Thursday, December 30, 2010

SCRUM based estimation: My learning from an e-Learning RFP

Recently I had the experience to estimate an e-Learning course development project based on SCRUM.

Usually I do a bottom-up feature and asset level estimation and the results are more accurate for planning and nailing scope in proposals. This is pain staking and in absence of lot of inputs, I need to rely on best judgment and use collective intelligence of team to identify and scope them. But it has always been worth the efforts. I then tally them into a Gantt based project plan to identify dependencies and factor in schedule and efforts for lead and lag times between teams and tasks. This adds up the cushion to handle project delays and exigencies profitably. Surely, Gantt based estimations shoots up the estimates because of the time the resource gets blocked in non-working times. Then there is a middle ground decided by bosses based on risk factors to ensure there is a winnable proposal.

For first time, I did a SCRUM based resource loading estimation in a recent RFP. I was sure that it is going to hit the roof. Because the initial understanding was that it is another way of resource forecast estimation in a new fad word (just a variation of Gantt based model that I am used to).  How wrong could I be ?

The beauty of SCRUM is that the estimation can be done both ways.

1. Estimation through user stories (essentially a bottom-up estimate technique) OR
2. Estimation through SCRUM team composition (Resource based estimation)

And when I used SCRUM for first time, both models, surprisingly gave close match results. Upon analysis, I realized that SCRUM premise and success is in the way idle time gets minimized. This, otherwise gets factored in resource allocation and estimation. Plotting the tasks and resources in Gantt mostly shows that utilization of resources optimally is a big challenge and is a trade off with other parameters either schedule or add in more people to finish few tasks so that dependent resources are ramped up on time.

 The foundation in SCRUM teams is that in a Sprint there is no idle time. There are schedule buffers, to account for waiting times between dependent tasks, just in case of a need. With Kanban use, there is always a queue of tasks/features and there is progress of the queue across columns. Each member is expected to move the queue from head to finish by owning their work. This is akin to a conveyor belt of task supply that gets picked by resources in a continuous stream. While tasks may wait for resources, it isn't always the other way around. This is profound. Because task waiting to be picked up doesn't expand the efforts or consume additional resources.

This is the change that SCRUM teams are advantageous about. There isn't a fixed flow. If there is a dependent task that is delayed or not available, instead of waiting for the assigned one, pick up one from the belt that is ready for your work. Thus idle times are minimized. Hence resource based SCRUM team estimation planning nearly and accurately maps to the bottom up estimation.

Further, SCRUM promotes high level of camaraderie between members to assist each other in finishing tasks that are taking longer by a single person. This too makes it possible that there is no waiting or lag time for resources to wait for work.

Bottom up estimation is the default model of SCRUM working. You estimate time and efforts per user story which then rolls up to a final shippable product estimation. So if a task or a feature is in a conveyor belt and not picked up, it just means that productivity has improved in teams. This then gets factored in successive Sprints thereby reducing the waiting times for tasks to be moved in Kanban card system.

Further, clients who are savvy about SCRUM or if you had done a workshop for the clients on SCRUM, you are bound to get good information upfront for estimation. Instead of assumptions, you can readily use user stories to base your budgeting and estimation models.

Sounds great, isn't it. Come onto SCRUM bandwagon and you will realize the marvels of a simple technique that answers age-old problems in estimation of e-Learning projects.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

SCRUM and SCORM: A compelling case for adoption in e-Learning projects

Be it
1. An LMS customization and implementation
2. A new Product Creation
3. An e-Learning course development

SCRUM snugs well in all e-Learning implementations.This post is to iterate my thoughts on #3 above.

Most e-Learning course development contain inherent ability to package and publish the output as a SCORM package. For this post, I wish to request my readers to understand SCORM as a course asset model that allows to slice and dice courses into independent small size units called as "SCOs". SCOs have a great importance in reusability, durability and configuration across multiple learner groups and can be packaged across multiple learning modules. This is the benefit of SCORM apart from making it available across multiple LMS that support the specifications by allowing interactions between the courses and LMS.  SCORM makes for a great way for course designers to think in terms of packaging and easy access.

Where SCORM does not specify a way of execution, SCRUM fills the gap to showcase that execution of SCOs in Sprints makes for a better experience for clients and project teams alike.

e-Learning course development mostly follow a flavored variation of ADDIE model (which is likened to waterfall software development).
My experience, thus far, has been that Instruction and Visual Designers thinking is always top-down ("AD" phase in ADDIE). Think of course at large, break it down as MLT (Module-Lesson-Topic) structure and then define SCO level. Then start work at SCO level based on templates, guidelines defined at high level. This is not wrong at all. This has been working well, so long until SCRUM changes the paradigm.

Top-Down design thinking has its merits. You define consistent writing styles, Instructional approaches for content treatment, color palettes, Interface elements, determine the navigation flows and drill down from overall business objectives to atomic level terminal objectives. This established upfront leaves developers and writers to publish courses with ease.

In this approach, when you request for a change to better, it becomes a limiting factor. What is good to digress becomes a one-off case or a work around. What is the ideal treatment style suited to a particular SCO, becomes a change request if not factored in the earlier design phase. What is required as a logical extension but not factored in earlier analysis phase becomes phase 2 or version 2 of the project. For larger implementations, beyond 3-4 months, a stagnant document driving the development suffers from dull teams executing with hand and not with brains. In many cases, the relevance becomes obsolete.

Every designer knows that although you arrive at design using a top-down approach (if done so), it is always an aggregation from bottom-up that makes real sense. A collection of terminal objectives satisfy a learning objective, a collection of learning objectives satisfy a business objective. We call them "Roll Up" objectives. From course standpoint too it is an aggregation model that makes meaning for ROI to training managers. Consumption and mandatory access of learning units aggregates to determine the project priorities and these in turn define the budgets for training. (However, still budgeting is a yearly top-down affair).

The definition of SCOs is left to course designers way of sizing the content and many a times based on the limitations of LMS/business requirements within confines of SCORM.  So designers either get to treat the entire course as SCO or a Module or really treat small topical units as SCO. In practice, there is no right or wrong approach in determining what is considered to be a SCO. 

Consider the case of users and learners for whom the whole industry strives for best experience. Users  knowledge is an aggregation of multiple learning units and past experience and learning that lets them perform better. It never happens to have a direct one to one correlation between learning a course and improvement in performance. It is an aggregation of learning from multiple sources that aids and betters performance. It is multiple insights from learning and their application that a job gets executed well. 

SCRUM comes around as a more meaningful approach towards design thinking and sizing of SCOs. The primary reason is that SCRUM at its fundamental level delivers value by aggregation. A collection of user stories determines a SPRINT, Every SPRINT delivers a shippable product. A collection of SPRINTS allow for successive iterations towards the desired goals.  Every Feature is prioritized and iterated in multiple SPRINTS thereby delivering maximum value while keeping overall vision in mind.

For commissioning any project, you need to have an intent (Vision) at highest level. But beyond that, every big thought is written down  and broken down to finer details as shared (user) stories. (in e-Learning terms SCOed). This allows for better design thinking at shared (user) story/SCO level and applying the patterns common across SCOs/user stories that unifies than homogenize the entire course.

