Posts Tagged ‘structured process’

Management Gone Missing?

Monday, September 10th, 2012

I saw this comment on a learning and development forum recently – “I recently ran a management course for new and existing managers at similar levels, it is a course which all managers new to the organisation are told about and attend with agreement from their line manager. I had a number of managers who were negative and felt they shouldn’t have attended as they had a number of years’ experience as managers already. The other delegates were newer and did want to be there. I found I really struggled to turnaround / manage the really negative individual and the other few who weren’t happy to be there. Due to this I really feel I didn’t deliver the best course I could have done as, whilst I have experienced the odd 1 or 2 negative delegates in the past on various courses, I’ve never experienced such constant negativity which I didn’t seem to be able to have any influence over.”

Following the post were a number of suggestions from respondents, including:

  • Having individual discussions with delegates prior to their arrival
  • Encourage delegates to explain their concerns
  • If people don’t want to stay, don’t make them
  • Tailor the course more to their particular needs
  • Ask them what they want to get out of the course
  • Meet with their managers post-course

What surprised me, though, were that all the responses focused on what to do in the classroom environment, or post-course. In order to implement a long term solution, there needs to be wider and more systematic activity.

What can be done to ensure that such instances are minimised in the first place? What appear to be missing are effective learning and development management interventions.

For learning in the workplace to be effective, there needs to be a tripartite approach comprising the delegate, the delegate’s line management and the learning provider. And in terms of the learning provider, this means both the trainer and – importantly – their management.

Within the post there is no mention of 3 key activities or processes that I would expect to see.

1. Why is each delegate attending the course? They have been nominated by their manager – what are the reasons for the manager requiring them to attend? Managers having pre and post-course meetings with their attending delegates is one of the areas often examined during an Investor in People (IiP) assessment – because it makes a difference.

If this process doesn’t happen, it should. If it does happen, it should be recorded – and most     importantly be available to the trainer. This not only helps in terms of dealing with the issues    in the person’s post – by being able to explain to or remind them of why they are there – but it helps in terms of planning a more meaningful event for the delegates – and will generally mean an increased return on investment (ROI).

2. How might the use of a Student Charter or Learning Agreement help this situation? If such a process is in place, it means that the internal customer (the delegate and their line management) knows what to expect from the internal provider (the learning and development function). It should also include what the internal provider requires from its delegates – in terms of participation, input and behaviours – together with the consequences for a delegate who chooses not to meet this level of expectation.

Such an agreement should have been agreed across the business at senior management level – and so it is then easy for a trainer to use and implement without fear of having overstepped the mark. Transparency for all concerned.

And as a consequence, those who want to be there and want to learn can do so.

3. Finally, the person’s post on the forum indicates that this course has been delivered previously. What evaluation data has been generated?  And I don’t mean end of course or Level 1 data – I mean Level 3 or above, good quality data.  How is it improving the performance of those who are attending? How have previous delegates been able to use what they have learned? How is the course improving organisational performance?  What is the organisation’s return on its investment?

This information should be gathered from the delegates between 2 and 4 months after the completion of the programme. Both the quantitative and qualitative information can then be used by the trainer to illustrate what delegates can gain from attending – thus also demonstrating the overall value of the internal learning and development function to the business.

I have to say, I really feel for the trainer. I’ve been in that position and it’s not a lot of fun. Here is a trainer wanting to deliver a quality product, but some of the delegates are apparently thwarting his or her efforts.

And I get the impression that perhaps in this situation they are not been sufficiently supported by their learning and development management. The activities I have outlined above would both assist the trainer and probably make their role more enjoyable – and, above all, benefit the business.

Paul

Mediation matters

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

As a result of my last post on Steps and the process they went through in reforming, I received an email asking me about tips on successful mediation.

ACAS and CIPD have published an excellent guide, “Mediation – an Employer’s Guide”.  If you are considering implementing a mediation process in your organisation, I think it’s invaluable. It is also very helpful if you just want to learn more about the process of mediation. If, however, you don’t read long documents, just don’t have time to read the booklet, or want to hear someone else’s views on mediation, here goes.

Mediations are probably some of the most enjoyable things I do in the work environment . This is partly because I have seen how beneficial they can be to both the individuals involved and their organisations, and partly because they are exciting to facilitate. I considered for several minutes whether I should use the word “exciting” in case it sounded frivolous – but I do find them exciting.

