The New Learning Leader

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!

 

L&D is revolting!


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:

  1. Getting close to the organisation and understanding it
  2. Getting curious
  3. Using data to drive performance improvements
  4. Using tech appropriately – driven by needs not the tech itself
  5. Focussing first on a needs analysis to drive a good evaluation
  6. 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

Would you wear a tiara to the gym?

Yes, this was an actual question during a conversation about how in L&D we need to get back to basics.

This is not the first conversation I have had recently on this topic. I have had the absolute pleasure of making new connections recently (Kevin Yates and Amrit Sandhar yes it’s you two!) and I believe it is not a coincidence. I believe there are lots of people thinking the same way…..The topic coming up time after time is how in L&D we seemed to have lost our way. Instead of focussing on the basics (we will look at what those are later) we seem distracted by the new and shiny. I am not averse to the new or shiny at all. I am a self-confessed geek but the new and shiny has to fit the problem not the other way around.

So today I was having a review with Marie Duncan, Head of L&D for Kibble Education. They are a fabulous organisation over 150 years old, dedicated to helping children at risk. At the beginning of November I ran the Learning Loop for a group of 12 trainers and subject matter experts. We were reviewing the impact of the programme and what it has done for them.

We caught up on what has been imbedded and future work. We spoke about conferences and their value, but also how they can lead to a feeling of overwhelm. What do we spend the hard fought budget on and are we really getting value out of what we have? These are key questions on many L&D managers lips.

Then we took a similar path to previous conversations. Is L&D losing its way? What is it about? My opinion on what L&D should be about is:

  • Understanding the organisation and its’ purpose
  • Aligning L&D activity with the main goals of the organisation
  • Conducting a needs analysis when appropriate to inform us of what really needs to be done rather than what presents itself
  • Designing something appropriate using the right tools (not just applying the training ‘sticking plaster’ or the new shiny glittery thing)
  • Delivering something that meets the objectives and improves something in the organisation (not just a warm glow from the glitter)
  • Finding out whether what we did had the impact we said it would and working with the organisation to prove it (with business metrics)
  • Enabling line managers to help imbed the learning

Much of what we hear about are new advances in AI, VR, micro-learning, mobile learning, social learning, digitalisation, is all fabulous stuff, but how many in L&D are measuring the impact of what they do? How many have their finger on the pulse of the organisation, to know what is really going on? Are we swayed too much by what the big kids have in the playground?

Listening to all the new advances can we stay focussed? Is it all a distraction? Not-for-profits, voluntary and public sector organisations are strapped for cash and quite often need to know, in Marie’s words “how to imbed what we are doing well and doing it better”.

I love the Towards Maturity reports, giving us all a good idea of what we should be doing and benchmarking against others. Looking outwards can be helpful but so can looking inwards. Each organisation is unique and really understanding its purpose and how that can be fulfilled is crucial. Not all navel gazing is counterproductive! It is about balance.

So where did the tiara come in? When we were talking about all the latest fads, new and shiny things, one of our key concerns was how appropriate they are to the problem you are solving and just because you have one, “would you wear a tiara to the gym?”

I would love to hear your thoughts about ”getting back to basics” and ask two questions:

  1. Are you getting the L&D basics right?
  2. If not, what is stopping you?

By the way if this topic is of interest to you, Kevin and I will be recording a podcast in the new year on Trainer Tools going into more depth on this topic.

To educate, learn or train? That is the question!

Should we in L&D be focussed on improving job performance and hence all learning is focussed on that or should we be looking for people to be inspired to learn more and be more self-directed?

I spent some time in July writing my book, “How not to waste your money on training” and during the week I had a few philosophical moments. One was about the difference between education, training and learning. I often speak to L&D professionals about the difference between a training needs analysis and a learning needs analysis. How the former always leads to training whereas the latter leads to something broader than just training; it could be learning in many different forms.

In a similar way I was thinking about how my degree in chemical engineering and fuel technology was a good education. It prepared me for the world of work and also began a lifelong desire to learn more. When I moved from engineering to IT training with IBM we were called “instructors” and I worked in the IBM Education Centre in St. John’s Wood. Was what people received when they came to us there, an education? I am not so sure. I would hope the delegates were more prepared for their world of work and that they were inspired to learn more. But how broad was that inspiration? Did they become self-motivated learners keen to go beyond the traditional training course to further develop themselves?

This leads me to the present day; my title changed from instructor to trainer to L&D professional/facilitator. How do I define though whether I am educating, training or helping people to learn?

A few years after I gained my Certificate in Training Practice, I began working with trainers, delivering the CIPD Certificate in Training Practice, then the Certificate in Learning and Development Practice. Through my accelerated learning programmes, I further worked with L&D professionals to help them learn more about an approach that has been taking shape over many years. An approach that helps me focus on organisational needs as well as learner requirements. Programmes that took 8 months of weekly 4 hour sessions, were delivered in 8 one day sessions moving to a well-known learning provider. Now I deliver a 6-week programme, which includes a 2 day workshop and I cannot possibly ‘cover’ all I used to.

Leading by example and walking-the -talk have been driving forces in our organisation “How to Accelerate Learning”. Facilitation is practiced and runs like an invisible thread through the programmes. Inspiring resources and innovative ways of learning through gamification, create a different feel to the programme, leaving many people “inspired” – their words not ours. Even hardened trainers with years of experience under their belts talk of how different it feels.

