June the 11th 2019 was the date of the Learning Technologies Summer Forum in ExCel London. I was honoured to run a session on “Finding the Story in the Data” and here are some of my notes and thoughts about the session.
This session was a practical nitty gritty sort of event. I think people did forgive me if I was teaching my grandmother to suck eggs but I do hear from a lot of L&D people who just don’t know where to start. Data is all over the place and you can easily get swamped. So the purpose of this session was to get people started and get some confidence in looking at data in a practical way.
I started by asking a question: “Why bother collecting or analysing data?”.
Here are some of the reasons collected from the Learning and Skills group webinar by the same name the week before.
The chart was put together by Laura Overton and reproduced with her permission.
The two main reasons as you can see are to improve the user experience and also understand the effects or benefits. Not surprising really and in a report by Towards Maturity from 2018 they speak about 91% of the top deck saying that their learning interventions were aligned to the business goals. In order to do that, you need to be measuring what you are doing.
Other reasons may be:
- To check if things are going to plan
- Demonstrate the value brought by L&D
- Transition from learning provide to performance enhancer
- Avoid the sheep dip approach
- It is expected
- Stakeholder buy-in
My engineering brain….. in a former life I was a chemical engineer and fuel technologist and if you think that it is all about data and analysis with no room for intuition, then let me share a little story:
As an engineer, gathering data to site wind turbines, I became very skilled at finding appropriate sites just by looking at a map. This helped me to narrow down where to look from a myriad of places, that might be suitable. I would look at the maps, gather data from a mast and correlate it to the nearest met station. It is no different in L&D. You can use your intuition to see where things might be going wrong, from the data that you are already collecting and from your stakeholders. This means you can collect limited and focussed data to confirm your suspicions, to begin to find the story in the data.
Understanding the link between data and performance is crucial, as per the diagram below.
Knowing when to collect quantitative or qualitative data is also important.
Working through a case study helped participants decide when it was appropriate to gather quantitative data and then qualitative. A crucial part of this thinking was to think broader than the case study which is a great piece of advice to anyone doing their own analysis. Look and see what is happening in your industry just in case the sudden drop in sales is industry wide and not just a blip in your own organisation. It could save you a lot of time!
I then challenged the participants to say what they saw in a number of different graphs , encouraging them to be playful to find the story in the data. Sometimes the graphs raised more questions than they answered but it certainly gave everyone an insight into how easy it is to use Excel and simple charts to uncover that story.
I just had to share this picture from LTSF19 – Rachael Orchard, my fabulous host for the session, kindly brought her stormtrooper so we could endlessly make Star Wars puns and then playful Don Taylor agreed to pose with us both!
I began writing this on holiday, where I often get new insights with the refresh I feel physically, mentally and emotionally. We have been in Madeira, attracted by the climate, the amazing scenery and the promise of delightful walks. So why the subject of fear? Two incidents on the first two days of our holiday that had me genuinely scared.I will recount these briefly to give some context.
“Are you driving a getaway car?” I often ask hubbie, who is not known for his patience in planning our route to anywhere! This was no exception a quick tap into the sat nav, missed turns and before we knew it we were driving down the road shown in the photo below.
Thankful for his steely nerve and grippy sandals we survived to tell the tale. Note to self: if a concrete road has ridges and steps in it – DON’T DRIVE DOWN IT!!!
The following day, we decided to do a Levada walk, starting just up the road with Levada Moinho linking to Levada Nova. We didn’t even have to get in the car, which was a relief. For someone who has just written a book on needs analysis and using data, you may be shocked to hear I had not researched the route very much. If I had I may have read the warnings about steep drops and lack of handrails. By the time I reached the sections with a 500ft drop and no handrails we were well over half way around. No going back……
The picture below was on a relatively tame stretch ……..
Seeing two guys walking a dog, one with flip flops on, strangely comforted me. “ The walk must be easy from here on in” I thought to myself. I am extremely scared of heights and having walking poles helped to some extent, it helped steady me, though I could only use one as the path was not wide enough for two.
