Friday, 21 December 2007

The Role of the Line Manager in Facilitating Workplace Learning - Part 2

I have been asked to give a presentation on the above title at an international L&D Conference in the new year.

Consequently, I've started to pull together my initial thoughts on this topic. I plan to use this blog as a mechanism to help pull these ideas together, and (hopefully) to get some feedback from others reading this emergent 'presentation'.

In The Role of the Line Manager in Facilitating Workplace Learning - Part 1 I suggested 6 Key Questions line managers should ask themselves when supporting the development of their staff.

Building on this, I'd suggest the next question is how can L&D professionals be most impactful in supporting line managers addressing these questions ?

  • What are the additional skills your department needs to deliver the business goals ?
For me this links to 'Talent Management' - and the opportunity to add value by ask some searching questions during the diagnosis of Learning Needs. I'd suggest that it is important to consider a 'portfolio' of outcomes aligned to both the short & long-term business strategy; based on:

  1. Performance Improvement (knowledge/skill/behaviour improvements required to address current needs)
  2. Structured Development (to meet predicted future needs - eg the concept of a leadership pipeline 'flow' of people from induction to retirement)
  3. Adaptive Development (to enhance the adaptive capabilities of the organisation to help 'buffer' against the unpredictable aspects of the future - eg learning through skunk works, MBAs etc, and training in innovation processes/tools)

  • What actions will help to ensure colleagues understand their individual development needs ?

I'd suggest that this links to 'Performance Management'. This starts with Line Managers being knowledgeable in the business strategy & the talent gaps ...and being able to translate this from an overall business line view to actions required from groups of individuals.

Hence - I'd recommend that L&D (with HR colleagues) consider the depth and breadth of competency line managers demonstrate in operating the organisation's performance management process (eg setting/managing of SMART individual performance goals) ...and if necessary L&D should work with senior leaders to introduce required training/support on this topic for line managers

  • What can you do to help colleagues appropriately blend training with outher development activities ?

This links to the very essence of the theme of this blog ... and whether the profession is viewed as 'training providers' or 'learning consultants'. Two key actions are:

  1. Education of key stakeholders on the extra 'value-add' that the function can provide in such an extended role (arguably this starts with HR colleagues !). I'd suggest it is an easy sell that 'workplace learning' is much wider than taking training course (eg based on the distribution of time between on-the-job and off-the-job activities) ...what is a harder sell is that it should be the L&D profession taking the lead in this space.
  2. Education has to be supported by the L&D profession investing in our own development to extend our understanding of these associated areas - eg executive coaching, secondment best-practices, initiating action-learning sets (as well as leverage of Web 2.0 collaboration tools :) )

  • What will you do to ensure colleagues appreciate the importance of building the required skills ?

This links to the above comments on Performance Management. Beyond the translation of strategy into individual goals, it is necessary for colleagues need to understand (from their line manager) how by investing time/energy in addressing these needs it will be to their advantage (ie - 'What's in it for me ?').

In my experience, managers can sometimes seek to avoid the required 'courageous conversations' when things are not hitting the mark. Hence it may be necessary that 'Performance Management' training of Line Managers also focused on skills practice to ensure the 'reward & recognition' processes of the organisation are applied fairly to encourage the right investment of time/energy (and implement the negative consequences to be expected from inappropriate performance).

There is also the opportunity for enhancing the coaching skills of managers to support this (and the previous) objective ...this is something I will expand on specifically in Part 3 (a future post)

  • What opportunities can you provide to ensure colleagues put the newly acquired skills into practice ?

Most training works for some, but not all delegates. Hence, rather than simply assess the 'average' impact - there can be significant merit in L&D seeking to understand the factors that make the difference between the same training class being considered 'highly effective' by some, and of 'limited impact' by others. Brinkerhoff has written some interesting articles on this methodology. For more info on this see: Reflections on ASTD 2007, part #2.

Where the evidence supports it, this data from L&D can be used to emphasise the need for line managers to focus on this area (eg by always having follow-up conversations when their direct reports return from training)

Interestingly in a recent study I conducted of a curriculum of open-enrolment 'bite-sized' instructor-led learning - it was actually those who found the training effective that cited 'Lack of follow up discussion and coaching from my manager' as the main barrier (those who found it had limited impact ...albeit they had good retention of the key concepts taught...cited 'Lack of alignment between the course description and the actual experience' as the main barrier ?!)

  • What learning can be identified from the actions taken & how will these be implemented in your department ?
Does the organisatioon have a culture of continuous improvement ? ...knowledge of 6-sigma etc.. If not, I'd suggest there is an opportunity for L&D (or Organisational Development - OD - Professionals) to influence building a culture of continuous improvement (eg with regular after-action reviews) ..and in doing so ensuring this impacts how the line uses learning strategically.

feedback welcome !

