See Us At ASTD Booth 2004!

May 20th, 2011 Curt Will Posted in Instructional Design | No Comments »

Come see us at the ASTD conference in Orlando next week. We’ll be discussing how a centralized web-based project management and reporting tool like TrainPro Central can help training teams track, manage, and measure things like:
* Department projects, in-progress, completed, and awaiting resources
* Number of learning courses or objects created
* Work done for each department or business unit
* Learning objects for each end user audience
* Projects completed or worked on by each of your employees
* Typical project duration by learning object type
* Number of projects completed on time/budget

See you at booth 2004!

Curt

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10 Reason Why Your Department Needs Online Project Management

February 4th, 2011 Curt Will Posted in Managing | No Comments »

I think that any training team that has more than 5 people needs an online project management system to keep track of things.  Here are my top 10 reasons for getting a system if you don’t have one now.  With an online project management system you can:

  1. Track and see all projects that are being worked on.
  2. Document and measure the number of projects completed.
  3. Track projects that are awaiting work or planned for future dates.
  4. Improve employee engagement – everyone can see what the department is working on.
  5. Identify possible linkages and dependencies between projects.
  6. Improve efficiency by using standardized project templates for projects that are repeated.
  7. Automate workflow using automatic system notifications.
  8. Improve quality by documenting and following a standard QA process.
  9. Capacity plan for department resources.
  10. Quickly develop standard reports on any data element that you include in your system.

I use and developed TrainPro Central because I needed these things to manage my training department efficiently and effectively.  What are you using?

Curt

You can get a 30 day free trial of TrainPro Central HERE.

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Training Department Metrics

January 9th, 2011 Curt Will Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

I know that deciding what metrics you report on to your leadership is a very

important issue.  Here is a list of some that you might measure now:

  • classes held
  • students that took classes
  • e-learning classes accesses or completed
  • students in key programs
  • satisfaction level of classes or e-learning courses completed
  • increase in knowledge gained as measured by pre/post tests
  • program adoption metrics as measured by tool usage or behavior observed
  • improved student on the job performance
  • and if your really good – financial impact or return on investment
  • departmental performance to budget
  • impact on the customer

Do you have the ability to measure and report on these metrics?  Shouldn’t

you?

  • Department projects, in-progress, completed, and awaiting resources
  • Number of learning courses or objects created
  • Work done for each department or business unit
  • Learning objects for each end user audience
  • Projects completed or worked on by each of your employees
  • Typical project duration by learning object type
  • Number of projects completed on time/budget

What metrics do you measure and report on?

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We Are All Generals!

October 11th, 2010 Curt Will Posted in Managing | No Comments »

General rank insignia for the United States Ar...
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The Empowered Project Work Team
I had a boss once that had spent some time in the Marine Corps and he was coaching me one day on how to operate and succeed in the new middle management position that I had just been promoted to.  He told me to consider myself a General (a rather high ranking officer in the military).  He went on to say that, “We are all Generals.”

His point was not that I had reached some milestone level in my career that would give me discretionary power over some group of subordinates.  His point was that I was empowered to go engage, meet with, and work with anyone at any level in order to get the job done.  He wanted me to know that he expected me to meet with executives at his level or higher if needed without getting his prior approval.

In that one conversation he demonstrated his trust in me, delegated authority to me, and let me know that he was there to support and guide me, not micro-manage me.

So the next time you form a project team make sure that everyone knows that they are all generals and see what results you get.

Click HERE for more information about Employee Empowerment from About.com.

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This Is NOT What I Expected!

September 10th, 2010 Curt Will Posted in Instructional Design, Managing | No Comments »

How many of us have been happily working on a training project only to find out in the later stages of the project that it really doesn’t meet the sponsor’s expectations in some way?  I’m raising my hand, are you?  Maybe it doesn’t meet their needs as far as graphic design, or interactivity, or content.  Whatever it is, you find yourself with a major problem on your hands; either the scope just drastically changed or there’s a lot a rework that needs to be done.  And of course, the deadline hasn’t changed.  It’s a sickening feeling, I know.

Here are a couple of ideas for keeping yourself out of that situation.