With each precipitous section I would steel myself and sing “The sun has got his hat on” (heaven knows why!) and marching tentatively to the rhythm of the song. Other times I would swear…… badly and other times pray.
I got through it, but the feeling of fear has stayed with me and got me thinking. Got me thinking about how at times I have been fearful and overcome that fear anyway. Got me thinking about times that fear has prevented me from being who I really am. Got me thinking about when others have said that I am brave.
So times I have been fearful and overcome it:
- As a graduate engineer working on partially constructed gantries hundreds of feet up in the air. Had a job to do and just got on with it
- Same job, getting into small, dark, enclosed spaces (another fear). Had a job to do and just got on with it.
- Moving from engineering to IT training when I used to get panic attacks just presenting, found my love of helping people to develop. The fear melted when I felt the interaction grow and that I was conversing with individuals not a whole room of people.
- Speaking to a large conference audience over 200, I survived by doing what I know I do well, having a clear plan, audience participation and a sense of fun
- Selling over 2000 valentine cards to raise money for tsunami victims (I had only asked for 100!), I found resources I never knew I had.
There are many more stories I could add but all the stories have different learning points about fear and how sometimes it has a point and at other times just holds me back.
‘Feelings of fear are engendered by dangerous situations’ says Frederic Neumann. Fair enough, your fear may have a genuine reason for it. In situations where your life is threatened it’s essential so that you don’t go too far and lose your life. Other times the fear is not rational and hence can be a hinderance.
Here are some of the things I have learned so far about fear:
- Fear can keep you alert when in dangerous situations and focus your mind on staying alive. In those situations, it has a clear purpose.
- Overcoming a HUGE fear of public speaking led me to the most delicious career I could have chosen, it was worth it. Removing the fear allowed me to see and experience something I may not ever have thought I would enjoy.
- I often have exceeded my own expectations, surprised myself, because a fear may have held me back even from believing I could achieve something. So, the fear does more than stop you, it limits further belief in yourself.
- People have called me brave, for starting my own business, for writing a book, but in all honesty in those particular situations I have not been fearful, so was I brave?
Whatever your experiences of fear, at times I think it helpful to reflect on which type of fear you are experiencing. Is it ‘staying alive’ type or the ‘holding me back’ rational or irrational type? Once we have identified the root, in my experience we can then decide whether it is worth getting over it or just going with it.
Over the next few weeks I am going to be a lot more conscious of my fears, just because of this reflection and hoping that I can be wholly me, no holds barred. There are still a few little corners here and there littered with ‘what-ifs’ and ‘maybes’ so worth the effort, I think.
So I am curious……which fears are serving you well and which are holding you back I wonder…… ?
I often speak about L&D professionals becoming part of the business, getting nosey and aligning ourselves with the goals of the organisation. Sometimes though, it’s hard to do. There are barriers, sometimes from the very stakeholders you need to get on board. If only they would! Life would be easier. You would get the support, encouragement and resources you need, when you need them.
So practically, how do you get them on board? A while back, I looked at Robert Cialdini’s 6 Principles of persuasion and thought it might be useful to apply them specifically to our profession and getting stakeholders on board:
- Reciprocity–“I do something for you, you do something for me”
So, a stakeholder approaches you to deliver something for their team and being a ‘people’ person, you agree, after making sure that they are clear on performance outcomes of course! Consider this, before you agree, tell them about that other stakeholder you struggle with, the one who is always putting your team down. Ask if they could put in a good word for you, if you deliver on what they want (they can use principle number 6 to influence that stakeholder).
- Scarcity– “Not much of this” or a limited time offer
Agree to deliver something, but within a specific timescale to fit in with other commitments. Ask them to get back to you by a certain date otherwise you will be busy ……do not make it up but share what your busy schedule looks like and that you have to prioritise.
- Authority– “We are qualified to do this”
In a social space for your organisation, do a “Spotlight on Katie” (other names can of course be used), where you describe the achievements and qualifications of your individual L&D team members. Change this once per week/month. Have posters with their qualifications and achievements in the training rooms
- Commitment –“Having agreed to this, can you agree to that?”
