OD

Organizational Development

Catalog of Available Courses and Workshops

Below are the titles of seven online courses and/or workshops that are available from Lowther7, LLC Catalog descriptions, learning objectives, and details for each are provided separately following this listing.

Creating Successful Talent Within Your Firm

Available online or by appointment.

Embracing Sustainability in the Workplace

Online only - Instructor-led.

Simple LMS for Firms and Associations

Available online or by appointment.

Cyber Security for Small Businesses

Available online or by appointment.

Overview of Managing Projects

Available online or by appointment.

Developing Online Courses

By appointment only - Instructor-led.

Introduction to Digital & Social Media Marketing

By appointment only - Instructor-led.

Contact us about your workshop questions today; we're happy to help!

Develop and Manage Your Own Personal Professional Curriculum

Graphic of a simple curriculum model

Let's start by clarifying that discussing professional curriculum here IS NOT about obtaining quick, technical skills, topic knowledge, or short term learning. Rather, when discussing professional curriculum here IT IS intended as a long term approach to obtaining knowledge and skills with expected outcomes. Usually I suggest that my clients consider at least a 3 -5 year curriculum plan that is reviewed annually.

As a professional development coach, the initial question that I ask my clients, Why do you want to do professional development? Among the more common responses I hear: "€œI need to complete my CEU requirements."€ Usually the individual is referring to a state mandatory continuing education (MCE) state license requirement. They may also need to fulfill CE requirements to earn or maintain a certification - such as LEED. Many respond that they want to stay current within their practice. The important first question of "€œwhy"€ helps the individual better understand their own motivating factors behind pursuing professional development. It also provides direction related to curriculum content and selecting the appropriate delivery methods.

The second question that I ask is "What?"€ By coming up with the answer to what and why, it will help you to create your curriculum outline. Your curriculum should be structured to include the key elements, skills and courses that you intend to pursue. Below is a sample outline of what key elements a professional curriculum might include. (Note: You can substitute by filling in any profession below where indicated)

Core Areas: The general area of focus within the practice of .

Performance Domains: The key areas of practice in the field of including the specific aspects and activities of professional practice.

Curriculum Proficiencies: The skills and abilities needed to perform professional service. What the needs to know to perform successfully within a given area of practice.

While you are considering the elements, skills and courses consider too, your competency level in each. Will the subject and content be new to you? Are you a beginner looking for introduce and awareness material? Are you a practitioner with experience but looking for something new? Maybe you are an expert and have mastered the material and now want to compare your knowledge to your peers.

Below is a sample list of skills and related subject that an A/E/C design professional curriculum might include.

Critical Thinking: Research, data analysis.
Project Management: Project operations, project controls, project delivery.
Practice Management: Business administration: Financial, legal, HR, marketing.
Communications: Written, oral, graphics.
Professional Service: Management Administration, strategic planning, ethics, values.
Technical Skills:€“ Systems technology, BIM, auxiliary/support software.

The third question that I ask is "€œHow?" How would you prefer to acquire the knowledge or skills that will provide the professional knowledge and skills that you are seeking? The answer(s) help the individual to design and shape their own curriculum plan. There are a myriad of options available. Take into consideration of your subject competency level. Then match that to the knowledge delivery methods that that you most enjoy using, that are practical for you, and/or they are affordable. An awareness level program may be as simple as watching a YouTube video or a university open source learning module. For more in-depth knowledge try working with a mentor, a tutor or on-the-job experience. You may find that taking classes on-site, online, or a blend of the two works best for you. Or you may enjoy attending special workshops, symposiums and professional conferences.

There are several methods to track your progress. You can develop a simple spreadsheet. Some of the online education providers are now providing a tracking service if you take their courses. Many firms have a tracking system as a part of their LMS for their employees. And if the record keeping becomes too complex or you just don’t have the time, there is at least one small company that provides a records tracking service for design professionals.

As a final thought, I generally have my clients develop an action plan that addresses how they will meet and manage their curriculum plan. Consider adding this feature to your performance appraisal or having a peer review if you are a single practitioner.

Professional Curriculum: A Benefit Offered by Associations

Graph of the 3 Key Curriculum Elements

I am often asked by association education leaders and executives, how can my association compete against all of the external education providers? My reply is usually the question, why are you trying to compete?€ Associations have an advantage that no commercial business, firm or university can match -MEMBERS, lots of them. The membership usually represents every aspect of the related profession, or should come close. What a wonderful talent pool to provide answers to these questions. Associations have the opportunity to be a reliable, first source for quality education related to the profession.