  • Don’t skip sponsor reviews.  There should be at least a couple of very specific project tasks that require a sponsor’s approval in order to move forward.
  • Do not let the sponsor delegate their expectations.  In some cases they’ll say something like, “Whatever Mary says is fine.”  Try to prevent this by telling them how important their feedback is to the success of the project.
  • Battle for their attention and don’t give up.  Your sponsor’s schedule may be very hectic and let’s face it, you’re project may not be their highest priority.  Thirty minute time slots are easier to schedule that an hour.  Work with their assistant if they have one, but don’t give up.  You simply must get in front of them and get their approval.
  • Write down what you hear from them and ask them to confirm it.  Or at least send it to them.  Take notes during your meetings and send a follow up confirmation.  You never know when they’ll read it and it may spark a question or comment from them.
  • Be specific and use language that they understand.  Stay away from "training geek" speak.  During the training project you may develop some documents that are very detailed and that use a lot of industry specific jargon like "terminal or enabling objectives" or "evaluation level."  You should really consider NOT sending those documents to the sponsor.  Consider sending them an executive summary that summarizes the important points that your sponsor is interested in, while keeping the language as simple as possible. 
  • Show them stuff – nothing beats seeing it.  Especially in the beginning stages of your project.  They will like having something to react to.
  • Document their approval or lack of approval.  This may simply serve to make you feel better, since most sponsors are far less concerned about any misunderstanding or miscommunication on your part (“I didn’t receive your email.”) than getting what they expect in terms of the final product.  But it’s still a deliberate confirmation of your progress and may actually cover your you know what.
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Other Things To Manage Besides Your Development Methodology

September 9th, 2010 Curt Will Posted in Managing, Uncategorized | No Comments »

Once you have your development methodology defined for the different types of training projects your team will be working
on, you won’t want to forget about the other things that you and your team should be keeping an active eye on while managing a training
development project.  Here are a couple of things to keep in mind.

Scope

Clearly define what the project will and will not encompass. What are the expected outcomes or business impact? What does the change control process look like and when must it be activated?

Time Line

The time required to complete this project given all factors and any milestones that may impact the project should be identified up front.

Quality

What quality standards have been outlined by the organization or the clients for the this project?  And how will they be verified?

Communication

Who needs to be told of project progress and when? Why must they be told?  What should they be told? How or what medium will be used to
communicate?

Funding

Costs for special equipment, materials, labor or staffing needs should be defined and approved.

Staff Resources

Who will be involved? Why those individuals? Is there a need on the project for special skills or qualifications?

External Resources

Do they require contracts? Do they need some ramp up time that you must account for? What reports and management processes need to be put in place?

Risk

How much risk is associated with the project? How much can be risked? Who decides the level of risk? What is the notification/escalation process?

Curt Will

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Is ADDIE Your Project Management Process?

August 22nd, 2010 Curt Will Posted in Instructional Design, Managing | No Comments »

I’ll be continuing my series on building a world class sales on-boarding and certification program soon, but I was thinking about this lately.  What do you think?

We all know that ADDIE (Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate) is the most used and a very effective learning design methodology.  Yes, there are variations, and you shouldn’t feel like you’re breaking the rules if you customize it for your organization and types of learning products that you develop.  You can, and should be using ADDIE to manage all of the learning projects that your team is working on.  Here are a few tips to help you along.

Document It, Customize It, Manage It

First get your team to list the primary project types that you typically work on.  Examples could be:

  • e-learning
  • classroom training
  • web conference delivered training
  • job aids

Next, map out the ADDIE process for each of those projects; include main the sub-steps, approvals and deliverables for each of the ADDIE steps.  Resist the temptation to over think or to over document the steps.  You don’t want to end up being too internally focused on your own process.  You want to always keep your customers or sponsors in mind, as well as your learners.

Finally, develop your internal processes and tools to manage and report on your processes across your team.

Having a consistently executed process will ensure that your team is developing quality training products that have business impact.

Curt Will

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Building a World Class Sales On-Boarding & Certification Program, Part 10

March 2nd, 2010 Curt Will Posted in Instructional Design, On-Boarding/Certification | No Comments »

This week’s article will continue the discussion about instructional design strategies to consider while developing your own world class sales on-boarding or certification program.  Sometimes I’m amazed at the amount of things to consider.  On one hand, I want to think that this really isn’t brain surgery.  And given a reasonably intelligent approach anyone should be able to develop this type of program.  On the other hand, my experience tells me that when these types of things are not fully considered, the outcome can be less than hoped for and sometimes waste an enormous amount of money in the process.  While many of the topics we’ve discussed up to now certainly have an impact on the learner experience, the topics discussed in this and the next few articles have a tremendous impact on that experience.  And what a lot of these decisions boil down to is what’s best for your organization, your sales team.  What works perfectly in one situation doesn’t work at all in another.  The audience, technology, budget, physical proximity, and not to mention the sales leadership in place, all have influence over what the "right" answer is for any of these questions.  Speaking of questions, here are some more for you to ponder…

