Community of Practice Evaluation following Work, Connect, and Learn

This post is part of a case study on the development of a Community of Practice (COP) for Maintenance and Engineering teams at Coca-Cola Amatil.  A previous post outlined the COP evaluation strategy.  This post summarises evaluation following completion of the five-week Work, Connect, and Learn (WCL) program.

Network value creation

Network value creation

This evaluation examines:

  1. Increase in networks (potential value)
  2. Engagement with work and Community (potential and applied value)
  3. Opportunities for community value creation

Data gathering methods used were:

  • Pre and post program surveys sent to all 200 (approximately) Community members.  115 people responded to the pre-program survey and 78 to the post-program survey.
  • Data from monitoring Community SharePoint site

Community Demographics

Community members are from nine operational sites and two head office locations in Australia and New Zealand.  Job role and age distribution are shown in the tables below.  The geographic and age distribution of respondents was similar between the two surveys.  The percentage of trades-people who responded to the post-program survey declined compared to the pre-program survey.  This is consistent with feedback about barriers to entry for this group to take part in the online community.

  % Program Respondents
Job Role Pre-Program Post-Program
Tradesperson – Fitter (performs hands-on maintenance and repair of mechanical equipment) 27.4% 23.1%
Tradesperson – Electrician (performs hands-on maintenance and repair of electrical equipment) 24.8% 16.7%
Maintenance – Other (e.g. Coordinator, Planner, Manager – plan and manage maintenance tasks and resources) 17.7% 28.2%
Engineer (production line design, project manage changes to production equipment) 12.4% 19.2%
Other 17.6% 12.8%
  % Program Respondents
Age Group Pre-Program Post-Program
< 30 years 10.5% 10.3%
31-40 16.7% 20.5%
41-50 34.2% 37.2%
> 50 38.6% 32.1%

Increase in Networks

Completed Online Profile

By default, all employees have a brief personal profile in SharePoint and contact details in Lync (now Skype For Business).  We also set up a contact directory on the Community site, organised by work location and job role.  People were asked to update their profile with details such as experience, past projects, and interests.  Profiles are included in SharePoint search results, so these details make it easier to find and connect with relevant people.  As an entry level networking activity, updating a profile is an important step in community participation.

31% of respondents updated their SharePoint profile during the program.  This increased members with complete profiles to 40%, against a target of 80%.

Interaction with People at other Locations

Unfortunately, we are unable to gather any network analysis data from SharePoint or Lync.  We asked about the interaction between Community members in different locations using SharePoint and Lync.   We compared the number of people respondents interacted with in the four weeks before each survey.  WCL webinars were excluded from the data.

The graph below shows two key shifts:

  • Approximately 20% increase from no interactions to 1-5 interactions
  • Approximately 6% increase from 6-10 interactions to 11-20 interactions

Maint cop interaction

We asked respondents to list up to five people they had interacted with at other sites in the previous two weeks.  However, we lacked an effective tool or method to analyse this data.

Interaction across sites increased during the WCL program.  Sustaining and building interaction would require effort.

Community Engagement

Site Newsfeed

The Maintenance and Engineering Community used an existing SharePoint site.  General updates and transient chat could be posted on the newsfeed.  However, the newsfeed was rarely used before WCL.

An early WCL activity was for everyone to follow the SharePoint site.  Following a site ensures that site newsfeed posts appear in your personal newsfeed.  SharePoint does not ‘push’ notifications of newsfeed activity outside of the newsfeed itself.  This means that the only way a person will be aware of newsfeed posts is if they check their feed.  The graph below shows how often respondents checked their feed.  The number of respondents who never check their feed dropped from 62% to 27%.  Those checking at least once a week rose from 18% to 48%.  There was a slight increase in the people who check their feed daily from 9% to 13%.

Maint cop feed check

Discussion Forum

Two discussion forums were added to the site: one for the WCL program, and a second for ongoing Community use.  During WCL, we gradually moved activities from the program forum to the Community forum.  We encouraged people to use the Community forum to share knowledge, solve problems and collaborate on improvements.

Forum posts do not appear in the SharePoint newsfeed.  An alert can be set up on a forum to receive email updates of activity either immediately, daily or weekly.  WCL participants were shown how to set up an alert and asked to set one up on the forum.  At the end of the program only 30 people (approximately 14% of the group) had set up an alert.  However, only 30% advised that they ‘never’ check the forum.  This indicates that most are visiting the forum without being prompted by email alerts.