Where should the association start to build their education programming? The answer, associations should rely upon their members to develop a curriculum. They can effectively create guidelines that supports the entire profession. Drilled down, detailed curriculum can also be created that support niches and sub-groups if desired.

An excellent example of what can be achieved is demonstrated by what the American Institute of Architects (AIA) achieved in 2007 and 2008. Drawing upon member volunteers representing firms, universities, and industry, along with a few staff, they created the foundation of an architect’s professional development curriculum. The curriculum was built upon three key elements. (Note: You can substitute by filling in your professional association below where indicated)

Core Areas: The general area of focus within the practice of (Fill in your profession).

Performance Domains: The key areas of practice in the field of (Fill in your profession) including the specific aspects and activities of professional practice.

Curriculum Proficiencies: The skills and abilities needed to perform professional service. What the professional (Fill in your profession) needs to know to perform successfully within a given area of practice.

Building upon a foundation, the committee began to fill in the curriculum topics. The team focused on the four professional core areas of design, building performance, leadership and practice. From there, they began to build out a recommended curriculum for the practice. Here are some of the skills the team agreed needed to be included for the practice of architecture.

Critical Thinking: Research, data analysis.
Project Management: Project operations, project controls, project delivery.
Practice management: “ Business administration, financial, legal, HR, marketing.
Communications: Written, oral, graphics.
Professional Service:Management Administration, strategic planning, ethics, values.
Technical Skills: Systems technology, BIM, auxiliary/support software.

When I first started at Arup, I talked with Jeffery Beard, Ph.D. and Dee McKenna, J.D., both at the time representing the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Education and Business Development. Jeff and Dee shared with me an engineering PD curriculum with 16 core areas for development. Like the AIA, Jeff and Dee used this curriculum as a guideline for content delivered in ACEC courses and convention programming.

I shared ACEC'€™s curriculum with my L&D team at Arup. After prioritizing and adjusting the curriculum to meet our own internal needs we began to restructure our own education content. We enhanced the process by adding three competency levels, Awareness, Practitioner, and Mastery and assigning our courses to one of these competency levels.

The AIA had a seven year head start while ACEC had five years before a large design firm took advantage of the reliable information source provided by these two associations. Most external providers in the industry are still struggling in the design structure of their course offerings. Postscript. Based in part upon the foundation provided by the recommended ACEC curriculum, Arup was recognized in March as a 2014 LearningElite company in learning and development by CLO Media. Only two design firms even made the list.

Recognition: The 2007 Curriculum Sub-Committee and the Continuing Education Quality Assurance Program participants included:

Curriculum Committee and CEQAP Participants:
Mike Rodriguez, FAIA; Amy Yurko, AIA; Mike Broshar, FAIA; Emily Grandstaff-Rice, AIA; Jonathan Fischel, FAIA; Brenda Scheer, AIA; Mark Graham, AIA; Quentin Elliott, AIA; William Seider, AIA; Ed Vidlak, AIA; Gordon, Mills, FAIA; Marvin Malecha, FAIA; James Mitnick, PE; Robert Lopez, RA.and Leslie Nathan, AIA;

AIA Staff:
C.D. Pangallo Ed.D; Patricia Lukas, M.A.; Richard Hayes Ph.D., RAIC, AIA; Theodora Campbell-Orde; Barb Sido, ABD; Thom Lowther, Ed.S. and Daniel Bauman (AIA Intern);

Building a Design Firm'€™s Professional Development Program - Need Assessment and Analysis

Photo of computer showing data analysis display

Successful professional development programs require a system for identifying and analyzing educational needs that relate a firm's overall strategic plan. It is important to assess the learners' educational and professional development needs both short-term and long term.

In part three of this eight part series I have assembled requirements from several prestigious organizational award programs that appear with consistency. The self-assessment guidelines presented in this piece are intended to assist those individuals who are responsible for establishing and operating an Architectural/Engineering Design and Consulting Firms'€™ professional education department. The recommendations provided are organized in a manner that should be used as general guidelines to establish, organize, and manage the organizational structure of the firm. This assessment tool is not intended for the design or development of any individual course, certification, skill or professional program.