If there is something you would like a stakeholder to agree to, then first of all get them to agree to something small before you go for the big ask.
- Liking –“I will do it just for you”
Build relationships and rapport with your stakeholders and do it in a genuine way. Be interested, curious and approachable. People will help people they like!
- Social proof –“Others have done this”
Maybe you are trying to get your stakeholders to try new things and new ways of working but are meeting with some resistance. Find a stakeholder who is a willing guinea-pig and then use the story of how you helped them to adopt those new ways and how it benefitted them to win over others.
If you would like know more about getting closer to your stakeholders and being able to deliver learning with demonstrable value then you can order Krys’s book: “How Not To Waste our Money On Training”
On the 27th of March 2019 we had the first online meeting for the L&D Revolution. What an exhilarating and inspiring hour that was! Anyone interested in watching how it went, I will share the links at the end of this post. This post is about sharing the outcomes of the discussions we had.
People have been asking me “What is the revolution about?” and I covered that in a previous blog. It is something which has percolating over years and has also led me to write a book “How not to Waste Your Money on Training***”. It now feels like this ‘movement’ is gaining some momentum, as I speak to more and more people who are keen to improve the reputation of L&D by helping it to focus on performance and analytics. Two of my favourite topics!
Back to the online meeting, there were two key things we discussed:
- The link between learning and performance
- Data driven decision making and demonstrating value
Let us look at both in turn and extract the main points from the discussions:
- The link between learning and performance
It seemed to be widely agreed, that in order to have any sort of link between learning and performance, there has to be a strong connection between L&D and the business. It was also about a change in mind-set for L&D, shifting from being order takers to taking a consultative approach. Included in this link was also a desire to connect what was happening with data that was collected from numerous sources. Line managers have always been crucial to any lasting change in organisations and close links between L&D and line managers are essential if we are to observe improvements in performance as a result of learning.
Once L&D have made that shift closer to the organisation and its needs they can more easily distinguish between what stakeholders say they want (desires) and what they need in reality. This cannot be achieved without doing some sort of up-front analysis BEFORE and learning interventions are agreed. Part of that may well include really understanding the team strategies required to achieve the business goals.
It was agreed we are making a start but there are many things we can improve on:
- Being more rigorous about digging into underlying performance problems before jumping into solutions
- Defining clear outcomes and measures and challenging the business by using data to justify but also to persuade, where necessary
- Helping individuals and line managers see the clear link between their job roles and performance (individual and company wide)
- Become more creative in our approach by using other methodologies like AGILE
2. Data driven decision making and demonstrating value
There is so much happening out there, I am pleased to say. Some great applications of data readily available:
- Net Promoter Scores (NPS)
- Behaviour indicators
- Business indicators
- Employee engagement
- Learner and/or customer voice(s)
- Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s)
- Even Moodagrams (which I had never heard of before!)
With all this happening there is still room for improvement. By collecting data we will of course get better at providing that link between learning and performance improvements. Again a shift of mindset is required by L&D: to shift from trusted advisor to performance enabler and maybe even add a few business analyst skills for good measure.
If we thought this might be a bit much, then learning from other parts of the business might help, for instance marketing and finance are great examples. We are not alone in the business and need to become more integrated in our approach, starting those awkward conversations sooner rather than later and always asking why, why, why, why why? (5 why’s). If we do this up front along with a needs analysis, then evaluation will be a doddle, won’t it?
We then moved into a discussion on how do we drive this revolution forwards rather than watching the evolution happen slowly. In order to do this individually, there are lots of things we can be doing in our own organisations:
- More promotion or publicity about what L&D do and their successes
- Promote performance improvement rather than learning outcomes
- Be more AGILE
- Find out what the business does (ask daft questions)
- Use data to our advantage and be selective in what we or others collect
We also have some collective ideas on how to drive the revolution forward. Let me know if you would like to take part in those.
Here are some useful links:
Below is my summary from all the discussion points we had in the online meeting.
