What’s your Golden Rule?

I’m pulling together a plan for a new suite of compliance modules which have to be published a lot quicker than I’d like. So as part of this plan I need to educate a range of  SME’s and get them onboard with my philosophy quickly.

Here’s my draft..

“You agree to partner with us in a modern approach to compliance training. You agree with the following principles:

·        Learning is not an event it’s a process

·        Multiple choice tests only demonstrate short term memory recall

·        Compliance training should be more than a box ticking exercise

·        Compliance training can deliver improvements and savings to the business which can and should be measured

·        Compliance training does not have to be arduous for the participants

Golden Rules:

1.     To change people’s behaviour you must first convince them of the need to change.

2.     Training must be tailored to different groups even though this takes longer to develop. The needs of the Sales team are not the same as the needs of the Facilities team.

3.     There is no point in assessing people’s ability to recall facts they read three, or four slides ago.

4.     Job aids that people can find and use intuitively are more effective than expecting people to memorise policies and documents.

5.     Realistic scenarios can help people to practice the behaviours we want them to adopt in a safe environment and show them the consequences of their decisions and actions.

6.     We can move compliance beyond box ticking to improve capability and competence.”

What else would you include? Have you created anything similar in your organisation. It would be particularly interesting to hear how vendors address this issue, or do you just give them what they want?


Learning to use Social Media at work

Do we need to train employees to use social collaborative tools effectively?  

NO! Of course not almost everybody uses Facebook, or Twitter…don’t they?

Well firstly, no they don’t.

Yes, many of them have an account, but just because they have an account doesn’t mean they use it. Secondly, using the tools for social/recreational purposes is not the same as using them for work. Even those of us that use them semi-professionally, as Personal Learning Networks, will need to adapt our online style for a behind the firewall, enterprise only platform.

But does this require training?  Er.. yes and no..

Social/collaboration tools are really just communication vehicles and in more traditional companies you won’t get very far if you tell the managers “hey look at this it’s Facebook for (insert company name here)“. The key to successful adoption is to use them to solve problems. Each problem you successfully solve is like a seed germinating. As you plant more seeds across the business they should start to link to each other organically, but you can’t leave this to chance; Community Management is vital to success, as Clark Quinn of the ITA says you have to seed, feed and weed your community.

I recently introduced Chatter to some of our Customer Services managers and while I did position it as a way to solve a problem, I probably said too much about the wider possibilities when I should have just shut up and let them figure out the rest for themselves.

The reaction was predictable; they were concerned about the usual stuff, goofing off, posting inappropriate comments and posting work related advice that might be incorrect. These objections are straightforward to handle, but they do seem to require much repeating before they are accepted (see Jane Hart’s site for a list of great answers). After my presentation the meeting agenda moved back to the day to day concerns of their department. They talked about how they communicated changes to procedures. The changes came from one department then one person in each Customer Service team was responsible for explaining them in “layman’s terms” to their teams. So this one task was being duplicated at least 4 times in one location alone. It was at this point I made a rather obvious suggestion relating to my earlier presentation..

Now I won’t pretend that this is going to change all of their views on social media, but if we can solve specific problems across the business using Chatter then we are embedding it as a tool and it becomes a  part of their work flow. This is a fundamentally different concept when compared to “Hello! Let’s all join the Company Community (companies are not communities)

This way we can help teams learn how to use the tool appropriately in smaller groups and because it has a work based context right from the start it should be perceived less as “Facebook for enterprise” and if you work somewhere like I do that’s important.

Make Progress not War

Who is your closest, most trusted and valuable business partner?

If the answer isn’t an influential member of IT – you’re probably going wrong somewhere.

Without their support you will never create the user experience you dream of for your learners. And if you can’t do that you’ll always struggle to engage them. And if you can’t do that..

Many of us are guilty of going to war with the IT department. The reality of that is you will always be the “daring rebels fighting oppression”, but without the right allies it’s a war you cannot and will not win.

Guerrilla activities may be necessary, in the early days, to try new things out and gather experience and evidence, under the radar, to prove that what you want to do with learning technology is worthwhile. But the longer these skirmishes continue the more damage you are likely to do to your longer term relationship with IT.

Sooner or later you have to lay down your weapons and come to the negotiating table. Diplomacy is the only course of action that will lead to long lasting, profitable peace.

Sure, it’s great fun to pillory the “innovation prevention” department, but whilst we lambast them for their ignorance of what we’re trying to do, how well do you understand their world? What are the pressures and challenges they face?

I was lucky enough to attend the kick-off meeting of our Global Learning Technology Steering Group yesterday where I witnessed the Learning people and the Technology people working in harmony towards a shared vision – that’s when it (finally) dawned on me that we can all get along. No, it hasn’t produced anything yet, but the language being used and the fact that the project sponsors are from both sides of the divide, gives me confidence and optimism that we can work together effectively to deliver great results for the business.

So perhaps it’s time to stop complaining about what we can’t do and sit down with IT to found out how we can work together.

