Saturday, 29 November 2008

Interesting Links (December 2008)

A Practical Guide for Developing Leaders

Here's a practical guide for developing leaders provided by Dan McCarthy, adapted from June Delano, a colleague of his, now with Monitor Executive Development.

While the guide does not include everything a leader needs to learn, it does offer ideas for developing people before and during new leadership assignments.

Related to this I'd also recommend (re)reading The Leadership Pipeline by Charan et al

Standing in the rain - linked to Lessons in Leadership ?!

Here is a thought provoking post from HBR's Vineet Nayar - which is likely to resonate with all parents who stand on the  football pitch touchline in all weather at weekends !

"There is a forgotten lesson we leaders can learn here as we deal with the thundering rain in the world of business right now.

Once you are wet, the fear of getting wet is over and you start enjoying the rain. With the fear gone, you return to your work with unmitigated enthusiasm. However, if you freeze indoors because of rain, there is no way you will reach anyplace."

Top 100 Tools for Learning

Jane Hart provides a clear & simple list of the on-line tools being used around the world to learn, network and communicate.

Running Learning as a Business 

Here is a helpful short video from David Vance former President of the Caterpillar Corporate University on the need to run L&D 'as a business' to gain credibility & traction within an organisation.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Learning Technologies 2009 - reflection on the Nov. '08 magazine

The UK Learning Technologies conference series is fast approaching its 10th year.  I'm delighted to be involved in the forthcoming 2009 event, contributing on Driving adoption - the value of partnering with HR.

As a previous attendee, I've always looked forward to receiving the associated magazines - sent out in the run up to the conference.  This year is no exception - and I've just found time to read the November issue (the first of three in the run up to the 2009 conference).

I find it interesting that: the topic is technologies and the contributors are among those thought-leaders I follow on-line, and yet there is still something helpful about getting the content in paper format.  I'm not sure I can explain this - but it may have something to do with the amount of content visible on a single page vs. screen. I find myself scanning across the columns, making connections etc in a less linear fashion than when on-line.

A few key quotes that attracted my attention

Donald Taylor - "Skills Finally Matter ... Differentiation now has just one source: people ... The oft repeated phrase 'people are our most important asset' is not quite on the money.  An organisation's most important asset is what its people can do: their skills and knowledge."

Jane Hart - "The social aspect of learning has often been missing from on-line learning initiatives up to now .... in all areas, the sharing of knowledge and experiences by learners is invaluable."

Jay Cross - "invent-as-you go learning".

Clive Shepherd - "Learning 2.0: Learners in this context are just people looking to get things done and using their initiative to overcome any obstacles in the way (like being short of information or not knowing how to go about doing something)."

This is just the 'tip of the iceberg' from the content provided.

My Reflections:

As Nigel Paine states "ultimately learners need to take control of their own learning destinies and use the resources available to maintain and develop their skills and competence" ... and clearly Web 2.0 technologies have made it much easier to do this. 

Equally, I'm not confident that we will reach a 'tipping point' where the benefits of proactive workplace-centred life-long learning  are accepted by a significant majority.  The classic Change Management article 'Change or Die' highlights the challenge of changing human behaviour - however logical and beneficial it is.  

So I feel we need to be careful not to to be lulled into a sense of complacency that 'if we build it they will come'.  Maybe, rather than talking about a shift to self-directed learning, we need to think more about partnership - where the organisation is focused on motivating colleagues to partner with them on investing in their unique learning journeys.

With learning technologies, we need to understand the range of motivations that fuel an individual's enthusiasm to use them - and help reinforce this. 

There are somewhere in the region of 4 million managers in the UK ... what would it take to get 400,000 (10%) periodically publishing their reflections/insights as blogs/slideshare content etc, 2 million (50%) actively maintaining their professional networks via linkedin, and 3 million (75%) using an RSS reader for work-related feeds ?   

Monday, 3 November 2008

Interesting Links (November 2008)

Leadership: 109 Movies that Inspire

From the Totally Consumed blog here is a great post on the leadership themes that are well illustrated by classic movies.

These include:

  • Apollo 13 (1999) Problem-solve & team work.
  • Braveheart (1996) Cultivate your vision and others will follow
  • Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) With responsibility, comes accountability
  • Dead Poets Society (1989) Words are powerful, use them wisely
  • Ground Hog Day (1993) Do it right the first time.
  • Lord of the Flies (1990) Never underestimate what people are capable of.
  • It’s a Wonderful Life (1947) It’s about who we are, not what we own.
for the other 102 see the original post !