*** This is what Karen Grave, President PPMA (Public Service People Managers Association) says about the book:
“PPMA has been working with Krystyna for only a short time but we have already realised that she is an enormous asset to the field of learning. She has a natural passion and empathy for people, which she combines with creativity and an engineering background to help organisations focus on how best to deliver on training investment. Krystyna’s style is deeply engaging, laced with a lot of humour and a willingness to challenge the ridiculous. It’s a powerful combination. We love working with her and I have no doubt you will find this book a hugely interesting and impactful read.”
Do you suspect your budget is going to be wasted on training that isn’t really needed? Have you ever wanted to make the process more effective, but been so busy that you never get the chance to unpack what’s working and what’s not? Do you want to be able to demonstrate value to your stakeholders?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then that is exactly why I’ve written How to Not Waste Your Money on Training. This book is a practical look at how you can avoid wasting money on training that may not be needed. It is also a valuable insight into how to find out hat the organisation really needs, and that might NOT be training!!
Before you buy this book, I would love to give you an idea of what you’ll get out of it, because your time is important to me. It is about how you can help your colleagues perform better, as well as measuring that improvement.
The book is for you, as an L&D professional, manager or stakeholder in any industry, if you are interested in aligning learning to what your organisation is trying to achieve. It will help you collect the right information to inform your decisions on what sort of learning is most appropriate (if indeed, it is even necessary). It is for you if you’d like to uncover and fulfil your organisation’s needs. It is for you also if you have some great ideas on how to do this, but need a little more clarity on how to piece it together. It is for you if you want to demonstrate the value of learning, but need to know how to embark on this journey or continue if you have already begun.
What you’ll get from this book:
- A simplified approach to uncovering what an organisation needs
- More clarity on how L&D can perform better by working with the organisation
- An approach to ensure tangible outcomes from learning
- Practical tools to help you and the organisation become more agile so that you can achieve your goals
What you’ll be able to do:
- Create a plan to successfully understand the organisation and get closer to what it really needs
- Create a plan for managing your stakeholders (and identifying them if you haven’t done so yet)
- Analyse the information you collect in a number of different ways
- Present your findings in a number of different ways
- Find the ‘story’ in your information to inform any decisions
- Make the link between the information you collect and analyse, and the evaluation process
If you would like to order a copy of the book, then you can do that here!
With 6 weeks to go until my book “How not to Waste Your Money on Training” is published, I will be sharing excerpts each week to give you a flavour of what to expect.
In a nutshell this is a “How-to” guide packed with practical activities and insights to help you avoid wasting money on training. Each week we will focus on a different aspect of what the book covers. I will also be sharing testimonials from some very eminent individuals who are happy to promote this book.
This week we have a testimonial from Don Taylor, Chair of the Learning & Performance Institute
“This book is packed with useful advice and insight into when formal learning is the right solution. Drawing on decades of practical experience, it explains clearly, and with practical examples, how to ensure training is deployed only when necessary, and to the greatest effect. Recommended reading for anyone in an L&D function, whether inside an organisation, or supplying services from the outside.”
Do you suspect your budget is going to be wasted on training that isn’t really needed? Have you ever wanted to make the process more effective, but been so busy delivering training or managing that you never get the chance to unpack what’s working and what’s not? Then this book will be for you. Part of the problem is that L&D is changing and has been doing for a number of years. Towards Maturity have spoken about the ‘New learning organisation’ but what does that mean? Does everyone know how to fit in and the part L&D plays?
In this month’s Trainer Tools podcast Kevin M.Yates and I speak about “L&D’s Identity Crisis” where we discuss how it has arisen and what we might do to counteract it. In my book, I have proposed that we need a new identity of the ‘new learning leader’ which fits in with what the ‘new learning organisation’ will need. Not only do I discuss how the new learning leader will need to be, but suggest some tools and activities that will help shape them and their practice
If any of this has resonated with you then this book is for you and please email to reserve your copy. We are in the middle of creating a webpage so please be patient with us while we get geared up!