KEY 2: Need Assessment and Analysis
Here we examine the firm’s structure for gathering appropriate data and analyzing the firm’s educational needs and the staff member’s professional development. This section provides recommendations for how the firm configurations short and long - term education needs and professional development planning using multiple need assessment approaches.

The selection of information and data collection is critical to building a strong program foundation. How well does your firm match up?
1. There is an established process I place to determine what program evaluation information should be collected.
2. At least 3 different tools are used to collect supporting data to determine learning needs.
3. A review process is in place to determine appropriateness of educational information and activity content.
4. Staff members of the targeted profession (architect, engineer, interior designer, landscape architect, graphic designer, IT support, etc.) are included in the assessment process to determine learning needs of the audience.
5. There is an established process to determine what data will be shared and how it will be reported.

Regarding Data Analysis:
6. There is an established process to determine what program evaluation information should be reviewed and maintained.
7. There is an established process to determine who should review the data.
8. There is an established process for determining how comparative data will be used to measure performance.
9. Annually, the firm shares action(s) taken by the Learning and Development team that impacted the firm, based on business performance results.

Sources:
Using the Baldrige National Quality Award and IACET as models, a special task force created the AIA/CES Award for Excellence for The American Institute of Architects, Continuing Education System. This program was used as a cornerstone for building a national continuing education program that shaped education offered in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (A/E/C) industry. Today, other learning and development award programs such as the ASTD-Awards/Best-Awards and the Chief Learning Officer, CLOmedia Awards are also being used to elevate the practice of learning and development.

Building a Design Firm'€™s Professional Development Program Content and Design

Photo of small group breakout sessions

Short-term, develop a system that will collect appropriate subject matter content that addresses staff knowledge needs to support the firm'€™s projects. Long-term, consider a structured curriculum that supports the firm'€™s strategic plan and business needs. There are various formats and delivery models from which to choose - be sure that the content is appropriate for the format. Develop clear course learning objectives early as they will guide you in selecting the appropriate subject matter expert (SME), the best course content, appropriate course design, and the most effective delivery method. Determination should be made at this juncture, is it best to use inside sources, use an external vendor, or consider a blend of the two? This is a critical point in the process to insure that content matches any special requirement such as license or certification standards, such as CEU, PDH, CPD, MCE'€™s, HSW, LEED, ISO, ANSI, etc...

Continuing in part five of this eight part series I have assembled requirements from several prestigious organizational award programs that appear with consistency. The self-assessment presented in this piece are intended to assist those individuals who are responsible for shaping and managing the organizational structure of an Architectural/Engineering Design and Consulting Firms'€™ professional education department. This assessment tool is not intended for the design or development of any individual course, certification, skill, or professional program.

KEY 4: Content and Design

This segment examines the firm'€™s process, development and support for content selection, design and development. This section provides recommendations for how new, modified, and customized educational activities and services are selected and designed to meet the learning objectives.

Establishment of Learning Objectives
1. All educational activities are based on written Learning Objectives.
2. For each course/program ask, “What do you want the participant to be to do, or what should they know when they finish the course /program?€

Program Design
3. A criterion has been established that addresses the learner'€™s skill/knowledge level, such as awareness, practitioner, and mastery.
4. There is a process established for determining selection of program structure, content, materials and support resources, and course time based upon expected learning outcomes.
5. There is a process for developing instructor - led classroom and online courses verses self - paced learning.
6. There is a process for selecting and scheduling external education providers that complement the firm'€™s education goals and standards.
7. A process is in place for determining special qualifying designations for activities, such as Health, Safety and Welfare (HSW), LEED, ISO, ANSI, etc.
8. Changing professional requirements are incorporated into educational programs such as Mandatory Continuing Education (MCE), PDH, CPD state license etc.

Sources:
Using the Baldrige National Quality Award and IACET as models, a special task force created the AIA/CES Award for Excellence for The American Institute of Architects, Continuing Education System. This program was used as a cornerstone for building a national continuing education program that shaped education offered in the design industry. Today, other learning and development award programs such as the ASTD-Awards/Best-Awards and the Chief Learning Officer, CLOmedia Awards are also being used to elevate the practice of learning and development.

Building a Design Firm'€™s Professional Development Program - Business Development

Photo of Ready - Action - Camera

You can refer to this section as business development or client facing skills since few firm leaders consider that they include their in-house professional development programs as a part of their marketing and promotion efforts. Professional development within A/E firms has evolved during the past decade and it is time to re-think how A/E firms share and distribute their intellectual property with professional associations and clients. For those firms that already have in-house programs you likely already have components in place. I offered several suggestions last November in my blog Overlooked Internal Training Sources for A/E Firms.

