“Mr. Lecturer, tear down this wall!”

Berlin Wall

When Communism ended in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall (yes, I know that the Soviet Union didn’t break up until 1991 and technically China still considers itself “Communist”, but really, everything seemed to end when the Wall fell), it seemed like the last great struggle left in the world was going to be the battle against bad, boring, wasteful learning experiences.

Of course, the Berlin Wall didn’t just come tumbling down one fall day in 1989. People may have wanted it to just go away, but it was a long process that included a series of events – some big, some small, and some so subtle they barely registered.

In our struggle against bad, boring, wasteful learning experiences, we’d do well to keep this in mind. Continue reading

Not everyone sees things our way (no matter how right our way obviously is)

On September 11, 2001, I was living in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC. That afternoon, when I finally grew sick of watching planes crash into the twin towers, over and over and over again on the news, I wasn’t quite sure what to do next. I decided to lace up my sneakers and walk down the street to play basketball.

I was in Washington, DC earlier this week and I pulled my car over when I passed that basketball court to take a picture. The memories of that day came flooding back.

Girard Street Court

For perhaps the only moment in my adult life, it seemed that everyone in the country was on the same page. Members of Congress joined together, regardless of party, to sing “God Bless America”. President George W. Bush’s favorability rating would reach 87% of all Americans (regardless of party).

Then something odd happened that afternoon (as if the day wasn’t odd enough already). I walked past a man walking down the street, proclaiming in celebration, how Uncle Sam had just gotten his butt kicked.  Continue reading

Want to improve your organization’s training? Some people may be suspicious of your intent.

Suspicious

Readers of the Train Like a Champion blog will not be surprised that I am smitten with Will Thalheimer’s new book, Performance-focused Smile Sheets: A Radical Re-thinking of a Dangerous Art Form.

You can read a review of why every training professional should read this book here, and you can see several examples of how I integrated concepts from the book by having my own post-training evaluation forms undergo an extreme makeover here.

It just makes sense. Better post-evaluation questions lead to better analysis of the value of a training program, right? So it was with some surprise that I was pulled aside recently and asked to explain myself for all the changes I’d made to our evaluation forms. Continue reading

5 Models to Pull Out of Your Hat on a Moment’s Notice

About 10 years ago, I was sitting in a training session when the facilitator stopped the conversation, drew a diagram on the flipchart, and pivoted into a new conversation so seamlessly, it was like he had designed for the exact conversation we were having. Only, there’s no way he could have possibly known where our conversation would go that day.

A co-worker, awe-struck by how smoothly this facilitator worked through our issues, leaned over to me and whispered: “How amazing is it that this guy simply has a bunch of different models always in the back of his mind and can pull out the right one at exactly the right time?!”

At the time, I was still new to the corporate learning and development space, and in that moment I suddenly had something to aspire to: if I was going to be an effective, credible facilitator, I needed to have an array of models, ideas and theories I could bring into any conversation at a moment’s notice. Following are five models I always keep in my back pocket in case I need them, regardless of the topic:

  • In the event we need to explore a new concept: de Bono’s 6 Hat Thinking Model. Sometimes there is an individual (or group) that is vehemently opposed to a new idea or concept and unless I come up with some type of drastic measure quickly, this resistance can torpedo the entire conversation or project. de Bono’s 6 Hat Thinking Model is a non-threatening way for a group (or individual) to systematically look at an idea or concept from all sides. There is time to talk about the problems with an idea, and time to talk about the merits of the idea, and any data that exists, and any creative ways an idea can be put to use, and the idea within a larger system, and any emotional reasons someone may love or hate an idea.
  • In the event learning isn’t happening as fast as it should: the 4 Stages of Competence. Sometimes there is frustration that learning isn’t happening fast enough or there is disappointment that someone didn’t realize something sooner. The 4 Stage of Competence model is a 2×2 matrix that provides a simple explanation for how learning – in individuals and in organizations – generally happens.

4 Levels of Competence

  • In the event change isn’t happening as fast as it should: the Heath Brothers 3 Keys to Change Management. There are a lot of models for change management. John Kotter’s work is perhaps the most famous. However, I’ve found Kotter’s work to be very “academic” and difficult for audiences who are new to concepts of change management to completely wrap their arms around. Chip and Dan Heath have taken a look at many models of effective change management and boiled effective change management down into three essential elements: making a rational case for change, appealing to people’s core emotions, and providing structure for change to take place.
  • In the event a simple list of barriers and solutions won’t work: the Force-Field Analysis. I feel that simply making a list of barriers and solutions is too simplistic of an activity to really allow people to go back to their offices and get things done. I was introduced to the Force-Field Analysis in my master’s program during a course on strategic planning. A Force-Field Analysis forces an audience to think about all of the things that can drive a new initiative or project or idea forward, and all of the things that can restrain that same initiative or project or idea. Then an audience must discover all of the ways to remove or mitigate those “restraining forces” and come up with a specific action plan to address each restraining force.
  • In the event someone says “Why can’t we just tell them what they need to know?!”: a 4-step instructional design model. Simply telling someone does nothing to ensure they’ll retain it or use it later. There are many instructional design models out there, the most prevalent is ADDIE (which I argue is more of a project management model than instructional design model). This is the 4-step model I’ve come to embrace: 1) introduce content through some type of anchor activity, 2) provide the actual content, 3) offer an opportunity for application in the training environment and 4) provide learners specific ideas and ways they can use this content in the future. I honestly don’t know who came up with this model, but I’ve found it to be easy to explain to SMEs and effective in engaging audiences.