So I am going to come clean. I have never really understood the difference between Learning and Development(L&D) and Organisational Development (OD). I have looked at the definitions of OD and thought to myself “So how does that differ from what I do?”. So I have hidden my ignorance and not really engaged in any discussions about the differences between the two.
Then last week I saw a post from Steve Benfield about what OD is really about and the difference between it and People Development. His definition:
“People development is about when there is an improvement to a person(s). A person can be exposed to an intervention (e.g. a training course, programme or event) designed to help that person make improvements – development! (It’s only the doing things differently that real learning can then take place).
Organisational Development (OD) is about developing the system of an organisation with the aim of improving the system. Just developing people, doesn’t necessarily mean that the organisation will improve.”
He then goes on to talk about how OD is linked to strategy, process and making a difference to the ‘system’, not just people.
My thoughts in response to this, have been about how I work with clients. I seek to find out what the organization needs as well as the individuals. First and most important (in my opinion) of the 5 secrets of Accelerated Learning are “Business-focused and learner-centered objectives”. Business focused, because if the learning makes no impact on the business then what are we doing it for? Learner-centred so that we get buy in and learning then accelerates through the organization.
So I get why Steve may say there is a distinction between People Development and OD, but L&D are changing. I spoke about L&D’s Identity Crisis in a recent blog and have been in many conversations about that urge to change with fellow revolutionaries in our LinkedIn group. It is no longer acceptable to design learning or training in isolation from the business. It is not acceptable to change individual behavior without a thought to the impact on the business.
So if that is the case, should we get rid of the distinction between OD and L&D? Is it helpful? Could we join forces and be one?
If you would like to read more about my thought on my approach to L&D then read my book “How Not To Waste Your Money On Training”.
I would love to hear your thoughts, really!
Before you send an angry email to me, please be assured, what I want to say is that we are in revolution. We are a lovely bunch, not at all revolting!
I have to say I have been a little sick and tired recently. I am not getting any younger and it seems like forever we have been talking about really making a difference in L&D. Yes there have been changes, but as someone who works a lot with trainers, facilitator, L&D professionals and subject matter experts we still seem to be missing out on the basics:
- Getting close to the organisation and understanding it
- Getting curious
- Using data to drive performance improvements
- Using tech appropriately – driven by needs not the tech itself
- Focussing first on a needs analysis to drive a good evaluation
- Being agile enough to keep up with the demands of the market
If you are working for an organisation who is doing ALL of these things or even some of them or would like to do ALL of them, we would love to hear from you. If you would like to discuss how to do this, with a group of like-minded professionals then come and join us in the L&D Revolution group on LinkedIn.
It is not for the following individuals:
- Those happy with the rate of change in L&D (evolution not revolution)
- Those happy just to keep delivering the same courses without much impact
- Those happy with level 1 evaluations and moving no further
- Those more interested in applying the latest tech rather than improving performance
In January I had the absolute pleasure of recording another podcast with John Tomlinson of Trainer Tools. This time it was a little different as I was sharing the mic with Kevin M. Yates, my newly discovered partner in crime. Kevin and I met via social media and immediately clicked over our shared interest in wanting to revolutionise L&D. A podcast would be a great way to share our common interests and the thoughts we exchanged in our initial conversation. The recording is now available by clicking this link.
Let’s start at the beginning of the conversation. I began my training career back in the late 80’s as an IT trainer for IBM. My title was a ‘VM Instructor’ and my job was to teach customers how to use the front end of the VM software. If I delivered the training effectively then the participants should be able to use the system for at work, to do their jobs. Our measures though, were purely about how the training was received:
- Was the instructor knowledgeable? Approachable? Friendly?
- Were the notes useful?
- How was the lunch?
- Was the classroom comfortable?
To this day, I don’t know if anyone actually found out from the customers whether the training achieved what it had set out to do. The world of L&D is quite different now. For a start more and more training functions have changed their names to ‘Learning and Development’. This was in response to the fact that learning was recognised to happen in places other than the training room. Learning had a broader remit and with this came a change in the traditional trainer role.
