Tuesday, February 23, 2016

My Notes: The Design of Everyday Things

Here are the notes I took on the book, The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman

Cushard Consequential The Design of Everything Things Donald Norman
  1. It's not your fault
  2. Design Principles
    1. Conceptual models
    2. Feedback - feedback is critical
    3. Constraints - constrain the choices
    4. Affordances
  3. The Power of observations
Affordance: The perceived and actual properties of the thing, primarily those fundamental properties that determine just how the thing could possible be used.

Principles of Design:
A good conceptual model - allows us to predict the effect of our actions

Seven stages of Action
  1. Forming the goal
  2. Forming the Intention
  3. Specifying the action
  4. Executing the action
  5. Perceiving the state of the world
  6. Interpreting the state of the world
  7. Evaluating the outcome
The seven stages of Action as design aids (boiled down)
  • Visibility
  • a good conceptual model
  • good mappings - relationships between actions and results
  • Feedback
Knowledge in the head

Knowledge in the world

Precise Behavior can emerge from imprecise knowledge for 4 reasons
  • Information is in the world
  • Great precision is not required
  • natural constraints are present
  • Cultural constraints are present
  • To Reduce / Eliminate Errors - Designers Should: 
Understand the causes of error and design to minimize those causes
Make it possible to reverse actions - to undo or make it harder to do what cannot be reversed
Make it easier to discover the errors that do occur, and make them easier to correct
Change the attitude towards errors - think of an object user as attempting to do a task, getting there by imperfect approximations. Don't think of the user as making errors; think of the action as approximations of what is desired
How to deal with errors:

Forcing Functions: a physical constraint - where the actions are constrained so that failure at one stage prevents the next step from happening.

Design Should:
  • Make it easy to determine what actions are possible at any moment (make use of constraints)
  • Make things visible, including conceptual models of the system, the alternative actions, and the results of actions
  • Make it easy to evaluate the current state of the system
  • Follow natural mappings between intentions and the required actions; between actions and the resulting effects, and between the information that is visible and the interpretations of the system state.
Seven Design Principles
  1. Use both knowledge in the world and knowledge in the head
  2. Simplify the structure of tasks
  3. Make things visible, bridge the gulfs of execution and evaluation
  4. Get the mapping right
  5. Exploit the power of constraints, both natural and artificial
  6. Design for error
  7. When all else fails, standardize

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

How to Leverage the Power of MOOCs Develop People in Your Organization

As more organizations are becoming dispersed across multiple locations, it becomes increasingly difficult to gather people together for learning experiences. Virtual classroom technology does make this easier, but it still requires everyone one to be logged in at the same time. This is not always easy across time zones, and people are just plain busy.

An example of a huge challenge among learning and development professionals is facilitating leadership development programs among an audience of managers in multiple locations. Let's be honest, managers are famous for getting so caught up in their "fires" that they drop out of classes for something more urgent. But what if managers can attend a course on their own time, and use downtime to engage in discussions with peer managers, attend lectures, and perform assignments?

"Can this really be done?" you ask. It can. And we go to academia for the solution. The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).

What the Heck is a MOOC?

A MOOC is a massive open online course that universities use to teach free college courses to anyone in the world. Universities from all over the world are offering free courses on a wide variety of topics. Although there is structure to a MOOC and assignments have deadlines, learners can complete assignments on their own time from anywhere in the world. If you live in Paris, Texas or Paris, France, you can attend a Stanford course, with a Stanford professor, based on the content of the course offered on campus. How cool is that?

If you have people in your organization who are located in multiple locations but need to learn the same skills, MOOCs may be a solution you should consider.

How to Leverage MOOCs In Your Organization

The easiest way to leverage MOOCs in your organization is to find an existing course that is relevant to your business and share it with specific people on your team. Coursera is a great place to start as they have courses on a wide-variety of topics. A company in New Zealand is using a MOOC to develop a new skill among some of its designers.

Another way to leverage the power of MOOCs in your organization is to design one yourself. After you select a relevant topic for a dispersed audience, you will want to design your MOOC using the following structural elements:
  1. A Lecture
  2. Reading Assignment
  3. Discussion
  4. Assignment
  5. 4-6 Weekly Topics

Emerging Delivery Method

MOOCs are an emerging learning method and will require some experimenting if you are willing to give it a try. If you do, you are breaking ground and providing a learning opportunity for your audience where one has not existed. Your high performers will likely appreciate the opportunity.

