Intra-transparency & Openness: Guest Post by Mark Britz

We are delighted to have Mark Britz as our guest blogger this week to prompt our discussion about Intra-transparency & openness.  Think about how transparency and openness, or the lack, might affect your organization, and bring your thinking caps to our chat this Thursday!

Welcome Mark!

Intra-Transparency and Openness

To begin let’s find common ground. Transparency and Openness are two quite popular terms today that often are used interchangeably and, although similar in relationship, are not identical. Here may be one way to think about it.

Transparency is not necessarily permeable. There is a membrane that separates the visible activities from those viewing them (ever see a mitochondria under a microscope?). Transparency should not be confused with invisibility either. With transparency, the membrane surrounding the activities is visible; a structure is clearly in place so the activities do not interact with those outside the membrane. Zoos then are transparent; Observers are free to observe but not to touch, or physically interfere. In organizations, similar membranes can exist, such as hierarchies.

Openness, however, allows a more free association between actions. A more permeable layer exists. With openness, interaction is not only welcome, it’s encouraged. Openness, to continue the zoo analogy, is more like a petting zoo; observers are free to observe but also to touch, stroke, feed and play. Through these interactions, the observers are co-creating the experience for all involved. Openness in organizations means that involvement between different groups takes place.

As noted, transparency and openness are typically discussed in terms of business, politics and government. But these two ideas are ultimately about people and their conscious decision to be transparent and open, as well as their actions and decisions within each action that encourages or defeats transparency and openness.

Most attention today is on transparency and openness at public, or “inter”, levels. And more and more are learning the importance of these ideas for themselves as they individually build Personal Learning Networks outside of the organization. It’s critical that the “intra” exists to invite innovation, flatten inhibiting hierarchies and create thinking, feeling organizations.

Can an organization be transparent and open externally, yet not so internally? Or is the lack of internal openness in the face of external openness unsustainable, as the hypocrisy will ultimately cause the organization to implode? And can the opposite ever be true? Can an organization with a transparent system maintain a closed public-facing persona, or is the membrane between intra in internets too thin?

It would seem, then, that there would need to be a mirroring of sorts as an organization is ultimately an organization of people, and people, being inherently social, are now endowed with tools to amplify, expand and connect their ideas and actions.

Clive Thompson, Wired Magazine stated:

“… The reputation economy creates an incentive to be more open, not less. Since Internet commentary is inescapable, the only way to influence it is to be part of it. Being transparent, opening up, posting interesting material frequently and often is the only way to amass positive links to yourself and thus to directly influence your Googleable reputation.”

-Thompson, Clive (March 2007). “The See-Through CEO”. Wired.

Being truly transparent and open as individuals in an organization is much more than simply posting “interesting material”, a link, or narrating our work using social media tools. Although these tools do make it easier to communicate, that communication is hollow if it is devoid of opinions, challenge and even dissent. Transparency is a good and noble goal, but membranes that only reveal the interworking, allowing flaws to be seen but not corrected, fall short.

Openness is a major progression and, on an individual level, is scary, especially in uncertain economic times. But without openness, trust cannot exist (look at any good marriage). Openness must be welcomed within and across levels. It should not only be encouraged, but modeled and acknowledged. Workers locked in industrial era ideas about work, hierarchies and jobs need to know that it’s safe to reveal their own strengths, weaknesses and opinions to truly move the organization.

Former CEO Margaret Heffernan in a recent TED Talk titled Dare to Disagree stated:

“Most of the biggest catastrophes that we’ve witnessed rarely come from info that is secret or hidden. It comes from info that is freely available – we can’t, don’t want to handle the conflict it provokes. When we create conflict we enable the people around us to do their very best thinking.”

On April 14th, 1912 The SS Titanic, led by Captain E.J. Smith, moving at a reported 22 knots, raced to New York City. Ignoring warnings, foregoing lifeboat drills and maintaining a dangerous (record breaking) pace, she struck an iceberg in the north Atlantic. Hours later, she lay at the bottom of the ocean with over 1,500 tragically lost lives. In hindsight, the information was widely available, yet no one, it seems, challenged the decisions that had been made.

What prevented the crew from influencing decisions? What if transparency, and especially openness, had existed amongst the White Star Line’s layers of leadership?

Today the economy is strained; workers and organizations have an equal stake in the survival game. Never has the ability to connect been easier. Never before has the ability to have conversations become more available; to extend and expand ideas over time and space. Sharing information is not enough, processing ideas is not enough, filtering out the noise is not enough. Transparency and openness are needed, yet can they truly rise above and avoid the fate of becoming nebulous buzz words like engagement or synergy?