They are exciting because I never know what is going to happen and I always feel I have to be at the top of my game when dealing with them. The participants will react in all sorts of ways – dependent upon what I say and do, and what the other person or persons say and do. I think my overall tip is that a mediator needs to go into such situations with the “I can handle” belief as opposed to the less confident “I need to handle”. If a person is approaching the handling of mediations with the latter attitude, I would suggest that they undertake some co-mediation before undertaking them alone.

Many people advocate meeting with the participants several days before the mediation in order that they know you, understand that it is a voluntary process, understand how the process is likely to unfold and have the opportunity to ask you any questions. I see the sense in that, but there are also times when I would not meet individuals until the day of the mediation. This would particularly be the case where I am working as an internal ediator (i.e. as a fellow employee) and the individuals are working closely together. I need them both (or all) to know that I am independent and that I have not taken sides with either party prior to the mediation. So, if it also meets their needs (and it often does as they have already decided the mediation will not work!) then I explain to them individually on the day what is likely to happen, my role, etc.

Whichever process I follow though, I never discuss the issues that we ae meeting about and at the start of the meeting when they come together I always ask each person to confirm that this is the case. This is really important for me so that I enter the situation with no ‘baggage’ or information that I might otherwise let slip into the conversation, and so that the parties know that I am impartial.

As for the process itself, the key to a successful mediation is encouraging and enabling people to talk in terms of facts as opposed to adjectives. By the time we have got to the mediation stage, they are almost always viewing their relationship or the situation in terms of adjectives. They are often running on negative emotion, which is great fuel for generating a lack of objectivity.

Once we are in a room all together, one person gets the chance to explain the situation from their perspective. Using only facts. I stop the monologue whenever an adjective is used – unless it is the person explaining how something made them feel. And the other person(s) cannot interrupt – hence why I call it a monologue. They can each make notes to remind them of points they want to make, but they can’t interject. This makes them listen – which, after sticking to the facts, is the second most important aspect of a mediation. Using monologues also stops arguments and disagreements – up until getting together for the formal mediation they will often have jumped into the situation, and no listening takes place.

And facts generally get people to start to listen – because facts have been missing for so long, so they hear a different story. If I have mediated successfully, I have helped to change the record.

By the time the other person then gets to give their monologue it is usually a little easier for the mediator. And if you achieve that as the mediator, the rest of it is relatively easy.

At the conclusion, I always encourage them to write down what they have agreed. This is so important. It means that they have clarity on what they have agreed, and have almost ‘a statement’ that they can read or give to other interested parties – which limits the potential for reverting to adjectives!

I remember one that I facilitated where the individuals would not even look at each other at the start – they sat back to back with their arms folded. Gradually, as they listened to facts they became increasingly engaged. The making of a written note for future reference, a look over the shoulder, moving the position of the chairs – all great signs for the mediator! After 4 hours together, they understood what had actually taken place, accepted each other’s position, agreed a ‘statement’ to give to the other members of their team and decided to go out for a meal together that evening.

Their manager called it a “miracle”. I was pleased with the impact on productivity and performance it had for the team, but I wouldn’t have called it a miracle. I just enabled people to deal in facts and listen to each other.

One of my previous posts gives additional assistance and structure for mediations – “Can you afford not to do this?” explains a model called CUDSA which I always use in such circumstances.

If this generates any other questions for you, I’m happy to try and answer them. Alternatively, what are your tips for other mediators?

Paul

Can training ever be exceptional?

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

I saw a question on a forum yesterday that got me thinking. The question was, “I’m interested to know how folk define ‘exceptional training’ – what makes training outstanding, and sets it apart from an everyday training course?”

As a trainer, what have I delivered that has been exceptional? I can think of many sessions that I have been pleased with, and that have gone better than others that I have delivered. I can also think of ones that I have thought have been very powerful in the learning that has been generated for the delegates. But I don’t think any of that necessarily makes them ‘exceptional’.

Then I considered what training I had attended that had been exceptional. What came to mind was not training that had been exceptional, but exceptional learning that I had taken from sessions or courses – and the two, I think, are completely different.

For training to be exceptional (if, in fact, it can be) it will depend upon how the delegates respond to it – and not necessarily whilst they are experiencing it, but how they respond back in their workplaces and lives in the weeks, months and years to come.