This post originally appeared on the humancapitalist blog. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

My Notes: The Innovator's Dilemma

This is just a few passages from the book that I underlined and then took down in a notebook as I re-read The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton Christensen. 

The research reported in this book supports this view: It shows that in the cases of well-managed firms, such as those cited above, “good” management was the most powerful reason they failed to stay on top of their industries. Precisely “because” these firms listened to their customers, invested aggressively in new technologies that would provide their customers more and better products of the sort they wanted, and because they carefully studied market trends and systematically allocated investment capital to innovations that promised the best returns, they lost their positions of leadership.

Why good companies fail: 
Cushard Consequential: My Notes of the The Innovator's Dilemma Clayton Christensen

These three dilemma’s:
  • Sustaining versus disruptive technologies
  • Trajectories of market need versus technology improvement
  • Disruptive technologies versus rational investments
Principles of Disruptive Innovations:
  • Companies depend on customers and investors for resources
  • Small markets don’t solve the growth needs of large companies
  • Markets that don’t exist cannot be analyzed
  • An organization’s capabilities define its disabilities
  • Technology supply may not be equal to market demand
Managerial Decision-making and Disruptive Technological Change

Step 1: Disruptive technologies were first developed within established firms
Step 2: Marketing personnel then sought reactions from their lead customers
Step 3: Established firms set up the pace of sustaining technological development
Step 4: New companies were formed, and markets for the disruptive technologies were founded by trial and error
Step 5: The entrants moved upmarket
Step 6: Established firms belatedly jumped on the bandwagon to defend their customer base

Five fundamental principles of organizational nature that managers in the successful firms consistent recognized and harnessed. The firms that lost their battles with disruptive technologies chose to ignore or fight them. These principles are:
  • Resource dependence: customers effectively control the patters of resource allocation in well-run companies
  • Small markets don’t solve the growth needs of large companies
  • The ultimate uses or applications for disruptive technologies are unknowable in advance. Failure is an intrinsic step toward success
  • Organizations have capabilities that exist independently of the capabilities of the people who work within them. Organizations’ capabilities reside in their processes and their values - and the very processes and values that constitute their core capabilities within the current business model also define their disabilities when confronted with disruption.
  • Technology supply may not equal market demand. The attributes that make disruptive technologies unattractive in established markets often are the very ones that constitute their greatest value in emerging markets
I liked this part of the book - offers a way for managers to act.

In Chapter 4 at the end.

How did the successful managers harness these principles to their advantage?

They embedded projects to develop and commercialize disruptive technologies within organizations whose customers needed them. When managers aligned a disruptive innovation with the “right” customers, customer demand increased the probability that the innovation would get the resources it needed.

They placed projects to develop disruptive technologies in organizations small enough to get excited about small opportunities and small wins.

They planned to fail early and inexpensively in the search for the market for a disruptive technology. 

They found that their markets generally coalesced through an iterative process of trial, learning, and trial again.
They utilized some of the resources of the mainstream organization to address the disruption, but they were careful not to leverage its processes and values. They created different ways of working within an organization whose values and cost structure were turned to the disruptive task at hand.
When commercializing disruptive technologies, they found or developed new markets that valued the attributed of the disruptive products, rather than search for a technological breakthrough so that the disruptive product could compete as a sustaining technology in mainstream markets.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Scrum it: Improve Your Team’s Performance with Agile Sprint Planning

It seems like everyone is talking about agile methods, which makes it easy to find tons of articles and more than a few books on how learning professionals can and should use agile methodologies to improve the productivity and the quality of their work. In fact, a Google search of Agile Learning Design produces four million results.

The trouble I find is that most of these articles are long on abstract ideas and short on concrete methods for getting work done. In a previous post, I describe one very specific agile methodology called Scrum. In the post I focus on a foundational element of Scrum, which is the Sprint. A sprint is nothing more than a window of time during which a specific body of work is completed.

Speaking from experience, learning and development teams can have long term projects that show no visible progress. Since it can easily take many weeks or even months build training courses with no visible progress, stakeholders are left to wonder what the L&D department is doing all day long. Using Scrum and breaking up your projects into short sprints, you can increase accountability and visible progress towards a project goals.

In this post, I would like to focus on how to plan a sprint, so you can increase visible progress to your stakeholders and hold your team accountable to progress.

Planning is the Exact Opposite of a Waste of Time…Even in a Fast Moving Environment

There is a quote from Dwight D. Eisenhower I have always liked, In preparation for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable. I like this quote because to makes clear a paradox that we should be OK with. On the one hand, planning is vital to success. Planning enables us to get organized, prepares us for the future, and even helps us visualize how we will perform. On the other hand, once the project begins, things can change and the actual plan can (and should) be thrown out the window because it no longer applies.

