Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dont let your grace down - Happy New Year 2010!!

Blog Post #100!!

When the time is tough
the tide is rough

Don't let your grace down.

When the results are few
but the efforts are more to chew

Don't let your grace down

Life is an art,
Inconsistencies enhance, Mistakes liberate

Don't let your grace down

When you lose a game,
it is not a shame

Don't let your grace down

When you talk to no one's ears
and there are fears

Don't let your grace down

When you rise, there is a fall,
When you fall, there is a sure rise

Don't let your grace down

In anger there are no truths
In faith, there are fruits

Don't let your grace down

So far it is an evolution
Time to make a resolution

In the new year 2010,
Don't let your grace down

Sunday, December 27, 2009

In Letter and Spirit

What determines a great service and good delivery worth remembering ?
  • We remember the prompt call/service person attendance after delivery of product.
  • We talk about the waiting lines and the lack of information in an otherwise good and happy quality product.
  • Our greetings and gift sharing have short term recall, but the manner of our greeting, time of call and appropriateness of gift has the word of mouth appeal.
This post is to bring forth an important point, that is oft missing. To achieve an objective in letter and spirit, it is not good to go beyond scope, give freebies, provide more attention, pamper in any other way. A delivery or service done well is what you are paid for in professional life. However to gain satisfaction, create your brand, carve a niche, you need not look beyond; rather look within and carefully tune your approach.

  • The approach determines the satisfaction in the great service and good delivery accepted by your client.
  • The approach provides the recognition after delivering a great service and good delivery to get the next higher value repeat order.
  • The approach ensures bringing skeptics and evangelists on board at the same time and vouch for the service line to bring more revenue.
  • The approach delivers you the candid opinion and critical feedback when you need them the most.

It is the approach that showcase spirit and sense of satisfaction in an otherwise quantitative completion of tasks and KRA's to objectives.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

e-Learning course styles

In one of my earlier post, I rued about the fallacy of levels based estimation and their mis-application in real world. This post is an attempt to bring about a change from that practice through a series of thought applications that could well then give the insight for a better model.

The large difference that can be seen in vast variety of e-Learning courses is the ability of courses, irrespective of multimedia quality, assessed on following styles.

1. Are the courses "flow through" materials. Take once, visit once in a while, strike through a task, fulfill a mandatory clause.

Knowledge gained: May be! But better than having nothing or print outs or slides with text and a boring presenter.

2. Are the courses retentive enough. Internal presentations, brochures, a communication from CEO, a function, an event organization, remain talking points for quite some time in the period. They allow for enough retention of the materials and subject. Blended learning model is very critical to ensure and enhance retention.

Knowledge gained: Yes, at-least the takeaways!

3. Are the courses comprehensible? Which means, are they materials allowing people to refer, quote, and provide feedback on the actual working vs training material content

Knowledge Gained: Goes beyond. People think about its application and contexts they fit in.

4. Do the courses change a behaviour? This is audacious to say that training alone achieved it. But when a tool/task/action is performed as it has been told vs now know why it needs to be done, then training is a factor (People can articulate the "What is in it for me" question). When a product gets a familiar greeting, then training is a factor (When people can train others on the features with minimal exposure- Think Google Wave videos). When a sub concious or an unconcious act is now executed conciously, then training is a factor (I didn't know the rules earlier. Having made to take the course, I now know fully well when I am breaking the rules.)

Knowledge Gained: Yes and Applied in situations. What crooks do is apply them towards greater sadistic pleasure, while good people apply them to ease/improve/change for good and better for the ecosystem concerned.

One important point, each of them carry equal cost and weight. The context differs. The content maturity levels decide, the availability of subject experts determine the style level of courses.

Are all 4 e-Learning ? That needs to be a discussion. Looking forward to your comments.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

e-Learning for Business Value not for Teaching skills to employees

Always shifting the anchor points in a brainstorming session gives more clarity and shakes up prejudices and strong views of people for a given topic. Talking of e-Learning vs ILT, e-Learning ROI vs ROE, Training for Performance, Custom vs Catalog course effectiveness, have generated enough literature that many are now not of much interest or add value.