Business development (marketing and promotion) is a critical element of every firm. If your professional development program is intended for internal use, then be sure that your marketing plan relates to the needs assessment of your staff and client'€™s knowledge needs. If the firm includes education as a part of external marketing efforts be sure that it is also included within the firm'€™s strategic plan for educating target audiences. A staff presentation at an industry conference is a good example. You may have the world'€™s most knowledgeable subject matter expert (SME), designed an interesting presentation, and even offered the program using an innovative delivery format. However, if the intended audience is not aware that course is being offered then be surprised at a low turnout. Those who rely solely on the firm'€™s reputation to spread the word will frequently fail. You must adequately promote and advertise each of your courses. Budget accordingly.

Continuing in part six of this eight part series I have assembled requirements from several prestigious organizational award programs that appear with consistency. The self-assessment presented in this piece are intended to assist those individuals who are responsible for shaping and managing the organizational structure of an Architectural/Engineering Design and Consulting Firms'€™ professional education department. This assessment tool is not intended for the design or development of any individual course, certification, skill, or professional program.

KEY 5: Business Development (Marketing and Promotion)

Key 5 examines the firm'€™s business development structure that includes marketing and promotion of the educational courses and programs. This section provides recommendations for how the firm should address both internal and external marketing and promotion or their education courses and programs.
1. There is an established long-term educational marketing plan in place that includes: budget and pricing; projected incomes (including internal between departments); registration and enrollment procedures; number of classes and class sizes per session; cancellation policies; fees (ex: staff, instructor, course development expenses; course materials, equipment, technical considerations, facilities).
2. There is a separate One-Year marketing plan.
3. Print and social media promotional and advertising methods are used to support the marketing strategy that includes related expenses.
4. Other promotional activities include publicity, advertising, open houses, press releases, etc. to clients supporting speakers at professional conferences.
5. Quantitative metrics are in places that measure indicators and provide current levels, trends, and any appropriate comparative data.
6. There is a process for projecting new educational activities.
7. The marketing plan and promotion efforts are evaluated for effectiveness annually.
8. A process for researching the regulatory standards and legal and ethical requirements that should be addressed through professional development.
9. A process for ensuring that the firm addresses its responsibilities to the client, the profession, and the community through community outreach through education and training.

Sources:
Using the Baldrige National Quality Award and IACET as models, a special task force created the AIA/CES Award for Excellence for The American Institute of Architects, Continuing Education System. This program was used as a cornerstone for building a national continuing education program that shaped education offered in the design industry. Today, other learning and development award programs such as the ASTD-Awards/Best-Awards and the Chief Learning Officer, CLOmedia Awards are also being used to elevate the practice of learning and development.

Overlooked Internal Training Sources for A/E Firms

Use Professional Presentations for Internal Development

This summer I was reading a firm’s internal newsletter and noticed that there were at least sixteen instances of the firm's staff providing presentations and white papers at a variety of fall, national and international conferences and workshops. Some of the professional associations that were hosting these events would be recording the presentations. In a few instances these recorded presentations would later be converted to recordings or webinars and sold for a profit by the association or organization.

Having worked with associations for many years I realize that some associations rely upon the professional members to give back to the profession by sharing their knowledge. I believe that this is a great service and I encourage professionals to share their knowledge and research with the industry that they represent. This knowledge sharing process has been going on for decades with the A/E industry. It has been a win-win for the professional and the association. The professional is provided a platform upon which she/he can share their knowledge, research and opinions. The association wins by being viewed as a reliable source of knowledge within the industry, and in some cases receiving a revenue source for providing seminars, workshops, recording and webinars to the profession.

The source of the knowledge most certainly comes from the professionals and the firm that support the research and experience. The winners here are usually those professionals who sit in attendance during the conference or workshop or who later purchase the video or webinar. What is so often missed – the professional’s presentation that is recorded at a conference for future redistribution and sales is not captured by the very firm that supports the professional’s research and experience in the first place. To add to the problem, the firm usually has to pay additional fees for their other employee members who want to hear or view the recorded presentation given by their fellow employee. In other words, firm end up paying the association for a copy of the recording or webinar that was provided by their own employee.

