Thursday, 13 October 2011

It's nice to be nice

A while ago I was in the office of a client, a learning and development manager, and he had a sign prominently displayed: “do the necessary – ignore the nice”. It was his rule of thumb for prioritising learning interventions.

I felt uncomfortable with that formula, but it’s taken me some time to work out why. I tried reversing the formula, and clearly it makes no sense to ignore the necessary, but I’m equally convinced you can’t just ignore the “nice”.

I suppose it depends why you feel it’s nice. If it’s nice because it’s the kind of work you want to do for personal/career reasons, but it doesn’t fit your organisation’s agenda, then that’s clearly not a corporate priority, and may justifiably be ignored. But it may be nice for all sorts of other reasons, not least because it’s important but never urgent, or because it yields qualitative benefits but doesn’t lend itself to quantitative measurement. In either of these scenarios, you ignore the nice at your peril.

I think we need better formulae for determining priorities. In many cases, a simple but effective guide could be the use of an urgency/importance grid (just a 2x2 matrix). And a well thought through Balanced Scorecard can help bring to the top of the agenda issues other than the most pressing operational priorities.

What do others think?

Friday, 7 October 2011

Making Learning Better

A key theme of my career has been making learning better.

In the 1990s, I concentrated on open, flexible and distance learning – or what I would now call resource-based learning. This aimed to offer more choice to learners, respond better to differing learning styles, widen access and make training more learner-centred.

In the 2000s, I concentrated on e-learning and blended learning, which empowers learners with digital technology to accomplish all that resource-based learning offered, and more.

Now I’m concentrating on learning evaluation, and firmly believe that it is pointless to undertake any sort of learning without setting clear targets and measuring improvement against them. I’m pleased to find I’m not alone.

I opened the article “making training better”, in the online edition of Management Today, fully expecting evaluation to be omitted, but I was pleasantly surprised. One of its six highlights is “track and measure success”.

Just throwing money at the problem isn’t the answer either. Companies need to be practical and precise in their execution of training programmes. This includes an on-going assessment that tracks and measures effectiveness of the courses, and whether staff are incorporating what they learnt into their daily roles. If no one is absorbing and using the information, then both time and money are being wasted.

I couldn’t agree more.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Introducing Airthrey Ltd

My new business is now up and running.

Airthrey Ltd, based at Stirling University Innovation Park, is an independent firm, specialising in learning and development evaluation.

My co-founder, Alasdair Rutherford (see previous blog post), and I believe that organisations need independent, expert help to objectively evaluate their investments in learning and development, and that's where we come in. We offer fresh insights into what organisations should be measuring from their learning and development, and how this relates to their business outcomes. We make recommendations on the most effective evaluation approaches in each situation, and can help implement these approaches.

For further information, see Comments welcome, and especially invitations to discuss work together.