But the problems still remain. It is not mainstream investment. The cut back is immediate when drive is to save bottom line and top line is stagnant. Lot of companies generate enough flash files and learning courses with many companies mandating e-Learning purchased courses to complete during "bench" time.

What next ?

This post from Cathy Moore, inspired me to write on this topic, running for quite some time on how to make a difference.

e-Learning courses when asked by customers need to be qualified better for their business roles :

1. Do you want e-Learning as a digital expression of hard copy manual ?

2. Do you create e-Learning courses to reduce costs ?

3. Do you desire e-Learning to become a benchmark for better communications, alignment to goals, mapping close to business goals?

If answer to #3 is "yes", then state the goals.

Few examples could be:
  • State the current communication method for product rollout, process change, availability of a new help mechanism? What is level of user participation ? How much would you want to increase ?
  • What business problems apart from cost do you like to see ? Are users comfortable traveling to your site ? Would they be happy, if training reaches them than they reach to training centers ? How would this contribute to users helping the company in return ? - More involvement, more productive, more responsive, less thoughts of leaving the organization, more participation in new initiatives ?
  • While achieving stated business goals what positive side effects would be desired? Reduction in time for efforts, errors, increase in participation to initiatives, ease od maintenance, etc ?

The crucial factor, we omit in all these discussions is to put
a "measurement index" around the goals. Some simple techniques that has worked with our customers are:
1. First feedback from 50 users should be good.

2. The number of dealers who have achieved certifications should be 40 in first month.

3. I should be able to give a CD along with my product.

I have seen e-Learning commissioned more and more by business functions from their budgets than IT or HR budgets.

Do you see the same patterns emerging in your roles ?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Good, Worthy, Reliant

All the 3 are antonyms of each other (Not in English, but in entrepreneurship mode).

  • A good candidate does their chosen area well. This, by itself is not a sufficient condition to be of worth in a given context.
  • A worthy candidate need not be good at their skills. But have proved time and again to do that one thing right at the right time. Dependable in a given situation.
  • A self reliant person is the "great" guy. They need not possess extraordinary skills. They need not be glamorous, smart. But they are savvy, street smart, passionate individuals, who take tasks up their sleeve, in their heart, roam with their mind applied to that one goal. Ever-green go-getters with minimal management overheads.
Which personality are you ?

When you have a good team, it only gets you to deliver good if you have projects. The team does not get you far.
Few worthy individuals in team, ensure that the sustenance is taken care of. They stretch only in patches to do few things right, and get back to being good.
A self reliant team is the auto pilot, well fit cog wheel set of individual groups who deliver, stretch and further take care of themselves and the system well.

How do you get a self reliant team in place ? When I start on my own, I for sure, will not be concerned for a good team.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Expressive vs Explanation: The difference? - Seek involvement in others

I have realized that to grow professionally, you need to move to a higher level of expressive forms than just explanation.
When you explain, you rationalize the already chosen path and try imposing a point of view through verbal or written medium.
In explanation, agreements are muted or disagreements immediately surface.

However expressiveness takes a radically different approach. Expressiveness let the audience participate with the level of your involvement with the subject.
You may draw, sing, dance, seek visuals, draw, take pictures, replete with analogies, humor, ask for points of view, Quote research; just simple: seek involvement from others.

Once the affinity levels are known, there is almost only one choice: Reciprocate and Resonate the topic and not necessarily the speaker views.
Thus expressiveness is more rational, logical, sensible, expandable, creative job that needs practice.

