Archive for category Michelle Works Out Loud

The Sacred Duty of Recording how our (L&D) Strategy has Evolved

It’s been almost 12 months since I returned to working independently.  Very shortly after leaving my last role as an employee I started a two month assignment at Qantas to undertake a strategic review of the current state Learning and Development (L&D).  It was a pilot focussed on three L&D teams which developed into a Group-wide review, and then into a transformation program.  Twelve months later the program is well underway and several internal people have been appointed to Project Lead roles.  It’s time for me to handover to the new Project Leads, complete some specific deliverables (including a learning technology road map and an L&D Capability framework) and to step back from day-to-day project involvement.

My primary task this week has been to prepare “handover packs” and start on boarding one of the new Project Leads.  I’ve spent most of my time this week using OneNote to compile the handover information.  It’s the same tool I used in September 2016 to finalise handover to my team at Coca-Cola Amatil.  Again, I’m finding it a very versatile way of compiling history, current state, and next steps for a range of strategic and tactical work items.  However, this post isn’t really about OneNote so I’ll move on.

This post is about the importance of having a documented history, something that captures the arc over time of how and why your strategy has evolved.

For example, at Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA) I recorded how the Supply Chain Technical Academy had been set up in early 2012 with a mission to develop frameworks and programs to develop technical capabilities for new platforms that the business had invested in heavily over the preceding three years in order to ensure sustainable capability development and reduce reliance on equipment manufacturers.  By early 2014 we had largely met that mission, and the business strategy had been refreshed to focus more on efficiency and business continuity.  Our maturity as a learning organisation had developed, and our strategy expanded to include continuous workplace learning, with a particular focus on improving business continuity through knowledge sharing.  As I approached the end of my time at CCA the business strategy was shifting again and it was unclear at that point how the capability strategy should adapt to best support this shift.  The team member who was stepping into my role had spent a significant amount of time in Indonesia setting up a new Academy to support CCA’s local operations so there was a gap in his experience of how our strategy had evolved in the Australian operations, what had worked well, and the lessons we’d learned.  I felt significant responsibility to bridge that gap as best as I could, and spent time telling him stories about what had happened in addition to writing up this history and preparing presentations that would help him to link the future strategy to the past.

When I started preparing handover notes for the Qantas project I was aware that there had been several key shifts in insight and direction over the 12 months we had been grappling with the question of how to set up a higher impact L&D operating model.  And this was where I started – the arc of how and why the operating model had evolved.  The past seven months in particular on this project have been a period of intense activity with well over 25 workshops conducted, a LOT of stakeholders engaged, and  range of surveys and analysis of existing data sets undertaken.  We’ve spent too little unstructured time just ‘thinking out loud’ and making sense of all of these discussions and analyses.  Rather, we’ve been thinking on the run with a shifting cast of stakeholders.  It felt like a sacred duty as the one person who has been involved in this program from the start to retrace the path and document it to inform the thinking of others.

We have such a bias to action, an emphasis on delivery, in today’s organisations that we make too little time to think – to look back and look forward, connecting the two, making sense of where have come from in order to inform where we are heading.  This is as true of me as most people.  I make too little time to pause, reflect, and record how I got to a particular point and how this links to where I am headed next.  It’s time to reinstate and improve upon the personal quarterly reviews I used to undertake as part of my personal routine.  Don’t wait until a ‘handover’ or transition point to capture where you’ve been – it’s a good argument to both work out loud on a continuous basis and also to periodically reflect on and record whatever is important to the ‘big picture’ in your world.

 

 

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Michelle Works Out Loud – Crown College L&D Case Study

Today I attended the Forward Government Learning Conference (#govlearn) held in Melbourne, Australia.  It was an intimate event, with fewer than 30 participants.  This meant we had more opportunity for interaction and discussion than at larger conferences.

I take notes on conference sessions using Evernote, and post a link to my notes on Twitter.  In 2017 I have replaced my old habit with a high volume of short tweets during presentations with focusing on taking better quality notes, polishing these up a bit and adding links to relevant resources, writing up my key takeaways and reflections on each session, then sharing these more comprehensive notes.

There were some excellent case studies at #govlearn today, most of which were new to me.  I’ll post all of my notes in the next few days.  Meantime, here is a taster with my notes from a case study presented by Shane Thomas from Crown.  What I especially liked about Shane’s work is how he had deepened his understanding of his business, built credibility by adding business value, and now has excellent stakeholder support.