Richard Branson on Success

When we place too high a value on achievement and fulfillment, we often overlook the important parts of life like character, relationships and service. Richard Branson made a profound statement on success in his book, Business Stripped Bare. The last sentence may take a few reads for its implications to soak in.
Successful people aren’t in possession of secrets known only to themselves. Don’t obsess over people who appear to you to be “winners”, but listen instead to the wisdom of people who’ve led enriching lives—people, for instance, who’ve found time for friends and family. Be generous in your interpretation of what success looks like. The best and most meaningful lives don’t always end happily.

Making learning 'stick' - the role of the manager

Chris Morgan on his blog provides a clear and concise article on the role of the manager in making learning stick.

A good manager will be regularly monitoring progress. A great manager will have agreed specific tasks and/or assignments that will force the employee to apply the new behaviours.


Tuesday, 21 October 2008

HR Departments - do they need to be exemplars of talent-management best practice ?

Imagine the following scenario:  

You have recently moved into a small town with two hairdressers/barbers.  Each week you walk past both salons.  One individual always has immaculately cut hair, while the other looks clearly pays little attention to their appearance.  Both are fully qualified, with plenty of certificates on display in their premises.

  • Which would you choose to cut your hair just before you go for an important job interview?
  • To what extent would other factors (price, waiting time, customer feedback …. ) influence your decision ?


“In a knowledge economy, companies with the best talent win. And finding, nurturing, and developing that talent should be one of the most important tasks in a corporation.” FAST COMPANY, 2005

Hence, to what extent is it important that senior HR professionals manage their own departments as exemplars of talent-management best practice?  

Does this build credibility and trust with business leaders, enabling HR to style the organisation-wide people-strategy? Alternatively, is this viewed as diverting effort from supporting the core business agenda?

I doubt there are clear answers to these questions.  Equally, I feel that it would be helpful for the HR profession to invest more time in understanding this issue.  We should aim to research which elements of talent-development best-practice are best ‘sold’ to leaders through how we manage the HR department, versus using economic (ROI) arguments; just-in-time relevance, or (iii) client feedback from pilot projects.


I’ll be interested to hear your views on this. 

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Revisiting the HBR 2002 paper "Everything I Know about Business I Learned from Monopoly"

Originally published by Harvard Business Review in 2002, "Everything I Know About Business I Learned from Monopoly" by Phil Orbanes provides great insights for all working in HR/L&D.  I recently rediscovered this paper in my files.

Orbanes is cited as "one of the world's foremost board-game designers". To be successful he needs to understand what makes people want to compete - and win.  

I see clear parallels with a people-manager needing to understand what makes their direct reports want to be engaged and committed to the organisation's mission.

Orbanes presents six principles of "Great Game Design"
  • Make the rules simple and unambiguous
  • Don't frustrate the casual player
  • Establish a rhythm
  • Focus on what is happening off the board
  • Give 'em chances to come from behind
  • Provide outlets for latent talents

Make the rules simple and unambiguous
"people can [also] find a game bewildering if the aren't given a sound structure and clear guidance"

So, while from an L&D perspective the use of simulations in training can help cut through real life complexity, this also hints that the inconsistency and unpredictability of the workplace needs to be mitigated where possible.  

I see strong links here to a central role of leadership - namely defining the vision & mission of the organisation/team and communicating to reinforce understanding.  From an HR perspective, this also needs to be supported by ensuring employees have a good understanding of policies/processes & the wider psychological contract.  

Don't frustrate the casual player
"if a game is to last ... it must appeal to a critical mass of casual players who will rapidly comprehend and enjoy playing it"

I'd suggest this insight can be related to the issues of information overload in the modern workplace.  Just as there is a wealth of entertainment options competing for an individual's leisure time, employees need to navigate conflicting priorities.  

When an organisation changes its strategy (i.e. game), mass communication is needed, and it needs to be kept simple !  To 'enjoy playing it' I'd suggest aiming to involve employees in collectively working out the details of the change.  I see a great role for Enterprise 2.0 tools in achieving these aims.  Podcasts help focus leaders on keeping communications short and to the point, Blogs provide a level of access & interaction with senior management that was previously only enjoyed by HQ staff.