Thus when SCORM meets SCRUM you get to see an exceptional output which retains the localized and unique customizations required at SCO level, while larger part of design is driven by commonalities across SCO units.  So instead of homogenizing SCOs as is done in top-down version, thereby bringing in monotony in treatment, you get to unify by applying designs that work at SCO levels, making SCOs truly stand alone as an independent package.

Does this mean each shared (user) story is a SCO. Possibly yes. But the flexibility is at designers desk. However, common sense dictates that you will not make a larger SCO than user stories.

 I am realizing the merits of this approach in my current assignment. Looking at design parameters at SCO level and rolling it up, gives far greater freedom to designers, writers, producers to improvise on the final output quality. SCO is the access point where users spend most of their time. This is where they will make opinions on your work.  This is the moment of truth for users to get maximum worth for their time. This is what business managers will eventually learn that their benefits are derived. Hence focusing on them that SCRUM greatly emphasizes on, is a better approach.

Welcome SCRUM to your e-Learning projects development and am sure of far greater productivity, happy development teams, clients and users.

Let me know your SCRUM and SCORM story.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

SCRUM: A better method to manage Flux

You have an idea. You can only throw a few pages (say, less than 5) about the concept. You need to drive down but need a navigator help. You are sure it can succeed when you dive in deep to make the idea a better proposition collectively.

You need inspiration from like minded people, time to acquire intelligence from your sources and to have a notion of success, develop it to see some action.

You may want to cut down your losses at some point, change directions, move around pieces of your idea/work in a different sphere, or get a new idea that transforms the current work for a better scale.

You may want to pause, go for funding, travel for roadshows, be a change angel and find what your critics, cynics and competitors think, say and act. You would want to move down a feature and include a fresh and new thought to get it to marketplace early.

When you want to start small in a dream big project or divide work into smaller chunks, SCRUM is a great way to queue up work and get them moving to finish. All of the above is feasible due to possibilities with following SCRUM features.
  1. With Sprint planning and Timeboxed iterations, you can refine, rewrite, replay, re-configure and pay for what your immediate goals are. Not to stretch to touch the horizon.
  2. With Shared Stories (better to call it this way, because you are not the only one to write it) and Sprints, it is easy to see early outcomes and refine the language to promote them better. You get to see the linkages not previously envisioned and hence add it to a long list of shared stories written from users view. They leverage the past experience, existing products and licenses that can make your reach to idea transformation faster.
  3. With Burndown charts and impediment logs, you get to know the roadblocks and hold a tighter control on the investment purse.
  4. With Stakeholders meetings, Sprint stand ups  and Sprint Retrospectives, you continuously improve on the service, timeliness, productivity and product quality.
So isn't SCRUM a better way to manage Flux ?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Learning ID Theories

This is my attempt to collect all links from where I gained the knowledge in a single archive. Help me build this collaboratively. It is easy.
1. Click the request invite button in the popplet. Once you have access code, register yourself and then click this Popplet link.
2. Add nodes and move them around.
3. No need to save. It auto saves and check back in the blog that your work is getting reflected.
4. In case of any issues, drop a note via comments and we will fix it together.

View the larger Learning Map here

1. Ensure copyrights are respected.
2. Give due credits to site owners for their originality.
3. This is an experiment. So, if any one found their site content copied without permission, notify me in comments section and I shall pull it down. Thanks!!

Disclaimer: I am a user of Popplet service, just like you. So any bugs, feedback on Popplet system should go to them directly.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Importance of SCRUM

You cease to compete if you don't SCRUM.

A huge investment for a great product gets built

incrementally, iteratively, intelligently and importantly 

1. Stay ahead with lots of good features according to changing trends
2. Allow time to listen in to users
3. Prioritize scope and tell stories that can sell.

A dawn of realization happenned when I saw this in the product demos at my client site.

SCRUM is a promise that allows you to do well, keep the project health well and stay fit with all stakeholders expectations.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Minimal SCRUM learning: 10 important points every SCRUM member should know

  1. Know your team members by name.
  2. Know the project vision and your job (tasks and the end goal).
  3. Stay on course of Sprint. Don't work on other jobs not in the Time box.
  4. Know your team members jobs. You are expected to help out to ensure all tasks in Sprint are completed.
  5. Know the documents you need to read, create and edit: Burn down charts, Impediment log, User Stories.
  6. Know the work you need to present and be confident to present it yourself in stand up meetings.
  7. Be creative to solve problems. You need to estimate your tasks and ensure to finish it within estimated time.
  8. Surface problems with solutions and brainstorm solutions in group.
  9. Pick up jobs nearing completion first and move to your stories later.
  10. When there are dependent stories or pre-cursor implementation required to complete a feature, de-scope an item from sprint log to incorporate the new story inside the sprint. Do not expand the sprint log.
 P.S: This is not what SCRUM mandates.  But with experience in initializing SCRUM in my team, these are the basic blocks to drill down the essence of working in SCRUM way.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Reflections on 150 posts, 2.5+ years of blogging...

It is a wow feeling!!! In retrospect it is surprising as i never meant to take blogging seriously. :)

It is time for some history. My first post was born out of anger and self-doubt. I felt I need to check if i what i was saying is uncommon, un-remembrable or if my language was difficult. Candidly, I wanted to check on my prophecies. Thus the thought that sharing what you believe and getting to know if it is being accepted or ripped apart by your readers was the first motivation.

No comments slowly became a good motivator than perceived otherwise. I felt no shame in writing what came to me at a given moment. Felt that I get it out there, and no one responds means I have a "safe zone of expression". Alternately, got prepared to accept the fact that if some one said the post is not great or right,  I would just be pleased to have a first client whom I connected with emotionally (tone not withstanding). 

Few things happenned during the journey. Funny that I didn't visualize that current state and their importance then.

Starting point:
No, not the time my post was born. But starting point goes 2 years back from my first post. It is the time I was following bloggers and reading them.  I was a passive consumer. Neither commented or did anything on their blogs. Just read it, reflected it and at times, copied it for my discussions. From sidelines, I saw many of my friends attempting to blog and admired their courage to present their views in front of the world without fear. At this time, one of my close colleague jumped into the bloggers world. He could be noted as my trigger to establish contact with blogging world as a contributor. Alas, he is no longer active in this circuit and is now full time facebookian.

Jumping Procrastination:
#1 Where is the time?: Traditionally, working professionals often have to surmount the challenge of time and goals. The procrastination group often talks about "what is the use"?, "how much money will i make"?, "why should i share my ideas for free"?, "What if some one else uses my ideas and voice and gets ahead?" and more such noises run in head. Particularly, these noises find support when your co-team is not exposed to bloggers world.

I didn't escape this either. The way I circumvented this procrastination is to always say "Need to do it". Making it a mandatory routine is the main lesson that my colleague mentioned to me in our conversation on the subject. In hindi he said it as "Karna padta hai. Kaam bhi karni hai."

#2: Naming Ceremony: I did this too. Felt I need a great name and a "google" type name that can become an instant hit. I went for months together on this one. Felt I had hit a great name which is meaningful for my writing. Only to later realize that is not a good one. See, the benefit of blogging beneath a radar is that you can learn from your mistakes and later not even remember you committed one. Before "Learningpractice", my blog title was "projectstand". So much for all the research i did on the naming of my blog.