In Part 3 I plan to focus on 'Developing the coaching ability of managers' and then ending with Part 4 - focused on 'Implications of a learner-centric focus for managers'

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Leaders in London

I recently received a summary of 'sound-bites' from some of the high-profile presenters at this year's Leaders in London conference

These are the ones that particularly caught my attention:

RENÉ CARAYOL: Management vs Leadership

"If management is what we do, leadership is how we feel."

"Managers talk strategy. Leaders tell stories."

EDWARD DE BONO: On which comes first, ideas or data?

"I was in the desert and our guide was explaining the spikes on the local cacti. 'It's so they don't get eaten,' he said. 'No, it's not,' I said. 'The spikes help keep the air around the plant still, to minimise evaporation.' Everyone thinks it's to stop animals eating them. They looked at the data and came up with the idea. And that became the received wisdom. In fact, it's the wrong idea. Many organizations believe that if they collect enough data in their computers that will set their strategy for them. In fact, unless you see the data in different ways, you will be stuck with the same old notions."

MARCUS BUCKINGHAM: There's no such thing as corporate culture

"There is no great company culture, so stop looking for it. The best you can say about a great company is that it is the accumulation of lots of great teams. Culture varies enormously within large organizations."

Individual Performance ....

Individual Performance is a combination of:

  • Ability
  • Motivation
  • Opportunity

from a model by Appelbaum et al

The Role of the Line Manager in Facilitating Workplace Learning - Part 1

I have been asked to give a presentation on the above title at an international L&D Conference in the new year.

Consequently, I've started to pull together my initial thoughts on this topic. I plan to use this blog as a mechanism to help pull these ideas together, and (hopefully) to get some feedback from others reading this emergent 'presentation'.

So - Why focus on the role of the Line Manager ?

Firstly: the Corporate Executive Board has some powerful data on 'What a difference a (great) manager makes'. In summary: they illustrate that 'employees whose managers are the most effective at employee development perform up to 25% higher'.

The 25% is cites as a combination of both the directly attributable impact (16%) and the effects of enhanced engagement (9%).

Secondly: the 70:20:10 ratio is widely held as a good illustration of the relative % influence of 'on-the-job':'coaching':'training courses' in workplace learning. Hence, 90% (if not more) of the opportunites to directly influence learning rests not with the L&D professional, but with those managing the colleague.

So as discussed by Martyn Sloman of CIPD and others - the opportunity for L&D professionals is to influence the day-to-day action of managers.

So - What L&D related actions do we require of Line Managers ?

In considering what are the actions we (L&D) want to see line managers embrace - I'd suggest this can be put bluntly as 'developing colleagues is not just about sending them to appropriate training courses'

More constructively - I offer the following SIX questions as a framework for Line Manager action.

  1. What are the additional skills your department needs to deliver the business goals ?
  2. What actions will help to ensure colleagues understand their individual development needs ?
  3. What can you do to help colleagues appropriately blend training with outher development activities ?
  4. What will you do to ensure colleagues appreciate the importance of building the required skills ?
  5. What opportunities can you provide to ensure colleagues put the newly acquired skills into practice ?
  6. What learning can be identified from the actions taken & how will these be implemented in your department ?

Please let me know your thoughts on the above framework

Thursday, 15 November 2007

The Three Signs of a Miserable Job - another management fable

I've recently read the latest fable from Patrick Lencioni called 'The Three Signs of a Miserable Job'

For anyone looking for a simple, action-orientated & highly focused alternative to the Gallup Q12 scholarship on Colleague Engagement - I'd recommend reading this book.

The model is very simple - Lencioni advocates that:

  • Anonymity
  • Irrelevance
  • Immeasurement

are the three fundamental factors that drive job dissatisfaction (whether you are a CEO or cleaner).

For more details see:

Clearly, the story-telling style of fables don't resonate with all leaders (especially when the core message is very simplistic) - but anyone considering training interventions relating to building colleague engagement may want to, at very least, add this to the recommended pre/post training reading list.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Use of Actors in Learning Events

The following HR Zone Article provides a good summary of the role Actors & Forum Theatre can play in delivering engaging training & learning events.

In my experience, this approach is more widely understood and deployed in the UK than the US.

As the article highlights - the costs of using actors for 1:1 role-play are high (and can often be replaced adequately by other participants on the training course, playing the 'other' role).

