Thursday, October 31, 2013

Are You Willing to Bet Your Future on Achieving Outcomes for Your Stakeholders?

I know it is the HPT’er in me, but the new book, B4B: How Technology and Big Data Are Reinventing the Customer-Supplier Relationship, which was launched at the Technology Services World conference, scratched me right where I itch.

In one of the keynote addresses, co-author J.B. Wood made the point that technology services companies better be ready to bank their entire company’s future on achieve outcomes for their customers (rather than selling a technology solution).
This is what human performance technology (HPT) is all about…achieving improved performance (outcomes) for stakeholders no matter what the intervention (solution) is. Learning and development professionals should think hard about this, and ask yourselves this question:

Are you willing to bank your professional future on achieve outcomes for you stakeholders?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

You're Either Growing or Your Dying, There Ain't No Third Direction

According to this particular survey the number one reason people in the finance and account profession leave a job is due to a lack of career development. What is most interesting is that only fourteen percent of hiring managers are will to negotiate career development opportunities as part of the hiring process.
You're either growing or your dying, there ain't no third direction.

This is insane. 

And negotiating career development could be a huge win for both parties and potentially less expensive for the employer than a negotiation focused on salary and bonus.

Think of it this way, you can go back and forth with a candidate over two or five or ten thousand dollars in the salary, make some of it bonus and some in salary, and haggle over small percentage points of proportion. Or you could just say:
“How about this, you seem to value career development. How about I just give you an annual budget of $5,000 to use specifically for career development that you can use on conferences, certification programs, professional association members, and travel expenses associated specifically with these endeavors? You decide the nature of the development and as long as it is reasonably professional in nature (not a spring break trip to Cancun an ashram or to learn new poses from a yoga guru) the expenses will be reimbursed to you up to $5,000 per year.”
People want to grow and learn. They don’t just want a job. So, help them get that. The proof is in these two quotes.
“Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over, if you are standing still.” - Roy Rogers
"Any business that tries to wait it out will be just that, out. In auto parts, you're either growing or you're dying. There ain't no third direction." - Big Tom Callahan

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Like Short Book Chapters, Short eLearning Courses are Better

This post was originally published on the Daily Mindflash blog. Included here is the lead and a link to full post.

In 2003, I worked on a project to break up long eLearning courses into shorter versions. In an early meeting to discuss how we would tackle the problem, the idea came up to “chunk” up the courses, so we called the project, “Chunky Monkey.” The catalyst was that we were getting direct feedback that the courses were too long, and in a call center, taking people off the phones is not something to do unless there is a darn good reason. We thought that by breaking up our eLearning courses into short modules, they could be completed during idle times between customer calls.

We had a specific reason for breaking up our eLearning course, but there are plenty of other reasons. Here are three. First, people have short attention spans. Second, they like a visible sense of accomplishment. Third, creating short, independent eLearning modules allows content to be repurposed for multiple uses.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

So You Think Your Software Doesn’t Need Training? Think Again

This post was originally published on the ServiceRocket blog. Included here is the lead and a link to full post.

On Tuesday, October 15, I attended the Yammer Working Social Tour in San Francisco. I have used Yammer in previous jobs as part of learning programs I have designed, and I was interested to learn how far Yammer has come since then. And since my in progress dissertation is on social learning, I like to keep up on enterprise social networking.

One of the sessions I attended was a customer panel focused on ways to adopt Yammer and a social way of working in organizations. One of the lessons from this session was about training and how much training is needed. One of the customers, Jonathan Anthony, Director of Corporate Communication at Teekay, stated that he wished they did much more training upfront to increase and speed up adoption.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Enlightened Self-Interest and Customer Success

On Wednesday, I wrote about the billion dollar phrase at Rackspace. Today I share you with you another point that Graham Weston made about the importance of focusing on customers.

He told the audience that you have to listen to you customers and give your customers what they want. OK fine, I thought. That sounds good, but everyone says that.

Then Weston explain that when they listened, Rackspace customers said that they did not want to be tied down or locked in to anything. But traditionally software (and services) companies work hard to lock customers into multi-year contracts and and even lock them into their technology stack.

Rackspace listened and decided to put its technology stack into an open source foundation and made it freely available.

That's right focus, OpenStack (created by Rackspace) was born out of listening to customers.

Just reflect on this for a minute.