#3: Branding, Traffic and other Worries: Such worries constitutes the longest procrastinating thought that prevent you from blogging. Investing time in branding your site, researching on SEO optimization and trying to drive traffic artificially by registering across many promotional sites are all dissipators. If you have great content you can be sure that someone somewhere is liking you silently. Leave the worries. You can get in pros to do that job for you. But you cant pay for creating your own content. It has to be in your words, your thoughts, your opinions. In short, an authentic "you" goes a long way in getting your circle of friends who are thought minded as you.

#4 Fear:  All the above reasons arise primarily out of fear. Fear to start something new, fear that it too might fail, fear of peers comments, fear of time being frittered on a flirtatious effort, fear to write, fear to think, in short resistance to all things blogging. So doing the 3 points above which is available in drones in net, pushes your actual effort a little away.

There is no magic to overcoming fear. As I realized, to remove noise, always say "Need to do it".

Moving On
#1 Few initial posts: Overcoming fear, if you have to write, you cant think through. They need to have inspired you and you just passed on. I wrote them as they occurred to me. Over a time, blogging gave me a way to practice my speech. In essence, it was allowing me to write my stage script and subtly prepared me for my next day act.

#2 When there was a pause: It is scary. Reason is if you lose touch, you will lose the habit. You need to keep up to ensure you are always in touch. We miss our friends when we part ways in college or school and need reunion party to look them up. But the moments, the continuity, the sharing of long list of endless musings all get time-bound and never is the same. At times, I didn't feel like blogging. It was like, there is too much pressure from all sides that this is an overhead (or so it seemed.) But the fear factor that I will let out the habit and will never get to blog as my usual self again kept me going.

It wasn't easy. You know it is actually not a good position to be in. You know you have to blog, but you cant think of what to write. Writers block hits you. This is the time I started looking at my immediate surroundings. Each person, each situation you encounter, every little nuggets of statement in arguments, discussion get to eventually become a valid entry to be in a blog.

If you stay inspired and you are conscious about your look out, there is a long tail of topics that you can blog with.

#3 The spikes and Rewards: I got my first known reader may be after 70-80 postings. My posts were liked and recommended as good weekly posts 4-5 times in a given period by another blogger, I admire. In this time, I started expecting myself to see responses and site meter to show readers every day when my post is out. When it didn't happen you feel that you have lost your readers. But no, the gratifications come in other forms.

You get to reach out at personal level and from the realm of public relationship, you move to a closer bonding of matching thought wavelengths. With every new post, you get to treat spikes and rewards with more pragmatism. You know you can get responses, you have seen little publicity, you get to attract unknown people just with your topic selections and you can "write" the way your readers expect it.

But what counts, is keep the long tail list coming on without any affectations to "all outer gratifications".  It is "you" who got readers choose and close in on you. So leaving the "you" or an "affected you" might have a reverse placebo.

Road Ahead:
Promotions: You need to do this. This shows your interest and your passions. Self-interest is accepted in this world. The best news is people respond and almost all times, positively. But postpone them till you are clear to start, sustain and succeed in the initiative. It is a bad repute to market heavily and lose the touch after some time.

Gaining readers and losing theme in a battle of million blogs is not a great sign of leadership.

Lessons Learned:One lesson in social media is that long tail is essential. Long tail is analogous in time, frequency, velocity of topics and passion that scales past time and everlasting in the heartful journey.

It is not that I have achieved anything impossible. Nor there are pinnacles that are scaled. But innate bondings don't rely on external gratifications. Blogging to me has given myself a voice, a subject that I can phrase in my words, the expressions that is now refined compared to years ago.

What does it give you: Blogging is akin to your daily duties. Missing to do them doesn't bother you much. But it signals a failing health. It is just not a good feeling. Missing a heart beat means a lot to our existence. In simple terms, blogging allows you to maintain mental health better. It can turn the ante against you to a pro-positive effect in a discussion. 

It is important to reveal your self and publish posts with authentic mistakes. Such trademarks are not copyrighted or patented but by default gets associated with the person with recognition of patterns.

Refinements and Growth: I now have 3 blogs running. Hope and wish I get the other blogs off the ground to celebrate 150 posts there too.

Wish and trust I will have each one of you in my continued journey on this site and together create a strong .co-learning network

Thursday, October 21, 2010

10 Tips for Results from Corporate Training programs

1. Engage with people, not just give content to them. Role plays, Scenarios, Dynamic Groupings, Group Activities, Drawings, enactments based on similar thoughts all contribute in every training setting to bond and get most out of training.
2. Ask for feedback often.
3. Discuss action plan based on feedback (often feedback is at end and there is no closed loop to know if it is of use).
4. Tailor processes to show evolution of best practices.
5. Candid history is always entertaining. Say one with Elan and as a story. Create a Protogonist. ("We did these mistakes and hence, now do it this way"; "This was the most funny part in the whole episode";"We will never ever commit that mistake again"; "It was dream run at that time, didn't expect to make it so smooth"; In hindsight, I think it was luck";"It was possible after a hard practice and every bit was planned", etc.)
6. Make it easier to access, read and ALLOW TO SHARE. That is the best reward.
7. Direct people to training zone often to help themselves. Don't feed the horse. Take it to water and leave them there.
8. Create a long tail of archived knowledge. Selective titles is of no use and waste of money to build a small library.
9. Have a second course schedule ready. Get self nominations for next course. That is your success story. It is akin to getting repeat business with no extra sales and marketing cost.
10. Don't be a trainer, don't train your people. Facilitate, Mediate, Compere, Coordinate, Resolve, Collect and Share, Goad, Coach and Repeat a reward system (Impose fines for instilling discipline too). You aid better retention of training materials in a training program if you are not perceived as a preacher.

Above are my experiences and key take aways from the training programs I attended. I remember the training sessions where one or many of these qualities were present, irrespective of the length of time in past.

Am sure you will agree too. There must be more. Please help in the list expansion with your thoughts.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Happy Vijayadashmi and Dusshera

Every night in Navratri celebrates the divine
that brings us year long sunshine.

Each celebrated day makes us remember
That there is a supreme power

With the halo of the gods
becoming our guards

On this dusshera
I wish all - The gift of knowledge and triumph over ignorance
That gets to be successful and yet be and do good

With the knowledge from ages
Passed on to us by sages
Who found it all
To bring us up from our fall

Happy Vijayadashami and Happy Dusshera - Dear Readers!!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Informal Learning Platforms: The richness is Exchange

In my economics subject in MBA, I was fascinated to learn how exchanges work. As a trader, trading floors teach you many things. To be responsible, alert, gauge, and among other things, the exchanges need transactions to be a worthwhile business. And one of the way exchanges generate lot of transactions is speculation. While stock market strategists will advice against speculation and be an intelligent investor, the investors too make money due to speculatory nature of the trading in exchange.

This brings to the point that for a good personal learning, exchange is important. There needs to be a lot of talk around lot of subjects. This is not possible in any training program nor in a corporate environment (but it can change, though!!). Any official program is led with objective in mind. While informal learning platforms act as "learning medium exchange" with the only objective to leave the learning on individual capacities.