Activity on the Community forum was analysed.  The count excluded activity on the WCL program forum and by program facilitators.We counted the number of questions, likes and replies, and the number of active individuals.  There were 115 interactions from 23 individuals, representing 11% of the Community population.

Participation rates are consistent with the 1-9-90 rule which is a positive start.  A small number of community champions are emerging.

Barriers to Community Engagement

The survey listed a set of activities and asked respondents who had not done at least two why they had not been more active.  The table below shows frequency of different responses.

MaintCOP Barriers

Respondents identified the key barriers to community engagement as:

  • Time – finding the time to do activities
  • Skills – not being sure how to use SharePoint and/or Lync
  • Need – not having identified a need to engage
  • Technology – Inadequate access to computer or mobile device
  • Who would be interested? – Uncertainty about what they can contribute and who would be interested in their contribution

Opportunities for Community Value Creation

Two open-ended questions gathered views on how participation in the Community could add value.  The questions focused on improving business results.  The were also phrased so that the answers reflected personal pain points and opportunities.

Q1: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to improve work practices and maintenance results at your site?

Key themes in responses were:

  • Access to information
  • Communication and collaboration between production plants
  • Relationship and collaboration across departments at a local level
  • Improving troubleshooting and speed to resolve equipment faults
  • Time / workload, improving workflow
  • Standard processes, setting standards, accountability
  • Maintenance planning
  • Improving technical knowledge
  • Innovation

Q2: How do you think the Community of Practice could help you with this opportunity?

Key themes in responses were:

  • Drawing on everyone’s experience
  • Allowing information to be shared
  • Ease of communication with others
  • Having a greater number of people to ‘bounce’ ideas, solutions and improvements
  • Use forums to ask questions and access feedback/experiences from other sites
  • Learning from mistakes and successes of others
  • Not reinventing the wheel
  • Alignment to common goals through interaction in new ways
  • Training on technical skills

I am actually writing this post seven months after the WCL program.  This gives me the benefit of knowing what has happened in the intervening period.  I recall being positive immediately following the WCL program. The WCL program had helped us to launch the Maintenance and Engineering Community of Practice.  Participants understood how a Community of Practice could create value. The interaction between people in different locations had increased, and community engagement was growing.  We could build on this with strong community facilitation.  We had some barriers to address, particularly if we wanted to enable the trades-people to take part.  There were also opportunities.  Community Champions were emerging.  The Community had identified improvement opportunities that we could build activity around.

The National Engineering and Maintenance Managers had a deeper understanding of tacit knowledge.  They had a stronger appreciation of the value of networks and potential contribution of a Community of Practice.  Our next step was to support them to develop a strong plan to build and sustain the community.  We engaged Helen Blunden  of Activate Learning Solutions to provide coaching on Community facilitation.



Learning at Work Day 2 – My Key Takeaways / Ideas

This post is a continuation of my list of Key Takeaways / Actions form Learning at Work Day 1.

WOL 5 elementsIdea #6 – Seed/introduce Working Out Loud Circles as a self-organising development program within my organisation.  From Mara Tolja, Community Manager and Collaboration Specialist, Deutsche Bank, “Working Out Loud: a grassroots movement to make work better and more effective”.  I’m now in my second Working Out Loud circle, and find it a great way to work purposefully towards a goal while developing relationships with a spirit of generosity and contribution.  In August I spoke about Working Out Loud at a National Association of Women in Operations (NAWO) event my organisation hosted, out of which five circles started.  About 1/3 of the participants are from my organisation, so I guess I’ve started seeding it.  I’m concerned that if I try introducing it as a ‘formal’ program it will get bogged down, or ‘ambushed’ and the self-organising, self-direction element may be lost.  I also don’t want people to be confused about where it fits with the remainder of my role as manager of Coca-Cola Amatil’s Supply Chain Technical Academy.  Perhaps the simplest approach is to keep it grass roots and support others to spread the word.  I’m open to suggestions and different points of view on this so please feel free to comment on this post.

Idea #7 – Take another look at MOOCs.  18-24 months ago MOOCs were on the agenda of most L&D conferences as a standalone topic.  Now they are mentioned as part of the corporate learning tookit in presentations on broader topics and discussed amongst delegates.  It’s been over 12 months since I last searched for MOOCs on topics relevant to Supply Chain, at which point I didn’t find much.  It’s time to take another look, and also to consider how we could promote MOOCs as a broader option in the context of self-directed learning (Day 1 Idea #2).