This paradox makes us uncomfortable, but in fact, we should embrace it. The fact that we go through a planning process, increases the chances we will succeed, even if the resulting plan gets changed.

This is why sprint planning in Scrum is so important. So now that we understand why, let’s talk about how to plan a sprint.

Sprint Planning

Here is the scenario. Your team has been asked to deliver a new leadership development program in the next six months. Instead of planning all of the work over the six months (or just diving right in with no planning at all), you would break up the work into six, monthly sprints each with a unique set of tasks that need to be completed.

Let’s start with the first sprint. You gather your team, tell them you need to deliver a new leadership development program in six months. But instead of planning the entire project at once, you set a one month deadline to completed a specific number of tasks on your way to the ultimate goal of delivering a leadership development program. This is sprint number one.

With your team, you make a list of everything you think you can achieve in that one month and get everyone to agree on that list. For example, the list could include:
  • Evaluate existing content that could be re-used and decide whether to reuse it.
  • Determine the need. Interview 12 senior managers and 4 key executives. Compile notes and summarize the need.
  • Evaluate vendor solutions.
  • Complete a build/buy analysis, and make a build/buy decision.
There it is. You make a list like this, and then argue over what you can and cannot realistically finish during the sprint. The critical part of this process is making a realistic list of tasks that is doable, that everyone on the team agrees to, and that are valuable enough to meet your business need.

If you get caught up in the terminology of agile methodologies with words like scrum and sprint planning, agile can sound abstract and complicated, but it is actually quite the opposite. It is a simple process designed to bring clarity and value to work and brings people together to collaborate on defining, planning, and executing the work. This increases the chances that the work gets done on time and at a quality level people expect.

Your Challenge

I challenge you to adopt sprints and sprint planning into your work of managing human capital, talent management, and learning and development teams. You will gain in two ways. First, you will increase collaboration and team work. Second, you will increase accountability on your team. Third, you will know, with heightened clarity, what work is getting done and when it is getting done, so you can easily and visibly report progress and results to your stakeholders.

If you use any agile process like this on your team, I would love to here about it. Share your process in the comments below.

This blog originally appeared on the humancapitalist blog

Monday, February 1, 2016

What To Do When a Good Webinar Goes Bad

On Tuesday, January 26, I hosted a webinar titled, SaaS Training Product and Pricing Strategies. We had a special guest, Lynn Marie Viduya, Sr. Director of Global Education Services at BlackLine. Lynn is a software industry veteran specializing in enterprise customer education at Silicon Valley companies like Siebel Systems, NetSuite, and HostAnalytics.

We organized this webinar to help our audience think about how to package and pricing training. About one third into the webinar, we started taking questions from the audience (We like interactive webinars. That’s how we roll). We took perhaps a dozen questions and based on those, there was a lit of interest in how to sell training as a subscription.

In the last 20 minutes of the webinar, there were a lot of questions, and it was getting pretty exciting. I thought the webinar was going great. And judging by the participation, the audience did to.


When a Good Webinar Goes Bad Bill Cushard
Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/83633410@N07/7658225516

About 10 minutes before the end of the webinar, the network at the office cut out and disconnected me from the webinar. 

It just ended.

In mid-sentence. 

Dead air.


Lynn, a technology education professional (a.k.a., a pro), understood the problem and wrapped up the webinar so that it did not seem like such a disaster.

Thank you, Lynn.

At this point the question was, “What should we do now?” Ignore it? Follow up? Send people an email? Call our PR department and strategize about our messaging so we can consistent? Good grief.

We didn’t do any of that. 

Within about 15 minutes, we sent a simple email acknowledging the abrupt end to the webinar. I won’t bore you with the entire email, even though it was short. But I will show you the subject line.

     Subject: Yes, I got disconnected.

We intentionally wanted that email to be a authentic. And real. And not better way to be real than to use that subject line. 

Here are some results of that email:

  • 64% opened it.
  • 3 people replied to the email with comments like this:

“I also facilitate webinars, so I know how unexpected things can happen. The webinar was great."

“Thank you for the webinar this morning on pricing! It was very insightful and definitely worthwhile."

“Thank you for today’s webinar. It was helpful."

Music to my ears.

I think the lesson here is this: Stuff like this happens. It is best to acknowledge it. Own it. Be a little self-deprecating. And respond right away.

What is your take away?