Reflect on the action Rackspace took to freely give away its technology based on their customers' best interest and not on Rackspace's best interest. Customers didn't want to be locked into a technology standard and at the mercy of Rackspace. So Rackspace said, "Fine, here you go. Do with our technology whatever you wish."

Of course Rackspace has benefited greatly from this move. Weston called this, "Enlightened Self-Interest."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Rackspace Founder Calls 'Fanatical Support' Billion Dollar Phrase

One of the keynote speakers at #TSW13 was Graham Weston, the Chairman and Co-Founder of Rackspace. He made a powerful point demonstrating the vital importance of customer focus. One of Rackspaces values is Fanatical Support. Weston calls Fanatic Support a billion dollar phrase. 

He credits that phrase with Rackspaces success. 

Furthermore, Graham, stated proudly that Fanatical Support came from people on the front lines in support and not from the marketing department.

It goes to show the power of customer focus.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Stop Conducting Training Surveys

This post was originally published on the Daily Mindflash blog. Included here is the lead and a link to full post.

Earlier this month, I wrote a blog post about five ways to make your training survey questions more effective. This week, I’d like to discuss whether we should do survey questions at all? Seriously. Part of me thinks we should not conduct training surveys at all.

Radical thought, I know. But here me out.

The reason I suggest we should not conduct training surveys is based on a point I made in that previous blog post in which I state, “The most important [training survey] principle is to write questions that seek responses on which you can take action.” The problem is that we don’t always take action on survey results, and if we do not take action on the data, we should not collect the data, right?

You Cannot Evaluate at One Level

Don't get me wrong, I believe in spending time evaluating whether a training program is effective. The four or five step processes that comes from the Kirkpatrick or Phillips methods can work well, but if you look at the numbers, very few organizations use all four or five levels.

If you only use some of the levels, you cannot know whether your training was effective. Well, you can if you use intuition. But in a big data world, intuition will not get the job done.

Here is the problem with only using some of the levels.

Level 1: If you only ask people whether they "like" your training, you will not know if they learned anything.

Level 2: An assessment will show whether someone learned the content of your training, but you will not know whether people have changed their behavior or apply what they learned.

Level 3: If you determine that people have changed their behavior and applied the concepts learned in your training, you will not know whether the application was effective….or resulted in performance improvement.

Level 4: Even if you determine whether performance improved, you will not know whether the performance improvement resulted in gains that out weight the investment you made to develop and deliver the training.

The lesson here is that if you really want to know whether your training is effective, you need to evaluate it using all five levels. I am almost ready to state that if you don't do all five, you should not do any.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

L&D Pros: Not Mathematical? Well, Get Mathematical

On Thursday, I went to Chief Learning Officer Magazine Breakfast Club in San Francisco. It was an excellent event, and I met some very smart people. The topic of the discussion was on big data. If you can, you should attend one of these events.

My overall impression from the discussion is that no one seems to know what it is, but everyone has an opinion on it. The moderator frequently had to move us along before all audience questions were addressed. It is quite a popular topic.

A working knowledge of statistics, my friends,
is a minimum requirement for making better
decisions using data. 
One of the discussion questions asked during the event was about the new skills needed of learning and development professionals. Not one point was made about learning mathematics or statistics or anything related to using data to make better decisions.

Shouldn't one new skill be to have at least a working knowledge of statistics? Isn't that a minimum requirement for anyone who wants to use data to make better decisions?

For example, let's say you implement a new sales training program (or a significant change to an existing sales training program)? How do you know whether it worked (however you define worked)?

With a working knowledge of statistics we understand that we can test the results to see whether there were any significant changes in the data (whether it worked)…that sales went up and went up enough that it mattered.

In it's simplest form, we would compare two groups. One group being the group of people who participated in the new program. The second group being sales people who did not.

We can use a simple statistics test (can be done in Excel, for Pete's sake) to compare the sales results of the two groups…..and draw a conclusion, with reasonable confidence, whether the results of the group that attended the training differed significantly from the group who did not attend the training.

There are far more complex procedures that statistics offers for analyzing data, and I certainly have only a foundational knowledge of statistics, but isn't thinking like this a mandatory minimum? Shouldn't we be thinking that way, when it comes to evaluating the results of training programs we design?

Most L&D pros will say no. But I think that is why all discussions of big data in the learning and development community skip the topic of big data entirely.