Idea #8 – Get more targeted with development of L&D capabilities.  From Vivien Dale, Manager, Organisational Development, North Coast TAFE, “Opportunity knocks: improving performance through 70:20:10.”  Vivien spoke about the skillset that needed to be built in her L&D team in order to implement 70:20:10.  I’ve recently asked all members of the Coca-Cola Amatil Supply Chain Capability Community to complete the LPI Capability Assessment.  Over the next two days we have a Community workshop where we will review our strategy, 2015 ‘wins’ and 2016 ‘opportunities’ and capabiliity plan.  We will analyse the LPI capability profile across the group, look at how well aligned our skillset is with what we need to contribute to the performance of our organisation, and create a development plan.  Although we have been developing a modern workplace learning mindset and skillset in recent years this will be a more focussed approach than we have previously taken.

Idea #9 – Adopt an “appreciative inquiry” approach to turn problem statements into positive lines of inquiry.  From Jeremy Scrivens, Work Futurist & Social Business Catalyst, Roundtable “Digital @ Work and social buisness strategy: think outside the box.” Take a problem statement and convert it into a positive inquiry in order to figure out and amplify what is working, and to find innovative ways to create a positive future.  For example, instead of asking “Why are people not active on our knowledge sharing discussion forums?”  ask “Where and how are people actively sharing knowledge?”

Idea #10 – Understand where my organisation is going with HR Analytics.  From Tym Lawrence, SumTotal Roundtable “Leveraging Technology and big data to provide individualised learning journeys”.  There’s been a lot of investment in HR Technology in my organisation this year, and I am aware that HR and our business intelligence team are defining our HR data strategy and introducing new reports through our business intelligence platform.  What insights might be possible using a combination of our HR and business data that will help to not only focus our Capability development efforts on areas where we can make the biggest contribution to organisational performance, and also where we can better identify and meet the performance development needs of individuals?

This links back my Day 1 Idea #1 about using data more in decision-making, so a ‘data’ theme has emerged.  It also got me thinking again about the power of self-directed learning and communities of purpose to enable individuals to create their own learning journeys.  Two different, complementary ways of achieving the same goal.

Idea #11 – Get access to relevant results from our employee engagement survey and see if/how we can use it to inform our learning strategy and capability plan.  From Tina Griffin, Kineo, Roundtable “How do you get buy-in for your learning initiatives?”  Another potentially valuable data set that I’ve never tried to access.  On Day 1 we heard from David Mallon that the Bersin by Deloitte 2015 Global Human Capital Trends identified the #1 global talent issue is engagement, and that organisations need to constantly re-engage their workforce.  I’m curious about what insights might be available about how learning and development approaches and opportunities are viewed by our employees, how this impacts engagement, and what we could to amplify areas of positive engagement.

Idea #12 – Add  simple, powerful questions to learning evaluation.  (1) “What else do you think you need to learn or would like to learn?” Asking this question at the end of, or at key points during, a learning program is a simple, timely way of getting learner input to needs analysis.  It’s a start point to a conversation we can have with people rather than a commitment by the organisation to ‘provide’ the learning, and could be a good opportunity to enable self-directed or manager-led development.  Thank you to fellow delegate Victoria Oettel, Uniting, for this idea.  (2) Ask participants to rate their performance of a target skill on a simple scale at three points in time: start of program, end of program, 3 months after program completion.  Ask managers to provide the same ranking.  We have been using a similar approach, but sometimes it feels like people are getting weary of responding to surveys.  The potential improvement is to make our surveys shorter.  Thanks to Tina Griffin of Kineo for sharing this idea on her Roundtable.

Idea #13 – Make our eLearning even better.  From Clark Quinn, Executive Director, Quinnovation “Building an Agile organisation: optimal execution and continual innovation.”  Clark asserted that eLearning done well remains important to optimal execution in organisations.  I’ll follow his recommendation to examine the Serious eLearning Manifesto and discuss it with my team to identify what we can do better.