I'm a fan of the (most cost effective) forum theatre approach - where scenarios can be played out based on the suggested words offered by the training class delegates (e.g. what are the actual words you would us if, as the manager, you are faced with this situation ....). Not only can this approach demonstrate different reactions you can get to the same approach (for those managers who don't vary their style depending on both the situation and person involved !), but also the scenarios can be 're-played' allowing the delegates to learn rapidly by trial and error.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Another 'First 90 Days' Text

Peter Fischer has recently written a book called The New Boss

Why is this of interest ? - well many L&D Curriculum focus on providing support at 'transition' points (building from the framework of The Leadership Pipeline by Charan et al).

For me (and others) the key text for building further on the work of Charan is The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins. Hence, it is interesting to reflect on whether this new book offers further insights (for future inclusion into Leadership training courses).

According to Fischer, there are seven building blocks to creating a successful leadership change:

  • Managing Expectations Proactively
  • Developing Key Relationships
  • Constructively Analysing the Initial Situation
  • Establishing a Set of Motivating Goals
  • Fostering a Positive Climate for Change
  • Initiating Changes Effectively, &
  • Using Symbols & Rituals

Clearly there are significant overlaps with the ideas of Watkins - a rough (and simplistic) mapping could be:

  • Managing Expectations Proactively = Negotiate Success
  • Developing Key Relationships = Create Coalitions
  • Constructively Analysing the Initial Situation = Match Strategy to Situation
  • Establishing a Set of Motivating Goals = Build Your Team
  • Fostering a Positive Climate for Change = Secure Early Wins
  • Initiating Changes Effectively, = Expedite Everyone
  • Using Symbols & Rituals = Achieve Alignment

Hence, at least in these simplistics terms of comparision - Watkins apears to place more emphasis on self - with advice such as 'promote yourself', 'accelerate your learning' & 'keep your balance'.

Equally, Fischer helpfully provides a richer focus on communications - specifically highlighting the 'use of symbols and rituals'.

Symbolic management is the skillful and consistent combination of symbols and rituals into a convincing message. This is why it is important to ensure that what you say is consistent with how you behave. It is a symbolic expression of a different management style

..... an area worthy of further discussion within a 'new leader' training class ?!

Monday, 1 October 2007

'Excellence in HR 2007'

The following link: provides some interesting links to videoclips exploring the subject of Excellence in HR

I've yet to view them all - but Peter Cook of Hyman Dynamics does a great job in showcasing themes from his recent book 'Sex, Leadership & Rock'n'Roll'

Peter draws on the metaphors of:

  • Sex = focus on relationships [e.g. Collaboration Skills, Communication Skills]
  • Drugs = motivation [e.g. Colleague Engagement Skills, Change Management]
  • Rock'n'Roll = performance & delivery [e.g. Performance Management Skills, Innovation]

not a bad starting point for a robust leadership training curriculum !

NB: if you get time to explore other clips - please add comments here on their key take-home messages

Friday, 21 September 2007

Web 2.0 vs. Enterprise 2.0

Up to now I have been using these terms interchangeably - however a posting on our intranet has helped me realise that the differences are significant (and extend beyond the obvious - namely that Enterprise 2.0 is use of Web 2.0 tools in the workplace).

"Both Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 use the same tools, but the environments they are used in are very different.

In Web 2.0 there are millions of users based in a flat organisational structure where a culture of sharing predominates. In Enterprise 2.0 we have hundreds/thousands of users in a hierarchical structure where a culture of hording predominates. " [Gardner]

Consequently, while a lot can be achieved at a 'grass roots' level, moving blogging etc to the mainstream of internal workplace communications (and learning !) is unlikely to occur without significant top-down support.

So what are the implications for Learning & Development ?

I'm struck by the similiarity with the need for Senior Leader sponsorship to embed learning (as we know - even the best designed training will fail to change behaviours of the majority of delegates without it !)

... helping early adopters build such sponsorship is something that could be in our own interests (assuming we believe blogs etc drive reflection & informal learning)

...time to start building stakeholder maps, engagement strategies etc !?

Friday, 14 September 2007

Organizational Circulatory Systems

I recently read an interesting article from the related field of Organisational Development (so hopefully this is relevant to L&D Professionals - looking beyond training to influence learning processes).

Art Kleiner writing in the OD Practioner (Vol 39, No 3 2007) [paper copy - so sorry no link here] present a paper on 'Organizational Circulatory Systems.

While I cannot do justice to the whole article in a short blog posting - the comparison made between current management science and previous state of natural science understanding is thought-provoking.

This work citing Elliot Jaques state "Management is in the same state today that the natural sciences were in before the discovery of the circulation of the blood". In brief the argument is that OD practioners base interventions primarily on practical experience from trial & error - rather than there being suffient depth of theory to underpin action [OD practioners please don't shoot the messenger here !]

As we know from human physiology - the human body relies on a set of complementary communication channels (both electrical - via nerves, and chemical - via the bloodstream) to coordinate cells across large distances.