Establish a rhythm
"If a game paces itself effectively, people will instinctively know which phase they are in.  If the pace doesn't build, its not so much of a game."

Orbanes makes his own connections to the workplace: "Is there an analogy for business to the beginning, middle, and end rhythm in games ? I think so. A good manager might engineer these types of shifts over the course of a critical project - and be prepared for different moods and levels of motivations from people".   I'd certainly agree that building 'Interpersonal Skills' is a powerful lever for enhancing Leadership.

For HR, I also see the importance of guiding an annual cycle of managing performance - with well-understood phases of goal setting, feedback and reward. 

Focus on what is happening off the board
"a well-designed game makes people feel better afterwards - and for many players, that's due to the larger social experience, of which the game is only the core activity"

Gallup recognise the importance of having 'a best friend at work', if employees are to be highly engaged.  Also, as the HBR paper states "... a manager must consider people's work:life balance". 

I see HR taking a lead in this area: championing the benefits of flexible working etc. 

Give 'em chances to come from behind
"One of the trickiest aspects of game design is achieving just the right balance of skill and luck"

This raises the issue of what role is there for 'luck' in the workplace.  Reward & recognition mechanisms need to be fair and consistent (i.e. driven by acknowledging the outcomes achieved from skill) if they are to motivate rather than demotivate others.  Equally, good performance management processes should provide reasonable support to help struggling employees turnaround poor performance, with manager setting clear, attainable goals for improvement.

But, just as a Monopoly 'Community Chest' card can introduce a new, improved situation for a player, I see the need to invest in both the predictable future (e.g. grooming high potentials for the next level of leadership)  and the unpredictable (e.g. encouraging 'skunk works', by expecting 10% of an employees effort to be directed towards bottom-up projects).

Provide outlets for latent talents
"great games and great workplaces, also offer outlets for skills that people would like to express but don't use during their normal routines"

Orbanes also highlights that "Chess and Bridge had their heyday in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s when wide-ranging opportunities to exercise intellectual powers or gain intellectual stimulation on the job simply did not exist".

In the workplace there is an increasing trend for multiple careers.  As individuals' interests  and circumstances change over time, organisations can capitalise on this if they provide outlets such as secondments.  I'd also see the role of L&D/HR as helping employees better manage their own career development.  They can then effectively partner with the organisation on creating appropriate outlets for their skills and interest.

No doubt I've only scratched the surface of the links that can be drawn between 'making engaging board-games' and 'engaging employees by the board'.  Please share other workplace insights generated from this introduction to the principles of board-game design   

FYI: The HBR article also makes comment on the use of game-playing to build teams:
"at very least an afternoon of playing games builds relationships among workers and increases the social capital within an organisation..."

PS: in the current economic turmoil it would be interesting to consider what 'new rules' Waddingtons should add to their board-game .... or was it great insight that while the waterworks, the electric company & the railways stations could all be privately held, the bank is centrally managed ?!

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Learning 2.0

Clive Shepherd provides a helpful summary within his blog of the latest research from the elearning guild on 'Learning 2.0 - Learning in a Web 2.0 World'

Clive highlights that: "It is the belief of the authors that younger workers will demand it, and that organisations who adopt it will do better when it comes to attracting and retaining talent."

I'm also struck by the following bullets from the Key Findings of the report:
  • Only 28.1% of members report that their organizations are preparing workers on using Web 2.0 approaches for learning and work.
  • Among members working in organizations with 10,000 or more workers, 10.8% cannot access LinkedIn, 26.2% cannot access Gmail, 35.0% cannot access YouTube, and 39.2% cannot access either Facebook or MySpace.

I don't think we should be surprised by this data, but it also shows the magnitude of the challenge to move from uptake by individual early adopters to embedding this as the norm for the majority of the workforce, especially in large organisations.

Given that I'd hope that the majority of business leaders value networking & informal learning (as levers that have made them successful in a pre-Web 2.0 world) - I feel we need to challenge ourselves to do more to help them understand that the new technologies are first & foremost just tools to help their workforce network and learn more efficiently & effectively.

Great Leadership - Carnival

Check out the Great Leadership Carnival currently being hosted by Dan McCarthy.

