Monday, 31 December 2007


It's been a busy year! In the spirit of "what I did in my summer holidays", I thought I'd share a summary of my activities during 2007. I've concentrated mainly on consultancy work, although I've also carried out some writing assignments, and got involved in some public training workshops.

This year I have:

Helped a client establish a corporate university
Helped a client initiate a talent management system
Helped a client implement company-wide e-learning
Written an e-learning strategy for a client
Helped a client review e-learning providers
Helped a client select an e-learning provider
Reviewed the strategy of an e-learning vendor
Helped a client review its approach to e-learning
Facilitated sessions on e-learning strategy for a client
Started to review a client's e-learning strategy
Started to organise trainer training for a client
Started to develop a further learning scheme for a client
Helped clients and prospects understand e-learning better
Facilitated a public workshop on e-learning strategy
Organised public workshops on e-learning tools and e-learning support
Written a chapter on e-learning for a learning and development manual
Written an article on e-learning strategy for a magazine
Written a newspaper column on e-learning
Started a blog!

It's been a good year. I hope 2008 is as productive, and as rewarding.

Friday, 21 December 2007


Recently I was speaking to the Managing Director of a large engineering company, and described his new corporate university as a tool for talent management. "That's just waffle" he said, before I had the chance to expand on my theme. I was taken aback, but on reflection I have to admit that there was a time when I would have been inclined to agree, and to see this as just another bit of HR jargon.

Not any more. Once you investigate talent management, it becomes clear that it's the sort of common sense, good practice that many managers and many organisations simply don't do. Therefore, it needs to be systematically explained, and it needs a name.

One of the problems with those who can see beyond the cynical view of the MD I spoke to is that they still tend to view it too narrowly. Some see it as being just about nurturing the most talented people in an organisation, while others see it as the new name for succession planning. It is these things, but it's also so much more.

One of the key concepts in talent management is about identifying key talent in your organisation and finding ways to retain and grow, manage and utilise, develop and reward them. Which, in defiance of the Peter Principle, can mean keeping good engineers as (recognised, respected, rewarded) engineers, rather than promoting them to managerial roles where their engineering skills are wasted, and where they may be of significantly less value to the organisation.

We need more converts to talent management, and we need more talent management programmes. As the Talent Management Pocketbook puts it, "every business needs a talent mindset".

Friday, 14 December 2007

Evaluating learning

Evaluation has got a lot tougher. It used to be if you were evaluating learning, you reached for Kirkpatrick – his four levels of evaluation have been the gold standard for as long as most of us can remember.

But lately this has been questioned. Don Morrison, in his 2003 book E-learning Strategies, suggested ROI (Return on Investment) was a fifth level. Don and I will have to disagree on that one – I reckon ROI is just a measurement approach for the fourth level.

Meanwhile Valerie Anderson is questioning ROI, and suggesting we should instead consider ROE (Return on Expectations).

Then along comes Kaliym Islam with his book on Measuring Training the Six Sigma Way – the E-learning Guru website suggests this may be a valid alternative to the whole Kirkpatrick approach.

Have I mentioned Kevin Kruse’s E-learning Guru site before? For me, it’s the best American online reference source for e-learning – often contrarian, always thought-provoking (hope you appreciate the recommendation, Kevin!)

Overall, this has to be a good thing. If learning is to be taken more seriously, we need to get more serious about its impact. This debate helps.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Storm in a teacup

About a year ago, I was facilitating a workshop on e-learning strategy, and I suggested we “brainstormed” the benefits of e-learning. I was surprised when a delegate tut-tutted that I was being politically incorrect – she wasn’t actually offended, she just thought others might regard it as offensive. I vaguely remembered this issue arising before, so I made a point of looking it up after the workshop – first on Google, then on Wikipedia (the first result a Google search yields, as with so many things).

The Wikipedia entry basically slammed the criticism as political correctness gone wild, which pleased me so much, I emailed the info to all the workshop delegates.

This summer, I had a sense of déjà vu when I was facilitating a session for a corporate client, and somebody mentioned brainstorming ...

When I looked up the entry on Wikipedia to send my conclusive (!) email after the session, I was surprised to find a much more balanced consideration of the topic. Basically, the page had been ‘cleaned up’. Now there was a summary of both sides of the debate over whether it was politically correct or not, and a series of references at the end, supporting both cases.

On looking it up for this post, I find the entry has changed again, and once more leans heavily on the side of the pro-brainstormers. “It is an urban myth that the term ‘brainstorm’ is offensive to those people with epilepsy”. References support this conclusion.

This seems to me a good example of how an entry on Wikipedia evolves, and gradually becomes more authoritative. Which is not to say the current version is the definitive one, but then, that’s what the real world is like – the debate moves on, and attitudes change over time. Try picking something controversial and monitoring it over a period of a few months or more – see for yourself.

Blog Archive