So the argument made, is that we should focus further on characterizing the communication channels of organizations. Then in OD interventions, we should use this knowledge to influence interventions (akin to how modern medicine influences the body's electrical & chemical pathways).

FOUR 'Organizational Circulatory Systems' are suggested:

  • Hierarchy (flow of authority)
  • Network (flow of knowledge)
  • Market (flow of work)
  • Clan (flow of allegiance)

Given the power of Web 2.0 tools in influencing all forms of communication flows (e.g. leader blogs [Hierarchy], project team wikis [Network], social bookmarking [Clan]) - maybe this points to the impact OD (& L&D) practioners can contribute if our profession invests the time to understand these tools.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Thinking of Banning Facebook - Time to Focus on Performance Management Training ?

The following link provides a great summary of the case against trying to ban Facebook (or any other tool that can be used to waste time at work)

interesting site (strong language) -

For corporate L&D Professionals - maybe our take-away from this should be to reflect on how robust are the 'performance management' training and support tools provided to the workforce !

So what differentiates L&D Consultants ?!

The increasing focus on 'Learning' rather than 'Training', by definition blurs the boundaries of what is the role of the L&D Professional, vs. other HR roles such as:

  • Organisational Effectiveness Consultants
  • Business Partners ('Client Consultants)
  • Diversity & Inclusion Consultants
  • Talent Management Consultants
  • Change Management Consultants

This raise the question, as to what is at the core of a L&D Consultancy Role (and hence what differentiates L&D from these other associated roles).

In recent discussions I have participated in, it was suggested that:

L&D Consultants need to be able to translate organisational performance & development needs into skills, knowledge and behaviours to be learnt by the individuals involved.

does this work for you ?

"Blogs are no fad ..."

I recently read 'The Corporate Blogging Book' by Debbie Weil

I found this to be a solid text - if somewhat focused too much on the role of blogging for external communications for my own interests.

Personally, it would have been good to hear more about the use of blogging 'behind the corporate firewall' . Also from the L&D frame-of-reference - it would be good to hear more about how powerful blogging becomes as a tool for reflection and learning at the CxO level.

However, one memorable quote in the book is:

"Blogs are no fad. they are cheap and easy to do. And blogs fulfil that deepest of human needs as defined by psychologist Abraham Maslow: self-actualization. People write blogs because they want to know themselves and want to be known by others and because they want their lives to count. "

Rich Karlgaard, Forbes, Dec 26, 2005 (cited on page 148 of Debbie Weil's book)

It would be interesting to know if this is a widely held aim of those blogging - and how successful this approach is at contributing to a feeling of self-actualization (is the evidence out there ?)

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Simulations, Games & Case Studies - Clarifying Learning Outcomes

Simulations, Case Studies & 'Games' provide interactive approaches to achieve workplace learning. However, I'd suggest that it is easy to lose focus on the learning objectives being sought - as the design team get drawn into the game play and scenario writing.

With this in mind, I'd offer the potential value of drawing comparisons with training in professional team sports, such as football (ie soccer for those reading this in the US).

[ albeit in the workplace, most learning is on-the-job, and off-the-job training is a small % of overall time - professional team sports is mostly off-the-job training and (possibly) 90 minutes on-the-job on a saturday afternoon ! ]

So is the Simulation, Case Study or Game designed to:

  • build individual skill & knowledge - e.g. improve decision-making skills by facing a number of simulated business decisions and comparing the answers given to model 'expert' answers (or actual actions taken in historical case studies)
  • build fitness & stamina - e.g. improving decision-making productivity by learning to cope with data overload (the 'old in-tray' exercise)
  • rehearse set-plays (free kicks, penalties etc..) - e.g. improving stakeholder buy-in of decision-making by repeated testing of playing out the likely reactions to a range of options
  • act as a pre-season friendly - e.g. improving co-ordination of decision-making via generating practical understanding of how different individuals/departments need to combine together to collectively identify and process the data required.

Typically these build together - until it is all put together in the 'pre-season friendly'

However, in the workplace ...I'd suggest there can be a temptation to go straight to the full practice simulation !

Thoughts ?

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Web 2.0 - What are the broader implications for HR ?

Further to my recent reflection on 'the first 90 days' of blogging, I have also been considering what the wider implications of these technologies may have for the HR profession.

While this may not be directly relevant for those in Learning & Development - indeed much of the discussion on Facebook, LinkedIn etc. within the members forums of the UK CIPD websites are listed under 'Employee Relations' - it may emerge that L&D professional with their awareness of Knowledge Management, blogs, alumni networks etc.. are indeed well placed to partner with others in HR on this topic.