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner” – Nelson Mandela


Why is no one talking about Chatter?

Three things have surprised me in the past week (excluding my first unbroken night’s sleep in 7 months – thanks kids).

First I discovered we already have access to a pretty impressive collaboration/networking/sharing tool

Second I discovered that it was free

Third and most surprisingly of all – hardly anyone seems to be talking about it in the L&D community

You’ve probably heard of Chatter from Salesforce.com the massive Cloud based CRM platform. It got a lot of press back in the spring of 2009 when it was introduced and more late last year when it announced that it was going to make it free to all employees of Salesforce customers (well up to 5000 employees).

Yet (almost) nobody in the learning community seems to be talking about it, which seems kind of odd to me. There’s plenty in the marketing, pr and sales blogs, but nada from our side of things.

Am I missing something?

Apparently there are 87,000 Salesforce.com customers and 60,000 of them have started using Chatter. Yahoo have even purchased Chatter as a standalone app for it’s staff (without the CRM pat of Salesforce.com), Dell have ditched all of there collaboration tools and moved to Chatter. Read full article

So what does Chatter do?

Take a look at their website for full details, but it’s basically a Facebook/Twitter wannabe (in a good way). It’s developing rapidly too, now including Twitter functionality like using @ for mentioning individuals and # for tagging topics. You can form groups, follow people, share files and links, and if you have a licence to use the CRM parts of Salesforce, it links to those too. There’s also a free desktop version built on Adobe Air that puts your Chatter feed in a separate Instant Messenger style window and mobile apps too. (except for Android, which is on the way)

This week Salesforce announced several Chatter related investments, including a very interesting tie up with Seesmic (read article). So it’s fair to say Salesforce are pretty serious about Chatter, and the fact they are making it free to everyone in the same way Yammer do by signing up with a corporate email domain, means it’s going to be very, very big.

It has a lot going for it, I’ve only had a fairly superficial play with it so far, but it functions well and does more than I expected.Here’s a shot from my profile page.

Chatter screen shot

Chatter Profile Page

Heard it all before?

Of course, it’s not doing anything new, or innovative, but they have achieved what no other social media platform has – they’ve removed the most obstinate obstacle between you and Social tools – the IT department.

You don’t have to make a case for Social Learning, you don’t have to convince your IT department to unblock it because it’s already there as part of a key enterprise tool.

So you can get on with helping people to use it effectively and start building a collaborative culture, without any pressure and frankly without IT even knowing (mwah ha ha ha).

How are we using it?

This week I spent some time with some of the more advanced Salesforce.com users, who I was told had been using Chatter for a while. Turned out they hadn’t used it at all – the only awareness they had was of the rather annoying daily activity feed that it emails by default. Once I’d shown them how to turn that off, we talked about the possible applications of Chatter and they started to get it.

To be honest this has all caught me out a bit – I always imagined having to write a strategy of some sort, make a business case etc, but now I think we’re just going to jump in and get people going with minimal rules and supervision – I think this approach will help people to think for themselves and think of ways to use it that work for them – encouraging innovation and democratisation.

We have a couple of training programs coming up in the next few months that we can incorporate Chatter into, firstly to give people a heads up about what is coming, start conversations, share relevant links. Then I can see it forming part of an effective performance support tool for a content management system we are rolling out and thirdly as part of a leadership development program – that includes zero workshops (quite shockingly progressive for us). This will introduce the system and the advantages it offers to a diverse audience and should create some momentum as well as valuable experiences.

It’s early days and there are bound to be problems to overcome in the near future, but right now it’s all very exciting and I can’t wait to get stuck in…but why is nobody else talking about it as a learning tool?

Learning Technologies 2011

First a confession..

I didn’t actually go to Learning Techologies 2011, I didn’t even go to the free Exhibition, or any of the seminars. So why am I bothering to write about it?

Despite this rather major handicap I still got an awful lot out of the event and to be honest I feel slightly guilty about it, because it didn’t cost me, or my company, a penny.

So why didn’t I go? (Let’s get the excuses out of the way)

Well, mainly because I don’t work a regular 9-5, I work the equivalent of four days in three and the two I don’t work happen to be on Wednesday and Thursday. I could be wrong but I’m not sure my two youngest would have enjoyed it all that much and frankly it would have been tricky getting back to Bristol in time to do the school run.

What did I get out of it if I didn’t go and how?

Once I realised there was no chance of swapping days with my wife (she’s a solicitor and therefore far more important than I) I thought I could at least monitor the Twitter steam while the kids were sleeping. This led me to revisit the online community site for Learning Technology. I’d been a member for a while, but not contributed as regularly as I probably should have. I casually clicked onto the IPTV link, which hosts video footage of previous conferences, without much expectation and all of a sudden I was watching Cathy Moore ‘s session on action mapping live with the accompanying slides – amazing.  I also managed to catch snippets of Itiel Dror, Chris Atherton, Craig Taylor and Paul Simbeck-Hampson.

So what can you learn from this?

