Total Cost of Ownership – What is the ‘real cost’ of a learning intervention?

This weeks post is written by Lesley Price (@lesleywprice).  Lesley is a co-founder of the #chat2lrn crew and now, although supposedly ‘semi-retired’, she works part-time for Learn Appeal  and continues to love challenging and being challenged!  Lesley is Scottish and the Scots have a reputation for being ‘canny’ with money…so her challenge to you is: Does the Total Cost of Ownership of a learning intervention really matter?

When we buy a car, some folks only look at the purchase price, others may also consider obvious running costs e.g. insurance, road tax, petrol consumption. Some may take into account the cost of servicing and replacement parts, but I wonder how many factor in depreciation cost and how many years we expect to have the car before we replace it? I have yet to meet anyone who does all of this, puts the information onto a spreadsheet and then calculates the cost of having the car over a number of years. If we carried out this exercise prior to purchase, would we be able to work out which car would offer us the best value for money and the optimum time to replace it? Logic would say yes, as we would then know the total cost of ownership.

IcebergSo what has buying a car to do with learning?  I would suggest that as the picture says, ‘what we see often is only a fractional part of what really is’.   So the question I ask is, ‘what is the real cost of a learning intervention?

All too often we only consider the cost of the course itself or the purchase cost/license fees of either an LMS and/or a content authoring tool, but what about the other ‘hidden’ costs? Do we even know what these are?

When we consider face-to-face training, these are relatively easy to calculate, or are they? If we send somebody on a course that is held elsewhere, there is generally a flat fee, but do we include the cost of the attendee’s time? We are told on a regular basis that time = money, so if we expect colleagues to disseminate what they have learned during the course, how much does that cost both in terms of their time and the time of others who are learning from them?

If face-to-face training is ‘in house’, what is the cost? Should we include the trainer’s delivery time, the time the trainer has spent on creating learning materials, the time of all those who attend the course, the cost of the space used for training which takes place on the premises or might the training involve room hire?

This becomes even more complex when we move into elearning. Yes, we think about the number of licenses we need, but do we consider whether we will need more IT equipment? Most people would say ‘yes of course we do’, but if the system needs a dedicated server what is the cost of IT support of both the software but also equipment?

If we are offering an elearning programme that we are going to create, how do we put a cost on that? We have to consider the time it will take to create…that’s easy….it’s the cost of an Instructional Designer (ID). Mmmm….. but most IDs refer to subject matter experts (SMEs) to ensure the content is fit for purpose and that then takes up the time of the SME and how many do we need to consult?

The other thing we know about elearning is that we cannot assume that just because we create and build systems and content that people will use it. So we have to generate interest and awareness otherwise all the time that has been spent creating the elearning content will be wasted, but that also takes time and to reiterate time = money!

Let’s not forget that to implement a new system; we will need the support of the senior management team (SMT). How many of us factor into the cost of the intervention the number of meetings we have attended, on-going conversations and reports we have written to get SMT buy-in?

Ooohhh and lets not forget all the conversations we have ‘out of hours’ with colleagues and pondering we do ‘in our heads’ about whether or not the learning intervention we feel passionately about will make a difference.

I guess the ultimate question is so what? Does the Total Cost of Ownership of a learning intervention really matter? Do we really need to know the real cost and if we do, what impact does that have on whether we proceed or not? So many questions and probably even more answers. Join #chat2lrn to share your views and thoughts on Total Cost of Ownership #TCO Thursday 30 July 8.00 PDT/11.00 EDT/16.00 BST

Is This a Training Problem?

by Patti Shank, PhD

I was very lucky when I was a young training manager and had the opportunity to learn with Geary Rummler (http://www.performancedesignlab.com/geary-rummler-founder). I truly believe that this training greatly helped my performance over the lifetime of my career. It provided a certain way of doing my work. The resource I will share with you will provide a brief synopsis of some of the thinking involved that I hope will intrigue you.

Why Care About This?

Training is an expensive intervention. We only need to provide training for one reason: People need skills they don’t have (or need to upgrade or re-establish their skills) and it makes sense to provide it in a formalized way.

When there are problems, such as people unable to do their jobs because of inadequate tools or not enough feedback about whether they are performing as needed (no performance standards), those problems must be fixed and training won’t solve the problem.

