On Thursday, April 30th at 2PM EST. I’m hosting a webinar on How Agile Leadership Can Ensure The High Employee Engagement of a Distributed Workforce in Times of Crisis. Click HERE to register.
On Thursday, April 30th at 2PM EST. I’m hosting a webinar on How Agile Leadership Can Ensure The High Employee Engagement of a Distributed Workforce in Times of Crisis. Click HERE to register.
In a recent interview with Bill Maher, on HBO’s Real-time, Astrophysicist and Director of the Hayden Planetarium, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, discussed a concept he referred to as the “three truths”; Personal truths, political truths and objective truths.
Truth Number One
He characterized personal truths as beliefs devoid of roots in credible fact or logic. Tyson asserted that personal truths are perspectives that fail the test of scientific reasoning. He argued that individuals cling to these beliefs, even when presented with overwhelming evidence to the contrary. One example of a personal truth is the belief that the earth is flat. While the science and research on this topic refute such an assertion, there are still scores of people who accept this postulate as accurate.
Truth Number Two
Tyson referred to the second set of truths as “political truths.” He postulated that these beliefs are inaccuracies repeated so often theybecome recognized and accepted as true. Examples of political truths include the belief that Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb, or that Christopher Columbus discovered America.
Truth Number Three
He characterized the third set of truths as the “objective truths” or beliefs that one can substantiate through objectivity, impartial science, facts and reasoning.
Why This Matters
Dr. Tyson argued that individuals are “entitled” to their personal truths. He makes the case that one should not attempt to strip these beliefs from the individuals who clings to them. He also asserted that political truths are beliefs supported by tribal echo chambers that reject ideas or perspectives coming from anyone who is not part of their tribe. Thus, trying to convince someone to abandon their personal or political truth is a pointless endeavor that will only lead to conflict and ill feelings.
What Are the Implications
Heeding Dr. Tyson’s perspective provides an opportunity for better interactions between leaders, their team members and their customers. It also aligns with the agile value of customer collaboration over contract negotiation. I had a personal experience that highlighted Tyson’s perspective and the power of customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
A Case Study
I hired a company to provide video production for my latest course on Agile Leadership. I selected this organization because it advertised the ability to record videos in two locations; one in San Francisco and one in NY. I had client meetings scheduled for NY around the time that I needed to record my videos, so I hired them intending to record in NY.
As the recording date drew nearer, I received an e-mail from my Client Representative reminding me to “plan” my trip to San Francisco. I responded that I wanted to record in NY. He informed me that the package I purchased only allowed me to record in San Francisco. I complained that there was no way I would have signed a contract to record in San Francisco when my customers were in NY. About an hour later, the company’s CEO called and told me not to worry. The video production would take place in their NY studio.
On the flight to NY, I opened the welcome package that the company sent to me. The package I purchased did in fact only support filming in San Francisco. I had two reactions:
The first was one of embarrassment because I didn’t pay close enough attention to the contract. The second reaction was a sense of appreciation and loyalty to the vendor.
This company embodied the belief that it was more important to ensure the customer had a good experience than it was to negotiate a contract. Because of this experience, it is unlikely that I will use a different vendor for video production.
After hearing Dr. Tyson’s interview, I realized that, in this example, I developed a personal; truth — one that told me I contracted to record in NY. The objective truth, however, was that this was not the case. Had the vendor attempted to strip me of my “personal reality” (by pointing to the contract) I would have likely dug in and accused the vendor of unfair practices. Because the company exhibited the agile value of customer collaboration over contract negotiation, however, they gained a cheerleader and a loyal customer who will refer potential clients to them.
Reflecting on Dr. Tyson’s interview also caused me to rethink my behavior as a leader. I cringed at the number of times I was guilty of attempting to strip an employee, a customer or a colleague of their personal or political truth.
If you’d like to learn more about Agile Leadership and how it can transform your organization, click HERE to register for my free webinar Agile Leadership: Four Values That Will Help You Lead in an Environment of Change.
Is following the "Golden Rule" making your employees less engaged?
The Problem With Customer Satisfaction
If you’re a trainer or training professional, you probably use customer satisfaction score to measure how happy students are with the courses you offer. Chances are that once a student has completed a course you ask them this question: “How satisfied were you with the course/instructor?” If your satisfaction scores are high, you send a message out to the organization to highlight what a great job you’re doing. The problem with asking the “satisfaction” question is that the answer doesn’t tell you how engaged or loyal your students are.