I particularly like the following insights (the bold emphasis is mine) - but there are many more lessons to be taken from the rest of the content !]:

"When leaders infuse the organizational culture with the element of human value, it has a ripple effect. First, it helps leaders form an emotional connection with the people they lead.  Second, it strengthens the emotional connection among the people they lead as employees adopt the leaders’ values in their interactions with one another. Third, the sense of connection reaches out to customers (or patients, in New York-Presbyterian’s case) when frontline employees become intentional about demonstrating human value"  [Michael Lee Stallard]

To manage well requires that you recognize the subtle, but important, differences between people and that you know how to put those differences to work for your organization. Great managers thrive on helping people experience incremental growth. The dynamic creativity of figuring out how to move from the player to the plays is the real genius of a great manager.
Leadership isn’t about that at all. Leadership is about finding the words, stories, and images that bring great clarity to people. And that’s just different from being a good manager. You could have both talents, but good managers don’t necessarily make good leaders.
So when you actually "learn" leadership - you actually make a great shift in your worldview. You cannot build a new worldview on top of your existing ones. You have to let them go.
[Gautam Gosh - citing Marcus Buckingham]


6 Unwritten Rules to Advancement in the Workplace (aka - Professional Networking 2.0)

  • Network and build relationships both within and outside your organization.
  • Find ways to become visible in your team and organization, e.g., seek out important assignments. 
  • Lobby for yourself and your work, do not be afraid to “brag” about your accomplishments.
  • Communicate effectively and ask for feedback.
  • Find a mentor, coach, sponsor; developmental relationships not only provide knowledge and experience, but can help expand your professional network. 
  • Develop a good career plan; prepare for each step, learn the right skills.  
[Britannica Blog]


You will not grow if you sit in a beautiful flower garden, but you will grow if you are sick, if you are in pain, if you experience losses, and if you do not put your head in the sand, but take the pain as a gift to you with a very, very specific purpose.

The message here is that we can learn from every experience, and that in fact every experience can be regarded as a gift. This, perhaps, is a hard thing for us to hear - we have been conditioned to think of illness and pain  in a negative way and we try to avoid suffering at all costs. But all growth involves pain and so perhaps we should be less eager to shy away from it, learning instead to welcome it and take something of value from these experiences. [Michael Miles on 'the wisdom of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross]

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Interesting Links (October 2008)

Help More, Judge Less

Marshall Goldsmith (HBS Discussion Leaders) provides a list of seven steps to stop finger pointing during a crisis.

These are:
  1. Encourage everyone on your team to remember four words that can help all of you get though your crisis in the best way possible: help more, judge less.

  2. Try to get team members to focus on a future that they can impact, not a past that they cannot change anyway.

  3. Try to get people to take responsibility for their own behavior.

  4. Ask each person to reflect on the question, "What can I learn from this crisis?"

  5. Ask everyone on your team to reflect on the question, "What can we learn from this crisis?"

  6. Encourage each team member to avoid speaking when angry or out of control.

  7. Before speaking don't just ask, "Am I correct?" - ask "Will this help?"

As mentioned in the discussion linked to the article - this is good advice at any time ... but especially helpful at times of stress. As Marshall states:

"Anyone can provide leadership when times are easy. Great leaders - and great teams - step up when times are tough. Rather than get lost in whining, have each team member focus on how he or she can grow from this experience. "


Are Leaders Portable ?

How do you ensure that incoming high performers deliver as promised?

Also from HBS, is this easy to digest article from Boris Groysberg, Andrew N. McLean, and Nitin Nohria. They highlight that

"Too many hiring companies wrongly assume that certain skills and experience are just what they need and will transfer automatically to their own setting. Sure, general management skills (performance evaluation, vision setting, financial acumen) translate well to new settings. But other assets—including strategic abilities such as cost control expertise, and industry-specific knowledge—may or may not prove portable, depending on the hiring company’s needs. For example, hiring an expert cost cutter when your company must drive top-line growth could set him up for failure—though that same executive would likely excel if your strategy hinged on cost management"

This may sound like common sense - but as the article states:

"When a company hires a CEO from General Electric—considered the United States’ top executive training ground—the hiring firm’s stock price spikes instantly. But not all newly hired stars deliver as promised. One former GE giant, for instance, underwhelmed his new employer with an annualized rate of return 30% below the S&P average."


Remote Working - avoiding the pitfalls

Management Issues highlight "Five ways to get Remote Working Wrong" - mistakes that companies tend to make when setting up teleworking or remote working programmes.