There is lot of content to source inspiration from. One reason why Social Media picks up is because we get to follow lot of blogs, follow lot of people's exchanges. Often it is quoted that the value from Twitter is a meagre percentage. But what is created is an exchange medium that you keep watching for your interested stocks (topics) and then benefit from it. While buying more and more, you let go (sell) of your previous beliefs, tutored cultures, and adapt to ways of the group which exchanges information.

Thus selling any learning platform or courses is easy. The difficult part is to enrich it with exchange of information and content that drives consumption at various levels. The Richness in Exchange is what a True Community bonds and held together in a platform.

Informal Learning Platforms: Outings, Parties and Offsites

Shadowing mentors is a greater form of learning. The acceleration and momentum is amplified, if you can get to associate with mentors in informal situations too. May be a movie, a coffee bar,the next seat in flight, or invite over lunch/dinner. These one-one are constrained by time and requires lot of build up to create the opportunities.

If you wish to grow, create more informal situations that by default promotes discussion and learning as a by-product. Making it an ROI or a main criteria misses the whole point of informality.  My boss does this with elan. He never misses an opportunity to mix his office colleagues in his home parties. Every participant reveals a nugget on the subject they know. And the discussion often spans to wee hours of morning. It is a great learning platform. I try it through outings and make it to dance floor parties with my teams.

A familial relationship is critical to stick around together to surmount challenges. Smaller teams are happier with multiple forms of learning outside the office and home environment. Off-sites are great enabler. In my first organization, the amount of accomplishments in an off-site is amazingly more than what can get done in 2 days of conference room and without its stress ,strains and disturbances.

What a better mixer than to institutionalize a platform that gains through exchanges. And what better than people who share their experiences in fun-filled eco-system.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Discomfort to point of Trust

In an interesting discussion piece today with my team, we were finding that giving comfort to an individual and teams will result in more noise. Interestingly, as if a theme is recurring, my boss gave me his piece of mind  to let me know that giving more comfort and more hand holding has beaten me back with a not so good feedback from the same individual.

This has been repeated many times over. In a project that keeps you on border of delivery and challenges, the output, enthusiasm, crowd-sharing of responsibilities, are apparent and visible. Trust is high till the time the challenge is manifest. Once the challenges are passed by, the first member to create noise is the one who doesn't have a contribution.

In a project, which we know have done multiple times over and is one another repeat delivery, it is apparent that something is bound to go wrong. May be it is Murphy's  law at work, that is not recognized. When I was project manager, I get discomfort from the fact that everything goes smoothly. Hence, either it is always on new processes, new ways of doing things, incremental innovations have been my key to lock in trust.

My mentor taught me to bring in artificial chaos to ensure that every one is alert and on toes to deliver the job. In fact he used to demonstrate how to take a future possibility as a current risk and make sure that we understand that we need to do more and make sure other parties are equally successful.

Trusting others and to be trusted is the pinnacle point in teams who are fighting together to surmount the impossible.

The hidden face of it is to not push discomfort too far to lose on the members. Accepting and accolading job well done will always calibrate the discomfort to point of trust.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Emotions of a farewell

Organizations do either of 2 things when an employee gets into exit mode.
  1. They make it difficult and screw the moment turning seperation into a partition.
  2. They make it memorable, emotional and spread the positive word through the alumni.
We are used to #2 so much in our school and college days, that our dear professors are attuned year after year.
We don't even know that #1 exists, until it happens. In my earlier organization, there was a conscious effort to practice #2.

Whatever be the reasons, exit is a painful decision. But should the journey be so? At the end of the day, each of us in employment are faced with the same prospect. It is rather better to make farewell an attached moment and memory-etched.

Make sure, your team gets together to speak about the highlights. Expense a tea and brownies to indulge in some informal talks.
Give a gift. Our standard is to get a greeting card with sign of all team members wishes.

Exit process is a transaction. See beyond to still keep the option to get together in same or different setting for better business proposition.

How do you manage exit processes in your teams ?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Carrying forward best practices

This seems to be difficult to practice. A good snippet or a best practice in a project never seems to get carried forward conciously in next assignment. Even the same person who has shown the spark of brightness seems to leave it behind. Why ?

Careful observation of teams and people leads me to believe that for best practice to survive beyond a transaction, managers and leaders must make the wish explicit in action to preserve them at any cost. Many issues happen in trenches and they should be the focus of nurture to make the best practices an inherent habit. Some key steps in my habitat that works are:

1. Instill Discipline: The best practices normally evolve in a transaction and in a pressure or critical situation with an assignment. It escapes the teams due to the priorities. The discipline is to codify, archive and share them.

No secretive pass along key can continue and take the best practice further than to codify, archive and share them.

2. Mandate more time per assignment: In ever increasing work load and work mails switched on in your sleeping time and beyond, timebox for each task is a potent inhibitant. We move into next task when we know that it is close to completion. We don't really stop a beat to look back and reflect on the task well done. You work on a sales demo, move to proposal, move to deliver on commitments, move to next and so that life sings "pull along" song.

You need to mandate more time to sit back, talk about it, reflect on it and better allow each one of them to reconstruct it. Only in groups, can you identify, phrase, reiterate and attest to the fact that there were best practices that were followed and evolved in the assignment. Then is the time to execute step #1.

As a leader, provision the time for the team to this exercise and mandate the discipline to share.

3. Provision for Viral Modes: This is critical. Sharing a document, putting it up on a blog, Collaborating on a wiki are all various tools used. The most effective, still is, to allow teams to get together and talk about it. As more and more technological advances occur, it is more and more reflection of the fact that viral modes are people to people transaction. Allowing for parties, get-togethers, meetings, post assignment sessions, giving time off, are all the most cheap and pervasive viral models available. These alone make sure that in a future time, on a new assignment, the best practice is remembered and followed.

Thinking that a best practice exists is the first step towards seeking it in various available technological platforms and forums.

4. Is there a "workbench" available ? When you start a new assignment, it is important to create the workbench. Workbench is set of tools selected and made available for the duration of the assignment that is readily available to you @ work. We often open a fresh canvas and start executing the job.

In a workbench, it is important first to select the tool (identify what best is available), sharpen the tool (bring relevant contributors, stakeholders on board), summarize the understanding (make the right assumptions and provide the right solutions) and then start work on assignment.

Collaboration systems, intranets, extra-nets, forums and all social tools enrich the "workbench" for better identification, and implementation of best practices.

Take your first step towards carrying forward the best practices and let me know how you do it consistently.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Learning Doing Gap: The bridge is to "OWN"


learning doing gap

Learning Prerequisites:

Reading: Books, Journals, Articles, Listening to experts, Blogs: >>> Remember Extracts:>>> Repeat in "OWN" context.

Observing: Self:>>> Others:>>> Assess your characteristic:>>> Imbibe what you need:>>> Make it your "OWN".


Doing Prerequisities:

Visualizing: Dream: Immerse: "OWN" the Space and Moment

Practicing: Concious Effort: Sub Concious Automatic effortless work: Habituate : Be on your "OWN"

You can check for the above discrete and diverse elements in each of the tasks you are good at: Check their appearance in your abilities of

1. Driving

2. Daily duties

3. Managing your calendar

4. Social Interactions

these 4 elements manifest in closing the learning-doing gap. This is a reason why ROI of training or e-Learning programs are hard to be defined. As you can envision, learning-doing gap is measured for individuals as "degree of closeness" between learning and doing the tasks than a single defined number. 