Idea #14 – Build specific collaboration skills in my organisation.  I couldn’t resist adding a second idea from Clark Quinn.  He identified collaboration and communities of practice as two key strategies for continual innovation and advocated that L&D has an important role to play in developing both within organisations.  I intend to research collaboration skills, starting with those listed by Clark in red in the image below and work with my team to figure out how well we are currently supporting development of them, and how we can do this more effectively.

Clark Quinn Collab Skills

So, 14 ideas to take back to work and discuss with my colleagues.  Given that six colleagues also attended the conference it will be interesting to hear what resonated with them, throw their ideas into the mix, and sort through them together to figure out which we will apply and how.

For other Learning at Work attendees – what ideas have you gathered to take back to your organisation and try?

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Learning At Work Day 1 – My Key Takeaway Ideas / Actions

With Vanessa North (MC), Sunder Ramachandran and Mara Tolja

With Vanessa North (MC), Sunder Ramachandran and Mara Tolja

I’m at the Learning At Work Conference in Sydney for two days.  I’m looking for ideas that I can put into to action to improve performance in my organisation.  I aim to find at least one idea out of each of the sessions I attend,at Learning At Work – one thing I can apply to improve learning in my organisation.  That I haven’t included an idea from a specific presenter does not mean they did not have interesting content with good ideas – just nothing that immediately struck me to take back to my organisation and apply (so don’t be upset if you are a presenter and I haven’t mentioned you here…..).

Theme – From these first two presentations the theme of being BOLD emerged, which David Mallon characterised as being creative and not being held to past practice.  The things that captured my attention in subsequent presentations were those where people had taken bold action, anchored in data, sound analysis and design.

Idea #1 – Improve how I use data to drive decision making e.g. where to focus L&D team resources to have biggest performance impact.  From David Mallon, Head of Research, Bersin by Deloitte “Leading in the New World of Work”.  David’s presentation drew on Bersins 2015 Global Human Capital trends research.  When people in my business request a learning program or initiative I ask them “How will you know in 12 months time if this initiative has been successful?  Are there any KPIs we can track?”  In many cases it’s difficult to get straightforward answers to this question.  Recently I spoke with our business unit Commercial Manager about tapping into his team’s ongoing analysis of business performance to help identify specific performance gaps / opportunities that our L&D team can partner with stakeholders to address.  We agreed in principle – my action is to find out what relevant insights they already have and understand how these are currently shared and actioned within the business unit.  From there I will determine how I can use them to target our capability development work.

Idea #2 – Enable self-directed learning in my organisation – help people learn how to learn.  From Laura Overton, Managing Director, Towards Maturity “Driving performance in the knowledge economy – the secret sauce for today’s people professionals” and also the afternoon’s Social Learning panel.  The 2015-16 Towards Maturity benchmark shows that 83% of L&D leaders want to increase self-directed learning but only 22% are achieving it. “Top Deck” learning organisations are almost twice as likely to agree that self-directed learning is common practice in their organisations.  I’m going to look closely at the insights on self-directed learning in the 2015-16 Industry Benchmark Report that will be publicly released on 5 November to identify next steps to ensure my organisation is in this 22%.

Idea #3 – Introduce the Seek>Sense>Share Personal Knowledge Mastery Framework from Harold Jarche.  From Clark Quinn, Executive Director, Quinnovation, in the Social Learning panel.  Clark introduced this as one approach to self-directed learning that some people may choose to adopt if it were introduced to them.  Having found tremendous value in this framework for my own learning I’d like to figure out how to introduce it to others in my organisation.

Idea #4 – Use customer experience techniques to explore voice of the learner.  Daisy Hoffman, NBN, “Case Study. The intersection of digital workplace technology, culture and the physical environment.” In the face of disappointing makeup of workplace technologies NBN used customer experience techniques such as data analytics, focus groups, visioning workshops, personas, ride-alongs and use of technology to connect with people in remote areas in order to understand why this was the case.  Laura Overton had discussed the importance of voice of the learner, and I know that we could do a better job at turning up the volume and listening to this voice in my organisation.  Daisy provided some ideas as to how we can do this.

Idea #5 – Assess proficiency on an ongoing basis.  From Sunder Ramachandran, Head of Sales Training, Prizer, “Leveraging mobile learning and gasification to boost performance.”  Proficiency is fluid; it changes on an ongoing basis and is better measured on an ongoing basis rather than at a single point in time.  The mobile learning app that Pfizer have developed for use by the Sales team includes a monthly proficiency assessment consisting of a combination of 40% quiz completion (2 quizzes, best score of 3 attempts for each) and 60% coaching observation of workplace performance.  In my organisation we currently assess proficiency on the job at a single point in time.  I’d like to explore how we could introduce recurring / continuous proficiency assessment.