Self Paced or Structured? – Do you plan to build your program with mostly self paced learning activities or more structured (classroom) activities?  You should consider the number of new hires that will be coming through your program, and how often.  I’ve been in situations where I was able to work with the staffing team, with sales leadership support, to set up a standard schedule of hiring dates.  That way we always knew the start date for any new hires coming in and we could easily schedule out when each group would come to headquarters for on-boarding.  And there was always enough new hires coming through that we very rarely had to cancel a class due to low enrollment.  So it was very easy to build a program around a trip to the "home office" and the learning that has a large instructor-led or classroom component.  And there were other times that the situation was much different.  For instance, if the sales teams are not managed centrally, then it’s hard to get a consistent critical mass to set up a schedule.  That may also be the case if you’re dealing with a smaller sales team that just doesn’t have that much turnover.  In case, setting up a mostly self paced program that doesn’t hinge on that trip the home office is your best bet.  Obviously, the outcome of your decision on this will have a huge impact on how you develop going forward.  I would suggest that before you get too far into the design one way or the other, that you talk to some sales managers and sales people once you have a general idea of how you’d like to approach this.  It may save you a lot of re-work down the road.

Pre-hire Assessment? – Earlier in the series I discussed selecting which competencies you would hire for, and which ones you would include in your program and teach.  There are companies that you can use to test, or assess, your new hires.  I’ve used Chally and Gallup in the past.  Using these assessments can help increase your organization’s confidence level that the candidate would be a good fit for your organization and the type of selling that is done there.  Some of the assessments compare candidates against a standard sales profile based upon their data; others test your most successful incumbent sales people to come up with a success profile specifically designed for your company.  If a pre-hire assessment is used, it will most likely only be a part of the decision making process in addition to the interviews.  I’ve seen companies put much different amounts of trust in these assessments during the hiring practice.  If you don’t know if there’s one in use at your company check with the human resources person assigned to the sales team.  They will most likely know.  And if your company does use them just do your best to understand how it’s being used and if the report shows any data that might be useful in constructing your program.

Build vs. Buy? – Always look around for training resources that your company already pays for when you are designing your sales on-boarding program.  There may be existing contracts with content providers like SkillSoft or AchieveGlobal that you can leverage.  Then there’s the case of sales training.  I will say that generally I do have a preference on this.  In most cases I prefer to develop any basic sales training courses internally.  I do this mostly to control costs.  Here again I’m used many vendors in the past for this stuff including Miller Heiman, Huthwaite, Stephan Schiffman, Critical Path Strategies, and Dimensions of Professional Selling.  They are all fine programs.  You job will be to find the one that best fits your sales culture.  For sales training programs that I would label "advanced" like selling from a financial perspective or negotiations, I’ve tended to use outside vendors such as The Profit Specialist or Situational Sales Negotiations.  If you or your company is leaning towards a vendor provided program you should try and maintain as much oversight of the vendor selection decision as possible.  I’ve seen situations where a sales VP wanted a particular program and then we they left so did the support for the program.  Getting a sales methodology adopted thoroughly adopted is a multiple year task that takes a lot of work.  So if you ensure that the decision is based on the organization’s needs and includes the long term cost of ownership, I’m sure you’ll decide on the best fit for your team.

Well, there you go.  What do you think?  Next Up – More Instructional Design Strategies.

Curt Will

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Building a World Class Sales On-Boarding & Certification Program, Part 9

January 6th, 2010 Curt Will Posted in Instructional Design, On-Boarding/Certification | No Comments »

The instructional design strategies section of this series is going to stretch out over several articles.  There are simply too many things to consider to jam into one.  But it is also where the rubber starts to hit the road.  Where the real work gets going.  So let’s get to it and discuss the first couple of things that you want to keep in my during the design phase of this project.

Methodology Alignment – I wrote earlier about understanding how your sales people are measured so that you can align the training with what they’re expected to do in their job.  But we also have to think about how they go about doing it.  Many sales organizations have specific sales methodologies that they use to execute the sales process.  Organizations do this because they believe it’s the most effective way to sell into their market or to their particular customers.  So whether a consultative approach is the most important or a value selling approach, or using a particular questioning strategy, it’s important to use the same type of language in the course.  But it may also have an impact on how you design the course.  Let me provide an example.  Suppose that a consultative approach is the sales methodology that your sales leadership believes is the most successful strategy.  If you design your sales on-boarding program to begin with and focus on your products, you’ll most likely be missing the mark.  But if you began from the customers’ perspective and discuss the typical customer business issues that your company solves and the questions that your sales people can ask to better understand those issues, it would align better with and reinforce the consultative sales approach that your sales leadership believes is important.