Thus, a good ROI for a training or learning program is to check the % of users who have successfully bridged the learning-doing gap and it is dependent on quality of resources (people, training programs, environment, personal time) that an organization is willing to nurture.

Please comment with your thoughts...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Labor of smile

Work, with a smile as nursing sisters do
Labor, with positiveness as doctors do

Consume medicines, as a fact of life
Sail in pain, through the calmness of sleep
Show the suffering, through the stretches of teeth

In the end, we live to see a labor of smile from our loved one that lets off the suffering of past.

One learning my friends, show a smile not to the job, but the person behind the job.

(Blogging by the side of Ananth, my son 1.5 yrs in hospital who is cautious not to let others see him without a smile.)
While on Mobile with Nokia E72

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Content Fragmentation: Spend time on Reading than Surfing

Content is fragmented across so many sites and we end up spending more time surfing than reading on web. When we are connected, we always seek more avenues for same content than read up the book. Still, I bet that books are the best friend that you share an intimate personal time one on one to come out afresh, soulful, moved and relished even in a busy daily stressed out day.

Content Fragmentation is a reality in connected world. We end up consolidating content through a period, that spawns multiple days without a productive work. Most aggregator sites have tapped into this potential, yet the options among them (Mashable, Alltop, Google Reader, etc) make us compete to shuttle between them and digress from real reading. We will soon be competing for time in selecting devices than performing tasks that needs to get done.

 e-Learning Planet is a great example. A good repository to emulate for an inclusive learning culture in social world that can be adapted by organizations within their intranets.  An inclusive culture to mesh courses from various sources is required to realize benefits of e-Learning in your organization.

e-Learning initiatives focus on content threading and learning path creation adds more value and weight to an individual and corporate training programs. The individuals going through a prescribed learning program adaptive to their goals adds more weight and saves time. e-Learning programs hence need to contain an inventory of sources of relevant and interesting content HAND PICKED from various sources and made available inline. I foresee Instruction Design practice take on a "pedagogic collation" role (pick courses and address pedagogic intent for delivery) that helps in achieving a good Personal learning experience (PLE) and allows to Measure Performance Goals (MPG). Technologies can find related content, but it requires a good coach to sift them and arrange them for an energizing reading experience.

How else have you overcome surfing fragmented content and pushed yourself to serious read ? Would wish to learn from you through the comments section.

Agents, adoption, attraction, patrons

After a sale, after a delivery, do we care if the results, be it product, services are useful?
We rely on users to let us know problems through customer care. That allows a safe deduction that there are interaction points with our delivery (service, products). Isnt it a sad theory to get usage stats and qualitative feedback.

Idea cellular, pune circle has a nice example. After receiving the payment they call up to inform that they have received the payment. The way they are trained to start and close, although mechanical by some call center folks is well meant. They some times call to ask feedback on service and what more we might like to consume. Not required at all. As long as service is uninterrupted i am a happy customer. But happy customers are not necessarily buyers.
To buy, your clients need to be patrons, not just happy.

If you need conversions, mine more opportunities, you need to become agent of patron businesses. Many call it evangelism, the real usp is to have agents who can tell and tour with the client on - why are you spending money here? What are you achieving in solutions vs efforts/schedule/cost when and where your programs are finding takers and for what reasons they click with users.

Agents make adoption a success and are the key to attract patrons.

Then a true learning agent is not your course or boss,  but the most liked person in the group for having delivered and attracted great results. Seek the learning agents for learning programs to be success.


Cheap is never a selling point.
Cost perception is. 
Feel of quality is.

Attention to customer helps.
Engagements  at peer levels gets you a favor.

Response centricity with specifics gets you confidence.
Getting from happy to patronizing clients is the peak. 

Affordance to a product or service is always not a function of purse strings and needs.
The desire to work with, expect and the mental price tuning for the expectation is the affordance point for business to take place.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Repetition is key for a successful learning practioner

Going back again and again lets us learn and perform better. No greater example for an effective application of learning is possible without this key trait.

This is single most advice that all artists (e.g. musicians) are unanimous in passing it to aspiring talents.

My dad made me and my sister read out loud minimum 3 times every paragraph and then asked us to write down what sticks in our mind. We used to think he is buying time as he was tasked by our Mom to keep us off her when she was busy.

Be it your time tracking tool, planner, notes, books, they earn value when you return and use them every day. The more familiar you use them, the more repetitive you utilize them, they enhance and deliver better value. Passing it along is highest form of repetition in that it allows more people to resonate and rhyme. This allows teams to thrive and jive together. That is why sharing and passing along books is a trait practiced by closed powerful communities to enhance and increase their resonating views wield power.

Same with your learning programs. Return back to them consistently daily and be in constant touch with them to see the results flowing through.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Success begets Success needs a Human Value

It should be Success begets Scale begets Success to achieve human potential.

This can span a lot of arguments around how scaling leads to a faster fall, a deep nose dive and the old lessons taught to us that we should be guarded against all possible eventualities before taking extreme steps, baby steps are the best way to be cozy on a rainy day etc. Yes, lots of them above are true. But they will eventually happen even if you don't scale. And believe it or not, they happen faster in absence of scale and worst is, the existence is erased without a trace. Sample the following non-scale conditions for your own check:
  1. Being the most experienced in one skill and/or loyal person doesn't guard you against lay off in current corporate/political context.

  2. Being content with managing your expenses based on a fixed one-source income does not save you from heavy expenses that is inevitable or a splurge because heart wanted it.

  3. Being a highly profitable unit with flattened revenues is a valid case to sell-off than to invest and grow the business more.
Getting to scale is the first motto for success. ...And that is why you should get small successes first but set sights to improve scale in same event and time. When you deliver an order of say 10K, you should prepare your team to take on 50K project and set sights to get even higher order. After 50K, it should be a 100K, 500K, and then in millions and billions till the strains appear and need it to be broken down to grow yet again.

If success can get success, all hard workers should get more and more success. However we realize that hard workers get more work while smarter lot get ahead. Well, smart lot is not smarter as you think. Few things they do differently are:

1. Broadcast Success: On Time. It is a sacrilege to let go of opportunity to congratulate and thank people immediately on success. Waiting for opportune moment of some things to happen is going to take away the zing.
2. Keep open Channels: They open multiple communication links. With Twitter, Face book, news letters, thought cards, magazines - print and digital, advertisements, they open doors to potray good things. There are lot of people who are better than you.

3. Get to your community: This is an old living being trait.We never venture individually until the odds and pressure forces us to move on. We always seek friends and family to be around. Same applies to professionals. Irrespective of your company, be aligned to your community. Your good will becomes your asset in your organization. Never though, use your community for personal gains. They will be only there till you belong there. Few easy way to be with your community will be:

3.1. Join your Alumni.

3.2 Make a donation to a public cause.

3.3 Join a conversation you are passionate about.

4. Keep connections active: A face to face or telphonic call goes a long way to keep your consituency alert to you. Being consistently active in place you choose to be is more important than a heavy work out, mad aficionado for a short time and then going to long stillness.

5. Reach out to increase density in their sphere of influence: Success gets to scale when you increase the network you work with. The more people who know you, becomes a selling point to who you are and your business. "Developing business is building networks".