For example, I was fortunate to be able to attend the Work Foundation’s Runge Effective Leadership Programme about 10 years ago. There was a session on how to create a Vision for a Company or Department. I cannot remember the name or much about the man who delivered the session. It wasn’t a particularly innovative or interactive session, and at the end of the one-week Programme it wasn’t in my ‘top three’ of the sessions I had attended. When I look back on it, however, I realise how valuable it was to me and how much I have used it since. It has been a foundation, a starting point, for many of my successes since then. But I really couldn’t class it as exceptional training.

Which supports my view that only delegates can really say whether such experiences are exceptional, and they can only really do that further down the line. Perhaps there can be ‘exceptional learning’?

So as a starting point in trying to answer the original question how about this – exceptional learning occurs when 100% of the full cost of the learning event is recovered within 12 months of the event – in other words, the person or company acquires a full return on its investment (ROI) within that time frame. I think that could then be classed as ‘exceptional’.

The first step in seeking to achieve this is for trainers to stop thinking of themselves as trainers, but to think of themselves as Performance Improvers – who can play their part in achieving such improvements by effective training methodologies. By reframing their role, their thought processes are likely to have a greater focus on how they create exceptional performance improvements – which then brings the realisation that it is as much about the part the delegates play as the trainer.

It includes getting the right people on the right events in the first place, and motivating and developing them once they get back to the workplace.

The trainer – or Performance Improver – plays their important part in such achievements, but others also have very important parts. And all must play their parts well to achieve exceptional learning.

Unless, of course, you think differently?

Paul

Handling weather fronts

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

I was very sad to see that Alex “Hurricane” Higgins had died at the weekend. In the early 1980’s I really enjoyed watching him play. He had such talent as a snooker player. He could pot balls from difficult positions with such apparent ease. He didn’t indulge in conformity. I have very fond memories of discussions with my dad as to his qualities when compared with the likes of Steve Davis – who my dad particularly liked to watch. I suspect that part of my fascination with Alex Higgins was that he was totally the opposite of me in so many ways and, at that time, I wished I could have been like him in.

Knowing more about him now, I am very pleased that I wasn’t and am not like him. As the years progressed I became more aware of his unpredictability, his mercurial temperament, his alcohol-related behaviour. He had a chaotic lifestyle.

When I read about such individuals, I always wonder whether with a little more assistance they could have lead a more organised and less chaotic life. I then wonder whether by doing that, it would have stunted their phenomenal talent and inventiveness. Does the sheer brilliance of talent have to go with a lifestyle of chaos and unpredictability? Are the two inseparable?

I don’t know. But I do know that most of us at certain times in our lives find ourselves in situations where we need a little help in order to steer ourselves through stormy situations or mildly chaotic periods. And this same weekend I had a phone call from one such person who I had recently assisted. Jayne – I will call her – has absolutely nothing in common with Alex Higgins, and in at least one way she is completely different to him – she realised when she needed a little assistance.

Last month – 22 June to be precise – I blogged about how I was assisting a number of people with their preparations for their CIPD examinations. One person in particular – Jayne, I will call her – had explained to me that when she read the exam paper, the questions, “just became a jumble of words making no sense”.  Jayne had failed the exams the first time around, having walked out after half an hour. When we first made contact, there were three weeks to go before the exam and she was panicking about what she needed to do. She was finding the whole thing very stressful – made worse by problems she was having at work.

Three weeks wasn’t long to have an impact. We had telephone chats every two or three days. We had short term action plans and longer term action plans (but never longer than three weeks!). I gave her micro-teaches on aspects of Transactional Analysis (TA), Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Emotional Intelligence (EI) to help her understand what was happening for her and how she could start to manage the situation more effectively. I devised a set of questions (see 22 June entry) to assist Jayne with focusing whilst in the exam.

I spoke to Jayne a few days after the exam and she thought that she had given it her best shot, and a few days later she emailed me (see 10 June entry) to thank me for my assistance.

