Sunday, February 28, 2010

Doing It Right: Instructional Design without Cutting Corners

What a pleasure it is when you are able to do a learning project the "right way."    This week, my team and I finished training for a group of managers in one of our business segments.   This was a project that we initiated in the fall.  It was carried out according to plan and within the next few weeks, we will have our final set of measures on its overall impact.

When I say we did this the "right way," what I mean is that we were able to follow our instructional design process without having to cut corners along the way.  You might be thinking, "Well, don't you always do that?"  But in truth, we are often forced to make compromises on our projects to meet business deadlines, work within budget constraints, or cater to the expectations of a particularly influential business leader.   But on this project, we were not constrained by any of those things.

The project was to provide training to approximately 35 managers who were mostly long-tenured and experienced, but who have recently had to deal with significant changes to their job.  Here is how it went:

Analysis - We originally approached the head of this business unit to get an understanding of the outcomes that were expected from the changes that were put in place, and to get his perspective on the impact he thought these changes would have on his managers.  Next, we had two rounds of discussions with four managers who were part of the target audience.  After the first meeting with them, we drafted an analysis report to feed back to them our understanding of the audience characteristics, the job, and the key tasks that were changing.  In our second meeting with the managers, we validated and fine-tuned the information gathered in the first meeting.  After that, we presented our analysis findings and a training design proposal, including a draft of the agenda and objectives, to the business unit leader and the Vice Presidents into whom the targeted training audience reported.   They provided some additional insights that we incorporated into our agenda and we were ready to begin designing the program.

Design & Development -  We chose a blended approach including two online assessments and an e-learning module as pre-work, a three-day classroom learning event, and follow-up learning opportunities made available through a SharePoint site set up specifically for this class.  The design process for the classroom event was relatively quick and easy.  Most of the training needs could be addressed with existing material that had been used for other programs.  There were a few key segments that would be new, but they were all on topics that were easy to research.  Finding appropriate content was not an issue.  Designing learning activities that would be effective at making the learning points was a little more challenging. But that is certainly a part of the job that my team enjoys doing.

Pilot & Revisions - Since our total audience was relatively small (at 35 managers) we did not really have the opportunity to conduct a full blown pilot.  We broke the audience into three delivery groups and viewed our first delivery in December as a quasi-pilot.   Overall it went well, but as with any new program for a new audience, there was room for improvement.  We huddled up afterwards, examined our level one feedback, talked to a few of the participants and observers, updated our design document, and made some adjustments for our second and third deliveries.

Implementation - By the time our second delivery rolled around, we were confident that we had the right program to meet their needs.   We were clear on which segments needed the most support and which would meet with resistance, and we prepared ourselves accordingly.  For all three classroom events, we had one of the Vice Presidents with us during delivery.  We carved out a small but important segment for them to specifically deliver, and for the rest of the time they were with us, they were able to provide clarification or join in the discussion as we covered the other items on the agenda.   Their presence and involvement was a key factor in the program's success.

Evaluation & Follow-up - For this program, we used level one (participant reaction) and level three (behavioral change) measurements.  The level one measurements were taken directly at the end of the classroom sessions.  For the level three measurements, we use the Friday5s goal management system over a ten-week period after training.  Each participant was asked to set two specific goals at the end of their classroom session.  These goals get input into the Friday5s online tool where the class participants can go to receive online coaching and track their progress.  Also, we continue the momentum created in the classroom by allowing participants to connect with each other after the event through a SharePoint site that was set up specifically for this program. 

On the whole this was a very satisfying project.  We got to help our managers and help our business by doing what we do best: creating a learning opportunity that met specific needs for a specific audience.   And, we got chance to do it right!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Yammering On; Others Yammer Back

"This morning, for the first time ever, I checked Yammer before I checked my email. Should I be worried?"

This quote came from a post on my yammer feed on Friday.   It was from an employee in my company who I never met and don't even know by name or reputation.   According to his profile, he is an engineer.  I don't know why this post showed up in my feed. We must have both joined the same group.  Or maybe we are just following the same topics.   That is the way it goes with social media.  You are able to connect with people who you might otherwise never have met or spoken to in the course of your work day.  Anyway,  I am grateful to him for capturing my attention with this post.  Now I am one of his yammer followers.