A small set back if avoided to fix and address will lead to multiple failures. My colleague told me that failure as a word has many synonyms. He was mentioning how a service line got associated with such a perception and how it has become a bottle neck in exciting internal stakeholders to make a sale. No one says failure in straight terms. They always cite events to mean failure.

When you measure success, it is the above 5 points that you should care. Building human rapport and spreading the network is the important success criteria.

How have you succeeded today ?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Misunderstanding Andragogy

One of Adult Learning principles is that they learn when situations are practical and problem centered. No problem with this principle, but  to address the problem, the solution described is to allow creation of learning materials that provide for direct application of the new information.

But what is the point? Aren't we forgetting that the best part of our lives were spent in doing activities that aided in learning ? How can we eliminate the naturalization of this learning with a just factual presentation ?

I strongly wish to put forth hypothesis that "Adults too wish to learn through activities". They need to be as much simple as kids play. The look and feel (colors, handles, shapes) need to be as much intuitive and attractive as a kids toy. The activities need not be a real world activity. It can still be arranging of few blocks, clicking to move pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, etc and embed learning in them. The true learning happens when learning is shared/explained or sitting in a peer teaching session.

e-Learning of yore, relied on hyper text medium of clicks and taking you to the information you want. Look around at cool apps you get during searches and surfing the web. Any site, feature, functionality, content that gets you hooked is a cool learning activity that you need to adapt in your e-Learning program.

It could be the "Like" feature in Facebook, RT or DM feature of twitter with quick thoughtful posts, pinging a friend in Orkut/Wave and carrying a conversation. Or it could be the Note Taking Feature, copying the content to a pin up board, Adding more references and linkages related to content. None of these have any direct application to their real world problem. But they do allow for adults to mature in handling such problems and guiding more followers to the correct approaches.

Would you support me in this thinking?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Mental Chasm: The Need for Coaches

Necessity to learn is to fill in gaps. It is known by many names:
  1. Curiosity
  2. Interest
  3. Willing to Learn
  4. Not easy to understand
  5. Doing it for first time
  6. Have heard about it but now seeing it real
  7. Would love to play with it
  8.  What is next and so on...
In short, effective learning and good coaches seeks to bridge the current mental chasm and create new ones. It is not to tie more knots in existing mental chains.

In every single opportunity, learning manifests itself when you see them as discrete entities. Laying the entities as events on a timeline can get you to realize the meaning within the discrete entities. The earlier entities only help to identify the current failings and to quickly address the new chasm (current problem). Unfortunately, we reverse the equation and flip side to learning happens: We tie the entities into mental chain and perceive then as discrete in time.

"Time is and will always remain Analogous".

It happens all the time and we miss the learning potential. When you seek to provide a fresh solution, we often get rebuffed. "This is how we did in past. Conform to the practice" or similar messages gain credo.  ("I did this and this and this. Suggest you repeat the same").

Isn't it a simpleton thinking to state that the current game can be won with last successful plan? Rather, wouldn't it be prudent to look at current game as a discrete entity on a timeline, identify the earlier event (success) on the same timeline, quickly identify the new areas for learning, and immediately put them to practice to trump the opponents? This is what game coaches are expected to do:
  1. Observe the current game from sidelines,
  2. Seek answer to the chasm about what the opponents know about his team and plan,
  3. Change and apply a new tactic to surprise and over power the opponents.
The opponents, if they have their earlier understanding/learning in their mental chain, will fail to realize the change and hence the chasm does not get created for them to learn effectively. The result is missed chances, blown out mistakes, avoidance of the routes to success.

Have we, as e-Learning coaches given in to the mental chain errors of clients or resisted avoided creating new mental chasm in learners using the e-Learning program ?

Mental Chains: Applicability

A unique visitor who was kind enough to stop by my blog for first time, asked "What does it imply for Learning Practice"? Not that all my posts are learning centric, but this sure has a link. When I re-read the post, I felt, may be the topic needs more justification. So here is the applicability of Mental chains and the need to break them down.
  1. Why do change initiatives often fail ?
  2. Where do communication gaps occur ?
  3. What is the foremost issue with a new joinee (senior , experienced and decision making profiles included) in a team?
In every instance above, you would notice, that prejudices, pre-conceived notions, perceptions, environment and mentored context, all contribute as knots in a mental chain. Hence, the shake up, means going to individual knots  and appealing to break them down to enable insertion of:
  1. new ideas,
  2. listening power,
  3. cultural sensitivity
A learning scenario, typically addresses any or all of the above business queries and seeks to insert the conditions mentioned before this parah. When we talk of individualized learning paths, they rather be unique and take into account the mental chains of an individual and introduce mental chasm that can develop their growth.

Take the case of a training manager. If the training department follows the slope, the mental chains make the members wedded to an yearly time table and stick to the old content and the travel plan decided based on bargain travel tickets of travel department.

For the training manager to make their department climb the steep, means to bring in enough metrics and feedback or push few training persons to be in business conditions to vouch for the applicability of the training. With enough mental chasm, the chains of walking the slope get weaker. It is now that the training manager can break the chain and insert the change desired.

In e-Learning, we administer a pre-test to decide and prescribe what more the learning needs are.
Rather, if only the prescription is to provision the mental chasm, which then the user will seek the learning themselves than get a mandate to turn the pages.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mental Chains

What makes a strong personality? Many consider the conviction and ability of a person to convince the line of thought they attest to. Or ability to command a battalion to victory against seen enemies. As a corollary, a weak personality is one who accepts the diktats impressed upon them by a strong personality. Or leaving their conniving emotions to a subjugate purpose.

At face value, it is correct. So, you might think so. This line of thought is part of mental chains we possess based on our
  1.  Upbringing,
  2. Hammered by Cultures,
  3. Exposure to Stereotypes,
  4. Pressure to Conform in a group and
  5. the Local Contexts.
Chains are the cause of confusion, anger, arrogance, false submissiveness and mis-understanding. Primarily they lead to a life of misgivings, wrong expectations, hurried gratifications. Mental chains are the hooks in thoughts that hold each other together and bind your brain and heart into believing in constraints. The hooks in successive thoughts lead you to a single polaroid view than seeing the whole light.

Break them and you suddenly

  1. Are Receptive
  2. Are Listening
  3. Are Amiable
  4. Wield the decision remote
  5. Play the choir in perfect harmony
  6. Saddle dissipation to an innovative path
  7. Become biased to absolute truth and an all-round problem solver.
Ever attempted once ? Try breaking the chain of education and step into world of self-learning.
  1. You will see the same subject interesting.
  2. You will realize that there are so many passionate people around the subject.
  3. You find motivation levels deep inside that go way past passing exams.
  4. You feel the reality about an innate professor within you who can change the world by elucidating the subject better.
  5. You get up dreaming, talking, writing about the subject through care and "caressing its nuances".

Now, having broken the mental chain, find out what a strong personality means? It will mean to you about
  1. Being Interesting
  2. Getting friendlier
  3. Becoming "listened to"
  4. Caring enough to state the bitter truth
  5. Getting unexpressed admiration and readers 
What mental chains have you broken today ?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Walk the Slope or Climb the Steep: The choice for Training Departments

Does your training department act to be responsive, adaptable, friendly and get you to reach relevant training on demand ? Thereby, making it a business centric function with returns, Or do they follow a time table of sessions,as a corporate mandate to keep the show going, based on a list of approved titles ? Thereby, adding it as a cost component in the balance sheet and using it as a mere tool to justify the means and not the end.