Note – the Pfizer case study was very rich.  It showcased an ingenious mobile app based on consumer models, which provide learning for the sales workforce in their workplace context.  I’ve picked one idea that I can implement independent of a mobile solution.

I’ve added to this list with my Day 2 Takeaways / Ideas.

For other Learning at Work attendees – what ideas have you gathered to take back to your organisation and try?


Work, Connect & Learn Program Q&A

Community logo with textIn September I delivered a webinar on the Work Connect and Learn (WCL) program for the 702010 Forum.  Helen Blunden, who developed and facilitated the first program delivery, co-presented.  While the webinar recording is only available to 702010 Forum members, the presentation content was largely drawn from posts we had each made as part of the evolving Community of Practice case study hosted on my blog.  There were a lot of questions raised during the webinar which we weren’t able to respond to so I have posted responses below.

Q: How long has the program been up and running? How many employees are currently in this program

We have run the program twice – in February / March 2015, and April / May 2015. Since then we have been supporting application of the skills and behaviours covered in the program through ongoing Communities of Practice.

250 people participated across the two programs – 200 in the first and 50 in the second. In hindsight, the first group was too big and diverse for us to effectively support and properly engage everyone as a ‘community’ in the program. Note that it was the diversity and different entry level of skill with online tools rather than the group size that created the biggest challenges for keeping all participants fully engaged in the program. The second group had a clearer common practice / domain area and similar entry level skills. We were able to track and enable participation more effectively with this group.

Q: What program did you utilise to facilitate the webinars, and did you record them for individuals to view at a later date? Also, were the webinars interactive, or more of a presentation?

We ran the webinars using Lync (now called Skype for Business). We recorded webinars, put them (unlisted) on YouTube and posted links to recordings in SharePoint discussion forums. This was particularly helpful in a shift environment to people whose work shifts precluded attending scheduled sessions. The webinars were a mix of presentation and interaction. Lync/Skype for Business includes chat, polls and whiteboards. Some webinar activities were conducted using MS OneNote (wiki functionality). We also used teleconference during the webinars so we could have verbal discussions without intranet bandwidth challenges. We deliberately used our day to day corporate tools.

Q: From a planning perspective- how long did it take to build the WCL

The analysis / performance consulting phase occurred in November 2014, design in December 2015, and development of both the program and the online community spaces was complete in early February 2015. Taking into account the Christmas break, this amounted to one month for analysis and approximately two months for design and development.

Q: What were the challenges in creating the shift to this type of learning?

Some of our people don’t spend a lot of time at a computer or use mobile devices as they work. In this case it’s difficult to establish convenient habits and ways of engaging in online knowledge sharing and collaboration. Even where people have good access to technology, for many using SharePoint and mobile tools for learning were quite new. However, through the program people realised that they have collaborative tools at their fingertips which they can use in their work practices.

The other challenge is to help people develop habits to check and use the forums, think to ask a question or share what they are doing. In the second version of the program we put a lot more emphasis on activities to help people form habits.

Q: Do the maintenance personnel have their own computers at work, do they share computers, etc?  What is the access to the technology needed?

See the question above. Our maintenance personnel will be moving to mobile mobile devices in 2016 as part of introducing a mobility app for our core maintenance management system. To support this initiative we will provide training/hand-holding on use of the mobile devices, and will also run a tailored version Work Connect and Learn for this group.

Q: What role, if any, did managers play in helping to create and/or facilitate this culture of learning?

WCL has now been delivered to two groups. For the first group, our Maintenance and Engineering Community, managers participated alongside team members. Their participation was important to role model behaviours and encourage others to engage in collaborative learning and working. For the second group, our Systems Community, managers were not participants.

Because this style of learning and working is different to previous approaches we have used, we developed a change management plan which started with engaging the managers as a first step. We held teleconference discussions with them prior to commencing each of the programs so they were aware of the aims and what they could do to support their team members to get the most out of the program. We provided them posters and talking points so they could introduce the program to their teams and discuss their commitment to it before launch.

We have also followed up with managers to keep them abreast of what is happening in the Communities of Practice on an ongoing basis and to specifically seek support at times (e.g. ‘Did you see this post from your team member – it’s great – you might want to leave a comment to support them.’)

