Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Training Development Under the Microscope

When I help training departments become more efficient and effective at what they do, they often ask how long it should take to develop an hour of training. The answer begins with a look at the data supplied by Karl Kapp, Robyn Defelice, and ASTD at http://bit.ly/Rd9CT4.

Then I tell my clients it should take half that.

If they say, “Great! We already achieve half,” we make sure that their training contributes to the company’s strategic objectives. If not, the training represents wasted time and money. In such as case, what’s usually happening is the training department receives its training development requests from line managers, not from executives.  A flip of the model is probably in order. But we don’t want to jump to any conclusions – that’s a recipe for disaster. So, we look at their process systemically and systematically (described below) to get the full picture.

If, however, my clients say it's impossible to achieve half the training development time listed in the ASTD study, the training development process immediately goes under the microscope.

I recommend taking several days every six months to examine your training development process to find out where you can tighten it up. Here are the steps we typically follow. (You’ll see many similarities to the Analyze phase of the ADDIE process): 

1. Talk to your customers to find out what they want from your training.
You have several “customers” to take into account: customers, learners, executives, and your department.

2. Clarify – in specific numbers – your training development goals. 
For each of the training products you produce – ILT, vILT, eLearning, Blended, Performance Support, etc. – answer the following questions:
  • How much will we impact strategic company goals?
  • How well will learners perform on the job? 
  • What will the level of learner satisfaction be?
  • How much will an hour of training take to develop?
  • How much will an hour of training cost to develop?
3. Commit to collecting the numbers to answer each question.
Create a plan to do it.

4. Based on the “voice of the customer” and the strategic goals of the company, prioritize the desired performances.
Which desired performance is most important? Maybe your company’s most important goal is speed-to-market, therefore you must get learning out very quickly. Or maybe it’s to increase customer satisfaction, so your training must offer great depth. Whatever it might be, it becomes the focus when scrutinizing your training development process.

5. Map the current training development process. 
For each of your department’s products (ILT, eLearning, etc.) create a development process map. Be thorough. Be honest. Don’t skip any steps. 

6. Carefully dissect the process map. Find the flaws. 
First, identify the parts of the process that distract your training development team from focusing on your top customer and company priorities. Then, find the parts of the process that are slowing you down or costing too much. Do you receive too much content from the SMEs? Are SMEs not giving you enough time? Are reviews taking too long? 

7. Determine the root causes of the flaws. 
“The Five Whys” is probably the easiest tool for this task (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5_Whys). Pay particular attention to the root causes that have a ripple effect on each other.

8. Identify the fixes for the root causes. 
Maybe you need to put SMEs at the core of development (http://bit.ly/15vrPSv), or adopt rapid prototyping (http://bit.ly/10EhPHO), or something else... Or a combination.

9. Draw a new process map that includes the new interventions.

10. Now, start from scratch. 
Draw another process map, specific to your department, based on the 70/20/10 model (http://bit.ly/nL8crg) for training.

11. Compare your revamped process to the 70/20/10 process map.
Which one better helps you hit your desired performance goals?

12. Whichever process you choose, identify those areas of the process that contribute most to your desired performance goals.
These will be the areas of change that you’ll work on the most vigorously.

13. Implement the changes to your process using proven change management techniques (http://bit.ly/aXiH7D). 

14. Measure the results with the completion of each new project.
  • Ask team members to comment on new process
  • Get feedback from customers
  • Collect learner performance data
  • Collect business results data
15. Go back to step 1.
Continually improve. 

See if you can make your training so efficient and effective that you never have to ask how long it takes to develop an hour of training. Instead, you simply ask, “What do we need to achieve?”
Brian is the Practice Leader of Workforce Performance at virtualwirks. He applies the efficiencies of virtualization to training and human performance programs for global clients.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

3 Steps to Avoid the Training Dev Iceberg

When building training, instructional designers (IDs) spend a titanic amount of time coercing information out of subject matter experts (SMEs). They beg SMEs for content - over and over again. When they get the content, IDs study it for hours on end. They work with SMEs for days conducting applied cognitive task analyses (http://1.usa.gov/13AMRAT), trying to get to the core of the way experts think. Finally, IDs try to become authorities on the subject in weeks, when it took the SMEs years - even decades - to achieve mastery

So, it's no wonder that when review time rolls around, SMEs feel like they've run into an iceberg. The front-end analysis was only its tip. Now, they're feeling the pain of what's below the surface. They spend double the time they thought they'd have to, fixing mistakes and pouring over content they've seen dozens of times before.

Training managers everywhere are aware of this problem. But most often they try to fix it by altering the most obvious part of the process - reviews. Google docs, online collaboration sites (http://basecamp.com/), PowerPoints, alternate versions of the course that include textboxes for comments (http://bit.ly/15tTiUH), or Lectora's ReviewLink (http://bit.ly/1648eu6) and RapidIntake Review (http://rapidintake.com/review) are among the most popular "solutions." The trouble is, although they are helpful, these tools usually don't make a significant dent in the overall project time.

If you're truly interested in reducing the amount of time required to launch a training program: 
  1. Commit to having SMEs at the core of the development. As Tom Kuhlmann says, "It’s a lot easier to train a SME to use a tool like the Articulate suite than it is to train you to replace the SME" (http://bit.ly/4bkPah).
  2. Get SMEs up to speed in simple instructional design by following Onlignment's 60-Minute Master's program (http://bit.ly/ITPQaR).
  3. Have the SMEs use the successive approximation model (SAM) developed by Michael Allen (http://bit.ly/13B0vUp). In other words, get them to rapid prototype. The IDs can use their expertise in learning theory to help shape learning activities and simplify content at each iteration.
I hear you saying, "But that will take way too much of the SME's time. They have their regular job to do."

Actually, it takes significantly less time than the "model" I described at the top of this blog. In fact, the SME-at-the-Core model routinely decreases development time and costs by 30%. Plus, it lets SMEs and IDs focus on their areas of expertise. And, as SMEs get better at learning development with subsequent projects, time is further reduced. 

The trouble is, fewer than 10% of all training departments will adopt this model because they're scared of SMEs. Don't be. SMEs want to coach. They want to impart their wisdom on others. And they love to learn new things themselves. Let them captain your ship around the training development iceberg.
Brian is the Practice Leader of Workforce Performance at virtualwirks. He applies the efficiencies of virtualization to training and human performance programs for global clients.