Either ways, training departments fulfill a gap and need. Is the gap and need an imperative, or a ritual, is largely determined by the people, sponsorship and cultural DNA desired by the training team themselves and the clout the CxOs wish they can get with training help.

The rigor of training teams can be explained in 3 slopes of a right handed triangle.

Can you determine the slope you current are and the slope you wish to move the compass ?

Climbing the steep is easier once the tactical plan is accepted and agreed upon. It is less budget centric issue but a strenous job, that is considered more as "not worth the effort".

Only that the "will" to climb the steep is sadly missing with many training departments. Any points missed out? Let me know.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Top 6 elements for a good draft

Keeping the 6 elements listed below will improve the chances of continuous success and victory in realizing what you expect. In short, they allow you to be better in art of good drafting.

1. Present the case with a Perspective: The catch is just that the perspective should not be yours. It should be that of your readers.

When your client is reading a proposal, they have a notional impression of what they want to see. Hence the writing should contain business style and highlighting of key value elements. Fast forward it to reading a Statement of Work, it contains the same proposal content, but now this is a legally binding document. Hence qualitative adjectives need to replace with quantitative adjectives. Same goes for a business brochure vs capability document. Both highlight the same, but a business brochure can be in third person language (like "the team has excelled in many implementations"), while the same in a capability document must have a protogonist feel ("We, as a team have excelled in many implementations"). The differences are subtle, but the expressive form requires adaptation based on the document purpose. The purpose as you can see is determined by reader and not by you.

2. Add Your Take: This is your forte. This is critical to establish a rapport, your reputation. This section gives the reader a reason to spend time on your draft. It is important to let them know that you have thought through what is shared with them. Which side, what points you want to present and how is it that you position them is the only unique factor in the document.
Any draft ending as an information dump should not be shared at all
. Be it any form of request/response communication or a documentation to share across your readers, offer your take on the subject. You have to say something that is your own derived from the information presented. An example could be "Based on the case, I believe we should take action in following key areas." In this world of easy one-touch publishing, giving your take on a subject is all that can be a unique factor.

3. Place the Hooks: How are you sure, that your draft and pain staking provisioning of pages of information is read? It is important that you get the message back. One way is to provide with enough options to allow the reader to get in touch with you. But not many will attempt giving their views.

To have a fair understanding that your readers have read/skimmed/analysed the document, you need to place hooks that allow your users to pause/take a break and brood on the subject. After enough instances, provide means to prod them reach you. All the time, it is not necessary that they will come up with questions. At times, it is to pass a good comment, give their reactions in a single word (like/not like).

Hooks, unlike other elements needs to be strewn in the document. Your writing should make the reader become an actor and visioning the play that just watching it.

4. Where is the Key:
Are there pointers and take-away from your document for further action ? The action could be using the document details to verify facts, google for more information or use some of them in another document that I am working on (well, some may call it piracy and copyright violation. Be careful about that.)

The keys when being visual or represented in a visualization help place the point across in a non-boring and amplified fashion. So do not discard visuals in your document and do not over do it. Since keys should not be more than 6 to remember as a take away. In commercial documents, it is mostly the final price value that is read and discussed.

5. Develop Intuition to decide what you would like as Judgement:
This is not part of the written document, but should be the goal of the document. In my school days, one of my classmates used to write answers to questions in class test and used to lift the paper, move it away from her and think about it. Then she used to ask me, is this answer worth 10 marks? Now I realize that she somehow cared to develop the intuition about the judgement that she wants and would receive. Then I observed that she did what she thought would fetch her marks. Sometimes, coloring and highlighting important phrases, sometimes writing more, sometimes keeping it to last. I used to wonder what message did she get by lifting, moving it away and thinking about it?

It was fun and stylish to do so. So, I followed it and recently my dad told me that I always guessed the marks I would score correctly immediately after giving the exams. I still do so. Read through proposals, rehearse presentations and ask myself, is what I do worth getting the order? Will leave the outcome to your guesses :)

Developing the intuition to verify if the judgement would be in your favor, is a quality trait that you need to bring in for good drafting.

6. Call to Action:
When we speak creativity, we always envision a canvas painting or a visual depiction (say infographics.) Draft is equivalent and is an art of playing with words. It is a verbal art. Just as art pieces attract you to think, good documents should attract you to take action.

With time being a constraint and constant bombardment of information from various sources, we cannot practice what artists have the luxury. The luxury is their prospective customers, spend their time for looking at their work in galleries or take time to appreciate it.

We don't get that luxury. So better to incorporate explicit call to action statements in your documents.
Call us, email us, let us know what you feel are all statements of intent to take the relationship forward.

So what do you think ?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Good Writing aint Drafting. Draft is Art.

From my child hood, I have heard my dad exhorting his students and colleagues to improvise their drafting skills. In fact, his first advice to my wife (Lawyer by degree) is to specialize in drafting. Ironically, I can see that none of them were as excited as him and to me too, it seemed a de-glamourized, non-starter for a full time career.

The higher forms of communication is actually the art of excellent drafting and presentation (not PPT the physical presence in a audience setting). Me, till now and most of us still fail to realize this fact and benefits.

Drafting skills are very different from normal good writing and communication skills. Good writing skills cannot differentiate between messages, responses, document types and context of the audience. Writing and communication skills required for all of them are same: Clear messages delivered through sentences that are grammatically correct.

But is that all you do while you require a favorable decision every time in your side? It would be a mistake to think this to be the case. These forms of writing and communication are temporal in nature, while the time tested, generation driven communications are league apart and they are the realm of good drafting.

Good drafts provide powerful personal impacting moments coming to life and making the messages obvious than being "led to believe". Examples of good drafts abound in legends, bedtime stories, rumors, documentaries on historical events, religious texts (Bible, Bhagwad Gita, etc.), iconic best sellers books. These share a trait that is
  1. Meaningful,
  2. Annotated multiple times.
  3. Add value as they are explained and passed along.
We may not create such great drafts, but realizing that you are drafting rather than communicating when ever you are in a social environment will take you leaping miles ahead in success and victories.  Please bear in mind, when ever:
  1. You want to send a message that requires a positive response in your favor,
  2. You are responding to a query that is to be evaluated for a decision,
  3. The context in which your writing is going to be consumed,
all require good drafting skills.

A sad note is, good drafts and people who do so are not a  commercial valued entity. Just as in Art, they are valued long after their life, and are revered in reputation than in money. So if you are in game for monetary considerations, good communication skills can take you there. If you need to be known and remembered, you need to be a good drafter.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Learning Convertibles

Every opportunity is a rich learning experience. How do you see it and covert them to your conscious learning effort?

You can, only if you get to park your emotions, attachment and look at it in silence as a continuum of time than as a siloed experience. What software systems offer is a medium to capture the opportunity. But can you pour out the internalized way of learning in any medium ? Probably not!

Here is where I have seen Learning consultants, KM consultants, proponents of idea management cycle, get to err. The only medium that can bring this internalized learning requires the right ambience, right moment, right crowd, right mood, and be connected with self and time to sink in, reflect, articulate, comment and answer queries in a like minded group devoid of personal interests in the subject. A movie review in a group is one such experience. Contrast it with a written review and you get the picture.

