Sunday, May 31, 2015

Instruction Design: A Process centred outcome or a Creative pursuit

It is a emotionally charged question with no definitive answers, as I realized when I was discussing this with my leadership team in a late evening coffee shop conversation.

The middle road and an easy answer can be that it is art as much as science. A variation of the same is that, while IDs follow a process it is creativity that makes the training package outcomes unique, tailored, relevant and effective. And to think of it, any work, job is always the same. A process is defined and individuals using their thinking skills to deliver unique value in every job that exists in the world.
However, the trigger to this post, is to highlight that when decisions are to be made on people, such middle ground exercise is a danger. Because, people need to be selected, oriented, trained, motivated and given responsibilities to build them up for success. Thus, the leaders and operating teams views matter only if it is either way - so that decisions are consistent and fast.These decision, then determine:
  1. Hiring and selection,
  2. Retaining the right fits, and,
  3. Choosing the type of customer where successful partnerships can be built.
My argument and stand is that, Instruction Design is a pure process driven domain satisfying most (well, almost all) of the needs of corporations and programs commissioned to resolve learning gaps. Supporting my case is:
  1. Analyzing content to meet the learning needs (follow a structured traceability) has to be a process-driven to get solutions in time,
  2. Content/Context/Environment/User devices/time availability and attention span, drives logical decisions for crafting the learning paths/modules, repeating learning objectives and defining interaction patterns, deployment mediums and
  3. The important step of writing instructions, has to be style guide driven, just as in editorial rooms for maintaining standards, consistency, understanding, error-free, audience appropriate, build brand identity, which all has to prove to be successful instructions to drive the learning which is the aim of the whole exercise.
  4. Determination of Learning Object is a collaboration between developer on what can be implemented as a SCO (if made SCORM compliant). 
Having said this, it is important to clarify that the thinking behind all this is not to create a large step by step documented procedure manual and that robots can replace humans in this field. The human mind wins in developing instructions for fellow humans. Over-hyping this piece of a process, probably gives Instruction Design a narrow window of evaluation to prospective talents who could make a successful career. Instruction Designers can be successful, where natural competencies are being good at process management and can deliver good outcome with the reserves of empathy, Learning Agility (mentored on best practices that are available to read aplenty on the SoMe world).

Next time, when you are in job market understand the hiring manager philosophy to your job and if it aligns to the job perception you hold, express your wish. It will save both the manager and individuals from the path of draining the energy and enabling success to reach the business.
I took Instruction Design as an example, as the in-world, in-person discussion happened on the question, which am sure is applicable in any industry, domain, work.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

7 principles inherent in any Lean Enterprise and how to be good at it

1. Shed fat: Continuously. Unlike a weight loss program, keep getting at it often. No, this is not to mean cutting resources or going for a re-org. These are at best symptomatic treatments that lasts a fall.

Shedding fat, in Lean, implies to keep looking at ways to continuously drive away what we would accumulate as we grow, produce and do new things. Things could be excess inventory, unused or rarely required tools, never ending projects, cost escalating services, unproductive events, inflated processes, innovation lacking teams, etc.

Focusing on  Rapid Improvement Events, standard work and following the associated playbook eliminates Mura (uneveness, irregularities), avoids Muda (waiting, surprises, shifting priorities, scrapping of work) and empowers teams to avoid Muri (over-burden, working without clarity). It is therefore, an essential quick win and showing the results motivates your entire team to keep getting good at Lean philosophy.

2. Be clean: Cleanliness is godliness and it is a fact. Keeping surrounding clean, allows to identify dirt and dirt making elements, helps shed fat sooner rather than allow them to fester. A clean environment brings in productivity, drives discipline, lets in sunshine, promotes transparency, discourages dark rooms, limits back side gossips, rumors or lingering bad after-effects, and above all encourages us to be clear in thoughts, words and deeds.

Daily Kaizen, Kaizen events and an ever-attentive focus on 5S(sort, set, shine, standarize and sustain) helps to instilll the spirit in teams to keep the surroundings and environment clean. Environment and systems are the pillars that promote transparency and ethical behaviors in business dealings.