Telecommuting is a growing trend - so this paper will be of interest to many.

  • The first pitfall is that organisations rush into it without any concrete policies and procedures in place

  • The second common pitfall is to over-invest in technology, with companies rushing out to buy the latest technology and gizmos when often they did not need to.

  • The third failing was the failure to train managers. It is now well recognised that managing someone from afar requires a different set of management skills, especially how you communicate and stay in touch with your remote team.

  • Fourthly, firms often failed to explore whether this type of initiative even fitted within their business model.

  • Finally, organisations too often failed to pilot their programme before "going live".

L&D colleagues will be particularly interested in bullet 3, especially as the authors highlight "Yet too often day-to-day pressures or budgetary constraints meant training around this new form of management simply failed to happen".


Finding the Right Boss

Few things have more impact on your happiness at work than the person you answer to every day.

The Washington Post highlights the need for workers moving between roles to place greater emphasis on understanding their potential future boss they state: "Here are a few signs to watch for during your next intervie to help you find a boss you respect"
Meetings with all the right people. If you don't have an interview with the person who will be your direct supervisor, watch out. 

· A willingness to talk about himself. It's not appropriate to grill the interviewer about his qualifications, but it's perfectly acceptable to ask about his education and experience, and how he wound up in his job. You're trying to get a sense of whether you can learn from this person.

· A positive vibe about the person who held the job before. Ask your prospective boss what happened to the last person who held the position for which you're applying. 

· A strong career of his own. You want a boss who is considered a rising star, Ask around to see what sort of reputation he has within the company, as well as his field. Is he getting regular promotions? Does he have a strong internal network? "You really want to be near the movers and shakers, if possible," she said.

· Encouraging nonverbal cues.Was the person on time and attentive? Did she look you in the eye? Is her attention focused on you during the interview? If not, don't get your hopes up.

· A good hunch. A big part of finding the right job is pure chemistry. A job may seem great intellectually, but if you have a bad feeling about it, there's probably a reason, even if you can't articulate it.

I'd suggest this theme is equally applicable for internal transfers - and thus the 'chemistry' is something HR should help the business lines determine as part of talent management.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Keeping L&D/HR focused on the 'Big Picture' during the economic downturn.

While talk of recession dominates the current business agenda we should not forget that most are short lived.  Hence, I believe that the L&D topics being debated before the phrase ‘sub-prime mortgage’ entered the popular press remain important. 


The economic growth of China continues.  It is thus inevitable that, like Japan beforehand, management and leadership practices associated with their climb up the world order will be of global importance.  Currently the vast majority of textbooks read by our UK managers are written by US opinion leaders: but should we expect this to be the case in 10 years time? For HR to influence the uptake of ideas from these new thought-leaders, we will need to build global partnerships.


Global communications and mobility have changed how the efforts of individual employees are aggregated.  Management structures refined over the past century now look clumsy if not obsolete, as ‘amplifying effort’ (i.e. colleague engagement) becomes the greater challenge for leaders.  Gary Hamel’s thesis on “The Future of Management” provides great insights, and now HR must help take up the challenge.   


Mentoring, coaching and on-the-job experiences have always been an important part of workplace learning.  Training is becoming increasingly squeezed both from a time and financial point of view.  In a world where vast amounts of knowledge can be accessed with a couple of key strokes, ‘just-in-time’ performance support rather than ‘just-in-case’ training is being demanded.  Understanding and integrating the ROI of training and other forms of learning has never been more important than at present.


Equally, a harsh economic climate provides some additional opportunities for those involved in Learning & Leadership.  The psychological contract with employees has already moved away from expectations of ‘a job for life’ in return for loyalty and commitment.  Individuals who accept the need to invest in life-long learning are most likely to successfully navigate a world of rapid organizational change and multiple careers.  Building this mindset and ensuring organizations contribute to keeping their workforce ‘employable’ is likely to be most valued now.


Leadership judgment is critical at this time, as poor business decisions are unlikely to go unpunished.  Perhaps more important, however, is the ability to execute whatever business strategy is selected.  This depends on successfully changing employees’ behaviours, a complex challenge where HR expertise can contribute significant business value. 

Hence I hope that the value of L&D/HR will come to be better recognised by business leaders as they navigate the current economic downturn.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Interesting Links (September 2008)

Being Wired or Being Tired: 10 Ways to Cope with Information Overload

Here is a great paper that pulls together solid practical advice for managing information overload.