I can see three areas that drive the rationale for HR to 'get involved' in the Web 2.0 in the Workplace debate:

  • The emerging value of the Web 2.0 tools in the workplace - especially in industries where collaboration is essential between the different job roles, and/or between locations. Given the need for HR to align with & support the business strategy, as Web 2.0 becomes part of that business strategy, it is important that the HR profession keep up with these changes.
  • The 'psychological contract' will be influenced by the policies and guidelines organisations deploy in enabling/resticting social networking etc in the workplace. We see this currently in the UK media re access allowed/restricted to Facebook. While this is no different in principle to allowing personal calls on the telephone, it provides new challenges in enforcing any restrictions put in place.
  • The impact Web 2.0 technologies may have on employees health & well-being. Already it is common place to hear Blackberrys called 'Crackberrys' - as as stress remains the second most common cause of absence from work (after back problems), it will be important that additional technologies don't contribute further to any such issues. [hopefully some can actually reduce email traffic etc.]

At present the discussion threads seem to agree that HR & IT need to partner in this area - but given the complexity and rapid evolution of this topic, current best practices are hard to identify.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

The First 90 Days - Reflection on the learning value of a blog

It is now about 90 days since my first blog posting - also immediately after a 2 week vacation.

Given earlier comments on the power of reflection [reflection is to learning what editing is to professional writing] I feel it is time to record a few thoughts on the learning value of a blog.

Firstly, I'd suggest that there are at least three types of blog:

  • The subject matter driven discussion - helping build professional knowledge through (i) reflection and (ii) dialogue between peers.
  • The personal journey driven discussion - a diary of thoughts and feelings, helping (i) consolidate experiences (workplace learnings and beyond) and (ii) provide a form of coaching through the reactions of those who give feedback/reactions.
  • The leadership communication channel - helping engaging colleagues by (i) communicating directly to staff and (ii) being accessible to hear feedback/reactions

As with any classification - I'd suspect there can (i) be significant overlap between the categories and (ii) no doubt there is at least a 4th type that can be proposed !

I'd suggest that the potential value of a classification, is to think about the outcome being sought from the act of blogging. So for me - it is becoming increasingly clear that this blog is primarily helping me consolidate my knowledge of the topic of 'Learning & Development'.

If the blogging tools had existed ca. 7 years ago, when I was starting to transition between a scientific & HR career, then a blog tracking the journey (especially if I could attract a cadre of 'coaches' to post comments) may have helped accelerate the change.


The second main feature I've found from blogging is that it encourages 'regular posting', and thus encourages taking a 'bite-size' approach to learning & reflection. It is very apparent if there are large gaps between posts (as there is this month in this blog :) )


... so at this stage, my impression is that there can be significant value in promoting blogs as part of the portfolio of approaches to learner-centred workplace learning & professional development.

Clearly there will be a range of 'barriers' to blogging - especially for those who are not early adopters. Hence a challenge of the Learning professional will be to understand the resistance and help minimise the concerns of colleagues.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

A Learning Organisation ? - Questions to assess the dominating internal culture

From: http://

Wally Bock, a leadership consultant posted a comment on:
What are the questions to ask employees of an organization to get a feel of the dominating internal culture ?

Wally suggests the following 3 questions:

* What kind of people gets promoted around here? The behavior and performance you reward is what you'll get more of.
* What "bad" behaviors are tolerated here? This is good for patterns of behavior.
* What kinds of stories do people tell each other? Stories are the carriers of culture. Beware if all they tell are "dumb boss" stories. Understand that service is a value if what you hear are "heroic service" stories.

Food for Thought ... especially if considering how close your organisation is to being a 'Learning Organisation'

Monday, 30 July 2007

Ulrich Model of HR

L&D Professional working within HR departments will be very familiar with the 'Ulrich' model of HR - a three-legged stool separating out:

* Business Partners (also known as generalists or client consultants)
* Service Centres (focused on the 'back-office' transactions)
* Centre of Excellence (the specialist functions such as Recruitment, Compensation & L&D)

I know several colleagues have observed that Ulrich's model lead to a focus of 'who does what' - pulling apart these area of the HR profession. While all three areas are essential, the focus on splitting foundational vs. strategic roles can devalue the former. Similarly, while 'Business Partners' and 'Centres of Excellence' have strategic roles, clarity of how they blend together to support the strategy of the business 'client' is a source of potential confusion.

I'd suggest that the HR profession may be better served from starting with the frame of reference of a different three-legged stool:

* focus on enhancing current business performance achieved by colleagues/managers & leaders
* focus on enhancing planned business growth (building the talent required to accelerate the pace of planned sustainable development of the business)
* focus on building organisational adaptability (to help survive/thrive when unpredictable changes take place in the business environment)

This may result in more variety in how HR structures itself - but, I'd suggest, this would help build collaboration & common purpose across the different disciplines that the include L&D professional.