3. Allow honest confrontations: A big letdown, often is the case in diversity focused teams, is leadership style. Teams tend to perceive, due to their diverse experiences and backgrounds, different interpretations for actions, unrelated attributions, seeing seeming patterns that might just be an aberration, probable theories in decisions and many other relationships that suits their mindset. Interpersonal strife and collaborative challenges rule until open communications and reiteration of meanings serve as the key.

Continuous coaching, feedback and teaching treating these instances as learning opportunities along with transparent dialog becomes the guiding light that determines leaders and teams actions. Being Genuine and feeling empathy are not weaknesses in leaders.  Counter-intuitively, they in fact, make the leaders stand tall and helps them work adapting within the teams mental models.

Lean culture encourages the practice of Gemba walks, take decisions after Gembutsu, rely on Genjitsu and Genri that ensures quick navigation back to standard work and Genichi styles and working in self formed quality circles enable honest conversations in the workplace.

4. No penalty culture: It is not about affixing responsibilities to people but identifying what misses led to this fall ? An occurrence of an issue inevitably leads to  a gap in the process and if detected late means audit system in turn are non-existent. As my boss, often says, a disaster is never because of one event. It is a series of misses that blows up making people believe a cause and effect relationship to the last blunder.

Make mistakes - Share problems, Fail often - Post Improvements, rely on recognizing that process and not people are the cause of any screw up. It is always about: Why did your system allow the person to fail? In almost all cases, a process gap or failure to follow a process or lack of understanding, missing warning systems are identified as primary causes and Lean teams acknowledge and celebrate these improvements together.

The spirit of acknowledging mistakes and treating every opportunity to listen to feedback  and as a learning need will build the spirit of continuous improvement. Continuous Improvements are the cornerstone to promote innovation and free the spirits high to soar.

Lean is all about learning and improving. This makes the Lean program learn-able for every one where lean practicing teams bond stronger than beat each other in the journey of optimizing productivity and changing direction.

5. Customer Satisfaction is the center of all action: It is not the end result as some training programs and managers speak it out to be. The end result is company's profitability (can exist if they can sell to customers), value (can happen only when they deliver quality and have high perceptions on the abilities with employees believing high on their company), and brand (only when they do more than just exist for commercial transactions) in the marketplace.

Wastes for customer is the hidden, unusable, rarely used, not so important feature that costs them but isn't delivering a value or never used at all. A product with Value is essentially a product that rings in customer satisfaction every time of use and is produced eliminating waste: For user, customer and people working on the project. Waste from production lines(scrap, unused inventory, longer work in progress times and many more) add to the costs that skews on the pricing.

Lean has identified 7 forms of waste. Continuously eliminating them from production lines and end products helps enhance the value. Takt time, One piece flow, stopping the line are all hallmarks that great, disciplined teams can alone perform. High productive and inherently quality products emerge from Lean environments that provide repeatable and remarkable benefits to customer.

6. Put premium on process: Rewards should go to people who enhance and improve the process, not their importance. Following and practicing structured problem solving approaches will make individuals successful and teams scale performance benchmarks by addressing root causes than just symptoms. A team of stars could remain just that: People as stars in their individual right. A team, bonded by a system, glued by processes, incentivised to become teachers for others, survive, thrive and emerge as great champions.

Hoshin Kanri, Takt time, Poke-Yoke, Visual Management, Kanban and other tools help provide the framework for professional collaboration and grounds-up empowered decision making teams.

7. Measure and reach targets: What is visible gets recorded, What is recorded gets improved and what is improved is appreciated. Lean is so good at this cycle.The purpose of any system is to track data. Recording necessitated and planned data is an integral element in successful teams. In Lean and in any quality system, the fundamental premise is to Do what you say, and Say what you do. In other words, what is acted upon is documented as a process. A documented process is audited for its performance. A performance gap is mentioned as an opportunity for improvement. All improved and benchmarked processes are certified. All improvement opportunities drive towards consistency, predictability, stability, and team satisfaction. Heijunka, Stop the Line and other quality tools with

Lean help establish a metrics driven culture in teams for all-round excellence, every minute, for long years to come.

A cycle of positive spiral using the above 7 principles enables Lean teams to get "Lean" and be good at it for years to come as the culture starts moving in this direction.

Top Agile Blogs