 people he had that conversation with?
When performing instructional design, we try to guide the student through the appropriate skills in the right order to reach a particular set of (hopefully actionable and measurable) objectives.

In a corporate environment, these objectives are usually determined through various needs assessment processes. And, most of the time, the learner is not involved in goal-setting and objective creation. They are just expected to "learn it."

Personal endeavors require the students to determine their own focus. Define their own (hopefully actionable and measurable) objectives.

As a student, I'm finding this to be a much trickier task.

Do I focus on skills I have been exposed to and have a fighting chance of getting good at quickly?

Do I focus on brand new skills I've never seen before, much less done?

Should I go for bang-for-buck, even if it is something I suck at?

There is the pressure of watching those who have already mastered large chunks of the curriculum. Seeing the "goal" in action every day.

How did they get there? And how do I do that?

There is the personal expectation that you really should be "better" at this thing you are trying to do.

Nevermind that you haven't worked out in 10 years and the closest thing to a sport you've participated in has been fantasy football.

And this is where Jon's challenge lies.

How do you get your students to
1) Set goals for themselves
2) Focus on those goals when the environment has you doing so many other activities
3) Focus on those goals when the "end result" is, by necessity, self-defined.
4) Not be so overwhelmed by the lengthy list of things one "needs to get good at."
5) Get them to see that mastery is a "process." (...and this may be the toughest challenge of them all...)

That's a lot of responsibility he has to give to his students. And trust that they take it.

As a student in this, I find that the toughest part is deciding priorities.

Especially because I am not particularly good at ANY of the skills of this thing I am trying to master.

Trying to figure out how to get from here (old, slow, weak and generally out of shape) to there (old, not as slow, stronger and functionally healthy). Trying not to get discouraged when some woman 15 years younger and 20 pounds lighter than me lifts her bodyweight over her head and smokes me in the 800 meter run in the same 1 hour session without breaking a sweat. Trying to remember that it is all a process and a change that takes time. And lots of it.

I've decided that I need to focus on things that have the highest "bang-for-buck" in the long run. Which, in my case, is anything that prevents injury.

So, for my points of focus in this thing I'm trying to master:

- good running form (and not wheezing my way through workouts)
- pullups
- squat exercises and getting good range of motion

It may be more important to just let myself suck at some things for awhile. Anything having to do with a jump rope. Box jumps. Rowing. Being particularly "fast" at any workout. These will have to wait.

We'll see whether I have the right focus in the next 3 months....


I wonder if, as corporate trainers, as corporations, we are letting our students off too easy.

Are we giving them enough responsibility to determine their own goals? Their own priorities?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Getting Out of the Way

Last week, I had the privilege of "training" some of our senior IT techs on our synchronous online meeting tool.


Here's what happened.

I walked in with a rough outline and some documentation.
Because I knew these guys - I gave them a rough model of how to do stuff.
(The "Tools" menu is your friend).

Oh yeah - and they had upgraded the system just the week before, so I had no IDEA what new features were in place. Plus, most of our licenses have been taken over by the academic side, so I don't use this instructional tool very often.

My role was not "sage on the stage" so much as "clueless person to play with."

(Sr. IT Tech 1) Hey - can we do video teleconferencing on this thing?
(Me) idea...there wasn't a video feature in the last version
(Sr. IT Tech 2) Guys! I found a video button!!!
(rest of team clicks on it, along with the trainer) Oooooh!
(Sr. IT Tech 3) Hey Wendy - you need to get some webcams so we can play more!!!!
(Sr. IT Tech 4) Hey look! We can take control of someone's computer without giving moderator access
(Me) Cool! Where's that?
(Sr. IT Tech 4) Tools > Sharing > Control Desktop
(All) Ooooooooh!

Rinse and repeat for an hour.

So what was my value add?

I provided a safe place to play.
Some encouragement.
Hints from having used it before.

And a good foil.