Discussing L&D interventions in terms of which of the three bullets (perform, grow, adapt) is being targeted could also help maintain a clarity of strategic focus

The Leadership Pipeline - Further reflections

The Leadership Pipeline (Charan, Drotter & Noel) describes a very linear process of a 'straight' pipe from 'Managing Self' to 'Enterprise Manager'

So can this book help guide L&D professional supporting:

* Player Coaches
* Managers who both 'Manage Manager' and are 'Functional Manager'
* Manager who are 'Functional Managers' but through large spans of control are not 'Managers of Managers'

I think the short answer to this is Yes, however it misses an opportunity to explore the implications in any depth.

So for example - if someone is promoted to a 'Functional Manager' role, what is specific to this role is a significant jump in requiring to demonstrate 'Business Acumen' and expertise in 'Executing Business Strategy'

This promotion may also be associated with introducing at least two layers of management betwwen the post holder and 'individual contributors' .. or if a very flat organisation, there may only be one layer.

Hence: I believe there could be merit in separating out any training and coaching on new 'Communication' skills that are key for 'Managers of Managers' - this part of the menu being added only if the two transitions coincide.

Put simply - I feel there could be merit in mapping transitions based on business role (individual, manager, leader, executive etc); and overlaying a parallel pipeline based on layers of the organisation (individual, manager, manager of managers, leaders of managers-of-managers etc).

Each transition will be a blend of the two pathways - but without the assumptions that every organisation fits (GEs) 7 layers.

The Leadership Pipeline - Reflections on a classic text

I recently re-read The Leadership Pipeline (from Charan, Drotter & Noel)

In my view this is still a classic roadmap for L&D professionals designing a curriculum. Each transition point represents an opportunity to target training towards accelerating performance in the new & different role.

What struck me most was a phrase (page 18) relating to the first transition from 'Managing Self' to Managing Others' which states:

'The most difficult change for managers to make at Passage One, however, involves values. Specifically, they need to learn to value managerial work, rather than just tolerate it. They must believe that making time for others, planning, coaching and the like are necessary tasks and are their responsibility'


I wonder if we do enough to test values - either to help tailor training, or to assess changes in behaviours.

Maybe pre-work for delegates for a people-manager training course should test whether the individual already values the future role of being a supervisor ...since training of tools & coaching on conversations are likely to be ineffective if the passion for getting results from others has not been generated.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Reflection - a vital part of learning ?!

A comment I posted on another blog recently generated a reaction to the passing mention of Kolb (which I was using to illustrate my view that blogging supports reflection, which in turn is a critical part of consolidating learning).
link to blog

[as an aside - I really like the concept that was generated in the comments of Blogging as 'Knowledge Fusion' ]

Hence .... from the book 'Informal Learning' by Jay Cross - I found this analogy relevant to the positioning of reflection in the learning process (or cycle):

'Reflection is a vital part of learning. Its like editing is to professional writing. If your writing is going to be the best that it can be, you must revisit your work to tighten up, squeeze out the awkward parts, fix the grammar, and otherwise polish it. If you want to retain and use what you learn, you must revisit it. .....'

page 106-107

Monday, 16 July 2007

Three Segments of Learners (explored via a powerful metaphor)

Jay Cross in his book 'Informal Learning' provides (in my opinion) a very powerful metaphor for exploring three segments of learners.

He describes the categories as:

  • NOVICE WORKER - directed
  • MATURE WORKER - self-directed
  • SENIOR WORKER - helping other

which I equate with:

  • NOVICE - for whom formal training is well suited to drive learning
  • COMPETENT - for whom coaching is well suited to drive learning
  • EXPERT - for which peer-to-peer dialogue (including blogs ?!) is well suited to drive learning

see my first posting -

Acording to Jay Cross:

  • Formal Learning is like: 'riding on a bus'
  • Informal Learning is like: 'driving a car' (for self directed, mature workers) & 'riding a bicycle' (for senior workers)

He states 'Training departments are adept at creating bus routes: often they have little to do assisting drivers and bikers'.

What struck me about the metaphor is that the learner who is 'Competent' is self-directed (ie has, or needs, increased freedom to take a journey - compared with the 'Novice' bus passenger).

Equally, compared to the 'Expert' cyclist they need some form of engine/propulsion to help them get to their destination. The cyclist, on the other hand has both the freedom to explore non-conventional or unchartered routes, AND is self-reliant on propelling their progress. how do we as Learning Professionals assist the drivers & bikers ?


maps - illustrating options (quickest routes vs. scenic routes to a known destination)

training in how to drive/ride (focus on building competency in handling the 'tools' for transportation)

providing motivation & encouragement (especially to self-powered cyclists)

....and I'm sure there are a lot more ideas this metaphor can stimulate (given time/reflection)

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Reflections on ASTD 2007, part #2

A further theme I focused on at ASTD was the perennial challenge of metrics and measures of Learning.