Why Measure Customer Loyalty
Customer engagement or loyalty is a much better indicator of whether those students will take any more of your classes. In fact, high satisfaction scores might well be hiding that many of your training customers are ready to jump ship and find another provider. Here a real life non-training example:
I hired a vendor to work on my house. The project took longer than I expected and the contractor really didn’t do a good job of communicating schedule changes, delays, etc. The final product was pristine. And, I was satisfied with the results. If the vendor gave me a survey to rate just that aspect of the effort, I would have given him a nine out of 10. Unfortunately, because of the elongated timeline and poor communication there was no way I would use this vendor again or refer his services to one of my friends. The impact to the vendor was unrealized revenue opportunities.
Is it possible that your training organization is like the vendor that worked on my house? You’re getting a lot of good scores on your satisfaction surveys, but your students or customer base is not loyal. They are unwilling to recommend your classes to their colleagues and they would prefer to take classes from someone else.
What the Research Says
My personal experience, it seems, was not a coincidence. Research shows that there is a direct correlation between corporate revenue and the willingness of existing customers to refer that company’s services. Forbes magazine, for example, suggests one reason Apple Inc.’s retail stores enjoy the highest productivity in retailing of any kind, is because they focus on customer loyalty, not customer satisfaction. Apple uses an approach called Net Promoter Score (NPS). Here’s how it might in a training environment.
Abandon your current questionnaire and create a one question survey. Rather than asking students who have completed courses: “How satisfied were you with this course?” Ask them: “On a scale of ‘0 – 10’ with ‘0’ meaning not at all and ’10’ being extremely likely, how likely are you to refer this course/instructor to a colleague?” Provide students with an area to submit comments if they wish.
How To Measure Customer Loyalty
With NPS anyone who gives you a score of 9 or 10 is a promoter. It considers students who give you a score of 7 or 8 passives. And, it considers students who give you a score between 0 and 6 detractors. To get your NPS you would subtract all the scores of “0-6” from the scores that rate you between 9 and 10. If for example, you received one hundred surveys from a course and twenty of those surveys rated your course between 0 and 6. Ten rated you between 9 and 10, and seventy rated you between a 7 and an 8. You would subtract the detractors (20) from the promoters (10) giving you a NPS of (-10), the translation, you have a lot of work to do.
What Customer Satisfaction Hides
Using a traditional approach to viewing these numbers gives you a different view. We would probably consider anyone who rated us above a “5” as satisfied. Thus the satisfaction score would have been 80% (the seventy that rated you between 7 and 8 plus the 10 that rated you between 9 and 10). The score of 80% would have hidden that more of your students are detractors than are promoters, and only 10 out of 100 would refer your services to a colleague.
So, if you really want to know how good a job you’re training team is doing. Consider NPS.
Twelve years ago I Co-authored an article for Training Industry Inc. titled “The Training Value Gap.” My thesis was: The incremental delivery of small nuggets of learning adds more value to an organization than the one time delivery of large training programs. I believed that consistently providinglearners with small (sometimes incomplete) knowledge nuggets would cause learners to more quickly gain new skills. The quicker acquisition of those skills would cause incremental and consistent performance improvements that would help the organization reap the benefits much earlier than if the organizations waited and delivered one large training program.
“The incremental delivery of small nuggets of learning adds more value to an organization than the one time delivery of large training programs.”
When Bobbi Edwards and I wrote that article back in 2007, we had never heard of Agile. We had our own theory regarding the design of learning solutions, but we didn’t have a method to support it. Over the years we attempted to accomplish this fresh approach to training design and development using a variety of waterfall development approaches, including ADDIE and Six Sigma. It wasn’t until we transitioned to Agile that we truly had an iterative, incremental training development technique that allowed us to develop and deploy small incremental learning content in a sustained and proactive manner.
“Agile not only provides software developers with a technique that supports incremental releases, it also accommodates for the quick and nimble change of the high-tech world in which we live.”
For those not familiar with Agile and how this approach to product development has changed our everyday lives, consider how you receive updates to your smartphone apps or your personal computer software. Chances are you frequently receive small functionality updates to these applications. Right? This is in stark contrast to the mindset of just a few years ago when software applications underwent major rewrites every eighteen to twenty-four months. Delivering incremental software fixes and functionality allows customers to receive value faster and more frequently.
Consider the impact to today’s customers if they had to wait two years to get the latest twitter app because the phone manufacturer would not release that update until the Facebook interface was complete? Agile not only provides software developers with a technique that supports incremental releases, it also accommodates for the quick and nimble change of the high-tech world in which we live. As a result, we all glean the benefits of frequent fixes and increased functionality.
Applying this analogy to training allows a new manager (who needs to developleadership skills) the opportunity to learn how to deliver performance reviews even if the component of the curriculum that teaches how to navigate the company’s culture is incomplete. The implications are: the new manager (and his or her company) can immediately enjoy the benefits of one component of the training even though the entire program is incomplete. This allows the company to realize incremental improvements that reduce the training value gap. When training organizations develop content the Agile way, companies and trainees both realize the benefit of learning solutions sooner, not later.