"Dealing with information overload has become a task for each and every one of us, and yet very few of us have actually stopped to think about the best way to do this. We know that we are interrupted. We know that such interruptions affect our work and capacity to think in an adverse manner. And yet, because of the very problem itself — the constant flow of information and tasks demanding our every moment—we do not stop mid-flow to assess and organise. 

Examining each information input in our lives, including the content, delivery method, and access device, will help us to realistically assess what it is we’re doing with our time. Consciously thinking about the effectiveness and desirability of each stream of information, and of ways to improve them, will help to get the best information to you in the best way"


Powerful Leadership Proverbs

Leadership Now highlights Axiom: Powerful Leadership Proverbs - written by Bill Hybels with church leadership in mind. However, there the advice is highly transferable. Leadership Now focus on five of the 76 guiding principles that have shaped his leadership - this includes:

"Values Need Heat: When you heat up a value, you help people change states. Want to jolt people out of business as usual? Heat up innovation. Want to untangle confusion? Heat up clarity. Want to eradicate miserliness? Heat up generosity! New “states” elicit new attitudes, new aptitudes, and new actions. It’s not rocket science. It’s just plain chemistry. Which is a lot about heat….Over time, sufficiently hot values will utterly define your culture"


Balance Scorecards

The Palladium Group provide plenty of free information from their recent meeting - which includes practical insights on the use of balanced scorecards in work-class organisations.  Download the conference report here.


Millions of Britons regret their career choice

Reported by Management Issues - "Almost half of all UK workers, if given the chance, would have studied something totally different after leaving school and a fifth feel that as a result they plumped for the wrong career, according to new research"


Multiple bosses - do gender differences cause problems?

Kevan Hall highlights an interesting study here on Multiple bosses - do gender differences cause problems?  in his Life in a Matrix blog.

The study found
  • Women who had only one female boss reported more psychological distress (such as trouble sleeping, difficulty focusing on work, depression and anxiety) and physical symptoms (such as headaches, stomach pain or heartburn, neck and back pain and tiredness) than women who worked for one male boss.
  • Women who reported to a mixed-gender pair of supervisors also reported more of these symptoms than their peers who worked for a single male boss.
  • Men who worked for a single supervisor, regardless of the supervisor’s gender, had similar levels of distress.
  • Men who worked for a mixed-gender pair had fewer mental and physical symptoms than those working for a lone male supervisor

interesting data ..... 

Friday, 5 September 2008

Performance Support vs. Training (continued)

My thanks to JD & Dave Ferguson for their comments to my initial post on this topic - and I fully agree with the comment "we should make clear the purpose of training (or any other intervention) -- improved performance"

So on reflection, I'd like to add a third theme to my previous comments on Performance Support.

It is well accepted that from a typical well-designed training intervention, some delegates will gain significantly and translate the skills gained into improved business performance, while others on the same class will gain little, or be unable to positively impact business performance with any new knowledge/skills gained.

[for more on this - see my enthusiasm for evaluating training using the methodology proposed by Brinkerhoff]

In my view we should expect the same from Performance Support.

...why is it that some truck drivers efficiently get from A to B using Sat Nav., while others using the same system end up stuck in country lanes ?!

When training & performance support are blended, those already using Brinkerhoff's 'Success Case Method' are likely to be gaining important insights on the relative importance of the performance support associated with the training being evaluated.

What is new - is that in situations where performance support is being used to replace 'just in case' training - there could be merit in taking a similar approach to evaluation (i.e. accepting that performance support does not yield uniform outcomes, but through understanding the enablers & barriers to it translating into improved business performance - we can get more from these tools) 


Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Performance Support vs. Training

The August edition of the ASTD Training & Development magazine includes a thought-provoking article (page 23) titled 'Training is Broken'. The authors Bob Mosher & Frank Nguyen state "with training's limitations under scrutiny, it may be performance support's time to shine".

to expand further ....

"The problem with our information age is that even with the most successful of formal learning experiences, the amount of information needed to be effective, combined with the rate at which that information changes, makes many well-intentioned training efforts flawed before they are ever released."

Performance Support is defined as providing the right people with the right information at the right time. In other words: expanding just-in-time 'coaching' to replace (where appropriate) just-in-case training. For example, relying on the Microsoft paperclip comes to mind vs. seeking to learn up-front the full functionality of MS Word.

