Avoiding Silos when Delivering Change

What happens in your organisation when a change is implemented; particularly a change involving both system and process?

Typically, a project will be initiated; representatives from the core business and IT will liaise to design the solution. External developer resource may be engaged to create a bespoke system.  So change is quite a costly business, involving multiple stakeholders and a high level of risk.

When it comes to the implementation of the change however, how do you know you have “finished”?  Ask IT, and they will probably reply “when the system is implemented”.  Many representatives from the business would give a similar answer. Read more

Getting people up to speed during business change

The way in which we access learning has changed fundamentally since the days of “chalk and talk” training courses.

Organisations and individuals are no longer prepared to give up a day of their time to attend a course, where only a small percentage of what they learn is what they actually need to know.

Instead, we are accessing learning in ways that fit in with our daily lives; via YouTube, Google, modular eLearning we can complete as and when convenient and bite-sized “lunch and learn” classroom sessions.

This is exemplified by the “J3” approach: “Just enough, just in time and just for me”. This is the approach that Afiniti adopts when designing our learning interventions.

Just enough

The learning is customised to provide just the content that is necessary to cover the requirement.  What constitutes “enough” will of course vary by person and role; this is covered by “just for me” below.

Just in time

Access learning when you need it.  Many traditional learning roll-outs result in those at the beginning of the business change programme receiving their learning well before they need it, resulting in the need for refresher courses etc.
By targeting learning to just what is needed, it can be shorter in duration, so rolled out quicker resulting in less delay between delivery and point of need.  Use of rapid, modular eLearning and user guides, both published online, can also allow people to refresh their knowledge themselves as and when they need to.

Just for me

Only access the learning you need – this involves a modular approach, both to classroom and online learning, allowing the flexibility to just access the learning relevant to you.  It can also involve designing courses that differ by role, e.g. managers and staff, underwriters and administration etc.  Additionally, optional modules can be positioned towards the end of the session to allow those who do not need to know certain aspects to leave the session earlier.
In fact, perhaps we should rebrand our approach as “J4”, since a final aspect is “Just in case”; sustainable resources that exist after we leave the project.  These will include online published user guides, eLearning modules, FAQs, Intranet content etc.

Where it’s worked

An example of this was a project to provide learning to support an HR self-service system for a major publishing house – we created various eLearning modules, published on a learning management system, which allowed managers to check which of their team members had completed the learning.  We also created courses to support managers in approving PDPs and expenses, which handed over to internal learning team, via a train the trainer process, so that new starters could benefit from the training once the project was completed.  There was also an online quick reference guide for people to refer to.

The end result of this project was that globally, over 99% of people across the organisation successfully completed their PDPs, correctly and on time.  The less than 1% that didn’t as it turned out, were all from the same team, and did not complete the eLearning, as their manager did not deem it necessary, which tells its own story!

All common sense stuff, yet all too often the one size fits all style of learning is still being applied.  The J3 approach allows for a more learner focussed, efficient and cost effective method of delivery.


Thoughts on the move to Customised Learning

The move to customised learning gives us more opportunity to address individual and business need that ever before.

Some years ago, when asked what I did for a living, I’d say “Computer Trainer”, or “Training Manager”.  This was back in the days of 2-day Word V2 or Excel V4 Introduction courses, as well as 1-day courses in Windows itself, so to some degree the term was more applicable then.  You really were “training” people who had had absolutely no exposure to computers to perform basic functions.  I can still remember the gasps of awe from showing people copy and paste!

From push to pull

As computer-literacy increased, such courses became much rarer; and with greater delegate knowledge came a different emphasis.  The whole paradigm was turned on its head to a pull rather than push approach; “trainees” became “learners”, “trainers” became “learning consultants”.

Rather than the consultant standing at the front of the room at the start of a course telling people what he was going to tell them, he would be asking people what they wanted to know.  Delegates would therefore customise their learning to their particular needs.

This shift in approach has had a number of implications, for both learner and consultant.  For learners, in most cases there is an assumption that they will come to any course with an idea of what they want to get from it.  For the consultant, the implication of this is that they need to know their subject even more fully.  “Sorry, that’s not covered on this course” is no longer an acceptable response!

Benefits for the business

Courses have therefore become more relevant in content and generally shorter in duration.  This approach is beneficial for all involved; organisations get a greater return on their learning spend as delegates learn just what they need to do their jobs more effectively.  Consultants effectively never run the same course twice, since the course content is driven by the delegates, making the consultant role more challenging and interesting.

It also means that when putting together any form of learning for a client, as a learning consultant you really need to get to know not only your subject, but the client and what they expect to gain from the learning you create for them.

Essentially, you need to understand where the client is now, what their issues are, where they want to get to and most importantly, how you will measure that the change has been successful.

The main effect however is that “the course” is now more widely understood as just a small component of the learning process.  This has always has been the case, but that fact was not always recognised.  Since learning is driven by the learner, this can more readily be done outside the classroom.  The 70:20:10 model states that we learn:

  • 70% on the job
  • 20% from other people
  • 10% from courses and reading

With eLearning, webinars and of course the wealth of information available on the Internet, accessing a wide variety of resource to fulfil the 70 and 20 components of the above model is easier than ever.  But the onus is on the learner to go out and find the information they need, rather than to have it provided to them.

So customised learning is now exemplified by the “J3” approach, which Afiniti uses: “Just enough, just in time and just for me”.

Scenario Based Learning for change programmes

The learning industry loves a three letter acronym! SBL, or Scenario Based Learning, is one of the latest ones to hit the headlines, but what is it and how can it improve the learning experience?

Simply put, SBL relates learning to a real-life situation, with scenarios, sometimes in the form of “stories” (storification – another buzzword for another blog!), allowing people to better understand not only what they are learning, but why they should learn it. It also puts the learner in control, asking them to discover answers to questions rather than being just provided with information.

A simple example; rather than the instructor saying “the SUM function totals columns of numbers”, instead they could say something like; “Imagine you need to total all the sales by region for the last month. How would you do that?”. SBL both contextualises the learning point as something a person would need to do, giving them motivation, and provides them with the opportunity to find out the answer to the problem themselves.

Another key aspect of SBL is that the learner should be set more complex challenges to solve as they progress through the learning and their knowledge and experience increases. This both improves engagement for the learner and allows the facilitator to assess learner competence as they progress through the learning, identifying any knowledge gaps to be addressed, rather than having a separate quizzing/testing element to the learning.

A feature of this learner-driven approach is that learning is more likely to go “off-piste”, rather than following a defined path, as the needs of the participants cause them to take the learning event in the direction they want to go. This means that the facilitator needs to know their subject inside-out to ensure they are able to follow a path that they may not have anticipated.

Finally, SBL needs to be an interactive process. Participants interact with each other, the situation and the facilitator, increasing involvement and allowing them to learn not only from the course content, but from each other’s own, real-world experience of similar scenarios.

In effect, learners are teaching each other as part of the event, a very positive outcome, given that people retain 90% of what they teach others/use immediately, as opposed to only 5% of information received in lecture format, as shown in the “Learning Pyramid” below:

scenario based learning








SBL works very well when applied to complex situations, where critical decisions need to be made in real time. For example, Afiniti recently used SBL in a health and safety session; delegates had to not only identify the hazards in a given scenario, they then had to identify what control measures they would put in place to mitigate those hazards.

The flipside of all this is that the learning can take longer to prepare and to deliver, but if the end result is that learners are involved in their learning, motivated to find out more and can relate what they have learned to real-life situations that they face, this is a worthwhile investment.