“Open information is fantastic, open networks are essential – but the truth won’t set us free until we develop the skills, the habit and the talent and the moral courage to use it.”
“Openness is not the end, it’s the beginning.”

– Margaret Heffernan

Please join us on Thursday 16 August at 16.00 BST/11.00EDT/08.00PDT to discuss intra-transparency & openness in our organizations.  Share your thoughts about how much you agree with Mark, the implications for your organization, and what, if anything, we can do about it.

Looking forward to seeing you there! 

Mark Britz

Mark Britz

Mark describes himself as Manager of Learning Solutions, Social & Informal learning aficionado, eLearning Designer, ISD, Intapreneur, CNY ASTD President and #lrnchat -er. You can find Mark on Twitter at and read his blog at


People in the learning field regularly get tasked with things we aren’t too thrilled about. We’re told to implement a solution to a problem when we’re pretty sure that the stakeholder doesn’t have enough information about the problem to know what the solution is. We get told to build courses that have little chance of making a difference because they don’t address the real underlying problems. We’re asked to make amazing instruction out of horrible PowerPoint slides. And when we’re finally asked our opinion, our answer s are often ignored. Wait, maybe this is just my experience… or maybe not. That’s the topic of this Chat2lrn.

Cathy Moore, an eLearning thought-leader, posed the question, “Are instructional designers doormats? and wondered aloud how much of a spine instructional designers should have when working with stakeholders.

Until we started talking about the topic of this Chat2lrn, we didn’t realize that two of the Chat2lrn facilitators had independently blogged on this subject within a short while of each other. Patti Shank originally responded to Moore’s blog post with a posting of her own, “On being a doormat and having stakeholders (not) value our work,” and wondered why this seemed to be a universal experience in our field.

From Patti’s blog post: 

Imagine telling your lawyer how to practice law or your child’s orthodontist how to put together a treatment plan. But our stakeholders have no problem telling us how to do our work. That’s because (I think) our stakeholders think they only sort of need us. They know they can’t do it themselves but I think they don’t get what we bring to the table beyond the tools we use.

Judith Christian-Carter, another Chat2lrn facilitator, wrote a similar post, “I’m an Instructional Designer so respect me!,” and penned that many in her field

… feel unvalued, frustrated, demotivated, usurped and fed up. By nature, instructional designers are very good, if somewhat unassuming, team players, however for many a feeling of exclusion has become the norm.

Judith suggested that there are numerous reasons why we end up feeling undervalued, including project managers who don’t understand our jobs or who are too anxious to please clients at any cost, tools that dominate what can be accomplished, and situations where we are at the “bottom of the eLearning pecking order.”

The rationale for this R-E-S-P-E-C-T chat is to gather insights into the nature of and solutions to this problem. Reuben Tozman’s post, “Going Mainstream,” starts with the obvious:

… the only people that really care about our deeply talented pool of professionals and the wonderful things we can do for an organization is ourselves.

I encourage you to read what he has to say because I think it’s one core part of the solution. But there are obviously other parts of the solution… and that’s what we’ll be discussing on Thurs, 4/12/12 at 16.00BST/ 11.00EDT

Learning Measurement Means Getting into the Trenches

This weeks chat2lrn is about measurement and we are delighted to also include a ‘guest’ blog post from Kelly Meeker.

Measuring learning is and always has been a controversial and divisive issue.  Senior operational managers are used to hard targets and whilst learning professionals need and want some feedback on the impact of their efforts, the “smileys” approach and even end of intervention testing are now widely accepted to be of little use in assessing the real impact of learning.  However, measurement is a critical aspect of every professional’s work and if we don’t measure, how do we know whether the learning intervention has had any impact and delivered bottom line business benefits?

Kirkpatrick’s model was devised for face to face training, and some would argue that it is now outdated. It is also fraught with difficulty in its higher levels as performance improvement is rarely the result of a single identifiable intervention.  ROI is also a very contentious issue as to calculate an accurate ROI of learning from formal provision and prove direct cause and effect, all other workplace variables would have to stay the same.  It would require a ‘control’ group as well as an ‘experimental’ group, i.e. one group receives the formal learning provision (the ‘experimental’ group) and the other does not (the ‘control’ group). This is very often the model that is used during ‘pilot’ programmes, which if successful are then rolled out to a wider audience.