Example: A manager asks for team training for her staff because they are don’t work well together. In reality, she causes problems among them by how she treats them. She favors some over others. She provides more work and overtime to people she doesn’t like as much. Training might help this but she is the one that needs it. And before that, she needs coaching about the problems she is causing so the training might be valuable to her.

When we get requests (or demands) for training and we don’t determine if training has a good chance of solving the problem (or being part of the solution), we are creating a problem, not solving it.  Why?

We are using resources that could be better put elsewhere.

We are removing people’s time (when they are stuck in training) that they could be using towards better purposes. They could be using that time to get work done.
The problem doesn’t get fixed. (Think of all the resources used to not solve the problem!)
We look foolish and are unprofessional, and frankly, this happens too often. Who would hire a carpenter who couldn’t measure or build the right solution?

How Training Doesn’t Work

Example: When someone asks for customer service training but they have insufficient tools to answer customer questions or their process requires multiple workarounds, adding customer service training is a misplaced and expensive intervention.  They may need some training (or not) but they DO need better tools and an improved process so customers aren’t angry about being put on indefinite hold or sent to the wrong department.

Carl Binder’s discussion of Gilbert’s Six Boxes is a great introduction to thinking about what we need to do to have the type of performance organizations need and what influences these performance outcomes in the workplace. Read it and think about what part each part plays in your work. If you don’t think it fits in L&D’s world, we’ll have to disagree.

The Six Boxes: http://www.binder-riha.com/sixboxes.pdf

Cognitive Biases in Learning

Today’s post is written by Andrea May, #chat2lrn crew member and Vice President of Instructional Design Services at Dashe & Thomson in Minneapolis, MN. Andrea is an instructional designer, project manager, wife, mother, Girl Scout troop leader and theater artist.

Cognitive biases color almost every aspect of our daily lives. We all have them, whether Cognitive Biases Woprd Cloudwe want to admit it or not. They develop through our lives as we gain experiences that allow us to take “mental short-cuts” to navigate situations and make decisions. They are usually an indication of our values and beliefs, and in many cases cognitive biases can be helpful. Cognitive biases can help us make decisions more quickly in situations where time is of the essence. They can help to keep us safe in times of heightened emotional or physical stress. But cognitive biases can also lead to bad judgements and a resistance to learning and incorporating new information into our thought processes.

As learning and development professionals, it is imperative that we maintain an awareness of both our own cognitive biases and also an understanding of the common cognitive biases that the majority of us, as humans, hold on to. By keeping these common biases in mind as we design and develop instructional materials and events, we can incorporate strategies to mitigate them and open the way for learning.

So what are some of these common biases that most of us fall back on consistently, but can get in the way of learning?  There are dozens of them documented, but here is my top ten list of cognitive biases that I try to find ways to mitigate in both learning and organizational change situations:

  1. Confirmation bias: This is the tendency to easily accept information that confirms your point of view and reject information that does not support it.
  2. Anchoring bias: This is the tendency to place excessive weight or importance on one piece of information – often the first piece of information you learned about a topic.
  3. Dunning-Kruger effect: This is the tendency for incompetent people to overestimate their competence, and very competent people to underestimate their competence.
  4. Curse of knowledge bias: This is when well-informed people are unable to look at an issue from the perspective of a less informed person.
  5. Functional fixedness: This bias limits a person to utilizing an object or idea in only the way it is traditionally used.
  6. Mere exposure effect: This is the tendency to like something just because you are familiar with it.
  7. Not invented here bias: This is the tendency to discount information, ideas, standards, or products developed outside of a certain group.
  8. Reactance: This is the urge to do the opposite of what you are asked to do in order to preserve your freedom of choice.
  9. Status quo bias: This is the tendency to want things to stay relatively the same as they have always been.
  10. System justification bias: This is the tendency to try to actively maintain the status quo.

Are there biases that you attempt to mitigate in your work? What strategies have you found to be effective?  Join us for a #chat2lrn about cognitive biases in learning on Thursday July 2nd, 8:00am PDT, 11:00am EDT, 4:00pm BST.

Creativity and Constraints in L+D

This week’s post was written by #chat2lrn crew member Holly MacDonald.

I recently read: Push Button Creativity and it really got me thinking about creativity and constraints in the L+D field. Push button creativity is:

“…outsourcing all the creative decision making and creative work to some software or another designer”.