Q: What about keeping the community going after the program, community management/facilitation – who is taking the lead on that?

The National Engineering and Maintenance Managers facilitate this community with support from the Academy. We ran a coaching program on community facilitation for these people.

The Systems community is facilitated by Academy team members in conjunction with 1 or more Super Users from within the business. The closer level of involvement of the Academy is due to the tight integration of the Community of Practice with our internal systems certification program.

Q How much intervention is required to keep it going – to have it self managing?

We are not yet at the point where any of our communities are ‘self-managing’. We’re considering creating a ‘Community and Knowledge Manager’ role to increase focus on building effective Communities of Practice.

Q: What was the name of the gamification that you used?

We didn’t have a gamification platform to use and the native SharePoint community gamification didn’t suit our purpose.  So we kept the game simple and tracked it manually.

Q: Have people used video to show their work practices and share them across the geographic areas?

In our Systems community some people have made screencasts. In our maintenance community short videos are sometimes posted to illustrate equipment problems and fixes. Our maintenance people have sometimes used FaceTime to show each other what is happening on a production line to help with troubleshooting.

Q: Is the shared learning moderated to ensure consistency and quality?

Consistency and quality comes from generating an open sharing, learning and working environment within the community. There is no screening or review of discussion forum or newsfeed posts before they are ‘publicly’ viewable. The intent is to surface and clarify misinformation or misunderstanding and utilise the expertise available in the community to provide accurate information or better ways of doing things – or to co-create these.

There is an element of moderation on the ‘Knowledge Bites’ which are user-generated ‘how to guide’s and similar content. However the moderation is undertaken in public view. A traffic light system is used to highlight content in development, under expert review and where expert review has been completed.

Q: What has been the feedback from the participants?

I am preparing a blog post to summarise program evaluation. In the meantime, high level summary of what participants found useful and suggested improving after the first delivery of WCL is below. Overall the program was well received by those who had good daily access to the tools needed to participate.

Useful Improvements
Tools & how to use them

Awareness of new ways of working, connecting & learning

Connecting to others

Social networking

Knowledge sharing

Access to information

Target audience was too wide

Access to tools by tradespeople

More interaction in webinars

Support resources / job aids

Follow on support for continued learning

Technical problems with early webinars

Q: Can you enlighten us on what the specific performance outcomes were as these are quite hard to define.

Refer to this post for more detail on the evaluation approach and performance outcomes / metrics used for the program and communities of practice.

Q: You mentioned measurement before, during and after. How long after did you measure impact and what did you learn?

Refer to this blog post for an overview of the evaluation approach. I will soon add a post on evaluation immediately after the WCL program. Refer to this post for a medium term view of how our communities of practice are progressing.

Q: I’m interested to know if CCA has seen a shift in engagement and performance as a result of these initiatives?

Shifting a learning culture and embedding knowledge sharing into work practices takes time. We have seen specific examples of improvements in work practices and processes, although could not yet make a link between the program / communities of practice and overall business unit performance or engagement. The results have been encouraging enough that our management team is supportive of continuing with our social learning initiatives.

Q: How would you scale this type of program to other areas in the business?

One way is to develop a self-directed curated version of the program, as described in response to the question above.

A ‘public version’ of the guided social learning program could also be run that supports the development of skills for collaborative working and learning in the network era without activities being linked to a specific community of practice.

Q: When wouldn’t this approach work? What sort of things would you definitely not use this approach for?

Compliance training needs more ‘control’ than a semi-structured community-based social learning approach provides. Hands-on novice level job skills would better be suited to on the job training supported by performance support resources such as job aids and checklists. Beyond these two instances knowledge sharing and collaboration supported by networks and communities offer significant advantages over ‘training’.

Refer to previous answers regarding access to computers or mobile devices, plus basic familiarity with the tools used. This familiarity can be developed via preliminary learning / support activities before commencing the full WCL program.

Q: What are the next steps for this program?

There are several things we are now doing with this program to reuse and adapt it:

  • Curating key content for self-directed use by both people who have completed WCL and need refresher or performance support, or for independent use across the business.
  • Updating the social guided learning version of the program to support the launch of additional, targeted communities after our peak Christmas season.
  • Adding preliminary components to support people to develop familiarity and confidence with mobile and online technology as a pre-requisite to the WCL program.