The authors advocate creating a 'total learning culture', and in particular:

"It is impossible to add PS (performance support) to your array of learning options without it affecting how you design and deliver training. PS enables competency in the way that training enables mastery. The two should not be kept exclusive"

My reaction to this is twofold:

Firstly: further thought needs to be given to the sequencing of training & performance support.

  • Depending of the learning objectives for the individual, it may be sufficient to rely on performance support to generate competence ... equally, it may be appropriate for a smaller segment of the workforce to be subsequently formally training to a higher level of mastery (which will in itself create a further channel of performance support for the rest of the workforce).
  • To minimise the costs/complexity of creating performance support, it may be more cost effective to provide a cut-down training intervention 'up-front' (to help all learners navigate how to find the support available, rather than relying on automated software). In this case training may be positioned to 'top & tail' performance support.

As the authors state "Changing the strategy from one of knowledge gain to one of knowledge application is the first key step".

Secondly: I'd suggest that consideration should be given to the consequences of different learning styles when creating performance support (as well as for formal training).

Honey & Mumford's work is generally accepted as a helpful model of categorising learning styles.

  • For Activists - it may be most appropriate to develop maps ... avoiding performance support (PS) adopting a 'telling' approach, but accelerating skill building by providing structure to the information required to be assimilated. For example: to accelerate networking skills - championing the value of organisational structure diagrams (e.g. linking such graphics with a company's 'yellow-pages' database of employees & their interests).
  • For Reflectors - it may be appropriate to link the guidance provided through PS with typical questions that would lead to expanding on the core 'answer'. For example: to accelerate networking skills - providing a report of the 'top five' colleagues citing a particular qualification within a company's 'yellow pages' together with a prompt to consider if additional key words may help refine the data.
  • For Theorists - it may be helpful to link the guidance provided through PS with sources of background information. For example: to accelerate networking skills - providing easy to access links to e-learning modules, books & articles from within a company's 'yellow pages' database
  • For Pragmatists - it may be helpful to ensure there are rapid e-learning modules / video clips / subject-matter-experts that can demonstrate the steps required. For example: to accelerate networking skills - providing video clips of accelerating a task through effective networking.

If we look to Performance Support (PS) to build a certain level of competence (and thus reduce the need for some forms of formal learning) do you agree that different learning styles matter ?

Friday, 15 August 2008

Interesting Links (August 2008)

What is your personal learning strategy ?

Leading Blog presents a short, informative summary of the book Crucibles of Leadership by Robert Thomas.

Thomas writes that crucibles “are like trials or tests that corner individuals and force them to answer questions about who they are and what is really important to them. Crucibles become valuable when we intentionally mine them for lessons that make us more effective, aware and integrated."

Thomas says that we have to change our approach to learning. We shouldn’t wait for just the right moment to arrive, but learn in the moment—in real time—to, as he writes, “learn while doing.”

Hence the main thesis of this work is that preparation is essential to learning. ie "In order to take advantage of our crucibles, we must develop a Personal Learning Strategy (PLS)".

Put another way - I'd suggest that this reinforces that L&D professionals have an important role helping leaders & manager 'Learn how to learn' (as well as this approach being at the heart of effective Executive Coaching)


Colleague Engagement

Management Issues highlights ten steps towards engagement based on research undertaken by the business consulting organization SCORE.

The list covers a lot of ground that will be familiar with consulting on building colleague engagement. Equally, for me the following steps stand out:

2. Try to approach your people with fresh eyes and take into account their unique perspective.

10. Be consistent. Don't start programs and then drop them after a few weeks. So stick with it.

How often are these steps overlooked - by assuming best practice in one area can be directly transplanted elsewhere. Also: approaching this long-term challenge with a series of short term initiatives ?


Team Building

In another easy to digest article - Management Issues highlight 'Five Simple Keys to Building Solid Teams'

1. Honesty
2. Trust
3. Mutual Respect
4. Recognition
5. Support


Can You Lead with Kindness ?

This month Leadership Now asks 'Can you Lead with Kindness ?' This is a review of a recent book by Bill Baker and Michael O’Malley

The authors state:

The fact is, kindness isn’t always nice. It pushes others to do better; it asks them to try out things that they are uncertain they can accomplish; it requires them to engage in activities that they are not sure they will like. Another fact is this: Folks don’t always take kindly to kindness. Leaders, even great ones, cannot save everybody.