If you want to close the training value gap, I encourage you to use Agile.
An institution’s capacity to learn drives its ability to succeed (Gronhaug & Stone, 2012). Businesses reach the pinnacle of this capacity when they become learning organizations (LO) and realize what Senge (1990) characterized as the “Fifth Discipline”. Institution that achieve the “Fifth Discipline” experience a shift in organizational culture. Inventing new knowledge turns into a means of operating, not a specialized activity (Nonaka, 1991).
Modern literature agrees with the potential, philosophy and grand themes of the “Fifth Dimension”. The research is likewise in agreement that the doctrine includes several unsettled issues and queries that organizations need to clarify to reach it (Antonacopoulou, Moldjord, Steiro & Stokkeland, 2019; Gronhaug & Stone, 2012). Those challenges include; How will the entity recognize when it has developed into a learning organization? And, what behavior modifications are needed? These unanswered questions are perhaps the reason Gavin (2019) contended that although business leaders concur with the notions embraced by the LO, few organization have transitioned.
The New Learning Organization
Antonacopoulou et al. (2019) focused on these unsettled issues by presenting a conceptualized view of what they referred to as “The New Learning Organization” (NLO). The investigators argued for precise, actionable, simple to implement rules for practice that result in producing what they referred to as an “agile” organization. They further proclaimed the NLO is proficient at the same principles Goncalves (2011) represented as core tenants of agile. Those tenants include; group problem solving, experimenting with new techniques, learning from previous experience and best practices, and transferring knowledge throughout the organization in a quick and efficient manner.
Agile and the New Learning Organization
The change from a conventional institution into the NLO requires several interrelated organizational activities (Sharma & Bilgic, 2016). However, because of its similarities to the agile method, Yocum (2015) maintained that adopting agile can assist with, and speed up an entity’s transformation. The researcher found that numerous training teams have replaced their traditional principles and processes with agile to achieve the “Fifth Dimension” and become more flexible and efficient in creating online educational programs. Further, Yocum (2015) found that, like the NLO, agile focuses on solving problems, experimenting with new ways of getting work done, learning from experiences, and transferring knowledge throughout the organization. With agile, employees, empowered to decide, collaborate to produce solutions (Denning, 2016).
Training organizations that have adopted agile as a development method have experienced radical improvements because of group problem solving, experimentation with new approaches, and knowledge sharing (Sweeney & Cifuentes, 2012). One company reduced the time required to develop and deliver training solutions from close to a year to less than two weeks. Another increased the amount of training it could produce by 74 percent. Perhaps the most impressive story is how one group avoided layoffs during a company downsizing, because agile made its training and development process so cost-effective (Islam, 2017).
If you’re interested in learning how to use agile to help transform your training team into the NLO, fill out the form below to pick up a case study that details how one team did it.
I’m a big fan of Apple Inc.. Their products look good and work well. What’s most impressive, however, is that they’ve figured out a technique to ensure their clients always have the latest and greatest version of their software. What if training professionals could apply these approaches to ensure their clients always had access to the most important learning solutions?
THE APPLE WAY
Apple ensures their customers always have the most recent version of their software by delivering frequent iterative updates to their products. If you have an iPhone, Mac, or Apple Watch, it can feel as though you’re getting a new software update almost every week. Contrast this with the method used by most learning teams to design and deliver their training programs.
HOW TRAINING DEPARTMENTS DO IT
The process begins when the training team receives a request from one of their internal stakeholders. The learning professionals then undertake a needs analysis. The results of the needs analysis requires approval before work can continue. Once gained, the design phase begins. The output of this phase is a design document that also requires approval. After the stakeholders approve the design document, the training team begins the process of developing the learning content. This learning content also requires approval, and thus, the review and approval process repeats itself.
THE BAD NEWS…
The back-and-forth review and approval process can take months and frequently requires a lot of rework. This is bad news for learning organizations.
How This Impacts The Learning Team
Research suggests that rework is a major source of pain for training professionals. It elongates the time required to get learning content to the audience that needs it. And, it decreases the quality of the training while increasing its cost.
THE GOOD NEWS…
The good news is that training professionals can apply many of the techniques used by Apple to develop its products to the develop their learning solutions.
THE BETTER NEWS…
The better news is that this isn’t a theory. It’s been done, and the results are documented.
WHAT ARE THE RESULTS?
One training organization used these methods to reduce the time required to develop and deliver training solutions from close to a year, down to less than two weeks. These techniques also resulted in the training unit creating solutions that received world class satisfaction scores. Perhaps most impressive is that this group avoided layoffs during a company downsizing because their training and development process was so cost effective.
WANT TO LEARN HOW THEY DID IT?