Summary of my takeaways / analysis

  • Value of building and leveraging a brand for L&D.  In this case Crown College (as an RTO) is the brand.  Building L&D brand around strong Crown business brand has worked well given the industry turnover and need to attract Allen.  Also, having own RTO suits this business and industry (see noes below on industry).  In this case Shane used industry awards to build the brand, both internally and exernally.  you need to figure out what brand and approach to brand-building will suit your business context.
  • Importance of business buy in, especially at executive level.  This is evidenced by high involvement of leaders in programs, especially leadership programs.  Linkage has been created to business outcomes in leadership programs via workplace projects (see detailed notes for more)
  • Importance of L&D developing a deep understanding of their business.  There is a virtuous cycle in evidence where Shane has sought to understand the business, hence been able to better meet their needs, building credibility, and earning a ‘place at the table.’  Given Shane’s long tenure and deliberate efforts to understand business context, drivers and financials, and add business value, he has been able to build deep relationships with senior leaders in the business.

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Michelle Works Out Loud – A Tool to Capture & Communicate What You Know

Today’s daily dispatch is about a tool I use to help me record and communicate things I know.  It’s called a pink sheet.  I was introduced to pink sheets in a business school program that I’m currently undertaking.  After several months of using them I’ve finally gotten the hang of the template and am finding it a useful way to capture my body of knowledge in a subject area and figure out how to communicate it in a more rounded way.

The template is shown on the left.  The idea is to convey a single key point on one page in a range of ways.

Moving vertically through the template from top to bottom the point is presented from big picture through to detail as follows:

  • Context – big picture, what’s it about
  • Concept – what does it mean, explained using a brief statement followed by a short explanation of the statement
  • Content – detail and specifics that illustrate the point

Moving horizontally, left and right brain thinking are covered as follows:

  • Left  –  studies, statistics and a model
  • Right – metaphor and stories

Here is a completed template to illustrate how the elements come together.  You can take a closer look at a PDF version of this pink sheet.  Note that it’s not ‘perfect’ – it’s a working document that can be used as source content for a range of purposes.  As I use the material I can continue to refine and improve it.  When I find new research or a better metaphor for instance I can add it to a pink sheet.

I can also ‘layer’ pink sheets, going deeper into a specific element of a high level pink sheet.  For example, there are several different elements in the model on this sample pink sheet.  For each of these elements one or more further pink sheets can be created to drill down into these elements.  Over time a set of interconnected sheets is built up.

Another very elegant aspect of pink sheets is that I can combine different sets of pink sheets in a subject area as required to create a presentation, a workshop, a paper, even a mentoring program or, in time, a book.  It becomes very efficient to repackage what I know in a range of formats and communicate it.  All in all, a very useful tool.

This post is part of my daily dispatches experiment, inspired by Austin Kleon.  This is Daily Dispatch Number 4.

 

 

 

 

 

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Michelle Works Out Loud – Working with a Graphic Designer

“Good design encourages a viewer to want to learn more.”

This tweet caught my eye this afternoon.  Some Learning & Development (L&D) professionals are really good at visual design.  My forte is L&D strategy, so I’m really good at organisation design, but not so good with visual design.  Yet, I want content that I produce to look visually appealing, to encourage the viewer to want to look closer, to enhance the content rather than detract from it.

I could learn more about design and improve my skills (yep, it’s on my wish list).  However, I need the materials I’m producing now to look good, and be presented in a way that improves understanding and conveys professionalism.  And that will take some time – I’m probably still at the unconscious incompetence stage, so it’s going to get more uncomfortable and challenging for me to work on this skill set before I see improvement.

For this reason, I recently started working with a graphic designer.  Actually, it was my second attempt this year to work with a designer.  I initially engaged someone overseas as I thought this would be cheaper and still produce an acceptable result.  It didn’t work for me (it might work for others, it just didn’t for me).  It seemed difficult for them to interpret my requirements, and they over-complicated the tasks I gave them.  Things looked heavy and dense rather than the fresh, bright, clear look I wanted.  I retained one or two aspects of their work, such as the updated colour palette on my logo, then got in contact with an Australian designer that I worked with over six years ago – Janine Warner of J9 Designs.  I’ve been delighted with the work that she has done for me. Based on our previous collaboration, she understands who I am and how I want my work to be presented.  In the past two weeks she has quickly created new business cards, a white paper, a workbook and a PowerPoint template.  All have used a similar palette and look coherent.  It’s been easy to work with her via email, and in all cases minor rework on initial deliverables has been turned around rapidly.