These are the moments that allow for creating self sustaining immutable learning model. It is time, space and mood that determines the impact. Thus creating the people mix and taking time for reflection is an important organization builder assignment.

Sounds unusual. Well, first few chapters of Presence, attest to the belief above.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Comply vs Complete: The difference towards success

Compliance is a bad word in professional environment. It evokes feelings of mass-uniformity, unquestioned obedience, silence, fake complicity and non-inquisitive mind. Compliance characterizes a single risk entity (decision holder is solely responsible for all good/bad) while every one is safe. Compliance is essential too. Without compliance, you cannot deliver; without compliance you cannot expect support; without compliance you cannot make better relations with people.

To enable a change initiative, you need to have change agents who go beyond compliance and seek completeness in the initiative. To achieve a shift in working and thinking styles, it is important to drive for strategic and tactical compliance in same group and in every change agent identified. This is the difference between compliance and completeness (NOTE: "and" is the key here). Strategic and tactical compliance ensures completeness and commitment to the cause. This allows change agents to have an immersive and bearing attitude to see through the success as a shared exercise.

Strategic compliance is to say "yes" to the initiative and contribute in words. Loose words, meeting room exuberance, less of action on ground and support. Tactical compliance is to "take the first step" and then make successive steps. One or the other is what you choose when you are not sure and give a half-hearted support. Tacitly, you know it is going nowhere and wish you are left off the hook. So you comply with the thought or you simply do a bit of your job to escape the wrath. In short, you comply than complete. Factory model is built for compliance (either strategic or tactical), while armed forces are built around completeness (strategic and tactical).

A reason why Vision and Mission remain on paper is a case of strategic vs tactical compliance than strategic and tactical completeness. A vision and mission is strategic, but the tactical approval in every transaction is observed from the same group that put them in place. A loose compliance will reveal that there is not enough commitment to the zeal expected and attributed to the change initiative.

Look out for agents who can complete the strategic and tactical initiatives through their active participation in thoughts, words and deeds. They are your success agents to protect and groom them. They are your cultural ambassadors who needs promotion and visibility.

Agree ? Disagree ? Need your comments.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Content Commerce: The "Halo" effect for e-Learning through social media

Now is the turn for wearing the green hat and lenses to see how can social media be leveraged for better results.

While we are talking of Web 2.0, enterprise 2.0 and the various technologies,  e-Learning industry also caught the buzz word to call e-Learning 2.0 as a new trend. Is it really true ? As e-Learning vendors, we do the same thing - Instruction Design, Instructional Writing, Visual design templates, content population and delivery in standalone or SCORM compliance files, Customize LMS, Launch courses through LMS, Add apps to make it collaborative, and plug in more modules to determine hierarchies, career paths, plan, skills now vs needed, etc. What is news in these ?

Does inclusion of few new mediums qualify it to be e-Learning 2.0 ?

Thinking about it, should we not need another perspective on why e-Learning cannot be e-Learning 2.0 with just web 2.0 enabled version added to its kitty. Let us see what web 2.0 perceptions (can be distanced from reality of 2.0) hold for many like me who see the band marching from sidelines.

1. Web 2.0 is about quick beta: Make it quick and easy. Get up fast and let users contribute to make it better.
2. Web 2.0 is about commerce bottom-up: Earn a user, earn a content, earn a paisa, penny.
3. Grow with more inclusions: Include one and include n amounts the same way in same experience. This means doing N transactions should be as simple as doing single transaction.
4. Create Niches in communities, through service, product: A fast, constant refreshing producer community is niche. A slow moving producer community and ALL consumer community is a drag. Getting vibrant communities and making room for communities to become vibrant through careful plots is the spirit in web 2.0 world.
5. Web 2.0 is about "gains" exchange: I exchange emails, but the emails gain from content richness with the conversation inherent in them. Google could possible gain from human transactions over email to an NI (Natural Intelligence) world. I read a email, review and add/edit/modify the content and reply my take on the subject - Many such reviews is itself a potent information than the original article which started it all.

With these perceptions (they may be perceptual errors as well, which is good in this case), what can e-Learning credibly do to move towards 2.0 band march.

Many things mentioned above apply for e-Learning as well. But what is being done about it? A cool new feature, product addressing one or many of the above perceptions still does not give a wholesome learning 2.0 experience. To have all of above, social media is an important tool. Here, term social media is all encompassing - Water cooler meetings, Coffee shop exchanges, airport lounge talks, quick messaging applications (SMS, Twitter) and other known tools.

One possibility in 2.0 world is to have a vibrant content commerce. A content commerce may be visualized as a transaction between content and the user with the richness being transferred between content and user continuously. While so far, we have the notion that users consume content and the rewards are in day to day work. But why ? The idea of one sided transaction needs a change to call ourselves to be in true 2.0 world.

In traditional way, When I consume a product, I buy the product repeatedly. The consumption satisfies me and craves me to buy more. The company sells the same product composition every time I need it. After a certain predictability, the company tweaks the value in the product for more "upscale" consumption. The consumer upgrades to a higher value stream and continues to purchase them again and again.

However, in a "content" world, same content is consumed only once. I need to buy a book once, to consume it all my life time. To enable content commerce, I need to be consuming the content more times. Social media can make it possible in following ways:
  1.  Produced more content with same quality, and same experience around the same AoI (Area of Interest). Multiple authors, multiple perspectives referencing a single theme are a good option to drive repeated consumption. Look at theme based blogs that bring consumers repeatedly to check for updates on their sites. This is critical link for e-learning to survive. Frequent updates to make users check it often will bring about a Learning Organization vision, a reality.
  2. Promote competition with multiple designs for same content suiting multiple delivery methods. Books, Kindle/iPad, Mobiles, computers, Audio books, Powerpoints, Web, Movies are ideal streams to promote and sell content. If same is available across these mediums, among them, I would be able to select a particular style and composition of content design that appeals to me at various points. I can then buy individual formats based on my immediate need. However, take care: Provisioning the same content in multiple mediums will drive away consumers. Adapt content to strength of every medium. For example, power point needs graphical and one message per slide, books need more text and occasional pictures, movies need a story, screen presence and epic proportion depiction of the content theme.
  3. Allow me to subscribe to content, use it and add to the content to pass on to make it better. Upscale the content brand for re-consumption through multiple brain exchanges. Notes, Annotations, Analysis/Synthesis, critiques across multiple brain and content sources make repeated consumption possible.
  4. Invest in a good aggregation service. A book store for example. I sample book shelves and choose what I need. Aggregators do the same in web world. Putting an aggregation service with what is available in web with the official courses within the enterprise will give users more interest to come to take e-Learning out of interest than compulsion.
The above points are not new. Some of them are not web 2.0, either. But should you use 2.0 technologies to become 2.0 or evolve and integrate what is available to beget a 2.0 experience?

These and more are the areas where Social Media get their hands full. Passing along a content to multiple users, making users interact and add their juice before passing it on makes the best playground for making content commerce, a success in the knowledge era.

Abstract, yes. Dream, yes, possible in near future - Hope so :). Many of it are happening as you read this post.

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