How have you expressed in a situation and how many got on board with you?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

When should you not look at games for an e-Learning solution

1. No games, When you have an objective to be achieved that is primary rather than involvement in game as focus.
2. No games, When there is a sense of urgency and purpose in the initiative and learning.
3. No games, When there is no humor or surprises required in the solution
4. No games, When the need is one time or an occasional repeat to the content
5. No games, When there is no competition required as a motivator
6. No games, When the stakes are not as high as a win is essential
7. No games, When you want a stickiness to a story rather than an evolution of story through users experience

Thinking of more...Any suggestions please ?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

e-Learning Media: Self made Constraints : Part 6: Integrators the lesser known important skill

I started my career in this area. Frankly, couldn't understand the value of the work.I neither code, nor design, nor edit, nor layout the screens. But it was a role held in high esteem by peers in my company.

My mentors started to instill confidence in the role and the value that Integrators bring to the table. It is not the technicalities in the end that WOW the customer. It is bringing them together that is important, that makes sense, that makes relation, that delivers the money, that delivers the business success. Hence while an ID, VD, developer, Technical teams are the experts that you cannot command on what to do in the project, an integrator just pieces all of them together and troubleshoots the "overlaps" and "disparate" elements with individual experts to resolve the "gaps" and "repeats".

The rant is to let you know, that things have not changed yet. There are still skeptics who rationalize and question the need of Integrators. A role given to a team member confuses on the actual work involved.

This is the role, that is more encompassing and shuttled around to do all tasks that fall through the cracks of independent teams. But it is an esoteric skill (perception that this is most critical), that allows growth for members to be excellent project managers.

The main target for Integrators is to explain and fight (at times) within the team to get the output flowing. Just that when you move to a PM role, you pick up explanation and fights (with customers and management not inclined towards solutions) while supporting the team you work with.

Still I cannot articulate the "Perfect Behaviour" or the "job description" for an Integrator, except that I can sense them with intuition, if they are right fit for the job. The best part is Integrators can come from any stream. No prior technical knowledge is necessary. But conviction to learn multiple technologies and use them and "interplay" between technologies is more sought after skill for a true "Integrator material" resource.

In my first company, I saw this abolished in name of cost cutting. Sad that it widened the gap to profitability in the next quarter. :( 
Do you employ Integrators in your e-Learning projects ?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Perfect Behaviour

Instead of Job Description, I believe we should ask individuals to write their "Perfect Behavior" points. When we search for perfect friend, perfect companion, perfect day, we should put on "Perfect Behavior"every time.

Wouldn't it then be appropriate we write out the perfect behavior for project manager, spouse, instruction designer, developer, consultant, tester, etc... ?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

e-Learning Media: Self made Constraints : Part 5: Is a Project Manager required?

I was flummoxed when a customer asked this question to us. This also brings about a much criticized role in e-Learning. When I started my career, I too could not understand the logic, rationale that a manager brings to table. Estimating efforts when everything is a variable (technology, requirements, design, and ever changing storyboards) was at the best, irritating and answering why the estimated efforts increased was a real waste of time. Not that I was discouraged with the questions (there is immense value in them), but at that time, delivery was more crucial and critical to prove self and over-smartness in playing with numbers was not my cup of tea.

Over the years as I matured into the same role, I guessed, I will not do that again. But lo, I too unknowingly asking the same questions differently.

Wouldn't a team lead or any management trainee do this job of recording estimations and actuals and preparing reports to management ? What does a skilled e-Learning artist expect from a manager and why this expectation gap, invariably, in many companies ?

For one, the expectations that I had, are the same I hear from my team now. Just reinforcing the fact that with so many years of maturity, the basic needs are still yearned and desired by teams in the manager.

What then, are the quantifiable expectations of a manager.
1. Understand the lingo of the teams.
2. Be a self worker too. Too much dependency on the team is never desired.
3. In e-Learning, teams expect the manager to be a solution person who applies business perspective than vice vera.
4. "Listen", "Emphatize", "Think", "Act" - Never argue or force down the throat any pills. They always taste bitter and bring in more health problems.
5. "Market" the teams efforts in all forums.

Last and the First: Be a numbers person.

Any other expectations you have from your project manager ?

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