Voice of Sales – If your company is like some of the ones I’ve been with, then there are a lot of people working to try and help the sales people; not the least of which are the product development folks.  Generally, the way they talk about the product or solution tends to be more about the functionality or the robustness or speed or something.  The voice of the sales person is aligned more with how the solution impacts the customer rather than internally focused.  Certainly teaching new sales people the features of your product line are important; it just may not be the first or most important thing to teach them.

Standard or Customized Curriculum – At some point you’re going to ask yourself if everything needs to be the same for all new sales employees (in the same role), or if each person should have a customized curriculum.  For instance you may want everything to be same so that every new employee “learns how it’s done here.”  Some sales managers support this type of approach while others don’t want their new sales people spending any more time in training than what they absolutely need.  I think you could argue either way, but the truth is that whichever way fits the way your organization operates is probably the best option.

Well, there you go.  What do you think?  Next Up – More Instructional Design Strategies.

Curt Will

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Building a World Class Sales On-Boarding & Certification Program, Part 8

December 2nd, 2009 Curt Will Posted in Instructional Design, On-Boarding/Certification | No Comments »

A mathematics lecture, apparently about linear...

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At this point we’re ready to ask more questions about our audience by completing an audience analysis.  You might be thinking that we’ve already figured out what they need to know, what they do, when they do it, how they’re measured, how they’re rewarded, what tools they use, and even what we’ll hire for and what we’ll train them to do.  What more do we need to know?  Well, believe it or not, there’s more.  Here are a couple more things that you should find out about your audience:

Learning Styles – When I was originally introduced to the concept of learning styles I was told that there were three; visual learners, auditory learners, and kinesthetic learners.  I think that since I went to school they added a forth – reader/writers.  So basically, people learn by seeing it, hearing it, doing it, or reading/writing about it.  And ever since I’ve been in the training business I’ve heard old the saying that goes something like – people that just hear it retain 5%, people that see it retain 30%, and people that do it retain something like 65%.  I don’t know if that came from an actual quote or not, so don’t hold me to the exact percentages.  But those are somewhere in the ballpark and the concept makes sense.  And knowing those percentages always kind of depressed me.  Especially, when I created some type of training course that didn’t or couldn’t have the students actually DO what they were taught.  Realizing that they were going to remember and apply so little of what they were exposed to dampened my excitement for sure.  Having said that, I think we all realize that no one really just learns one way.  Even if they say so.  The truth is of course, that we all learn in multiple ways.  So from a design perspective it’s always best to build in as many learning modalities as possible.  And my point in all of this is that it’s best to do some sort of analysis to understand the predominant learning style of your audience.  While your ultimate design will be influenced by many things, it’s always nice to know what’s best for your audience.  Of course the amount of time and effort you put into getting to that conclusion is up to you.  You can make some assumptions based upon job competencies or other factors.  Or you could conduct a formal analysis using methods such as surveys and observation.  And of course there’s been a lot of discussion about generational learning styles ever since Gen Xers entered the workforce.  The amount of emphasis you put on this, while not a deal breaker, can certainly be a contributing factor to your success.

Demographics – Where people are physically located can certainly have an impact on the learning methods that you employ in your design.  If people don’t or can’t travel in your company but need to demonstrate something as a part of the training, you may have to get creative with simulations, online, or regional meetings to accomplish the learning objectives of the program.  Knowing where all of your learners are located can come in handy sometimes.  You might even be able to use some data from your Human Resources department to map their locations in a mapping software package like Microsoft’s MapPoint.

Technology – I once worked for a company that had branches all over the United States but only had a shared 56k modem line going to each location.  And this was NOT in what I would consider the early days of the internet .  Needless to say, when we rolled out an elearning program to the company, it was not full of sound and video.  We ended up working within the constraints and still created a very interactive program.  But the good news is that we didn’t launch something that wouldn’t work.  Don’t forget to identify the lowest common denominator when it comes to computers too.  Network firewalls, security protocols, and virtual private networks can also give you challenges if you don’t thoroughly investigate the technology landscape of your audience.

Organizational/Cultural Influences – Are there things that are having an impact on your audience that you should consider?  We discussed earlier how a person’s manager can influence behavior, but is there a culture in your company that restricts or impacts when people spend time on learning activities?  You might want to spend some time analyzing not only the influences around the sales behaviors that you’re trying to reinforce, but also the cultural pressures that your new sales people will also have to deal with.  This doesn’t have to be brain surgery, just remember to ask some questions as you conduct your needs analysis.  Previous new hires are a great resource for these types of questions.

Well, there you go.  What do you think?  Next Up – Instructional Design Strategies.

Curt Will

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