Kind leaders are framers. - They reinforce expectations for employees by establishing clear boundaries, standards of conduct, challenging goals, and organizational values.
Kind leaders are interpreters. - They tell the truth about how each worker and the entire company is doing. They help individuals adapt to change and make sense of their efforts.
Kind leaders are enablers. - They stimulate calculated “stretch” and risk-taking, without sheltering people from their own mistakes. They fight cynicism and facilitate growth

The Leading Now commentary includes the observation that:

"great leaders are not great because they are super-human. Instead, they are ordinary but growth-oriented people with character that have chosen to make a commitment to a bold course of action that is in the best interest of those they serve despite the odds"

... hope for us all !

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Learning and Development Carnival

Chris Morgan is hosting the first Learning & Development Carnival on his Learn2Develop blog.

Chris does a great job signposting the various article brought together by this event

Well worth a look !

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Interesting Links (July 2008)

Heads in the Sand on Succession Planning

This month provides an insightful report on succession planning recently undertaken by Novations

"A survey of more than 2,500 senior HR executives by consultancy Novations Group has found that, nominally, succession planning among North American firms seems to be in relatively good shape, with just seven per cent of firms admitting to having no succession planning in place at all.

But peel back the figures and a more worrying picture emerges, it reported. More than a fifth said that, even though they had succession planning in place, it was valueless because, as often as not, they ended up recruiting someone externally anyway."


Can Google Lengthen Our Attention Span?

Writing in the Harvard Business blog, Diane Coutu started an interesting discussion on the impact of Google on challenging the thinking of individuals

"Here are a few suggestions for increasing your curiosity quotient – and how Google can help:

Don’t be afraid to look dumb. Infants are born passionately curious. They instinctively explore, investigate, and test their environments. Tragically, many of us develop inhibitions as we get older and grow afraid of appearing ignorant. Yet we will never increase our level of curiosity unless we give ourselves permission to formulate and test new hypotheses — and to be productively stupid. The beauty of Google is that it allows us to be stupid in private. Are you not sure which countries make up the G8? Not to worry. Google it.
Never stop questioning. As a number of people have observed: “Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton asked why.” Google helps us ask why. When I looked up the word curiosity in Wikipedia, for example, I read that curiosity is an “emotion.” That didn’t sound right, so I googled Freud and found that he described curiosity as a “derivative of the sexual instinct.” That seemed to me an oversimplification as well. In having me quickly place the two alternatives side by side, Google made me question the differences between emotions and instincts. It encouraged me to think critically.
Expose yourself to lots of different experiences.People, travel, play, and books can all introduce you to exciting new worlds. Google can, too. Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor’s memoirs, which relate her sometimes incomprehensible spirituality after suffering a stroke, reminded me of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s lectures on transcendentalism. I googled Emerson’s essay on “Nature,” where he wrote about becoming a “transparent eyeball.” Yikes. Emerson and Taylor’s experiences have quite a lot in common. So I googled mysticism, and the more I read on the subject, the more curious I became about the brain and the varieties of religious experience. That led to a whole new Google search."

To read the whole article & associated comments - click here


Let’s Hear It for B Players

Also from Harvard is this easy to digest article on managing so-called 'B' players.

The authors state "These supporting actors of the corporate world determine your company’s future performance far more than A players—volatile stars who may score the biggest revenues or clients, but who’re also the most likely to commit missteps. B players, by contrast, prize stability in their work and home lives. They seldom strive for advancement or attention—caring more about their companies’ well-being. Infrequent job changers, they accumulate deep knowledge about company processes and history. They thus provide ballast during transitions, steadily boosting organizational resilience and performance.

Yet many executives ignore B players, beguiled by stars’ brilliance. The danger? If neglected, these dependable contributors may leave, taking the firm’s backbone with them. How to keep your B players? Recognize their value—and nurture them. "


Mandela: His 8 Lessons of Leadership

From Time magazine:

  • Courage is not the absence of fear - it's inspiring others to move beyond it
  • Lead from the front — but don't leave your base behind
  • Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front
  • Know your enemy — and learn about his favorite sport
  • Keep your friends close — and your rivals even closer
  • Appearances matter — and remember to smile
  • Nothing is black or white
  • Quitting is leading too