However, as we move so strongly towards a 70:20:10 model and recognise that most learning actually takes place ‘on-the-job’, does it mean that pilot programmes and establishing control groups are really only be suitable for formal learning interventions and if so, is it possible to measure informal learning?

It may be far better to look for measurements rooted in the day to day of the workflow.  What tends to work well is when line managers can clearly say that decisions made or actions performed would not have happened before the intervention. The key is therefore in choosing the metrics and choosing them well.  If you’re going to devote the time and energy to a learning programme, is it truly solving a problem that is important to your business?

Kelly Meeker aka @opensesame has this to say on the subject and suggests that we need to get into the trenches!!

Measurement is a challenge for learning and development professionals. Too often measuring learning outcomes falls into the pattern of sharing anecdotal evidence or only measuring production: “we’ve provided X resources” or “we’ve distributed Y widgets”.

Subconsciously, perhaps, developers like this kind of measurement because it measures only the outcomes that they can strictly control – what they do and make, day in, day out. What really matters for an organization, of course, isn’t measuring the number of courses the learning department produced, but measuring changed behaviors or outcomes.

This means L&D folks have to take a risk, and start measuring their own productivity by external factors. A successful learning initiative is measured by the change in behavior, situation or outcomes of the organization.

So what’s the challenge? First, identifying those desired outcomes – this can be harder than it sounds – and then identifying the incremental steps along the way to the desired end state. Second, assigning specific qualitative and quantitative values to both the baseline and the end state. This is probably just as hard as it sounds.

Theory of Change and Learning Measurement

The Theory of Change model is used by nonprofits and social change organizations to plan and target their programs. It also offers a helpful model for planning and measuring learning and development. This model supports productive change by forcing the developer to articulate a theory of change, or a model by which the desired outcomes can be reached.

The first step is beginning with baseline data that measures the current status or situation. The next step is to identify desired end outcomes – and the final and most powerful step is to create a model describing how your initiative will change that situation, and how. This puts huge goals into incremental, achievable steps – making the process simpler to understand and simpler to measure.

This, of course, is needs assessment. But it’s needs assessment with an open mind – that interests itself in more than just the traditional realm of L&D – and has a basis in data. Of course reaching agreement on all phases of this process requires group decision making, and that can be the biggest challenge of all. As Joitske Hulsebosch describes in this post on “Benchlearning”, it’s key to have an open mind, open discussion and avoid defensiveness on all sides.

The theory of change, once articulated, provides the metrics of your success. You will know you have succeeded in generating positive change once you can demonstrate the uptick in the metrics you planned to address.

Data’s Role in Decision Making

In summary, it’s essential to shift your focus from “What can I produce?” to “What can I change?” And those changes should be based on thoughtful analysis of the organization’s needs.

That means getting out of your office and into the trenches of your organization. Doing ride-alongs, observations and “undercover L&D professional” days. Be curious about what your organization does – and you’ll soon know where the gaps are. That’s the really valuable challenge for any knowledge worker.

Kelly Meeker is the Community Manager at OpenSesame, the elearning content marketplace, where she creates, curates and shares with the learning and development community. Find her on her blog at, on Twitter (@OpenSesame) or at

Finally, a question?

Beyond what point in time after an intervention can improvement or application be identified and measured?  For example, the airline pilot who learns an emergency drill in basic training but whose skill is only evident way down the line when something happens.

The transcript is now available for the chat……just look under transcripts and summaries.  Also Kelly curated the content using Storify you can find her summary in our Links and Resources section.

Are you supporting performance?

All organisations are measured by their performance.  Measures of success vary, but all successfully performing organisations have business strategies in place that allow them to survive and sometimes even grow during tough economic conditions.  As employees and businesses begin to leave the comfort of “things known” and venture or are forced out into the untrodden lands of uncertainty and unfamiliarity, their need for support increases and  our ability to deliver appropriate support is increasingly challenged.

In our now constantly and ever more rapidly changing world, the recognition that learning is ubiquitous is now widely accepted, as is the recognition that it cannot be managed. So what is the place of a learning expert or a learning function in this new world? What does support mean and how can it be provided?

Learning requires to be inextricably embedded in the work stream. At its simplest people need to have the support tools or “sidekicks” as they are described by Allison Rossett  and Bob Mosher to help them perform tasks. Such tools need to be incredibly practical and accessible. It is often forgotten that learners are in complex situations back on the job and regardless of the quality of the training, application is always more difficult when in the work stream and away from the protected environment of the learning intervention.