Detailing everything that this team did to achieve these results is too much information to detail in a blog, but, if you want to know how training professionals can apply the same techniques that Apple uses to deliver superior software to build learning solutions, put your name and e-mail address in the form below, and I send you a copy of a case study that details how this company got Agile and applied the techniques used by Apple to develop fast, good, and cheap learning solutions.
THE STATE OF ADULT LEARNING IS IN FLUX
Changing demographics, globalization, and an increased reliance on technology have made the job of organizational development (OD) professionals difficult. To further complicate the situation, there’s no consensus on how to address the aforementioned challenges. Some experts believe the function should emphasize “organizational learning. ” In this model the role of OD is to help employees become “learning agents” and respond to changes by identifying and correcting errors. Others feel the emphasis of OD should be on creating a “learning organization.” In this model individuals perceive themselves as active participants in creating their company’s future.
TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT PROFESSIONALS FACE SIMILAR CHALLENGES
Similar contradictions exist in the field of training and development (T+D). The literature reveals two schools of thought. The first forwards a belief that search engines like Google eliminate the need for trainers to help learners get facts and obtain knowledge. Proponents of this philosophy believe adult educators should concentrate on “higher order” thinking skills like evaluation and synthesis. Followers of the second school of thought make the case that instructors must help learners get a contextual view of the required knowledge and facts if they expect a change in performance.
HOW CAN AGILE HELP?
An Agile approach to developing learning solutions presents both OD and T+D professionals with a framework for addressing the conflicting approaches to addressing the problems presented by changing demographics, globalization, and the increased reliance on technology. Agile techniques further the adaptability of people and systems to respond to change. They also promote collaboration and foster knowledge creation and dialog.
WANT TO LEARN MORE?
On January 15 at 10 AM EST, the TrainingProAcademy will present Developing Training That’s Fast, Good, AND Cheap (An Agile Approach to Content Development). In this webcast we’ll share the techniques that one organization used to improve their employee engagement and leadership scores from the 4th quartile to the 1st quartile. We’ll also present findings from Dr. Kiersten Yocum’s research on Agile in an OD or T+D environment. Finally, we’ll present case studies from individuals like Siobhan Curran, M. Ed. who has achieved tremendous success implementing Agile as an OD and T+D strategy at two organizations.
This webcast will introduce you to some Agile of the techniques that many organizations are already using to design, develop, and deliver training that’s FAST, GOOD, AND CHEAP. In this webcast you’ll learn:
So… If you’re ready to learn how adopting an Agile approach to OD or T+D can help you address changing demographics, globalization, and an increased reliance on technology click HERE to register.
Have you ever read the Charles Dickens classic “A Tale of Two Cities?” This timeless novel begins with the famous statement “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” and tells the story of a French doctor’s experience in two cities: Paris and London. The culture in one city was one of wisdom, belief, light, and hope. The culture in the second was one of incredulity, darkness and despair. In the first city the people believed things were headed in the right direction. In the other, the citizens felt that things were headed the other way.
The story reminds of an experience I had working with two training departments. One department was experiencing the “worst of times.” The employees were in despair. They didn’t feel empowered. The training programs they developed took months and sometimes up to a year to complete. The rework associated with developing training seemed to never end. Internal customers constantly challenged the value they were receiving for their investment in training. Satisfaction with their training programs were pedestrian at best. And, the costs associated with developing said programs were through the roof.
IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES
The second training organization was experiencing “the best of times.” The employees felt empowered. They could develop and deliver training in as little as two weeks. Sometimes they even deployed learning solutions within hours of interviewing subject matter experts. Rework was almost non-existent. The satisfaction with the training programs were at world-class levels, and the cost to develop these programs was less than to cost of off-shoring training development.
Now here’s the plot twist….. those two training departments were actually the same training department.
WHAT MADE THE DIFFERENCE?
After experiencing “the worst of times” this training organization abandoned the old and outdated training methodologies of the past, and adopted an Agile approach to learning content development. Within 2 months the team realized a 75% increase in the number of learning solutions they could deliver to clients. Internal stakeholders sang the praises of this training organization by highlighting the quality of the programs and the “quick turnaround time.” The individuals who worked in the training organization began to feel empowered. The employee engagement and department leadership survey scores went from the 4th quartile to the 1st quartile. Perhaps most importantly, however, is that the Agile techniques the team adopted allowed the group to deliver training in days and weeks…not months.
Now, what about you and your training organization? Are you experiencing the worst of times or the best of times? How would you like to develop and deliver training in days and weeks instead of months?
If you’d like to know what we did to turn this training organization around and go from the “worst of times” to the “best of times” just put your name and email address in the form below and I’ll send you a FREE Case Study that will take you step by step through exactly what we did.