Thursday, March 21, 2013

Work together - the era of the lonely cowboy is over

How comes so may organizations face difficulties to make people work together ? Not only within teams, but (perhaps even more) between teams. Often there is a big gap between sales and operations, between blue-collar workers and white collar workers, between supporting services and the rest of the organization, …

These gaps leads to useless budget discussions : who pays the bill / who gets the profit ? It also leads to not sharing information with colleagues from another department. It leads to internal competition and a culture where we don’t help eachother. It leads to lonely riders who stare 8 hours in a row at their computer screen and don’t care about their colleagues next door. It creates a culture of US and THEM. Where “US” is doing all the good things and “THEM” are blamed for the things "US" actually screwed up. It is the end of any collaboration and innovation.

These gaps can be dangerous and they definitely don’t contribute to customer satisfaction. Non of your customers is interested in these internal battles. It doesn’t improve the quality of your services or innovation of your products.

The key to success is COLLABORATION. Together with colleagues, with partners, with customers. Create win-win and synergy.

Departments are not meant to be an island in the middle of an ocean. They should be part of archipel, a group of islands connected by bridges, tunnels, ferries, … Where people from one island visit the neighbouring island.

Create a culture of sharing, of people being interested in the world outside their personal job.  
Next time you walk to the coffee machine, and see a colleagues of another department, ask him how he is doing, ask what he is working on. Be interested and search for ways to collaborate.
Make time to do this, it will help you to grow faster and deliver more quality.
It is the end of the lonely rider era. We live in a time where sharing and working together is the only way forward.

To end this blog a really nice movie why you should work together :

Monday, March 18, 2013

8 ways to use FUN and improve learningresults

How comes we had so many difficulties to learn history, math, geography, ... at school, while we learned all the lyrics of our favorite groups by hart in no time ? Because it was FUN to learn these lyrics.

Too often seminars are an endless bundle of dry data we forget the minute we hear it. Those trainings are a waste of time and hence cost too much.

Spice up a training. Make people laugh (which stimulates the brrain activity), give people a reason to remember what you said (people are more likely to remember good things that happened than bad things; remember when we were young...).

My advise to add FUN to trainings :

  1. Don't mix up Fun and Funny : you are not a stand up comedian. People have to learn and you are a learning facilitator. 
  2. Know your audience : what is their age, background, interests, history, ... The more you know them the more you can adapt your training. 
  3. Use visualization : use appealing images, perhaps cartoons. Definitely don't use endless slides with only data and graphs nobody can read. 
  4. Challenge and reward : challenge people to get involved, to answer, to ask, ... Sometimes I take a bag of chocotoffs to my trainings and give away when people get involved. 
  5. Use the right speed : go too slow and people fall asleep, go too fast and people are lost. 
  6. Tell anecdotes : anecdotes are a good way to make to give people a feeling it really happened to them as well. 
  7. Encourage them when they make mistakes : learning is about failing 100 times and the 101th time, you succeed. When you punish people because they fail(or threaten to punish them), they are less likely to try it a second time.
  8. Make them dream of a better future : participants in trainings don't like status quo (otherwise they wouldn't go to training). By dreaming of better future, they move forward

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Learn from Dacota Indians

There is a famous tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians :

"When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount."

This is a truism Unfortunately too often we see people in today business life hanging on to a product, a project or an organization while it already died. Even worse, they keep on investing more energy and hope the product comes back to life. 

Some might use a stronger whip to bring the horse back to life, others might do mouth to mouth. None of these strategies will fly. 

Despite your lasting enthusiasm you can't bring a dead horse back to life. MOVE ON ! START AGAIN ! RESET ! NEXT ! LEARN FROM IT (why did your horse die ?)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Why we need more FOCUS during learning moments

As a learning consultant I am often confronted with the quantity dilemma : On one side organizations want intense learning moments and urge me to "train" their people in leadership, change management, communication, timemanagement and project management and all of these preferably in a 2 day program. On the other hand participants in these trainings can only really "learn" in between 1 and 5 things (if not less) in these 2 days. 

At the end of a training I always ask for their take-aways from the training. Some participants give me a list of 10 or even more items they learned and want to apply as from tomorrow onwards. 

Unfortunately this is way too much. People don't change that radically in such a short timespan. Or they need more time with a clear schedule (what will I learn when and how) or we need to create more focus and learn them only 1 to 3 things at a time. 

Learning to ski
I love to ski and despite my long experience, I take a 2 hour training every year again. The ski monitor always starts with some easy skiing while he observes me. After these first 10 minutes, they tell me what I do right and how I can improve. Not a list of 15 items, but only 1 or 2 focus items. At the end of the ski-training, my ski abilities are improved. 
Why ? Because we focus on a small number of improvement points (although there is still more than enough room for improvement)

Translate this into business life
I believe one of the most important jobs for Learning & Development Managers should be to help employees to create learning paths. Step by step. Where do I have to start ? What should I be able of by when ? How will we evaluate the employee acquired the right competence ? 

Especially when people start in a new job, we need to help them to create a step by step introduction program. What should you be able of after your first month, after three months, after 6 months, ... After every stage, we should evaluate and check if any further support is needed. 

Unfortunately too many people require there new employees to be up and running and 100% competent after one week (preferably in their first day).

This doesn't fly ! We need focus and we need a step-by-step approach. 

Not only during introduction program, but after every good learning moment. Ask participants what they learned and want to apply and then help them to create focus. What is the one item they want to start with, then what, ... 

To round up 
Give people more focus when they learn and be patient. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Instant learning - right here, right now

Business is always moving. As a result many operational people are always on the run. When they need to learn something new, they preferably get a USB stick, plug it into their brain, download a program and continue their daily rush with more knowledge. There is NO TIME FOR TRAINING.

This situation reminds me of a scene in "The Matrix" staring Keano Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss. (watch movie below)

This is a science fiction movie. This technology doesn't exist yet. But as with all science fiction movies they often are a projection of a dream, a future, a desire... and maybe one day, this dream becomes reality.

What can we learn from this ? 
This dream is still a dream and no reality. I believe we should provide small chunks of instant information people can use to do their job. On the other hand, everybody should make time every once in a while to learn, get new ideas, turn off the action button and turn on the learn button. We need to evolve towards a combination of formal learning moments AND instant toolkits. I believe this is the only way Learning & Development can support Operations in a pragmatic way that delivers results. It needs investment from both sides.

My tip to you :
Attend trainings, read books and make small notes of things you never want to forget. Things you believe you might need in the future. From every class, every book, every seminar, there should be 1 to 5 such things. It is up to you to put them on paper and use them at the right moment. OK, you can google or youtube anything right on the spot, but remember, the above described technique is the most qualitative instant knowledge anno 2013. It is up to you to build yourself for the future.