Can mLearning work for business change?

You have a smart-phone, right?  Maybe more than one.  A tablet?  iPad, Nexus, Galaxy Note, Surface? If so, you’re carrying a potent mLearning tool.

The learning benchmarking organisation, Towards Maturity, has reported that 39% of the organisations they track are using mobile learning in some way, and 76% expect to adopt in the next two years.

Faced with a situation you haven’t experienced before, rather than trying to retrieve a dim memory from a day-long training course last year, how about being able to call up specific modular training? How about being able to see videos, demonstrations, guidance relating to the exact scenario you’re dealing with now?

Learning when and where you want

Outside of work, people are relying more and more on these “as you need it” guides – look at the number of YouTube videos for make-up tips, recipes, or how to tie a bow-tie.

People like being able to call up help as and when it’s most needed.  If that’s how people choose to learn outside the work environment, then it follows that the same approach could work well in professional context.

Making it work for business

We’ve seen it work well on a project to deploy iPhones throughout a large organisation. Device based learning materials can be very interactive and multi-functional, for example, the electronic quick reference guide created to support the deployment, was searchable and structured into task-based topics.

A commonly cited drawback of classroom training is that it often relies on artificial or unrealistic scenarios.  Mobile learning or mLearning allows quick field-based development of learning, based on real situations in the field. This means the learning can be more closely aligned to the practical reality, which lends credibility as well as being more aligned to the learner’s requirement.

Here are some ways it can have an impact:

Maximising mobile devices for learning

Mobile learning or mLearning can empower the user with access to any-time learning they can customise through downloading apps. It can work through:

  • Tailored push notifications
  • Modular content
  • Apps developed with additional video and links to other resources
  • Apps for collaborative tools that can be accessed via mobile devices enabling learners and L&D people to communicate about specific issues.

As with all training solutions, mLearning is not a silver bullet.  Classroom training, self-directed learning and eLearning all have important roles to play.  The trick is to pick the right horse for the right course.

How can Kaizen help us deliver better change?

Can Kaizen, the Japanese theory of ‘good change’ bring people together at all levels in a business for faster, continual change?

Kaizen – Japanese translated literally as ‘good change’ – is the practice of continuous improvement.

Under it, all employees are responsible for identifying weaknesses and ideas for improvement and everyone, at every level in the organization, is instrumental in making change happen. Everyone communicates across all levels to share ideas and collaborate.

When applied to business change, this tackles something really important: the disconnect between senior people deciding strategy and the employees carrying out operational work.

When senior people don’t consider what it’s really like on the front line they don’t design a strategy that will deliver the intended benefits from change. And, when front line staff aren’t involved in the big picture, they won’t engage with and see the change through to its full potential. In other words change never really delivers what it was meant to.

Applying Kaizen to Change Management

If you work in change management – delivering change to people, and making sure benefits are delivered to the business,- you’ll know it’s crucial to involve and empower the people who the change affects.

Whilst fully immersed in a client’s organisational change programme over the last 3 months (training on a new IT system and a redefinition of roles within the operational structure – lots of moving parts and pockets of resistance – chaotic to say the least!), the festive period gave me a well-timed opportunity for reflection.

Contemplating the journey so far and doing some root-cause analysis on the barriers we had encountered (and overcame) I kept coming back to the same question: How can we overcome barriers through the principle of Kaizen: driving communication, contribution and continuous learning?

Create Trojan Mice Good change often relies on good conversations. If conversations and consultation can be had with the people that the change is most likely to affect, they can actually act as catalysts for change, accelerating it and providing operational and customer facing insights that keep change on track to deliver more back to the business.

During our client’s project, we had to work hard to make sure senior leaders understood the value of engaging and sustaining these influencers. Where they previously hadn’t, the end user community was hard to win over initially, creating delay and wasting opportunity for people to add value.

Continuous Improvement The idea that big results come from many small changes accumulated over time struck a chord with me. A learning organisation is more than just getting individuals learning (although that is very important); it is ensuring the organisation itself learns and that individuals are part of a culture which conscientiously reflects at every level.

Could we have a pre-made group of change-ready employees? Could we create a learning organisation?

Empower the frontline All sectors are having to reduce their time to market whether they are offering services or products. The quicker we can identify new opportunities and deliver them to customers the better our chances of survival. But if the speed to market has to get quicker then the process of decision-making and delivering change must get shorter. Ultimately people dealing directly with customers, suppliers and other key stakeholders will need to be engaged and have an active voice and input; continually innovating and learning to drive change.

We live and work in a time of extraordinary change. We need to ride that change and make it work for us rather than forever battling to keep up. The idea of a continuous learning organisation is really relevant as organisations struggle to respond to pressures of increased competition, greater demands from customers and a faster pace of change, often with fewer staff.

The ability of a company to learn, adapt and be responsive is now being seen as the only way to sustain competitive advantage. Could the concept of Kaizen then, with its emphasis on active influence and continuous improvement for everyone, accelerate change and make it stick?

How empowered are your employees?

How empowered are your employees in learning new technology and new working behaviours?

Those managing change have to balance business priorities, project scope and deadlines and quantifiable resultslearning consultants from learning. The learner however has the need for relevance and flexibility and has to be engaged in a conversation about how change will impact them in their role.

Balancing business and user need

Inadequate consideration of user need can mean failure to fully engage people with change and lead to lower performance and user self-sufficiency. Change programmes need the individual to make sense of the change.  After all, the organisation cannot change unless the individual does.

We need to strike a delicate balance but here are some ways in which you can empower people to take charge of their own learning and become more self-sufficient IT users.

Culture matters

An open culture is one where people can communicate freely and have the tools to do so. The rise of Enterprise Social Networks and social learning means colleagues share information. Hierarchical structures and outmoded restrictions on social tools have led organisations to miss out on the critical opportunity to help users become more self-sufficient and collaborative. Examine the real time communication tools you have and there may be more potential to connect users with each other.

Users ask each other questions on social sites of course but they can also access our help as L&D professionals at the point they actually need it and we can monitor the types and frequency of particular queries to identify further need. Push learning – where content is delivered to learners, is turning into pull learning and involves how we elicit active participation and ownership from the learner.

Having the conversation

Scenario based learning presents learners with real work situations and puts them in the role of collaborative problem solver with the trainer as facilitator. It’s often a challenging approach for the trainer and L&D department but there’s great benefit in assisting the individual user with tailored knowledge just for them and in a way in which it is not imposed on them but part of a self-directed process. The facilitator must be well prepared for conversations about individual working practices which means that the discovery phase of a project is particularly vital.

Communicating the story

People are really looking for the deeper meaning behind change, the bigger picture behind learning. Communications is important in building the appetite for learning and where we tell the story to build a sense of urgency.

Authentic contexts for the individual

Involving real work scenarios applying the new processes or technology to an individual’s role, means that it stays relevant for them and they can talk about the new as it relates to them. Content isn’t imposed on people and we encourage individuals to find the answer that matters to them. This is the secret to embedding learning, increasing self-sufficiency and boosting performance.

Resources not courses

Lasting resources that can be utilised elsewhere and provide support beyond the ‘go live’ date lead to sustainability beyond an specific programme or change project. It’s this post implementation resource that helps to embed change in the long term. Plus any time learning needs resources to be on hand when they are really needed.

As always, the needs of the business are crucial in delivering change but it is people, not just technology or process that ensure successful change. Therefore striking this tricky balance between business and individual need continues to be challenging but important.