Since then, L&D have been changing and morphing. Towards Maturity have outlined their thoughts on the ‘New Learning Organisation’ and I commented on this in my blog about the ‘We don’t do train-the-trainer’. In this blog I spoke about the new “Learning Leader’ required to support this new Learning Organisation. Below I have amended the original diagram to include explicit references to performance and using data to help drive intelligent decisions.
This blog is mostly concerned with the first and sixth of these qualities:
- Clarity of purpose – performance focussed
- Helps people make intelligent decisions – using data
The ‘Clarity of purpose’ is closely tied in with the identity crisis Kevin and I spoke about in the podcast:
Clarity of purpose – performance focussed ….. means that……
- L&D are business focused but also learner centred. Ensuring that they focus on the aspects of individual performance that will improve how the organisation works.
- L&D is strategically focussed to deliver what the organisation needs. Gathering data to understand where the organisation is, but speaking to the right stakeholders to find out the direction of travel required.
- L&D are curious and analytical. If we gather data to investigate what is true and what is happening, we will need to be less brave about asserting our identity. WE will not have to be as brave in suggesting different solutions, because we will have the evidence to back it up. Some people will still expect L&D just to dispense training……(groan)
- L&D are able to engage stakeholders in order to leverage essential resources and achieve the results required. This requires building up those relationships that make the biggest difference and saying no to those stakeholders who neither have impact nor support L&D.
Helps people make intelligent decisions – using data …… means that….
- L&D makes decisions informed by the organisations’ purpose and it can only do that if it has done a lot of the things outlined in the paragraph above.
- L&D develops others capability in decision making by providing the appropriate tools and skill in data collection and analysis. This also means that L&D as part of its new identity needs to learn how to do this too!
- L&D helps people use data to track performance and also the impact of learning on peoples performance. This then drives the organisation towards efforts that have impact and stops the organisation from putting energy into things which give no return.
During the podcast Kevin threw in 3 questions which are crucial for L&D to ask in order to become more data driven:
- What is happening in the organisation?
- What is the organisations goal?
- What performance requirements are needed to achieve your goal?
Once we have asked these questions we need to look at how else we can develop our skills in line with the new identity. Who is interested in discussing this further? We have a LinkedIn group called the L&D Revolution – take part in the conversation and join the group!
My book ‘How Not To Waste Your Money On Training’ digs further into how L&D can align themselves and find the story in the data they collect.
There are some lessons in life that I seem to learn and re-learn, no matter how many times I go through the cycle. I have always been a bit of a perfectionist and this has sometimes lead to stress, unnecessary work and frustration. I have rationalised that my striving to give 120% (when people don’t even notice if I drop to 80%) is unnecessary and I need to “give myself a break” but somehow this keeps popping up. It is no doubt in my DNA.
It has been such a lesson and is quite a funny story. My eldest son, Alex has been on the other side of the world for nearly two years and was coming home for Christmas, bringing along his girlfriend. To say I have been excited has been an understatement (btw if my younger son Joe is reading this – we were looking forward to seeing you too!) I had been cleaning and tidying his room in readiness, buying bits and bobs, making the bed cosy (the cold will be a shock!). Yesterday I walked in and thought “Ooh that lovely air freshener will smell nice in here” … a final finishing touch.
So I sprayed and stood back, anticipating how welcoming the room was looking. To my horror, what appeared on the wall was a huge splatter of oily residue from the air freshener. No matter how hard I washed and scrubbed it persisted. Not in a position where it could not be noticed or hidden by furniture, I was faced with having to paint the whole wall. Why oh why could I not have just left it be?
In my professional life, not recognising when good is good enough has also happened and I wonder who else can relate to it?
- “Tweaking” and delaying a report until all the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed – rather than getting something out that will promote discussion and others getting involved
- Working on a design for much longer than anticipated, to get it “perfect” rather than relaxing before the delivery
- Adding more and more thoughts to a blog, when really there was not that much to say (gilding the lily?)
So with that last thought I will leave it here and encourage you all to give yourself a break and recognise when good is good enough. It is not a perfect world and sometimes you just need to be a little less perfect!