Thursday, November 3, 2011

Where do we go from here?

In early October, I was part of a team that brought in an internationally known speaker for a one-day professional workshop on knowledge management and learning and social media, a relatively new topic in my geography though it has been around a long, long time... Long enough that I worked on some of these topics five and ten years ago.   The good news is that the event was great and the positive feedback wonderful.  However, one reoccurring question from participant after the session has bothered me...

Where do we go from here? 

Yes, we need dialogue in order to create change.  However, part of the reason that this my particular geographic areas gets a reputation for being slow to change is embodied in the question.  

And, while we sit around waiting for someone else to organize our actions, we lose the impetus to charge into change.  

So, I'm dying to ask back, "What do YOU want to do next?  And, why?" 

And I'm dying to say, "Go explore these new opportunities.  Try things out and see what happens.  Then tell the rest of us about your experience.  These are the skills that got us here, today.  Apply them again to this new perspective on our field." 

So, try something new today regardless of your age, your solid position in the community or profession or your own personal preference for the status quo... go try something new and see what happens. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

From Here to There… and Beyond

If you don’t measure it, you can’t change it!
If you don’t know what your goal is, any path will take you there.

Today everyone measures this, that and the other thing. We track mileage, checking account status, minutes to the store, website traffic, hours worked, days until… We measure, measure measure.

However, many of our measures are not focused on a goal. Tracking mileage is only useful when applied to a goal such as decreasing gallons of gas per mile.

As I work with various organizations developing learning solutions, I ask them about their goals. What do you want to accomplish with this learning solution? What will change in your organization, if we implement this? How will you determine whether this project was successful or not? These questions open the dialogue about both goals and measures.

Amazingly, many businesses do not really know what their goal is or how to measure it. They are measuring and measuring but not measuring the indicators that will guide them toward improved goal-states.


Where's the improvment? (A Case Study)

Like many organizations with training or learning functions measure, XYZ Corp tracks the number of learners they serve, the number of hours per learning event, and the learner-satisfaction rating for their learning solutions. When asked what they wanted to accomplish with a new employee orientation program, they were uncertain how to answer the question. Literature says that new employee orientation improves employee satisfaction, increases their longevity with the organization, increases their loyalty to the organization and increases customer satisfaction. However, other than customer complaints, XYZ was not measuring any of the other factors. They just felt that new employee orientation would be a good idea.

It’s endemic. Measurements abound, while visionary goals remain unmeasured.

As the seasons turn and your goals shift with them. Consider the way you measure your success. Are you growing roses because the rose bush was there when you bought the house? Is it enough to plant a garden full of vegetables only to let them wither on the vine because you don’t have time to can them or the knowledge to freeze them? If you plant, tend, harvest and store this year’s crop, how will you know whether the effort saved you money or not? How will you know whether your crops are lower in pesticides and higher in nutrition than the same products sold in your local grocery? Is feeling good about harvesting your own produce enough for you to measure?

Don’t get me wrong. Feeling good about an end-product or even about the process of getting somewhere is a valid measure of success. It may be the only measure of the creative process involved. However, feeling good about an end-product is not a performance improvement measure.

In fact, performance improvement only comes when we can measure the input and output of a process (growing vegetables or roses, for example) and show that doing something differently changed the result in the desired direction (the goal.) That is, do we get more tomatoes (bigger roses) this year by going pesticide-free or did the lack of pesticides actually decrease our crop? We may be fine with the trade-off… or may need to continue our improvement project.

As the seasons change, as our economy changes, as we age and our families changes, as new technologies emerge... in this change of seasons and season of change, what is it that you want to accomplish (your goal) and how will you measure it?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Teachable Moment

Remember back to the last time you realized that you were lacking a specific skill. Perhaps you were tackling a software… or a career skill important for your job… or a life-skill like cooking or home maintenance… or a hobby-skill. When someone realizes that they need to learn something, a teachable moment has occurred.

There are several essential elements to this moment:

1. The learner (you/me/anyone) has received feedback that creates an ah-ha moment when it is clear that something key is missing.
2. For the moment to be a teachable moment, the gap must be clear.
3. Resources are available to allow the learner to move forward.

Let’s look at that again.

Feedback is important. Without feedback there is no information that says to the learner “you need to change.” Without a need to change, there is no motivation to learn. The more important the desired change, the greater the personal motivation to “learn.”

Either the feedback itself or the learner’s reflection on that feedback must lead to a clear picture of the gap and what is needed in order to cross that gap. That is learners need to see clearly their current skill level as well as seeing the desired skill level. Skills gaps that appear to be attainable are more motivating than those that appear unattainable. However, some individuals are very motivated by the apparently unattainable, while others are very de-motivated by even the smallest degree of challenge in that skills gap.

Between feedback and awareness of need come a cascade of emotions. For many, any awareness that they are less than perfect feels punitive – is hurtful or creates a sense of losing face or losing authority. At times, the specific skill gap involved brings up deep seated feelings of pain. Individuals who say that they “love to learn” often embrace the feeling of having a void and dig deep for the feeling of success derived from previous teachable moments and learning actions. Dealing with the feelings may need to be part of the learning involved.

This is when resources come into play. Resources can help learners organize the steps to learning, making the learning more attainable. Resources can run a wide range of options; they might include another person (a teacher), a job aid (step-by-step guides, process charts, checklists, etc.), or just a library of possible options. Without resources, there is no “teach” in the teachable. Resources are the source of the information about successfully bridging the skill gap.

And, resources may be the feedback that drives out the need for the next level of change. Around we go to more learning.
Now try identifying three or four times when you experienced a teachable moment as the learner. Can you identify what caused the ah-ha moment (the feedback), what you felt during that cascade of emotions that came with the ah-ha, and the resources that gave you courage to cross the gap to learn?

Can you identify one time when the resources you needed were not available? What happened when you were aware of a need but could not act on it? How did you feel? What action (or inaction) did you take?

Now try it from the other side. Identify three or four times when you were the present at someone else’s teachable moment. You might have provided the feedback that caused them to realize that they had a gap or you might have provided some of the resources or both. What actions or behaviors told you that this person had just moved from unmotivated to learn to very motivated to learn?

Watch for teachable moments. They happen to all of us regardless of age, gender, race, religion, ability/disability, job title, wealth, or any other classification we could invent. Teachable moments are part of our humanity.