Learning to Change and Changing to Learn or BBQing the scared cows

 Why is it so hard to people to accept change?

 Sorry for the lack of posts recently the world of work was very busy over the last couple of weeks, which has amongst other things prompted my thinking around change in the workplace, changing how we learn and how we deliver learning and change management in general.

Organisational change is a difficult and sometimes messy beast, but there is a lot I think we can learn by changing and by thinking about how to change.  Over the past few months I have been involved heavily in assisting an organisation through a process of change around how a core piece of their training.  This is a total revamp of the package, content packaging, delivery, even the outcomes of the training and its structure to achieve those outcomes.  We really were BBQing sacred cows with this change and there in lies the issues I wanted to touch on today.  The concept of changing something in order to learn and people and organisations learning how to change.

To paint a little bit of a picture, there had been for about 12 months or so prior to this change been a level of discontent in some quarters about the training that was being delivered, particularly around how it was delivered and what the outcomes were, it was frankly, starting to show its age.  That is not to say that it was fatally flawed, just ideas about delivery and content had moved on as had the landscape into which its outcomes fell.

As a result a project was put together to look over the entire package of the training and see what could be done to make it better fit the outcomes that were needed.  Now it was made clear at the start of the project that there really wasn’t any part of the training that was out of scope, if something needed to be changed and there was good justification to change it and it was going to fit the outcomes better, then there was an ongoing commitment to change.

So after about 6 months of consultation and work the team started to talk about and show parts of the new package to stakeholders and this is where an interesting thing happened, a lot of the people who had been critical of the original training program, did not like what they were seeing and we heard things like,

“Why did you change that?”

“That’s not how we do things around here.”

“You have changed everything, it’s not the same course.”

People who had previously complained about the program were now defending it and a lot of the issues seemed to be around the fact that things had actually changed,  the Powerpoint hadn’t just been updated, the actual material, how it was being presented and the outcomes had all be reimagined.  It drove home to me the fact that a lot of the time people don’t actually want change or at least not real change, they want superficial change, so that they can still feel safe and comfortable in what they know.

It really strikes me as a shame though we as individuals and organisations learn so much through change, if everything stayed the same why would we need to learn anything new, how would we grow and become better at what we do.  In fact some of my strongest learning come out of the most confronting of changes.  Now I know that individuals and organisations have vested interests in staying where they are, in not changing, but not changing is an evolutionary dead-end, it goes nowhere.

Both as individuals and os organisations we really need to Learn to change and change to learn.

Informal Learning – Outcomes, Evaluations and Organisational Value

There has been a significant rise in the amount of discussion of Informal learning over the last few years

in no small driven I think by things like the 70:20:10 concept.  As I have spoken about in other posts  while I don’t doubt that people learn informally in the workplace, exactly how effective that learning is and how competent staff are as a result of it worries me.  One of the things that worries me is that we seem to have accepted notions like 70:2010 without having any firm evidence to back them up.  This seems to be the case with most informal learning work as well, we talk about it a lot and it sits well intuitively with everyone but I struggle to find something, some metrics or measurements that are strong enough to be able to convince the rest of the table (particularly the finance people) that there is real organisational value in  informal learning.

One of the issues for me is how do we measure the effectiveness of informal learning, how do we measure how effective it is in producing competence in staff and how do we validate that competence so we as an organisation can point to a staff member and say with some degree of certainty ‘This person is competent’.  The reason this occupies so much of my thinking is the issue of competence.  We need as an organisation to be able,  sometimes under legal proceedings that staff in particular areas were competent to carry out their activities and that they had undertaken sufficient professional development to maintain said competence.

This is difficult to achieve in my opinion with informal learning, without having to add an additional layer of assessment and validation on top of any kind of informal learning activities, which to my mind just make them formal learning anyway.

I would value everyone’s thoughts or ideas.

Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC) iTunesU, and Learning via YouTube

Does Online Learning Equal Competency?

I love Learning; lets get that one out of the way right from the word go.  I love to be able to look for a solution to something by searching google, then reading and article or watching a YouTube video on whatever I need to know.  I have iTunesU on my IPad, I watch Khan Academy video’s, in essence I tend to devour learning and information from whatever source I can get it.  Do I learn things by doing this – Yes I think I do.  Does this kind of Learning make me competent – I am far less sure of this one, and I guess this is where my headspace is with these kinds of courses and programs.  In most cases there is no real assessment of outcomes for the participants and where there, will they, or do they fit what employers etc might consider to be relevant outcomes.

Consider two applicants for a position one who has done a degree via traditional delivery and assessment and one who has done and equal amount of ‘online’, ‘free’ programs.  All other things being equal, (even without them being equal in my opinion) who are you going to give the job to.  I would think hands down the person with the degree and would challenge anyone to justify to me, why they would choose the other candidate.

What about recognition of prior learning, some which is a core component of the Australian VET system, do these freely available online courses count as acceptable evidence of competence or is there still further work that needs to be done, perhaps independant assessment of competence, before they are recognised?