The headline of this post was inspired by a blog post from A VC called, If You Aren't Technical, Get Technical

Friday, October 18, 2013

A Few Rules of Management for Playing the Gamification Game

This post was originally published on the HumanCapitalist blog. Included here is the lead and a link to full post.

I’ll admit — I’ve got mixed feelings about the hype around gamification that’s currently sweeping through world of management and HR. On one hand, it isn’t all hype. It’s easy to see how many people would focus more on accomplishing important tasks at work if they were somehow made more engaging and game-like. I based this solely on the obsessive lengths people go in the pursuit of frequent flier miles.

On the other hand, I agree with the notion that gamification will only get people to do what they would already do on their own. In my view, gamification is simply about motivation. And the larger the organization, the harder it is to motivate people at scale....

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Consequences of Making a Mistake and the Motivation to Learn

On Wednesday, I attended an ASTD Golden Gate Chapter meeting on the subject of agile instructional design. The speaker was Steve Lee, who is co-founder of Allen Interactions, a leading learning design firm. His talk about about their learning design methodology SAM which is documented in Michael Allen's (the Allen in Allen Interactions) book Leaving ADDIE for SAM. I have read the book and found it quite useful.

I was surprised to learn this book is ASTD's number one selling book.

There was one thing I learned at the session last night form Steve Lee that did not come across to me in the book. And that is the idea that with very little content, a learning program (course, class, whatever) can be prototyped to test the learner's knowledge of a subject specific so that they would fail and then learn from their mistakes.

Here is the tweet I sent quoting Steve Lee in the moment.

It hit me like a ton of bricks. You really can get someone to learn a subject but having them try an activity before they know much about it. They try it, make mistakes, and then can be prompted to learn what mistakes they made, so they can try again and get it right.

It really is scaring people into showing them they are not as smart as they think they are.

It is about showing them the consequences of making a mistake of motivation for learning a subject.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Graphic, Audio Narration, and the Quest for Better eLearning

This post was originally published on the Daily Mindflash blog. Included here is the lead and a link to full post.

We all do it. We begin creating a training class, eLearning course, or presentation by sitting down at the computer, typing bullet points of the important things we need to present. If we are in a groove, we can create five to ten slides pretty quickly in a rough first draft. When we get to a stopping point, we look back and can be quite proud of our first draft.

It might not be perfect, but we got our initial ideas down, and that is progress. It sure beats staring at a blank screen for twenty minutes trying to think of something to write.

Here’s the problem.....

Monday, October 14, 2013

New Skills I Intend to Learn This Year

I like to set goals on regular cycles. Short term (weekly and monthly) and long term (yearly and beyond). Sometimes they are simple lists. Sometimes my goals are SMART, and other times that are not. Sometimes I go weeks without regularly reviewing my goals. Hey…what can I say, discipline is a B#$%^.

Occasionally, I go back to look over old lists, I notice something: a good bit of the goals I wrote down got accomplished. Who knew? I just did this exercise over the weekend morning and found quite a few goals I had set months and years ago, got accomplished. 

So now I am thinking about a few news goals to set over the next year.

Among many goals I'd like to tackle, I'd like to learn some new skills. In the next 12 months I want to learn a few new skills, and I want to create a learning plan for doing it. 

Here is a list of things I want to learn:
  1. Sales - How to sell and sell better.
  2. Running a Business - How to run a profitable business.
  3. BigData - I want to learn what Big Data is, what can be done with it, and understand implications.
  4. Cloud Computing - I don't want to learn how to program in Hadoop or how to spin up and administer a cloud of virtual servers. I want to learn the big picture, so I can discuss cloud computing beyond the argument, "Wasn't E*TRADE and Yahoo Mail! doing cloud computing back in the 90s? What's the big deal?" 
  5. Programming Language(s) - I am thinking C, HTML/CSS, Javascript. As a kid on a TRS-80 at school and on my Apple IIe, I learned to program BASIC. And in 1995 and 1996, I learned HTML and even built a few websites back then. So learning a programming language shouldn't be much of a stretch, should it?
  6. How to run 2 ultra marathons per year - I want to learn how to create a training plan, proper nutrition, and to run injury free. I'd also like to learn how to stay at a consistently lean body weight and how to train consistently over time.
In typical fashion, I want to learn more things than are reasonable, given the time I have. And some or all of these goals might get derailed by other priorities that inevitably arise, but if I didn't set goals because of those reasons, I'd never get anything done.

Next step is to create a plan for how I will learn these new things.