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How to create (at least) an extra week per month for Professional Development

Yesterday I tweeted photos of my ‘September 2015 Professional Development Outcomes’ and ‘October 2015 Professional Development Goals’.

PD Goals Oct2015My reply to Fiona Barr’s comment below made me realise that over the past few months I’ve actually created 40+ hours per month for Professional Development, in addition to integrating learning into my work activities.  In effect, I’ve created an extra week per month to invest in my own Development.

PD CommentPD Tweet reply

Doing a little bit, consistently, each day, accumulates quickly into a lot of development and the creation of new possibilities – particularly when I do things that connect me to others and put me in a situation of co-learning.  So, in this post I describe how have done this.  For context, I work full time, commute by public transport around 2 hours per day (including walking either end of the trip), have a 10 year old child whom I solo parent during the week without extra child-care, and a dog that I walk at least 2 x 30 minute walks per day.  I share this detail just in case anyone thinks that they have commitments in their life that would preclude them for investing more time in their development.  Note – this is not a prescription, just an example of what works for me.  The underlying principles could be adapted by anyone to suit their life situation and preferences.

1) I manage my energy.  Most nights I get 7-7.5 hours sleep.  I’m a lark and rarely work in the evening (when I do, I definitely feel the drain on my energy and productivity for the next two days).  I walk with my dog 2 x 30 minute sessions per day.  I take short breaks from my desk during my working day.  I eat reasonably well.  I find a strong sense of purpose in my work.  I recommend the book “The Power of Full Engagement” by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, which is appropriately sub-titled “Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal.”

2) I have a routine and invest in myself when I am freshest.  After my morning walk I sit in my home office and invest an hour in professional development.  This works for me because my mind is clearest and my energy best first thing in the morning.  I generally do this on weekends too – at least one day every weekend.  This routine works with my circadian rhythms and makes the most of my periods of highest mental arousal and creativity.  I recommend the book “Manage Your Day-to-Day,” a series of short articles on the theme “Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind.”

3) I have a theme (or small number of themes).  While I have many interests, I have a small number of themes to orient my professional development activities and minimise the time I spend down rabbit holes (it’s very easy to meander on the internet and social platforms).  Currently my key themes are Social Learning, Communities of Practice, Personal Knowledge Mastery and Modern Workplace Learning.  It’s probably at least one theme too many, although the degree to which I focus on any one shifts from time to time.

4) I set goals and track my activities.  Three months ago I was feeling overwhelmed. I had over-committed to delivering presentations (conferences, webinars) on top of work projects.  I felt like I had lost traction and was spinning my wheels.  I decided to make a list of what I needed to achieve in August, plan each week’s activities, and track what I had actually done.  I downloaded a calendar grid, added space to write out goals and outcomes, and took note of what I did each day.  This was a high leverage thing to do, and a really ‘easy win.’  Tracking my activities made me aware of how much I was actually doing and helped me to focus on doing the things that would help me most to achieve my goals.  It also helped me to be more careful about what I took on.  Although it may look like my October list is ambitious, most of this is discretionary and I am not letting anyone down if I don’t get it all done this month.
PD September 20155) I make the most of ‘incidental’ time.  I have around 40 minutes per day sitting on a train or bus 3-4 days per week.  During this time I am online – reading blogs (often via Feedly) or online course content, viewing Twitter feeds (I use lists to focus on key themes) or reviewing Twitter chats relevant to my themes, and engaging in conversation online.  I spend 7 hours per week walking my dog.  I often listen to podcasts or YouTube videos during my walks.  Sometimes I dictate a short reflection.  Other times I simply let my mind wander and use it for renewal.  All of these are good uses of this time.  Here’s a podcast directory in case you want to explore podcasts.

6) I am part of a network.  I am not alone.  I have the force multiplier of a global network of people with similar interests who share good content, engage in conversation, and sometimes co-create with me.  I use my network to filter content for me, to spark ideas and help me to gain insight, and I endeavour to contribute by showing my work, being curious and engaging with others.  I feel that I have barely scraped the surface of what is possible through networks, yet am in awe of their power and potential to accelerate my professional development.

Do you have any other tips for how to create more time for Professional Development or make the most of your PD activities?  Please share by commenting on this post.