While I wasn't able to attend the Kirkpatrick session, a colleague provided the following insights (thanks Marianne):

  • Don't skip any levels - hence don't overlook the importance of 'smile' sheets
  • You cannot do meaningful Level 4 evaluations on Leadership programs or team-building (as there are too many other variables affecting the results/ROI). Level 4 is best suited for Sales Training.
  • For Level 3 (Behaviour): Survey &/or interview one or more of the following: boss; subordinate; peer; others. Measure before/after if practical.
  • It is 'nice' to have a control group, but this is not always practical.
  • Get as much reaction as you can in the least amount of time ! - so use a 5 point scale & use a scale with comments as optional.

Robert Brinkerhoff also presented on 'Training Impact Evaluation That Senior Managers Believe and Use: The Success Case Method', based on his recently published book 'Telling Training's Story' (Berrett Koehler 2006).

The main argument here is that a training intervention is likely to have a predictable Impact Distribution.

  1. Those who did not try the new skills/knowledge at all
  2. Those who tried the new skills/knowledge but reverted back to old ways resulting in little/no benefit
  3. Those who tried the new skills/knowledge and achieve positive worthwhile results

So rather than look for the average outcome, seek to understand & communicate what separates out those in category (3).

In doing this it becomes possible to demonstrate that:

  • The training intervention CAN work
  • The training intervention DOES work when the following factors are in place.

...the latter often being outside the 'control' of the L&D team (eg the actions of the delegate's own manager)

Moreover, if the % that fall into category (c) are determined, and the value of the outcomes they achieved quantified it is easy to illustrate not only the overall ROI, but also to full potential of the training (and all points in-between).

In my view this approach of stepping away from average data, will be very powerful in helping position L&D professionals as consultants: ensuring we have the data to illustrate the responsibilities of leaders, managers and the delegates to achieve the full potential ROI from learning services.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Reflections from the HR Directors Strategy Meeting 2007 (London, IBDG) Part 2

Also from this meeting, Charles Jennings of Reuters share a model of linking skills and behaviours to performance that I found very powerful.

Performance is the result of a combination of Skills & Behaviours

Typically the influence of Skills is 30%,
Behaviours being responsible for 70%


Data drives Info that drives Knowledge that builds Skills

The Environment influences Attitudes that influences Behaviours


So why is this a powerful model ?

People managers (supervisors) have a major influence on Environment - so however much we support the learning of new skills, the business results of their application will be highly dependant on the role of the line manager.

  • Hence, people managers need to understand this link.
  • Also, any evaluation of the business impact of learning/training needs to reflect this co-dependency (ie success or failure of training is not attributable solely to the L&D team).

Reflections from the HR Directors Strategy Meeting 2007 (London, IBDG) Part 1

I hosted a couple of Roundtable Discussion sessions at the HR Directors Strategy Meeting in London on June 27 (organised by IBDG). The theme of these sessions was 'The Changing Role of the Trainer - From Classroom Instructor to Learning Consultant ?'

A couple of key themes emerged for me from these discussions:

Firstly - while it feels that HR L&D leaders are in violent agreement that we should be focued on supporting a learner dominated environment, not all the 'learners' we support are on the same page. Many are comfortable with companies continuing to be very paternal in directing their learning, or are too busy to see the world changing around them !

Secondly - many L&D leaders may have the vision of a learner dominated environment, but manage L&D teams still structured and skilled as a training function.

So what was the collective thoughts about how to 'wake up' learners (other than the 'early adopters' - a segment already controlling their own learning) to the need for them to partner effectively with their organisation in supporting their own learning.

  • Start at the top - senior management sponsorship is key (and others will follow their example if they are visibly managing their own development)
  • As with any change-management process, there can be merit in looking at how the reward systems are constructed to support the required new behaviours around learning (the proverbial 'carrot' & 'stick'). The carrot should be BIG right from the start, the stick starting SMALL (in recognition that change is difficult) but increasing over time in a deliberate and prescribed manner. For example: if evidence of a proactive approach to learning is evident what feedback does the employee get (and what about the same scenario in 12 months time) ?
  • L&D professionals need to build a different form of credibility - rather than a list of acreditations (to get them through the door of the training room) they need to have good business acumen (to get through the office door) e.g. to help coach managers on making links between lifelong learning and business impact.
  • L&D needs to be better at marketing & celebrating successes - also increasing the ease of the transition to self-service (eg can it be made attractive for learners to self-register on the LMS vs. expecting someone else to manage their list of training ?)