I've been thinking about this quote a lot over the last few days.   It says so much about how I have been feeling about social media these past months.   The first part of the quote tells me that my new friend in engineering has turned a corner.   Instead of waking up and checking his email to get a pulse on what is going on that might impact his day, he turned to our social media network first.   What a simple but profound change that is.   Social media displacing email in this man's daily routine.   I still check my email before yammer, but I spend a lot of time during my day thinking about how we can reach people through yammer to provide information that might help them with their jobs or personal development needs.

The second part of the quote is also fascinating. Clearly, he is questioning whether or not this new change of routine is a good thing or a bad thing.   I go through the same feelings of cognitive dissonance when I think about trying to promote yammer as a tool for informal learning.   When I first proposed the idea to my staff of using yammer as a learning medium to reach our target audience,  my suggestion was greeted with a long silent pause and a few rolling eyes.   But I convinced the team to humor me for a while, and in the short time we have been implementing our yammer strategy, we have each been able to report back on some interesting events that have occurred.

My staff member who has been posting information on dealing with change reported that one of her followers replied to her that she was finding comfort in the messages.  They were helping her to see that she was not alone in what she was going through in dealing with change.  This prompted further dialog that gave my team member the opportunity to share additional resources with her and other followers.

Another staff member caught the eye of the corporate communications department with a thread of her posts about managing virtual teams.   They contacted her about incorporating her posts into an article for the company newsletter, giving her messages greater reach and impact.

A third staff member has been posting messages about project management.  He recently got a reply from a VP who is very influential with key stakeholders for many of our projects.  His reply enhanced the credibility of the project management messages and helped to increase the number of followers on this topic thread.

When faced with skepticism from others in my organization, my belief about the viability of social networking as a learning tool inside my company sometimes wavers.  But the instances cited here provide reinforcement that tells me to keep pressing on with our plan.   The number of participants on our social network is growing every day.  As more users join in, we want them to find content that will be of value to them, and that will encourage them to share some of their own.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Formalizing Informal Learning

As stated in my blog post from January 16, I have rededicated myself to using social media for learning at work.  Following the strategy I outlined on January 24, each of my team members is now actively engaged in managing various topics on the corporate social media network (yammer).  This marks the end of the first week of us using yammer at work.  So far we are off to a great start.

I have three staff members on my management development team.   Here is a sample post from each of them. These posts were collected from my yammer feed from this week:

Team member #1 is the topic leader for the discussion on #remote_teams.  As discussed in last week's blog post, remote management and virtual teams are fast growing trends in my company.   We have included remote management as a topic in all of our recent management training programs.  It seemed only natural to continue the discussion through our social media network.

Team member #2 is the topic leader for the discussion on #project_management.  As I'm sure is the case in all companies, project management is an important topic.   A few years back we began to take an enterprise wide look at how projects were managed inside the company.   We have been gradually migrating different departments to take a uniform approach to projects.  Our current approach is aligned to the PMBOK guidelines.

Team Member #3 is the topic leader for the discussion on #change.  Our company is transforming the way we do business.  This has meant large and small scale changes taking place in every business unit and every department.  Each day this week team member #3 has shared some of the myths and realities about workplace change from The Employee Handbook of Organizational Change by Price Pritchett.

In addition to these topics, I personally lead the discussion on the topic of #managing.  All four of us participate in each other's discussions and we also post to disucssions on #leadership, #engagement and #growth.  Besides managing these topics, we are active in several newly formed yammer groups.  Our goal is to deliberately create an information pipeline around important management topics that can be captured as informal learning through the social media network. 

To help us get a jumpstart on building our followers, I created the flyer shown below.   This week I participated in a management kick-off meeting that was attended by over 300 managers.  Our Learning & Performance group had an "expo-like" table set up at the event.  I handed out many of these flyers and talked to a lot of managers about our new social media network.   Very few of them were aware that yammer was available inside the company.  Most of them had never even heard of it.

Although it is new, I'm confident that our social media network will grow quickly. There are only a handful of users today, but I'm sure there will be many more very soon. I want my team to be active and ready to guide others how to take advantage of this tool for informal learning when they get there.  From these small beginnings, I expect great things to occur.