Reflection – The Power of ‘Why’

I recently wrote a post where I applied the ‘5 in 5’ technique for reflection.  This technique uses the following three questions to quickly generate ideas for small improvements:

  1. What?
  2. So What?
  3. Now What?

After running a half-day performance consulting workshop last week I’ve realised that there is a critical question missing from this reflection formula.  The purpose of the workshop was to define current performance gaps in an area, desired future state (desired behaviours), identify causes of the gap and identify potential solutions.  We used the ‘5 Whys’ technique to explore root causes of the gap – asking ‘Why’ a problem is occurring, then iteratively asking ‘Why’ again until you reach the root cause of the problem and can identify a counter-measure to prevent it recurring.

5 whys

There were some obvious elements of the solution identified before we got into 5 Whys – like improving processes and tools, updating role descriptions, standardising reports and review processes, and developing knowledge and skills.  However, when we started asking ‘Why’ the desired behaviours might still not materialise despite having great processes, tools, reports, reviews, role clarity and skills in place, we delved into underlying factors that need to be addressed.  Factors such as a short term focus on operational KPIs, conflicting KPIs, ‘fire-fighting’ being recognised and celebrated but not investments in capability building, teamwork, communication, and engagement.  ‘Why’ was probably the most useful question asked during the workshop, leading to deeper insights and the potential for higher impact solutions.

To access the power of ‘Why’ the new formula I shall try for quick reflection is:

  1. What? (Identifies current situation/performance)
  2. So What? (Identifies the impact of current performance, providing rationale and motivation for improvement)
  3. Why (5 times)? (Identifies root causes)
  4. Now What? (Potential solutions – including measures to prevent recurrence of root causes).

I shall apply this updated formula to a challenge I am having with my personal organisation that I recently reflected on using ‘5 in 5’ and post a comparison of the identified solutions.


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Community of Practice Progress Review (70:20:10 Certification Pathway)

This post reviews progress against my 70:20:10 Certification pathway.

Coca-Cola Amatil Supply Chain is developing knowledge sharing using Communities of Practice (COP). It’s six months since our first COP was formally launched, in Maintenance and Engineering, and shortly after this for our Systems Super Users and Key Users. As we are starting to develop our 2016 business plans and budgets this is a good time to consider progress, benefits and next steps.

We set up a single Maintenance and Engineering COP and invited all maintenance and engineering team members in Australia and New Zealand to participate – around 200 people. In the Systems area we launched three COPs – one for each operational system in scope, approximately 50 people in total. In both instances we launched these communities using a five week guided social learning program (Work, Connect and Learn – WCL) to develop skills and behaviours to participate in the COP. We ran WCL initially for the entire Maintenance and Engineering community, and then separately for the Systems communities. I shall post separately on evaluation of the WCL program.

The current maturity of these COPs is shown below on the Community Maturity Model from the Community Roundtable.

COP Maturity

The three crucial COP characteristics (as defined by Wenger-Trayner ) of domain, community and practice were used to identify factors impacting COP maturity – as shown in the table below.

COP Factors

Examples of value creation were identified in the Maintenance & Engineering and SAP Manufacturing COPs in particular, including:

  • Streamlining of processes
  • Sharing resources for troubleshooting
  • Cross-site input on problem resolution
  • Sharing improvements / lessons learned

Case studies and examples of successful COPs within organisations in similar industries and environments (manufacturing, engineering and technically oriented settings) were identified and reviewed (view curated articles). Lessons drawn from these case studies and our experience include:

  • Carefully define the domain and purpose of COP – keep it narrow enough to be attainable
  • Form strategically designed COPs aligned to business goals, set tangible outcomes, and find ways to integrate activities with work (e.g. link to projects, build activities into work flow), support and guide them closely
  • Provide guidelines and a lighter touch for other COPs that form
  • Provide guidance and support to help people access and interact in COPs
  • Make sure that interesting content is available
  • Enable Subject Matter Experts to become COP champions
  • Generate active senior management support

Most importantly, it is clear that value created by COPs can take considerable time to materialise. The key insight is that to generate tangible performance improvements you need to put effort and resource into community management. Accordingly, a key review recommendation is the appointment of a dedicated Community Manager.

Next steps identified are:

  • Create community strategies and road maps to build existing COPs.
  • Advocate for creation of the Community Manager role
  • When the Community Manager role is established (assuming it is), identify and design focused cross-functional COPs aligned with business processes with high impact on priority goals in our business strategy

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