Expanding the second theme - L&D Leaders need to deliberately manage the transition of their teams from being a training department.

  • Do current staff want to be 'consultants' - or do they get their motivation from the immediacy of the classroom ? (if the latter, it may be time for them to be supported in 'moving-on')
  • Consider now the L&D team can aquire 'business acumen' - possibly via secondments in/out of the business departments.
  • Be prepared to 'throw away' the training catalogue !

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Reflections on ASTD 2007 Part #1

At ASTD 2007 I attended a couple of sessions focused on e-learning: 'Beyond E-Learning' by Marc Rosenberg and 'eLearning 2.0' by Tony Karrer.

These presentations were in many ways the catalyst for starting this blog - [ Thank you Marc & Tony ! ]

The main points I took from the presentation by Marc Rosenberg were:

  • knowledge management (linking 'information repositories', 'communities & networks' and 'access to experts') should be viewed as being at the heart of building a 'learning and performance architecture'.
  • e-learning is the next layer of the metaphorical onion: providing both 'on-line training' and 'performance support' ('in the moment guidance' eg drop down menu options)
  • Classroom training & coaching are the outer layer

Why is this important ?

Firstly, as we know ... in an organisational context, the proportion of time spent within the job role rather than away from the job is vastly greater.

Secondly, if we accept the need for a learner centred approach (for all the reasons already cited, and yet to be explored on this blog) ... then technology now provides the tools the learner requires to be an empowered knowledge seeker.

This is particularly relevant for learners who are at least competent, or have some mastery of their subject - where the need has moved from 'show me how' & 'help me do better' to 'help me find what I need' and 'I'll create my own learning'

The main points I took from Tony Karrer's presentation were:

  • Key new tools for e-learning are: wikis; social bookmarking; blogging; and RSS readers. Together they for the core of what can be described as e-learning 2.0
  • e-learning 2.0 should not be seen as replacing 'traditional' e-learning (1.0) or 'rapid' e-learning (so-called '1.3'). Rather they are complementary
  • e-learning 1.0 is characterised as LMS based, top-down content with long development times, created by instructional designers and typically 60 mins or more in duration
  • e-learning 1.3 is characterised as intranet based, top-down content with rapid development times, created by subject matter experts and typically 15 mins in duration
  • e-learning 2.0 is characterised as search / RSS feed accessed content, learner driven with no development lead time, created by users and of very short content size (eg 1 minute).

Why is this important ?

These technologies are emerging alternative learning solutions, that the learning consultant will need to understand to (i) enhance their influence on workplace learning ('glass half full' perspective) and/or (ii) avoid the training profession becomings increasingly marginalised as formal training (on-line or instructor-led) becomes an even smaller percentage time commitment by empowered learners ('glass half empty' perspective).

As cited by Marc from 'The World is Flat' by Tomas Friedman: 'being adaptable in a flat worl, knowing how to 'learn how to learn' will be one of the most important assets any worker can have, because job churn will come faster, because innovation will happen faster.'

Sunday, 24 June 2007

A Worthwhile Read

Anyone following this blog, is likely to find value from reading the following book:

'The Changing World of the Trainer - Emerging Good Practice' by Martyn Sloman of CIPD

(published by Elsevier - Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford, UK; 2007; ISBN-13 978-0-7506-8053-0)

The central premise of this text is that:

'A shift is taking place from training, an instructor-led content-based intervention, to learning, which is a self directed work-based process, leading to increased adaptive capacity.'

I would agree with this, and have found that the following quote (that I often refer to in my conference presentations) makes the case for why increased adaptive capacity is so critical.

'At times of change the learner will inherit the earth, while the learned will be equipped for a world that no longer exists' (James Thurber, humorist)

Start of a blog, start of a new learning journey

At the recent ASTD conference in Atlanta (June 2007) I spent time re-focusing on the developments in the discipline of Knowledge Management, and specifically eLearning 2.0.

I'm excited by the possibilities that Web 2.0 will create for influencing learning in the workplace.

Training (be it instructor-led or e-learning) continues to be highly valuable for building competence in new skills and knowledge. Similiarly, coaching (peer, manager or externally facilitated) is a powerful strategy to encourage the practising of new skills that help transform competent individuals into 'experts'. But how do experts continue to learn and adapt to an ever changing environment ?

.... Learning professionals know the value of promoting professional networking, action-learning sets/problem based learning & communities of practice for helping experts continue to their development.

AND I see blogging as an extension of this. Moreover, the discipline of 'writing it all down' should itself be very powerful for embedding learning.

SO the spirit of learning here is the start of my own blog !

I also hope this will be of direct value to Learning and Development professionals and indirectly help us speak directly from experience when consulting on the integration of Web 2.0 into workplace learning.