What are some of the models, tips, tools and tricks you keep in your back pocket when you’re facilitating? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.

My Mid-year Resolution: Using What I’ve Learned

Thinking about all the stuff you’ve learned – in formal workshops, conferences, meetings, webinars, classes – or perhaps things you’ve read or re-tweeted or blogged about, is there some concept or tool or idea or theory you plan to re-visit and make an effort to incorporate into your daily routine? Even if it was something you picked up a year ago, it’s not too late to re-visit!

In my June 5 blog post, I declared that I would review my notes from presentations and the highlighted parts of books I’ve read and I would return to this space to turn some of the things I’ve learned over the past year into specific actions and habits.

Since the beginning of 2013, I’ve spent more than 60 hours in formal professional development sessions – conferences, webinars, day-long or half-day workshops. I’ve read some or all of 15 books to improve my knowledge base and performance. I’ve read countless blog posts, twitter links and had many conversations with other people in the L&D field. I’ve written over 160 blog posts. I’ve ate, breathed and lived L&D.

I have a lot of notes from all of these experiences. A LOT. While reviewing these notes has given me many, many ideas and reminded me of many cool things I’d like to try on Monday morning when I get to the office, I can’t do everything at once. Between now and the end of the year, I will try to up my game in many areas, but there are two specific things I plan to focus on and incorporate into my personal and professional life as much as possible:

  1. Kegan & Lahey’s Immunity Map. This was first introduced to me during my master’s program in an organizational development class. It is a tool based upon Kegan & Lahey’s change management work and I was reminded of this concept and tool during a recent Immunity to Change workshop I attended.
  2. Using variables in Articulate Storyline. I am truly a sucker for any blog post from Tom Kuhlman or Mike Taylor or David Anderson or Nicole Legault or anyone else related to Articulate. They have lots of tips and tricks and I’ve tried some of them out – sometimes the tips make my elearning projects better. Sometimes I don’t seem to do it correctly and I screw up the whole module. Regardless, one thing that continues to lack in my elearning is the use of variables in allowing learners to lock or unlock various elements on the screen before they can proceed to the next item. Before I learn any more tips or tricks with Storyline, I commit to learning how to better use variables in order to make the learner experience better or more challenging (or both).

Please forgive me if you see fewer tweets or re-tweets or comments about new things I’m reading over the next few weeks and months. I’ll be focused on bringing some specific new skills and habits into my daily routine.

Train Like A Champion will not have its usual Thursday post this week. I’ll be immunity mapping or learning how to use variables (or maybe I’ll just be getting ready for the 4th of July). We’ll see you back here on Monday, July 7.

Lessons in Presentation Skills from Hiroshima

Atomic Bomb Dome

Last week I had an opportunity to spend a day in Hiroshima, where I had an opportunity to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. As I reflected on how the museum curators put together such a moving and powerful experience, it made me wonder what transferable lessons there could be for anyone who wants to make a presentation designed to move their audience to action.

It began with the brain

Entering the museum, we had an opportunity to learn about the history of Hiroshima. It was interesting. And awful. But I already knew much of this history (at least the World War II stuff). If the museum had stopped here, I don’t know that I would have been as moved or reflective when I walked back onto the street.

But it didn’t stop here. Physically, we had to walk through a long cat walk in order to enter the “main building.”

It tapped into the heart

Once we arrived in the main building, we entered a completely different atmosphere. I’m not sure I’d ever been in a museum that was as crowded yet as quiet as this. Stories of survivors. Tattered and burned clothes of children who did not survive. Exhibits and images that showed the effects of radiation on the body.

This was no longer some awful yet abstract moment in the history of the world. It was real. It was powerful. It made me think of one of my father’s favorite sayings: “there but for the grace of God go I.” Even as visitors, we could imagine what it was like to be in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

A call to action

Before we left the museum, there was an opportunity to sign a petition for a worldwide convention on nuclear weapons. I observed many people signing their names.

An opportunity to reflect

Outside of the Peace Museum is a large park with greenery, an eternal flame, several monuments and the Atomic Bomb Dome (pictured above, it was one of the only structures remaining once The Bomb exploded). After going through such a powerful experience, I was grateful for the time and space I had to reflect on what I had just seen and learned.

