A Design Framework for Learning – 2

20151104_145237This post will take a look at some variations in the extended time frame context focused learning framework design illustrated in the last post. It is important to recognize this design as a framework rather than an ‘answer’ and that underlying the framework are the four primary design elements affecting behavior change:

  1. Extended time frame for numerous interactions
  2. Performance pressure
  3. Concepts to experiment with to change interactions
  4. A process for learner reflection

These design elements can be incorporated in countless ways so let’s investigate some of these as variations in the design looked at in the last post. When looking at variations the text in red is really most important in terms of what you are trying to accomplish. Underneath the red text are listed some other options.

  1. A small internal learning ‘steering committee’ is formed to oversee the initiative. This group is composed of volunteers that are directly involved with the learning initiative. The purpose of this is to drive internal capacity plus to continually promote the value of this design to offset the power of existing ways in which learning and development are understood.
    • The ‘steering committee’ may just be one person; especially if you are working with a single team. Often the team leader will play this role but I find it even more effective if a team member volunteers. This helps to drive internal capacity.
    • Often this roll will rotate to other members of the group over time.
    • If you are working with non intact teams (i.e. a group of managers/leaders) the steering committee may be some internal function (L&D for example) within the organization. When this is the case they have a very important Educator role to play with participants!
  2. The steering committee meets with the external consultant to overview the process and determine the role of the steering committee. Educator and Consultant roles are being played by the external consultant to explain the rationale of the design and to continue developing internal capacity.
    • Whoever the steering committee is the role of Educator and Consultant are primary in terms of interacting with participants. In some organizations this will mean the steering committee needs to have enough power to effectively play these roles.
  3. The steering committee determines the composition of the learning groups that will sustain the learning (most often these are intact teams). Again, driving internal capacity and ownership.
    • The challenge here is often with non intact teams. This challenge is most effectively dealt with by ensuring the context about which the learning group will meet is important to the learning. The context must have business relevance.
    • In these situations learning pairs are often more effective than groups and it is easier to find a relevant context with a pair rather than a group.
    • The Educator role is important here as the design (including learning groups/pairs) and its relevance need to be communicated to participants early and often.
  4. The steering committee communicates to all participants as needed to overview the process and details.
  5. The first ‘learning event’ is held which provides an initial learning concept to all participants and modeling of next steps (typically no longer than 1/2 day or less if virtual learning is utilized). This is the Facilitator role with a bit of Educator and Consultant mixed in. Note that ‘concepts’ are provided as much as possible rather than content (see this post).
    • If you have learning content that has been introduced in the past but has not been effectively applied you can re-introduce it in this design.
    • You may not need a learning event at all if you already have learning concepts out there (this can include things like values, diversity initiatives, innovation, even culture change). You are then just introducing the idea of the learning group and in essence, step 6 below.
    • If this is the case do not eliminate the need for a steering committee and treat the initiative as a new initiative.
    • Virtual learning events fit well here.
  6. Learning groups meet once a week (minimum) to apply the learning concept to a real business issue for a period of 4 – 6 weeks. The learning is therefore focused on business context. Normally these meetings are regularly scheduled intact team meetings so no significant disruption to the business is required.  See below for a critical component to this design element.
    • This process can work very well with virtual teams in their normal virtual interactions. The Fly on the Wall process works well.
    • With non intact groups the meeting schedule and context relevance  is best managed by the group or pair. Making this visible is part of the Educator role of the designer and steering committee.
  7. The steering committee monitors the process and interacts with the external consultant if changes to the process need to be made. Monitoring may take many forms including measurement of impact. We will look at this in a future post.
    • The most important thing to monitor is if the learning groups are actually meeting. If the context is important to participants, learning meetings happen.
    • The second most important thing to monitor is the impact of the learning concept on business issues addressed. Real stories of impact work best.
    • Sharing of these stories with the larger group is typically important.
  8. Steps 5 – 7 are usually repeated two more times with different concepts being provided for each learning event. This increases the potential for behavior change plus establishes a new pattern of interaction for applying learning which is building internal capacity.
    • Don’t be surprised if your planned learning concepts need to change.
    • You may find learning groups want to change the Fly on the Wall process as time progresses. This is typically a good sign but remind groups to make sure they don’t lose the focus on learning concepts or the need to disrupt stable patterns of interaction at some points in their work.

As you likely have noticed what is being created is a new left loop in terms of understanding and acting on how learning and development occurs in organizations.  In essence what this design framework is doing is legitimizing how learning normally occurs in organizations; one interaction after another with new concepts being introduced into those interactions.

The OUCH! of content focused events is reduced and the challenge and sometimes pain of actually changing behavior is front and center.

The points above are just some variations and considerations that can surface with this design framework. You may have other ideas to offer or questions to ask. If so add your comments and let’s see what emerges!

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