What new things do you plan to learn over the next 6-12 months?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Five Ways To Write Effective Training Survey Questions

This post was originally published on the Daily Mindflash blog. Included here is the lead and a link to full post.

When it comes to writing training survey questions, the most important principles is to write questions that seek responses on which you can take action. After all, isn’t that the point of survey responses? You want to collect feedback so that you can improve your training course. Yet, too often, we write questions that no one answers or that seek responses on which we have no way of making improvements. Either way, we have survey data that is useless except that we can tell our stakeholders and check the box: Yes, we survey our learners.

With a little effort, we can improve the effectiveness of our surveys so that more get completed and we get the information we need to take action. Here are just a few ideas that can improve your surveys.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Don’t Flip Out! Flipped Classrooms Work

This post was originally published on the ServiceRocket blog. Included here is the lead and a link to full post.

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past three years, you have heard about the flipped classroom model. Since Khan Academy popularized it, classrooms all over the world have begun trying it. Although many have adopted the model, there are skeptics who believe the flipped classroom has too many problems and will not work....

Monday, October 7, 2013

Social Learning Requires Work Context

Though there is very little research on social learning and whether it is effective in helping people learn (beyond self-reported survey question responses), we do know that in order for social learning to be effective, there must be a context. What do I mean by context? Context is the general or specific setting in which the learning occurs.

So, in order for social learning to be effective in a business, the learning activities (whatever they are), must be centered around the work of the business, whatever that is.

And the problem with most social learning, networking, and collaboration tools is that most are designed to required people to either leave their work to come learn or that people must bring their work into the "social" space.

What should happen is that "social" learning should be brought to the work or as close to the work as possible.

Bring Learning to the Work

Last week, I spent some time at the Atlassian Summit Conference in San Francisco. During some of the new product announcements, it dawned on me that Atlassian products are designed perfectly to bring learning to the work.

In short, Atlassian designs collaboration software that helps software developers write better software. That is their target, but anyone who works with a team to produce a work product, could use Atlassian products. Teams can create projects plans, create documents, solve problems, and track work in easy-to-use collaborative software.

By the way, this is how social learning happens.

But one of Atlassian's latest product announcements takes the promise of social learning and brings it a giant leap forward: Confluence Questions.

Learning is Only a Means to an End

Confluence Questions is a new addition to Atlassian's collaborative intranet solution and is billed as a way to accomplish three things:
  • Seek knowledge
  • Retain Knowledge
  • Find experts
Atlassian did not seek to create informal or social learning tools. They set out to create tools that enable software developers to create better software (or just about any work, for that matter)? And how is better software created? Through smart developers working together towards a specific ends.

The focus is on the result. Better software. Not on the learning. Learning is just a means to an end.

And that might be the fatal flaw in most enterprise social solutions and in learning management systems. They are trying to launch social solutions that require people to leave the context of their work to collaborate in an ESN or LMS. Where as with Atlassian products…the collaboration is occurring in the context of the work being produced.

That is the secret sauce.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Let's Review: Five Most Popular Posts in September 2013

A lot of older post got some play in September. Either my old stuff is really good or the new stuff has not been as great. I just don't analyze it enough to know (or care, too much).

Here are the five most popular posts in September:

How Linking Social Learning to Performance Advances Scientific Knowledge
This piece is derived from my dissertation research plan. As many of you know, I am working on my dissertation in enterprise social learning. So this is a lot of what I think about. My goal is to advance scientific knowledge of how social learning relates to job performance.

Poll Results: How Long Does it Take to Learn a New Job
Except for one smarmy comment from a consultant who says he cannot afford to take more than a few days to learn a new job, most people said it takes 3-12 months to learn a new job. That is a long time. And an expectation we should all heed when starting a new job.

HR Manager: I Don't Need Big Data, I Have a Feeling
This was one of my favorite posts to write, so I am happy it made the popular list. We ignore data for our vague hunches and we call that analysis. And in my cases, which I show in this post, we do it intentionally. Crazy!

Great Social Learning Requires Great Design
Back again. This popular post keeps popping up. Looks like people need help designing social learning. Everything else they are reading likely contains vague prescriptions that are not actionable.

Performance Improvement Through Continuous Feedback Loops
Feedback is a wildly underused process for learning and improving job performance. There is so much potential here that I am surprised it does not come up more often. Here is the low-down sensible dirt on using continuous feedback loops to develop people and improve job performance.