1.       Learning Technologies is much more that a conference/exhibition. Throughout the year I’ve attended several excellent webinars, with Neil Lasher, Julie Wedgwood, Charles Jennings and more all of which have had a positive impact on my work and as a result I’ve taken valuable messages and practices back into my company. The resources on the community site are incredibly generous; all the previous conference sessions are available as MP3s and /or videos, you can access the slide sets from many of the presenters and webinar recordings are also available. On top of all that there’s a responsive community of experts willing to share advice and knowledge through the forum.

2.       The power of Twitter, although I missed the obvious networking aspects of being at a conference, I was still able to participate through Twitter and I found some extremely interesting new people to follow, brought together by the #LT11uk.  I’m a relatively new convert to Twitter, but I totally understand why it’s the number one learning professional’s tool on the c4lpt site. I’ve been reading blogs quite widely for a couple of years now, but the potential for learning through Twitter is so much greater because it creates so many more connections between people, opinion and resources and frankly I’m hooked.

One of the key themes of debate coming out of the conference itself seems to be the disconnect between the exhibition and the conference and how this can be bridged by creating more interaction and links between the two (check out the lively debate on the comments section of Steve Wheeler’s blog ).

Perhaps there is some scope to add a space within the exhibition to broadcast certain parts of the conference live or recorded. This raises obvious questions about why you would pay to attend the conference if you could access the “content”. But I think that the organisers must (rightly) believe that there is much more to a conference than listening to the good and the great. The discussions that follows in the breaks and the social events are surely of equal if not greater value? I presume this is why they were willing to stream the conference live in the first place. It would only be a small step further to make this explicitly available at the exhibition wouldn’t it?

Don’t call Me Social

This year looks promising for moving our business to a more social, collaborative way of doing things. We have clear corporate objectives that almost cry out for social media tools.

However I am increasingly a realist. Every time we’ve managed to introduce a potentially exciting new tool, it ends up being a disappointment in the end, because of restrictions and compromises needed to get them running on our systems, or to meet our policies etc.

But I’m still hopeful because one of the best things about collaborative tools is they don’t need exceptional systems to run reliably, with the exception  of video and we’ll put that to one side for a moment.
Simplicity is the key, and realistically we are going to need to use tools that don’t provoke fear and loathing from key potential stakeholders (like IT, Risk etc). This means it (probably) has to be behind the firewall, so the choice is use something functional that is already available (like SharePoint) or jump through hoops of fire to get something a bit sexy and fun like Elgg, Grou.ps or maybe bloomfire approved.

Right now I’m looking into SharePoint, seriously. Yes it’s a compromise but it steamrollers over the initial barriers because:

  1. We already have it
  2. IT are comfortable with it
  3. It is massively customisable (with a little knowledge and practice – that’s the kind of challenge I love).

So for now I’m in the process of getting my own little sandbox to play in and I’m sketching out my plans for what we are going to use it for.

There is another option, call it the wildcard – Salesforce.com have a social platform which appears to be free to existing customers, which we are. This has interesting possibilities because one of our other objectives this year will be to get more out of our sales teams. Getting more out of Salesforce.com is one potential way of doing this.

I’m also considering a combination of all three because I’m not convinced (yet) that one single platform fits the needs of the many. I know there are obvious benefits of creating one place that everyone can connect and collaborate to break down silos etc, but perhaps the different needs of each group require different tools to maximise their participation and results. I can see us using Sharepoint as the core(porate) platform, whilst running Salesforce.com amongst the customer facing teams and perhaps using the likes of grou.ps for specific projects.

I think it would be a mistake at this early stage to rule anything out – the key this year is to experiment strategically; Subtle use of collaboration in projects that have clearly defined links to corporate objectives that also have measurable outcomes. The benefits of this approach are that we will create pockets of fluent collaborators around the business – paving the way for the masses, get a better feel for what the appetite is, whilst getting a better feel for the best tools for the job at the same time.

The alternative is spend all year (or more) planning  the implementation of some white elephant that nobody uses (see our LMS for expensive details).

The other key factor to success this year is language. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now and in the past couple of days I’ve stumbled across 3 excellent posts that have confirmed I’m on the right track:

Learning to Speak the language of Business

It’s time to re-frame the language

Call it collaboration not enterprise 2.0 or social business

So from now on – no more social its all about collaboration. And forget learning because the business are really not interested in learning, at least not explicitly – the business care about profit, shareholder value and meeting their corporate objectives.

Our job is to support the business to do all these things more effectively and Collaboration is a message they are willing to buy at the moment.

Welcome to Clearly Learning!

This site is a place for me to blog about anything learning related that I think is relevant or interesting to me and hopefully you.

It’s also a place for me to document decisions I make on the projects I’m working on at the moment. It’s a space to review my own decisions and workflow, to help me reflect and learn by mistakes and successes. I’ll be using it as an active project log, then when a project is finished I’ll review and evaluate it.

Obviously as this is a blog your comments are more than welcome and a major reason for starting the site in the first place.

That’s the plan anyway!