Thursday, 21 June 2012

LEAD pilot update

In my blog post of 26 March, I promised an update on progress of the first Learning Evaluation Action Development (LEAD) programme, provided by Airthrey, the learning evaluation solutions business.

The pilot cohort of LEAD was launched in May 2012 – it’s now well underway, and has attracted rave reviews (“it’s changed my life” has been one over-the-top comment!), as well as some learning points. The pilot cohort includes participants from the housing, mental health, and childcare sectors, posing significant challenges with qualitative data and hard-to-measure value propositions.

We have already completed: enrolment; a launch event; drafting of learning evaluation contracts by all participants; formation and first meetings of an action learning set; some one-to-one tutorials; engagement in LEAD Online (a digital workspace) by all participants; and two Masterclasses, in learning evaluation approaches and applied research methods.  The participants are all now working on their agreed evaluations, and are looking forward to submitting their reports and making their final presentations in September.

Participants’ evaluation projects include the organisational impact of managers deploying coaching and mentoring, the measureable outcomes of a management development programme, and the unexpected added value of a range of short training courses.

Informal feedback has been very positive, as have the online questionnaires to measure the baselines and impact of subsequent inputs.  Participants have especially appreciated development around Total Value Add, Business Impact Modelling, writing evaluation questions, using sampling techniques, and implementing Brinkerhoff’s Success Case Method. Effectively, this blog is an interim evaluation report, with a final report due in September (yes, I’ll blog again), once we know the impact each participant’s evaluation has had.

Airthrey have already taken bookings for the second cohort, commencing 26 September 2012, which should benefit from the experience of the pilot cohort. A limited number of places are still available to book at:

Monday, 18 June 2012

Writer for sale!

Anyone looking for someone to write copy about learning and development?  I offer a readily-accessible, fast turnaround, service for business reports, topical articles, promotional copy, case studies, website content, and so forth.  I write anonymously, ghost-write, and assign copyright.

I’ve been writing about learning and development for over a decade, and I think my credentials bear scrutiny.  Apart from this blog, my well-promoted books, my research reports, and my articles in various journals (both print and online), I’ve been regularly commissioned by editors at the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) to contribute to various media.

My CIPD contributions include: three chapters in the Learning and Development subscription manual, on talent management, corporate universities and e-learning; re-writing the learning and development chapter in the HR Policies and Practices manual; 50 short items, including many case studies, for HR Inform, and most recently 20 learning evaluation tools for the forthcoming ToolClicks (soft-launched at HRD Week).

I submit high-quality copy promptly to deadlines, and my rates are not prohibitive.  Testimonials are available on request.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

To thine own self be true

Regular readers of this blog will be aware of my interest in authenticity, and my advocacy of an authentic style of leadership.

I was therefore intrigued to hear Sir Terry Leahy, formerly of Tesco, on the Andrew Marr Show, on BBC1 this morning.  Speaking about his new book, Management in Ten Words, when asked by Marr to single out the one most important word, Sir Terry immediately chose “truth”, which comes first in the book.  (Movie trivia: in John Boorman's Excalibur, when King Arthur asks Merlin to identify the single most important quality in a knight, the wizard replies "truth".)

Of course, authenticity is about deeds rather than words – it’s not just about being (i.e., believing yourself to be) authentic, it’s about demonstrating it to others by your actions.  I don’t think anyone would doubt Sir Terry walked the talk, and I look forward to his book with interest.

Those ten words in full are: truth, loyalty, courage, values, act, balance, simple, lean, compete, trust.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Poor security

It’s now several days since I read online that LinkedIn’s security had been breached and a Russian hacker’s site had apparently published nearly 6.5 million passwords.  LinkedIn has 150 million users, so this was less than 5%, but that wasn’t much comfort.

I read lots of advice re what do to, and the idea that stood out, for me, was that there was no point in changing a potentially hacked password if the hack had not been fixed, as this was tantamount to handing my new password to the hackers.  So I waited to hear from LinkedIn.