A lesson in presentation skills

Anyone who has read Switch by Chip and Dan Heath will recognize the first three elements from above: addressing the rational side of things, speaking to the heart and “shaping the path” (the call to action). These are the Heath brothers’ three essential elements of change management. The Peace Museum in Hiroshima was exhibit A of how these three elements can combine to create a powerful and moving experience.

Having time and space to reflect and being able to process the experience by talking with my wife enabled me to more fully absorb what I had seen and learned. She talked about things she saw that I must have missed. She talked about things going through her mind that I hadn’t thought about.

The thing I find most boring about a lot of museums is the same thing I find most boring about so many presentations and training sessions and new hire orientation modules: they only speak to the rational side of a topic. By tapping into the emotional side as well as the rational side and having time and space to reflect, the Peace Museum was an experience that will stick with me for a long, long time. If only we could say the same about all the presentations and training sessions and new hire orientation modules we have to sit through.

The next time you get in front of an audience, what will you do in order to tap into both the rational and emotional side of your audience? Will you allow them time and space to reflect on and process what you’ve presented?

Death of an Avocado Tree

Have you ever been frustrated when a great idea of yours fizzled?  In hindsight, do you think it was missing any of the keys to successful change (listed below)?

The Avocado Tree

Last October my mother-in-law and my 5-year-old daughter got very excited about a science experiment.  They put an avocado pit into a cup of water and then observed what happened next.  My daughter was fascinated by the idea of a tree sprouting out of the ping pong ball-sized pit that came out of the middle of an avocado.

My mother-in-law eventually went home, but we continued to see changes occur. Little by little, the pit cracked open and a new plant began to emerge.  After several months, we transferred the growing plant from its original home in a cup of water to a pot filled with dirt.

At first, we watered it regularly.  Leaves began to grow out of the stem.

Then other things came up. The end of the school year. Camping trips. Vacation.

Interest in the avocado plant waned. Remembering to move it to a spot so that the sun didn’t scorch it as the summer took hold and remembering to water it regularly just wasn’t as interesting as other, newer stuff in our lives.

Less than a year later, this…

Avocado Plant (Alive)

…turned into this…

Avocado Plant (Dead)

This weekend I walked by the dead stick, and three thoughts struck me:

  1. If this is how we care for new little living things, we’re definitely not ready for a puppy!
  2. There’s no doubt in my mind that if my mother-in-law lived closer, this plant would still be alive.
  3. This is an incredible metaphor for way too many new initiatives at work.

Translating the Metaphor

How could this avocado plant have eventually flourished and survived long enough to become a tree?  Its best hope would have been for our family to have treated this like any other change initiative.

In his book The Heart of Change (and in pretty much any other book he’s written), John Kotter outlines 8 keys to successful change initiatives:

  1. Increase urgency: With so many other distractions, allocating time on the avocado plant wasn’t really a priority for anyone.  And once we transplanted it into a pot with soil and had to water it, nobody had a sense of urgency about keeping up with it.  Which is similar to that new, shiny online training academy; with all the day-to-day work to be done, does anyone really have time to keep signing up for courses and completing them?
  2. Build the guiding team: Once my mother-in-law left, nobody was really in charge of continuing to labor over the plant.  If a change initiative depends wholly on one person, it may never grow to maturity.
  3. Get the vision right: Was this a one-time science experiment? Or did we really want to grow a tree? And was that training on the new performance management system a one-time event?  Or were people expected to actually do      something with it when they left the training room?
  4. Communicate for buy-in: Most everyone in our house thought the experiment was neat… and as long as someone else took care of it, it might make a fine tree someday. It may have been helpful if the ultimate vision was shared and if expectations around workload had been agreed upon.
  5. Empower action: My mother-in-law initiated the project.  I watered it for a while.  But my daughter – who was clearly enthusiastic about the project – was never included in the caretaking of the plant.  When there are willing      supporters, they should be involved and empowered to take control.
  6. Create short-term wins:  It was fun and exciting to see a stem sprout from the seed.  And then to see leaves sprout from the stem.  But then new developments took longer and there was no more excitement.  Would this thing ever      turn into an actual tree?! And while we’re speaking of short-term wins, who cares if I complete one course or seven courses or thirty courses in that new elearning system?  When can I finish my learning and just be good enough?
  7. Don’t let up: Yeah, watering the plant should have been routine.  But we stopped.  And it died.  Perhaps if we had someone reminding us on a daily basis or sending us a watering schedule, even if from afar, it would still be alive today.
  8. Make change stick: Ultimately, John Kotter suggests the true sign of successful change is when it becomes part of the daily routine.  Our poor little avocado plant, like so many other ideas that were once new and exciting, never made it that far.

The Train Like A Champion Blog is published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  If you think someone else might find this interesting, please pass it along.  If you don’t want to miss a single, brilliant post, be sure to click “Follow”!  And now you can find sporadic, 140-character messages from me on Twitter @flipchartguy.