I didn’t expect to hear from Jayne again – but then she rang at the weekend. She rang to say that she had passed, and not only had she passed, she had achieved a distinction (over 70%)!  She was very pleased – and wanted to thank me for my support. I was overjoyed for her, and was smiling about it for the whole weekend – the effort that she had put in had really paid off. It illustrated a few points for me:

  • There are times when we all need help – and those of us who are prepared to seek it out will generally flourish.
  • Never give up – it’s never too late to start to address something – (but it is easier with more time!).
  • By being open to new learning and skills we can achieve much in what appears to be a short space of time – and can create positive ‘anchors’ that will assist us in future endeavours.

How could you be more effective with a little assistance or a little more focus?

Paul

Playing with feeling and playing to learn

Monday, July 26th, 2010

In my last post I talked about the value that can be gained from affective learning methodologies, and the reluctance of some trainers to use such methodologies. One such methodology is the role play, and in this post I will give a brief run through on how to do it well.

Some role plays are very tightly scripted or structured – almost being the acting out of a scenario, or a simulation – and such activities are not intended to, nor are they likely to, achieve any affective based learning.

In order to create learning through the use of the Affective domain, the role play needs to be as unstructured as possible – and even then there is no guarantee it will achieve this. As the title suggests, it needs to involve ‘play’. We first learn to ‘play’ as children – and this generally takes place within very loose parameters, generates feelings and is one of the principle ways for children to develop their understanding of the world around them. Not unlike a good role play!

When I think back to learning events that I have really enjoyed delivering because of the intensity of the learning that has taken place, several involve unstructured or semi-structured role plays. When prepared, delivered and – most importantly – de-briefed effectively, they are an impactive way to improve interpersonal and decision making skills in a safe environment, generating long lasting learning.

Here are some key points to incorporate into your planning if you want to stand the best chance of creating an affective role play.

  • Be clear about why you are choosing the methodology – does it link in to your desired outcomes or objectives?
  • Role plays tend to be most impactive once the group is settled and relatively comfortable with each other.
  • Use volunteers – the more relaxed and willing the participants are, the more likely they are to ‘get into the role’.
  • Use written instructions so that the participants don’t know what the briefs are for each other.
  • Use names that can be for either gender – Sam or Pat for example – so that you can use whoever volunteers.
  • Where you are using an unstructured role, it is important to give the role a person’s name (i.e. Sam). This will make it clear to the person playing the role that their skills are not being assessed by those watching. In order to generate real feelings, they need to understand that they are not being asked to ‘perform’.
  • Give sufficient instructions so that the participants know how to get started, together with the licence to react as they feel fit as the role play unfolds – so you give them a ‘role’, and encourage them to ‘play’.

When might you use one? Well, one example could be in customer service training where you are wanting (1) delegates to be able to explain the potential effect on customers of a particular course of action and (2) to give feedback to a delegate on how he or she deals with a situation they may be faced with in the future.

Your briefing for the employee who will receive feedback on how they deal with a scenario could be that they are required to deal with a customer complaint in the role in which they are employed – in this instance as a Borough Council ‘front desk’ clerk.  The complainant’s brief could be that they are Sam and have neighbours who have had noisy parties for the last three weekends which have stopped Sam from sleeping. As a result Sam has spoken to the neighbour who has said that they will carry on having them, and so Sam wants the Council to address the matter before the weekend. Sam can react as he or she sees fit dependent upon how Sam is dealt with by the clerk.

Having run the role play to its natural conclusion you come to the all important de-brief. Important because you may have generated feelings in individuals and as the instigator (and trainer) you have a responsibility to discuss and give meaning to these. Important because this is where the learning is for all who are present. This is the order in which I would de-brief the scenario – and the order is important for the benefit of all those involved.

  1. Go to ‘Sam’ and ask them what they are feeling / what emotions they have.
  2. Go to Council employee (using real name) and ask the same
  3. Ask if the role play has generated any feelings for the rest of the group, and if so what feelings.
  4. Go to ‘Sam’, and this time using his / her real name, ask why Sam had the feelings described in point 1. Explore what created each of those feelings. (The name change is important here as it starts to take the person out of role).
  5. Using their own names, ask the same questions of the Council clerk and any others from the group.
  6. Points 4 & 5 above have enabled you to extract the affective learning and enabled you to debrief those involved.
  7. You can then debrief the rest of the role play in a similar way to how you might have done if you had used as a case exercise or case study as your methodology. If there are no feelings generated, you would again de-brief in a similar way to a case exercise.  
  8. Ensure the group has taken all the learning from the scenario.