Meanwhile, I found a website that invited LinkedIn users to submit their password to see if it was on the hacked list.  (You didn’t have to enter your account, just your password.)  I tested it with a random number/letter list, and was told this wasn’t on the list, then entered my real password and was told it was.  The advice was to change it immediately, and any other sites where I use the same password, but I hadn’t heard anything from LinkedIn, so I did nothing.

Then LinkedIn announced that they had confirmed the hack and were taking action.  Still no direct communication from them.  I read elsewhere that if my password was one of the hacked ones I would get an email from LinkedIn.  This morning that email finally arrived.

I’ve changed my password.  And yes, I was using it on several other sites too, despite knowing it was a relatively insecure password, so I’ve spent some time this morning changing them all.  It’s been a poor showing by LinkedIn, but I have to acknowledge my own security has been poor too, and it looks like I’ve been lucky in getting this wake-up call, with (hopefully) no damage done.

I wonder whether the hackers deliberately targeted and published weaker passwords like mine?  In any case, I suspect we haven’t heard the last of this.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

One of the Twitterati

I started tweeting more than 7 months and 363 tweets ago.  My twitter name is @AirthreyLtd, and I hold the account jointly with my business partner, Dr Alasdair Rutherford.  We currently have 83 followers (growing slowly but steadily) and follow 58 others.
I was initially sceptical about Twitter, put off by the celebrity culture associated with it (no, I still don’t follow Stephen Fry, much as I admire him) and the clichĂ© of tweeting what one had for breakfast (which, of course, nobody does...)

I overcame my prejudices when I saw the business potential.  Twitter is one of a range of online channels my company, Airthrey, uses to market itself and its services.  Before we began, we planned exactly how we were going to use this channel (and therefore, what we were not going to do).

I scan Twitter for learning evaluation stuff to pass on.  That means I repeat standard saved searches daily, and tend to follow others who often have something to say about evaluation, and then retweet the good stuff.

Initially I was puzzled by the number of users who followed @AirthreyLtd for a few days then unfollowed.  Eventually, I worked out that they expected me to follow them back and reacted when I didn’t (the less scrupulous would have unfollowed me anyway, as they built up their follower base with those they had no intention of continuing to follow).  IngĂ©nue that I was, I didn’t even know of the existence of tools like tweetadder that automate this process!  (Further info here.)

So I’m not losing sleep over not sticking to conventional Twitter etiquette.  If you’ve followed @AirthreyLtd in the expectation of being followed back, but we haven’t, it’s not because we’re being rude, it’s because you don’t meet our simple criterion – you don’t tweet about evaluation.  Sorry.
I’d be interested to hear about other people’s Twitter experiences.  Note that however useful the 140 character limit discipline is, it doesn’t allow a lengthier explanation like this – but at least now I can direct people to one.

Sunday, 3 June 2012


In today’s Observer, Justin Webb writes “I have also stopped writing books, it is too much, too stressful, for too little return”.  I know how he feels.

It took me a while (eight years, to be precise) to get from my first to the “difficult second” book, but now I have three under my belt, I’m planning two more, on learning evaluation, with my colleague Alasdair Rutherford, and a fourth solo work, by the end of next year, already largely written.  But I sometimes wonder why I bother – there’s certainly no money in it.

As regards my two books with Alasdair, our plan at the moment is to publish one as an e-book and the other as a more traditional print/paper type.  Hedging our bets?  Perhaps, but both allow different possibilities, and the different formats may appeal to different markets.

Of course, regular books are now routinely converted to e-versions, as my last two books have been, but it’s a bit different - or it ought to be - to set out to write for the new medium.  The use of full colour, rich content including lots of pictures, and a wealth of hyperlinks, some to audio/video, are among the advantages of the e-book we plan to use.  We’ll also follow the common pattern of publishing a shorter work as an e-book, at least in our first attempt (I’m not clear why this is a pattern – perhaps someone can enlighten me?)

I’d be interested in tips and suggestions about how to make the most of an e-book.  Are there any experts out there?

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