L&D – A Real Story


Right in the middle of writing these posts on extended time frame and context focused learning designs I received a phone call from a potential client. It almost seemed like a test. A test to see if what I was writing about was just that, writing about something but perhaps not about actually doing what I was writing about.

The request was this:

We have a group of around 50 people and we want to use one of your assessments (the Team Management Profile). The leader of the group is getting these people together for a day long meeting and has allocated 90 minutes for your segment. Can you do this for us?

As you can no doubt tell I was being asked if I could run a content focused event and make that event magical so it would add value for this group. Pretty much what I have been writing about as being a waste of time in terms of behavior change.

The person I was talking to was a senior HR person and was skeptical (a good sign!) and asked right up front if I thought this was a waste of time (and money). The interesting thing about requests like this is that they are a really, really good opportunity to play all the roles that have been discussed in this series of posts.

The reason it is a good opportunity is that the ‘event’ is already so short time wise that everyone knows its value is questionable if that is all you are doing! If the event is longer, even half a day, people seem to think magic is more likely to happen.

So right off the bat you have a chance to play the Designer and Educator role.  Below is a summary of our interaction.

I agreed with the senior HR person that if all they were going to do was the hour and a half, it would be better not to do it as the value would be minimal. I said however that the hour and a half could have real value if we designed in some before and after interactions.

We discussed and then I sent her a summary of what that might look like:

  • Everyone would receive the results of their assessment prior to the event and would be required to review it and as well watch two short videos that provided some background to the assessment.
  • After the event (which would focus on a very specific part of the assessment) I would follow-up with the group one week later with an email explaining how to use a specific part of the supplemental material that comes with the assessment and ask that they use it and review their experience of using it at their next regular team meeting.
  • A month after that another email would go to the group explaining a second part of the supplemental material and how that could be used by the team.
  • The overall leader and leaders of the sub groups of this larger group would be responsible for ensuring this follow-up use of supplemental material happened and I would communicate with them via email regarding what this support could look like.

I had put time estimates to each of these areas and my contact went to the leader of the group and subsequently the decision to move forward was made. This was quite an expensive initiative and I think the decision to move forward made much more sense when the extended design was discussed. It became quite obvious that the potential for value was far greater with this design.

As it happened, the organization decided to accredit two internal people to use this particular assessment internally and it will now be those two people who drive the sustainable use rather than me. They already have different ideas regarding how this will happen that are more specific to their understanding of the organization and I am quite sure they will be more effective than I could be with their capacity to be much more flexible and available than I would be.

When you think of the roles that have been discussed in these posts you can see each of them playing out here.

Role Mantra

You can also see them playing out in a very typical situation in the L&D arena in ways that recognize the stability of the left loop regarding learning in organizations and how it is imperative to try to change things incrementally if needed and dramatically when the opportunity presents itself.

Perhaps the most important design impact this type of interaction has is that the design is focused on the self managed learner; the most important people in our organizations.

L and D 2

The event and my role as expert are not the key variables in behavior change. The design provides self managed opportunities for people to sustain the use and value of the assessment. It is evident to all that the participants in this initiative have the accountability (and opportunity) to sustain its value.  I am certain there are a lot of self managed learners in this group that will do just that.

This also freed up the event to be just what it could be; an opportunity for people to interact a lot about a specific part of the assessment data. We didn’t have to worry about takeaways, what was learned or next steps. I would imagine in a few weeks time people will not even remember who the facilitator was, but they will still be using the content and the concepts available to them.

It seemed so right to get this call right in the middle of these posts (remember that synchronicity thing from the strategy post!) Shifting our thinking about L&D and creating different designs that have much less OUCH! can fit into our current scenarios and situations. It does not have to be incredibly hard, different or new. It’s really about creating our own new left loop, one interaction at a time….


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