Supporting peoples performance in the workplace can and should happen using the whole span of technology and learning theory that is now so easily available to us.  Whether it is a simple checklist of codes at the self-checkout in a fruit and veg shop or a pilot’s complex pre-flight procedure, or maybe a simulation for a surgeon to practice a rarely used operation before treating a patient, the tool needs to be directly applicable and be focused on successful performance of the task and the achievement of desired results. Access to a co-worker skilled and experienced in the task or to an expert coach is another form of performance support.

At an organisation level, recognition of the predominance of informal and social learning needs to be given prominence and supported accordingly. All of us who work in learning need to concentrate fully on understanding the business sufficiently so that we can apply our knowledge to performance and improvement of results, whether at an individual, team or organisation level.

It goes without saying that human capital is an organisation’s greatest and most fundamental resource, therefore for an organisation to perform at its best, its members of staff need to be performing to the best of their ability.

The more we can support people out of an understanding of their own and their organisation’s needs, the more likely it is that a beginner will become an expert, a follower will become a leader, and stagnation will transform to innovation.

So how well are we doing? In 2010 Capita asked senior business leaders in the UKs largest firms how learning and development was contributing to the organisations ability to perform.   The outcome of the research is worrying with only 18% of leaders saying that L & D strategy aligns to the overall business strategy.  There may be many reasons for this, but we have to address them. A recent unpublished American survey revealed the horrifying statistic that only 15% of executives would recommend L&D to their colleagues as a resource in improving business performance. We are a very long way from delivering the added value to the people and organisations who employ us, both in their perception and in our aspiration. If we fail, we will become isolated and increasingly irrelevant overheads that organisations will no longer afford.  Succeed, and we become central to the future.

#chat2lrn on Thursday 16 February will seek to explore what performance support means in practice, and how as learning professionals we can position and skill ourselves to provide that support…..hope you can join the conversation!

To help you get ready for our next exciting session, have a look at the following posts………….

When Two Worlds Collide

Join us for this #chat2lrn on Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 16.00GMT/ 11.00EST. And tell your colleagues to join us! (Check the How to join in the chat link for more information.)

There are many disconnects between the world of education and the world of work, and many of us feel that they are getting wider, especially in light of the world’s  economic problems. Entering the workplace involves different cultural issues, expectations, access, information, and technologies than the world of education.

Finishing school or getting a degree is not enough, especially in the current economic  climate. Graduates and school leavers need to know what employers are looking for, and then prepare themselves for the skills and attributes that organizations are looking for. They need to understand the world of work and how to work in an environment where not only are there often many more constraints, but also where the rules and protocols are not as obvious as they were in school or at university. As an employee, you frequently have to make decisions on your own and need to learn how to use a number of different tools, protocols and devices, often with little or no help or time. You also need workplace survival skills!

Where are the ‘new-to-the-workforce’ workers supposed to get these skills? From their educational experience or from the workplace, or both?

Those of us who support learning in the workplace probably don’t spend enough time considering the learning and workplace ‘survival’ needs of those who are coming to us from school and university and yet, it’s an important issue, worthy of our consideration. Likewise, schools and universities don’t seem to place enough emphasis on how to ease the transitions from ‘there’ to ‘here’.

However, some changes are afoot, both in the world of work and in primary/elementary and secondary/high school education to try and remove some of the disconnects. The question remains though, will these changes be sufficient to prevent the two tribes  (education and work) going to war and the inevitable outcome?

Before participating in this #chat2lrn take a look at these 3 articles, all of which make a number of very important observations with regard to this debate:

Nic Laycock: Doing the same things – but not sure learners see it that way

Steve Wheeler: Border crossings

CBI – Future Fit: Preparing graduates for the world of work

Further reading:

Mark Sheppard (@elearningguy) has written a blog post reflecting on the discussion

Company and Business Law Advice: What do your children need to know to succeed in today’s world?

Questions from today’s chat

Q1) What major skills gaps do you see in people coming from education that make it hard for them to adapt to your organization? #chat2lrn

Q2) What role do school and universities have in readying students for the world of work? #chat2lrn

Q3) What role do organizations have in helping new graduates adapt to the world of work? #chat2lrn

Q4) What does the world of education need to do to encourage the learning needed for success in the workplace? #chat2lrn

Q5) How are current economic realities in both worlds exacerbating these problems? #chat2lrn

QWrap) Chatting is great…but reflection and action are better. What is your ‘take away’ from our chat? #chat2lrn