Let’s assume that this is driven by business constraints. What constraints exist for us? What might push us towards push button creativity?

  • Time – more specifically the lack of time. Most people I talk to are under pressure to complete projects by a deadline. And they are often juggling many projects or demands on their time.
  • Resources – many people are also in a place where they have to skimp on budget or people to do the work. I think this is the most common constraint, and it’s really where push-button creativity is targeting. We are often pushing L+D folks to be multi-disciplinary in their approach (visual design, development, LMS Admin, change management) and it’s hard to do it all and to do it well when you are limited by money or people.
  • Skill – with the increase in WYSIWIG authoring tools and free or easily accessible creative elements, many people CAN create learning solutions. This is the real crux of the push button creativity problem. You don’t necessarily need to know much, you can use a template or a wizard that makes it so easy. But it can also mean you don’t have to learn or grow, you can just download.

“It isn’t so much that some people want to be instructional / training / learning designers who find ways around doing actual design. It’s more the attitude of wanting something for nothing. It’s about putting the minimum effort (and expense) into a design task and expecting good results. (excerpt from Push Button Creativity)”

I think that’s a great point. But, we don’t live in the ideal world where every project has what it needs and we can be creative on our own schedule or within an open-ended budget. Clients and managers expect outputs and training needs have to be met. Sometimes we need to get creative about the process as well as the “product” we’re creating. Here’s the rub, though. If we continue to participate in push button creativity (especially the freebies), we are essentially driving down of price and value of creative work like training solutions, and we are effectively de-valuing our own work and the field as a whole. If we use push-button creative solutions, we need to do so with intention.

Constraints can actually push us to create better things. Sometimes working within a set of constraints can help us focus. A creative team that I know very well recently posted on how constraints impacted them:

“Constraints can seem like a barrier to doing good creative work, but there are actually benefits to a limited canvas. On the plus side, imposing limitations drives innovation and forces focus. This can be especially useful in a large project with multiple stakeholders. Limiting certain choices can reduce the burden of making decisions and allows more time to be applied to the creation and follow through of the main objective.”

So, what’s the deal? Are constraints a bad thing or a good thing? Is the drive to push button creativity going to push us over the edge or should we embrace the constraints and treat every project as our own version of “the Biggest Loser”? I’ll leave you with this final quote from Marissa Mayer http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/stories/2006-02-12/creativity-loves-constraints:

“Yet constraints alone can stifle and kill creativity. While we need them to spur passion and insight, we also need a sense of hopefulness to keep us engaged and unwavering in our search for the right idea. Innovation is born from the interaction between constraint and vision.”

Come join us at the chat on June 18th and share your insights.

Communicating your training strategy

Tell_EveryoneThis week’s chat2lrn is from Brent Schlenker (@bschlenker), who is one of our new crew members. Brent is Chief Learning Officer for Litmos

How do you communicate your training strategy to everyone who needs to know? Technology has changed so much over the last decade but many still see training as not having changed. It may seem strange but most of the world is not interested in training the way we are. That one realization will change your life. It will not only change your approach to instructional design but it will help you better communicate the benefits you bring to the organization.

Despite 20 years of self-paced eLearning tools, methods, and amazing possibilities, most people still see training as a teacher and a student, or students. People seem to easily make the leap from live classroom to virtual online live classrooms. But for them that’s as far as technology-based learning has come. Oh sure, everyone knows about interactive self-paced elearning but the process is a mystery…and seemingly unnecessary unless you have money to burn.

And if mysterious technologies aren’t enough to cause them anxiety, then try talking to them about your epic instructional design process you intend to inflict upon them. Trust me when I say that rarely goes over well.

I’ve seen the blank stares of many managers in my career. I have no doubt each and every one appreciated my efforts and found the self-paced course I created to be quite good and effective. But I also know they wondered why we couldn’t just create and plan many more classroom sessions in a fraction of the time at a fraction of the cost. And whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter. What matters is what they believe.

The art of communication is well documented by others. Listening is critical. Spend more time understanding your stakeholders before telling them about you and your plans. Building relationships early on will pave the way for implementing successful training solutions.