As for the output – you can see how much she’s improved upon my hand drawn diagram below to create the final model.

 

 

This post is part of my daily dispatches experiment, inspired by Austin Kleon.  This is Daily Dispatch Number 3.

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Michelle Works Out Loud – DD#2 L&D Capability Assessment

One aspect of my work is to help build capability in Learning and Development (L&D) teams in organisations.  In a classic case of the cobbler’s children not having shoes, often there is no capability framework or development pathway in place for L&D function or roles in an organisation.  A client has asked me to create an L&D capability framework and development pathway for their use.  Since starting to explore this need I am finding other organisations that have the same need.  Rather than create something bespoke I’d like to use an existing generic / industry framework, with adaptation if necessary.  Why create something from scratch if you can meet the need with an existing tool?  Taking it a step further, I wonder if I can find a generic development pathway against an L&D capability framework that uses as 70:20:10 approach, providing a range of ways that specific capabilities can be developed through a mix of experience, exposure and education.  If this was supported by a range of good quality curated resources with links to relevant, active online communities and networks it would be a powerful resource.  Who else would find such a resource valuable?

Starting with the L&D capability framework, one that I have used both individually and with teams is the Learning and Performance Institute’s (LPI) Capability Map.  The LPI developed this tool in 2012 as an online self-assessment diagnostic tool to help L&D practitioners assess and benchmark their capability against 27 skills.  It reflects the breadth of skills required in a modern L&D function. The descriptions of capability at four levels against each of the skills are clear and help flag what’s needed to move to the next level should this be your goal.  When using it with a team I’ve had each person complete the free assessment and send their personalised reports to a coordinator who collated the results to produce a diagnostic ‘map’ of capability across the whole team.  We used this an input to our annual planning session, doing a gap analysis of current L&D capability to what we needed to deliver on our annual plan, and creating a prioritised team development plan.  The LPI provides a paid team Capability Assessment service.  Today I spoke with Leon Boland at the LPI who is sending me information about the process and output from the team assessment, so I can decide whether to present this as an option to my client.

However, the piece that the LPI does not have in place currently is any form of development pathway or toolkit against their Capability Map.  I’m now exploring whether they have a desire to develop this resource, and how I may be able to help with this.

How have others tackled the need for an L&D capability framework and development pathway?  Can anyone recommend other resources that may help to meet this need?

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Michelle Works Out Loud – DD#1 WOL ‘So Much to Share’

I’m in Week 5 of a Working Out Loud Circle (must be my 4th or 5th Circle).  The title of this week’s Circle guide is ‘Make It Personal.’  The Circle Guides are available as free downloadable resources from workingoutloud.com – here’s the link to the Week 5 Guide.

I couldn’t attend my Circle meeting this week (clash with a client meeting) so am catching up on the activities in the Guide, and sharing output with my Circle members on a Slack group that we’ve set up to stay connected between weekly meetings.

One of the activities in this week’s guide is one of my very favourites from the whole 12-week Circle process.  It’s called ‘so much to offer’ and is aimed at helping Circle participants to appreciate how many aspects of their experience could potentially be of value and form the basis of a contribution to someone else.  I like how this exercise makes me look broadly at my life experience and how I could draw on this to offer support and insight to others.

The exercise instructions are to write 50 facts about yourself.  Use the link provided earlier in this post to read the full instructions for the exercise and examples given.  As I’ve done this several times before and I’m in an expansive phase right now I pushed myself to put 100 things on my list, and to think about both my professional and personal life experiences.  Here’s a link to my list (made in Evernote) as an example of the range of things that could end up forming the basis of a contribution to someone in my network.  If you have done this exercise or proceed to do it and you are comfortable sharing this list please post a link in comments or share on Twitter and mention me in your post so I see it.  I’m curious to see what others put on their list.

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Michelle Works Out Loud – Daily Dispatches Experiment

Yesterday Jane Bozarth generously delivered a webinar on ‘showing your work’ for the Learning and Development practitioners that I have connected into Working Out Loud Circles.  I always appreciate Jane’s practical approach to ways of making your work visible, and the way she talks about the benefits of this to individuals and organisations.  I’m feeling inspired to ramp up my working out loud practices as a result of this session delivered “at the speed of Jane” (I only gave her 30 minutes to cover the topic – the session ended up being 40 minutes).