That’s my 5 minute guide to running and de-briefing a role play with the intention of incorporating the Affective domain of learning. Did it make sense? If not, or you need more information, please get in touch.

Paul

To the Affective and beyond …

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Buzz, Woody and co are back! Toy Story 3 has arrived and is at a cinema near you. Reports say that it is a quite brilliant film, with the ability to appeal to both young and old. I’m getting excited just writing about it (and on a personal note, I’m surprised it has taken me until my fifteenth blog post to mention anything Disney)!  

Whilst it appears that Toy Story 3 will appeal to all ages, I get the impression that it’s one of those films where the adults will get more emotional than the children, and the children probably will not understand why the parents are getting all tearful – so some explanation or meaning may be required.

As many trainers know, this could be a great example of some affective learning. I’m also aware that many trainers know very little about the affective domain, and even when they do they are reluctant to use it. This is often due to the perception of such scenarios being complicated to de-brief, or that they may lose control of what takes place and not be able to gain the learning.

The majority of trainers will have a good understanding of Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy (or ‘ordered list’) of Cognitive learning which describes the 6 levels we, as trainers, can seek to attain with our learning methodologies. Many of us also use the Psychomotor domain of learning – the domain through which people learn how to use, for example, tools. So, when we learn to drive we learn through the Cognitive domain (what signs mean, when to indicate) and the Psychomotor domain (how to change gear, how to steer the vehicle along a correct course).

I can also recall a few affective experiences during my time driving. The one that immediately springs to mind involves a level crossing near Barnsdale Bar, but the less said about that the better – suffice to say it didn’t involve any trains or vehicles other than mine.  The Affective domain relates to feelings, and Affective learning is when we learn from those feelings.  Due to feelings having been involved, it can make the learning far longer lasting and far more potent than would otherwise be the case. Consequently, due to how much I scared myself at that level crossing, and the fact I understand what I did wrong, I haven’t made the same error again.

The use of the Affective domain can be a really powerful tool in situations such as role plays, when using an evocative piece of music or when asking people to imagine themselves in a certain scenario. I will explain in another post how to run these as effectively as possible.

The most important thing to remember, however, is that a person doesn’t actually learn whist experiencing the feelings – they learn from being de-briefed. They learn in the cognitive domain from understanding their feelings – and in learning situations people will often not fully appreciate why they have experienced certain feelings.  And the rest of the group – who may not have experienced any feelings – will learn vicariously from the effective de-briefing of the situation.

The reviewer of Toy Story 3 at Movies.com commented, “You might bring a handkerchief along. Or some tissue. Whatever you have. A long-sleeved shirt will do. You’re going to need it. My viewing companion openly sobbed during the entire final five minutes”.

If you go and see Toy Story 3, I’m pretty sure that you will understand where any feelings come from – but those around you may not, particularly if they are young. You will be able to increase their understanding of the world with a helpful explanation of what happened for you – once you’ve stopped sobbing!

Paul

From a jumble of words to a meaningful question …

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

I have been coaching a number of CIPD candidates recently as they prepare to undertake their exams. Understandably, they have varying degrees of trepidation as the exam date approaches. What is less understandable is the level of support they are given by their providers as to how to deal with exam questions. It appears to be non-existent for some of them.

Doing an exam can be a bit like taking a penalty in a football or hockey match when success depends on scoring – nothing is quite like the real thing, but practicing and having a structure, technique or model to use can give you the best chance of success.

One person described to me how when they started to read the questions, they looked difficult and as a result, “just became a jumble of words making no sense”. Not a useful state when tacking an exam. Having a structure can help a person to maintain a cognitive approach whilst they are experiencing all sorts of unhelpful emotions. And so the words start to make sense again.

To help individuals in this situation, I have created a number of questions designed to guide them through each exam question and enable them to answer them as effectively as possible. I’d be interested to hear from others as to whether they work, or whether I’m missing anything. Or do they need tweaking?

1. What is the question asking me to do / what is the product?

2. What is the subject?

3. Who is the audience?

4. What do I know about the subject (relative to the audience)? (this is where you board blast / brainstorm as many different ideas as possible – don’t judge any of them, just create ideas – however seeming useful / useless / alternative at this stage) 

5. What are the important parts from Q5 to include in my answer?

6. In what structure will I present this information?

Let me know what you think – I will be grateful for any feedback.

Paul