Be prepared to over simplify your work. Being able to state your core beliefs about the career you’ve chosen is also helpful when communicating with stakeholders. I call these core beliefs the Guiding Principles of the Training Department. Communicate these principles early and often. In all of your communications make sure you show how your work connects to each of these principles.

We are knowledge brokers.
We build expertise in those who need it, by leveraging those who have it.

We put People first–Technology second.
We recognize the best training is often 1:1, but that doesn’t scale.  We strategically  use technology to amplify, and efficiently scale up, the human element of training.

We build as we deploy.
We iteratively develop scalable solutions while meeting current and immediate training needs.

We see learning as a long-term process.
We believe training events are only a part of the journey towards expertise.  We  leverage multiple content delivery channels to make content more readily available on demand in real-time.

We measure to evaluate success.
We ensure the effectiveness of training solutions by linking desired outcomes to business performance indicators, and tracking and evaluating results.

These are my principles. And you can read more about them here. They may or may not apply to you in your current situation. Do you have certain beliefs that guide your work?

We’d love it if you could join us on chat2lrn to discuss these principles with Brent, Thursday 4th June.

Storylistening versus Storytelling?

This week’s chat2lrn is a post from crew member Fiona Quigley, who works for Logicearth Learning Services based in Ireland. 

I just love stories; it was an integral part of my Irish upbringing – two Scottish grannies and family of singers tends to make it that way!

And over the last few years, I’ve had a bit of a hobby collecting stories. I’m not a great storyteller myself, but I do love to listen to others’ stories and to collect them. Over the last few years, I’ve collected more than 1500 women’s career stories. Some are short – a couple of paragraphs, while others go on and on for pages, reaching a eureka moment at the end.

This ‘hobby’ started off very innocently. I kept reading about the pay and gender gap, and also read various statistics about women’s prospects in the workplace. The so-called glass ceiling seemed as far off as ever. I sent a few emails to friends asking for their career stories and in particular to reflect on any transitions or decision points they encountered. These friends also kindly sent emails to other women and before I knew it, I was getting lots of stories from all over the world.

I’m lucky to know lots of strong, capable and ambitious women, so I was intrigued when many of the gender/pay statistics hadn’t seemed to have changed in the last 10 years. The decision points in the women’s stories ranged from going for their first promotion, getting married, to having children, and dealing with personal or family illness. All impacted their careers – some in a good way, some not so good.

The stories are precious to me, and I won’t ever share them but I have learned a lot from them.

So what did I learn?

Well often the most important storylistener needs to be ourselves. We go through day-to day life, almost automatically at times. We get caught up in our own and many other people’s narratives; the dutiful wife/husband, the diligent worker, the stressed out commuter and so on.

By narrative, I mean a set of related stories. We live our lives as an evolving set of lived experiences – or unfolding story. Sometimes it is hard to tell whether we are living the story or the story is living us! Due to on-going life and work pressures and the general busyness we get caught up in, often we flit from narrative to narrative either giving away our power or not realising what power we have to create better story endings for ourselves.

Many of the 1500+ women’s stories that I have collected so far, made this same point – they haven’t had the chance to sit down and collectively reflect or join the dots between all their career experiences to date. They’ve missed patterns and repeating bottlenecks, simply because they haven’t had a chance to listen to their own stories. Worse still, no-one else had listened to their story to help them confirm or validate it.

Which brings me to one of the often forgotten points about stories in general – we learn from others’ stories precisely because stories give us a chance to reflect on lived experience and join the dots in our own lives.

What has all this got to do with chat2lrn?

Stop rambling Fiona I hear you say! There is a point to this, I promise…

I wonder if, in the workplace, we helped others to pay attention to their own stories or narratives, would it make a difference to our workplace relationships and how we collaborate and share knowledge? What If we were able to just slow down or stop for a few minutes each week and ask each other to share a career story or how we overcame a difficult challenge? And no I’m not advocating tree-hugging or therapy for all, I’m just thinking about re-tuning the radio of our lives from busyness to a few moments of quiet reflection. If, according to the 70:20:10 model, we learn most from others, then surely listening to others’ stories has to be a part of that?