When thinking about how what I could do I turned to another of my favourite authors on this topic, Austin Kleon.  Both Jane and Austin have published books called ‘Show Your Work’ – although both differ in format and approach.  (BTW – I love them both and draw inspiration from each of them.)  Chapter 3 of Austin’s book is titled ‘Share Something Small Every Day.’  He advocates the practice of sending out a ‘daily dispatch.’  He describes this as finding one little part of your work process that you can share at the end of every day:

If you’re in the very early stages, share your influences and what’s inspiring you.  If you’re in the middle of executing a project, write about your methods or share works in progress.  If you’ve just completed a project, show the final product, share scraps from the cutting-room floor, or write about what you learned.  If you have lots of projects out into the world, you can report on how they’re doing – you can tell stories about how people are interacting with your work.”

 

I’m going to try an experiment for the next 5 weeks (to the end of Ausut 2017) to do a daily dispatch on the ‘Working Out Loud’ page on my website, and to share a link to this via Twitter.  Wish me luck!

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Personal Kanban Boards

I started using personal kanban boards about 10 days ago.  They are visible on the wall behind me when I videoconference with people, and many people have asked me about them during our calls.  So, here is a post about why and how I’m using kanban boards, and the value I’m getting from them.

Who isn’t busy, right?  I find it hard to resist a good opportunity or idea, so sometimes end up with a lot of projects on the go.  I’ve tried a range of ways to prioritise and manage my time across projects, business development, recurring tasks, administration and other activities.  I like the portability of electronic tools that synchronise across multiple devices, and have been using the 2Do app for a couple of years.  However, it can be time-consuming to enter and maintain all tasks in an electronic tool.  When I get really busy I revert to sticky notes and scraps of paper.  It’s quick to hand-write a new task on a paper note and easy to sort and shuffle them as priorities change – definitely quicker for me than with online tools.  It gets tasks out of my head, so helps me to concentrate on whatever I was working on when the thought of the task popped into my head.

However, there are still a lot of things on the list, which is now less portable.  The long electronic list has been replaced by a growing stack of notes.  Either way, they require regular review to figure out what I should do on any given day. I’m concerned to ensure that at any given time I’m working on my most important activities (I use the Eisenhower matrix to help identify what these are – but that’s not the focus of my post today).

In my search to efficiently managing tasks and be confident that I am focussed on the things that matter most I’m often drawn to online content about productivity.  A couple of weeks ago a post on Snapchat by Helen Blunden about personal kanban caught my attention.  What appealed to me about using personal kanban boards was:

  • the visual nature of it
  • high visibility of a physical board (as opposed to using an online variant)
  • ease of adding and updating tasks, and moving them from one status to another
  • satisfaction of seeing what I’ve done
  • ‘rule’ of not having more than 3 tasks in progress at any one time, to combat the downsides of multitasking

I decided to create a board for each of my top 3 projects (rather than one board with all projects mixed in together).  The 1-minute Snapchat video below outlines how I set the boards up.  I have since added a fourth board for a client project.

I’ve been using the boards for a week.  Every morning before I set down at my desk I check the boards and decide/confirm what I need to work on that day to progress my most important projects.  I add new tasks on a sticky note (1 task per note), and sometimes replace a high-level task with multiple more granular tasks.  I update the boards as I work too.  I’m finding the process very fluid and the boards are definitely assisting me to prioritise and progress my most important projects.  Importantly, using them also decreases my mental chatter about what I should be working on.

A downside of how I’ve set these boards up is that they are not portable.  I get around this in part by writing the 5 things I ‘must’ get done each day in a small notebook that I carry around.  (Actually, I write down up to 5 x Quadrant 1 tasks (Important and Urgent) and 5 x Quadrant 2 tasks (Important and Non-Urgent).  The quadrants are based on the Eisenhower matrix mentioned earlier in the post.)

Another disadvantage is that they cannot be shared with other people so don’t help with collaboration.  Some people in my network use Trello, which uses a board structure for task management.  I downloaded Trello several months ago, looked at it briefly, and deferred figuring out how to use it.  I suspect that the practices I’m using with physical kanban boards would transfer readily to Trello.  This tool is obviously portable and could be used with others.  I think I would miss the immediacy and visibility of the boards on my office wall were I to move from using them to Trello.  Of course, practices evolve so I may well be posting about my use of Trello (or something similar) in the future.

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