This has not always been a deliberate intention, but a on occasions, a happy and accidental one. One that we persist with because of the results we achieve and the feedback we get. We put effort into:

  • Drilling deeper into needs to see if learning is the appropriate course of action
  • Delivering learning via a blend of activities not just training
  • Helping people to gain confidence in stepping out of their comfort zone – to experience new ways to help people learn
  • Using unusual materials and resources to inspire a different approach
  • Following up the learning so it is not just a one-time event

So, I don’t feel like it is training in the traditional sense; not like when I was a VM Instructor. Nor do I feel that it is just learning because of the feedback we get. So are we educating and is that now the remit of L&D?

 

Standing amongst Giants – Ignite Lab at CIPD L&D Show

Ignite CIPD session - 34

Yesterday I had the honour and privilege to stand amongst giants in our industry. The place was Olympia, the CIPD L&D Show and it was the final session of the day – the IGNITE LAB. For those not familiar with this format, each person presents 20 slides in 5 minutes, with the slides automatically advancing every 15 seconds.

Having settled on a topic, “How to be Agile in L&D”, I created some hand drawn slides and I pretty much thought it was going to be a doddle. The nearer it got to the day and the more I practised, the more I realised how hard it was. Give me a day or half a day to facilitate some learning and that’s not a problem, but 5 minutes to just present! It felt very unnatural and forced and the nerves were starting to kick in.

As the line up for the IGNITE LAB was revealed, we engaged  in an exchange on Twitter where we shared similar feelings and the nerves were apparent.  Some suggested they were going to use prompt cards, which I had ‘discarded’ as an idea, but when Julie Dryborough assured me I could “distill” the essentials in this way (I was waffling quite a bit in my practice runs), it convinced me to to do the “practice, tweak, repeat” advice offered by Niall Gavin.

Having tweaked, distilled, honed and transferred my notes to prompt cards , I was set. It felt much more comfortable knowing I would have the right words to fit the 15 second maximum for each slide.

So here is how it the event unfolded for me (in order) for me:

Niall Gavin – opened beautifully, with a heart-felt (see what I did there?) story relating to redundancy. No cards just him some slides and a great story.

Sukhvinder Pabial – followed. Confident, articulate and ever the professional, spoke about marginal gains and how we in L&D could take the lead front eh British Cycling team to improve L&D’s performance.

Krystyna Gadd – once I was up there and looking into the whites of their eyes (there were so many lovely people that I knew there!) I couldn’t look at my prompt cards. The slides progressed and it all came flooding back to me. Note to self next time – ditch the cards and fly solo!

Andrew Jacobs – popped his IGNITE cherry and did a sterling job beginning with learning not being built on firm foundations

Marco Faccini – amazed us all that he had rewritten his presentation that afternoon, making it real and showing us the money!

Amanda Arrowsmith – was unfairly plagued by the PowerPoint gremlins and Julie Dryborough volunteered to advance them but not before “ghosting it”. My hat goes off to  Amanda who was neither shaken nor stirred by all that seemed to happen (or not) – a veteran deliverer presenting an engaging and memorable session!

Blake Henegan – rocked his first IGNITE, challenging us to be kinder to ourselves by reflecting and connecting more and thus reducing overwhelm

Julie Drybrough– wowed us on creating a thriving culture by lighting up the shadows and understanding our git self. Sounds like good advice!

Phil Wilcox – what an amazing ending to the session with a poem about “Who am I?”- you are officially awesome Phil, be you!!

What was lovely, was being amongst these L&D giants, sharing our vulnerabilities, cheering each other on and applauding the achievement of “just” speaking for 5 minutes though 20 slides… easy eh….. we did good!

And we are all available for future speaking engagements at a very modest fee…..lol

Storify of the tweetage care of Donna Hewitson

 

OOPs I designed it again

HTAL - 14OOPS I designed it again – how to avoid reinventing the wheel in learning design

Would you like to make design of learning interventions easy? Would you like to be able to reuse activities so that design becomes much more modular? Would you like to design multiple programmes quickly and tailor for specific groups of performers? So in this article I will introduce to you a methodology not dissimilar to something used in programming, which helps you to achieve this.

Some of you may already know this but my first degree was in Chemical Engineering and Fuel Technology. As part of my degree we learnt how to program in Fortran and basic. This was to be very helpful when 6 years later I made a career change and became an IT trainer.

Just lately I have been making connections with a certain type of programming and how I have been developing the Learning Loop, a brand new way to do Train-the-trainer. When I first launched the Learning Loop Programme, I promised it to be:

  • Tailored to the individuals attending
  • Activity led and not content driven
  • Suitable for L&D people of any level of skill or experience
  • Creative and business focused

Object Oriented Programming (OOP) requires a different mind set. Instead of using the traditional approach to programming, where you start at the beginning and work your way through to writing the (sometimes unwieldy) programme, you start to recognize parts that are reusable and generic. Thus coding becomes more about using those generic parts and then adding the odd bit of customized code. This principal can also be applied to designing learning interventions.

When creating a new Learning Loop for an open workshop or a new client, it always starts with the objectives- making sure they are SMART using Robert Magers’ PCS framework. Once the objectives have been outlined then the design can begin. Initially there would be more design, but now every time I run a new workshop, after writing the objectives I can then reuse a good deal of the activities. The key is in determining the correct level and scope of the learning – whether it is skills, knowledge or attitudinal. Not designing too broadly is also key, then you can mix and match activities from the library you create over time.

HTAL - 13This can be applied to designing multiple leadership programmes for different levels of leader. Write clear learning outcomes from the organisational ones.  Select from your library the generic activities you can use at each level. Select for the higher levels additional learning activities and maybe then also design some new additional ones required to tailor at each level.

If you would like help to use this approach, then get in touch for a free 30 minute telephone consultation today: info@howtoacceleratelearning.co.uk

 

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