If you understand the concept of tacit knowledge, then it is easy to see that we all know more than we usually express. Giving our staff time and space to reflect is the first step on the way to freeing that knowledge. As a final example, I asked a colleague to reflect on what learning meant to them. I was writing a blog on workplace learning and I kind of knew what answer I wanted back (we all do that don’t we?), but I was blown away by her response. Helen is a keen mountaineer and reflected on learning like this:

MountainQuote

How many other rich answers are we missing from our colleagues just because we don’t give them time and space?

Getting more practical

I tried this exercise a while back with a few friends and I was surprised by how much they enjoyed it. They have since tried it in their own workplaces and have told me that it has improved some of their workplace relationships as well as revealing some interesting insights.

lunchtime-story2

Are your ears twitching?

So what do you think? Could you give this a go in the workplace? What might stop you? Join us this Thursday 21st May in chat2lrn to continue the discussion.

Revolutionize Learning and Development

#Chat2lrn is delighted to have a guest post from Clark Quinn. Clark Quinn, Ph.D., is a recognized leader in learning technology strategy, helping organizations take advantage of information systems to meet learning, knowledge, and performance needs. His approach is learning experience design, combining what we know about how people think and learn with comprehension of technology capabilities to meet real needs. He combines a deep background in cognitive science, a rich understanding of computer and network capabilities reinforced through practical application, considerable management experience, and a track record of strategic vision and successful innovations. He is a well regarded speaker and author on human performance technology directions. You can follow Clark on Twitter: @Quinnovator. See more of Clark’s views on this subject in his book Revolutionize Learning & Development.Revolutionize Learning & Development , Clark N. Quinn


 

Is Learning & Development achieving what it could and should? The evidence says no. Surveys demonstrate that most L&D groups acknowledge that they are not helping their organizations achieve their goals. It’s worse than the cobbler’s children, because they at least got others shoed, but here we’re not getting ourselves effective enough to help anyone else. Where are we falling apart?

My short answer is that we’re trying to use industrial age methods in an information age. Back then, one person thought for many and our training was to get people able to do rote tasks. There wasn’t a real need for knowledge work, and we were happy to filter out those who couldn’t succeed under these conditions. In this day and age knowledge work is most of what contributes to organizational success, and we want to foster it across the organization.

To succeed, there are a few things we need to get into alignment. The simple fact is that much of what is known about how we think, work, and learn isn’t being accounted for in L&D practices. We use courses to put information into the head, but there’s clear evidence that our thinking is distributed across information in the world. It’s also hard to get information into the head. So we should be focusing on putting as much information into the world as we can. We also now know that the way to get the best outcomes is to get people to work together, and that silos and hierarchies interfere. If we want the best outcomes, we want to facilitate people working and playing well together. Finally, we know that learning should involve models to guide performance, be emotionally engaging, and have sufficient, appropriate, and spaced practice. All of this is antithetical to so-called rapid elearning.

Underpinning this is the fact that we’re measuring the wrong things. We’re out of alignment with what the business needs; when we’re measuring how much it costs per seat per hour, we’re worrying about efficiency, and we’re paying no attention to effectiveness. It’s taken as a matter of faith that ‘if we build it, it is good’, and that’s empirically wrong.

Quite simply we need a revolution; a fundamental shift in what we value and what we do. It’s not redefining what we do completely; e.g. courses are still a viable tool, but they’re just one part of a bigger picture. There are two things organizations need: optimal execution of those things they know they need to be able to do, and continual innovation to adapt to the increasingly complex environment. Courses are only a part of the first, and essentially irrelevant to the latter. We need to incorporate performance support for one thing, and sponsoring innovation is about facilitating communication and collaboration. That comes from using social media (all of it, not just technology) in appropriate ways.

The upside is big. We can, and should, be the key to organizational outcomes. We should be designing and fostering a performance ecosystem where people can work in powerful ways. We should be shaping culture to get a workforce that is motivated and effective. If we do so, we’re as fundamental to organizational success as anything in the business. I suggest that this is an achievable goal and emphasize that it’s a desirable goal.

To get there, you need to ‘think different’. You need to shift from thinking about learning and training, and start thinking about performance. You need to take development to mean facilitation. L&D should be Performance & Development, or even Performance and Innovation. That’s the promise, and the opportunity. Are you ready to join the revolution? Your organization needs it.

Let’s discuss in #chat2lrn this week.  See you on Thursday, May 7th 8:00 am PDT / 11:00 am EDT / 4:00 pm BST.