I have a deeper issue though with this kind of learning which is one of transfer and application of skills.  Let me give you an example of what I mean.  A number of years ago I was in a training role, where after the courses had ended, clients would often contact me with a range of technical questions around some of the software that was use as part of the course (even though the course itself was not a technical course).  I quickly learnt that it was simpler for me in most cases to Google their question and give them the answer there and then, rather than  say I wasn’t sure and try and get back to them at a later date.  It kept them happy, value added to what we did, and positioned me a technical expert in a piece of software, that I actually knew technically very little about.  Was I competent; I dont think so, I never had any background knowledge about how the system worked or why some of the things worked the way they did.  I was just following the instructions of someone else.  This is not to say that I did not learn things I certainly did, but learning things does not in my opinion equate necessarily to competence, and if I am being compeltely honest most of the solutions went straight out of my head after I had given them to the client, simply because I did not need to know.  If a got multiple clients who wanted the same or very similar information I would bookmark the site or video so that I could simply go back to it when needed and pass the instructions on. The other thing that I could never understand about this situation (and this is a bit of an aside) is why clients rang me in first place, when they could have simply searched the web themselves and found the answer just as quickly as I had.

The other and final issue Ihave with all of these programs is how do we integrate them into the range of informal learning with our organisations and more importantly for me at least, how to we evaluate the learning that comes from them for both or staff and the organisation as a whole.

I would be really excited to hear any ideas that you have around this subject.

Creating a Learning Culture that works

We all talk about Learning Cultures, we all talk about embedding the process of learning within our organisations or those that we work with, we  all talk about valuing informal learning, creating opportunities for staff to learn and grow.  Some of us are lucky and work with organisations for which Learning is a Value, linked to the mission statement and strategic plans, so of us work with organisations were learning is less valued, either overall, or in significant parts of the business. We all know the theory and how it is all supposed to work,  but I wonder when the rubber hits the road what actually works.

The reason I ask this is I was having a conversation where we discussing the involvement of supervisors, team leaders etc in the learning process.  Specifically in this case reporting on whether or not staff that had attended training had changed behaviours, learnt something, had become competent or satisfactory at particular tasks, essentially whether or not the classroom learning had been transferred back to the workplace.  We were also talking specifically about 3rd party reporting under the Australian VET system, where supervisors are called upon to indicate whether they have observed a staff member successfully and satisfactorily undertake specific tasks related to their assessment as competent in particular units of competency.

I wrote a little while ago about some ideas on engaging managers and supervisors in the learning process but again I am talking about some thing more concrete, I am talking about how we get managers to take responsiblity for deciding if their staff have actually transferred their learnings from the classroom to the office or factory floor, which is a far more active involvement than I was talking about previously.  I guess I am looking at ways to stop the process being a tick and flick, they’ve attended so they must have learnt it, I don’t want to spend anymore time or money on them getting it so I will just say they have learnt something kind of process.

The problem is that the best tactic, the one that gets the best results is to use the stick of, well if you sign them off and something goes wrong then it your issue and your responsibility.  There is something deeply unsatisfying about that though, in fact there is something deeply unsatisfying about having to have a strategy in the first place to deal with this.

So there it is;  how do you create this concrete level of engagement, this concrete learning culture, effectively and efficiently, without having to resort to what seems to me like the stick end of the carrot and stick equation.

Weekend Linkfest

Here is my selection of the best things I have seen this week.

The likelyhood of completing a VET qualificiation (NCVER)

AVETMISS 7.0

One  of the best Trainers Trainings around

One of the Best Forums for L&D professionals in Australia  (and I am even presenting at it so you can come and say hello)

How Technology is shaping the future of Learning (ASTD Webcast)

Creating a Learning Environment for the Modern Mobile Worker  (Bersin Webcast)

The Value of a Virtual Academy  (Chief Learning Officer)

Taking on the Social Media Frontier (Queensland AITD Council)

Have a good weekend everyone

Is Accredited (RTO) training better than non-accredited training

Continuing on from some of the thoughts and ideas I posted yesterday an interesting question was posed to around accredited (RTO) and non-accredited training. It was do we simply assume that accredited (RTO) training is better than non-accredited training.

I sometimes think that there is misunderstanding about the importance of Accredited training in Australia and its relationship to what could be called non-accredited training (though I really hate that term, becuse in and of itself it seems to lessen its importance an value). We as an organisation do far more non-accredited training than accredited, why? Well primarily because there are isnt accredited training that provides us with what we require as an organisation and what our staff want as professional development, and unfortunately in a lot of cases it is far better, more engaging and more erelevant than accredited training that we might undertake.

This is not to say that the accredited training isnt good, it is, and it provides us with very specifc outcomes, neither is it to suggest that the trainers are not good. It is just that providers of non-accredited training cant rely on the training being free or almost free as a selling point they have to rely on the fact that their training and trainers are excellent and provide solid tangilble outcomes. If they dont, they go out of business. If your business model relies on being able to sell training becuase it is free, rather than because it is has fantasitc outcomes and learning and produces a significant ROI for participants and organisations then your busniess model sucks in my opinion.

If training is of high quality, delivered by exceptional trainers, with great learning outcomes and is engaging then people will pay money for it. Sometimes I think the only reason the government has to support and fund accredited (RTO) training is because the content and outcomes behind it arent that great and that if people and organisations had to pay for it they simply wouldnt.

Integrating formal and informal learning in an agile organisation

Another short post today. This time a link back to a an article I wrote for the June issue of Training and Development, the journal of the AITD on Integration formal and informal learning and in agile organisation.

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