Professional development within an A/E firms has evolved during the past decade. It is time to re-think how A/E firms share and distribute their intellectual property with professional associations. I offer two suggestions to this dilemma.

One, the firm’s legal department should create a contract that predetermines use, sale and resale of related material of any presentation that is recorded by an association or hosting organization. If the original presentation is going to be recorded and used in any way as a revenue source for the association or hosting organization, then at a minimum a copy of the presentation should be provided to the firm for its own internal use and training.

A second option, the firm could record the presentation themselves and copyright the material. They could then distribute the material internally for reuse, internal training and sharing of select material with their clients. By copyrighting the presentations the firm could shape how the material might be used or redistributed by another organization at a later date. .

A Situational Approach to Mentoring in a Firm

There are several advantages for a firm to build, develop and maintain a mentoring program. The advantages are many and some obvious. Among the reasons for a implementing a mentoring program, expanding the skills of your staff, improved recruitment, retention, and return on investment (ROI). So why do so many firm choose not to implement a mentoring program? Size of the firm may be one factor. However, you really can implement a mentoring program with just two staff – at least a traditional mentoring format. Larger firms of 20, 50, 100 or more have the staff but too often they are concerned that the process takes time (translated – money) and it does, but so does the traditional route of staff training. Finally, a firm may not have anyone knowledgeable enough about how to set up, organize, and run a mentoring program. This leaves them three primary options: assignment to the HR staff function; assign to the program to a professional practice committee; or hire a part-time consultant to run the program.

Taking a firm mentoring program to a higher level – beyond that of the traditional pairing approach - does require a knowledgeable HR manager at the operationally level, or a committed professional practice committee, or an experienced consultant. The foundation to situational mentoring is built upon the management concept of situational leadership, developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard. A successful mentoring program requires that a mentor is able to share, convey, teach and/or impart their knowledge or skills to the mentee. The core of the Blanchard model, Situational Leadership II, highlights four primary leadership delivery styles: directive, coaching, supportive, and delegating. Like any good leader, the mentor is likely to be most effective in one or two delivery styles and less so in the others. A practical strength of situational leadership is that it also takes into consideration the development level of the subordinate, or in this case the mentee. Using a four step sliding scale the mentee is rated on competence and commitment.

To build a situational mentoring program think in terms of a social networking format structure, pairing the best or most knowledgeable mentor at the right time and in the right situation when the mentee has the most need or desire to learn. A mentoring program within a firm takes on and becomes part of the firm culture. A mentoring program is not an add-on program and should not be treated as such. Coordinating the program is not an easy assignment but it is critical to the program’s success. Whoever is assigned to manage the program should have the conceptual and personal skills that will be necessary to correctly match mentors with mentees at the appropriate times and under the right situations. Remember, the win – win of situational mentoring comes when the mentor uses his or her most effective delivery style matched correctly to the level of development of the mentee at the time of need.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Situational_leadership_theory

The Emerging Blend of the Degree, the Certification, and Professional Development: The overview

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We often hear that change is constant. In yesterday’s issue of the Washington Post was an article on education, “An alternative to high-cost college?" A major focus of the article was about how start-up companies are providing free or low priced programs are designed to compete against the expense of a college degree program. This article is yet another statement about the current assault on the expense of obtaining a degree in higher education and the perceived value of that degree. While the Post article focused mainly on higher education, this is just the tip of the transition. There is a related larger issue that needs our attention, the emerging blend of college degrees, certificate and certification programs, and continuing professional development.

In their book, Nine Shift that was published in 2004, the authors William Draves and Julie Coates introduced to us the changes that were beginning to occur in our society because of the acceptance and use of the internet. They described changes that were just beginning to occur in our approach to work, in our life styles, and in our approach to education. As the Washington Post article describes the situation, we are now well into the middle of the transition described in Nine Shift. So, where are we now? What'€™s the current landscape?

Related to formal education MIT, Harvard and others have used the internet to design a new education landscape. The Washington Post article sited MITalong with other universities as pioneers for offering open courseware. To date there are more than 15,000 online open courses provided by more than 250 institutions. Suddenly, what had been the exclusive domain of courses for the purpose of receiving college degrees become part of anyone'€™s opportunity for continuing professional development (CPD). In their association'€™s official publication, Training + Development, the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) indicated that in 2010 more new online courses were being developed by companies than traditional classroom courses. Online companies such as Ron Blank, RedVector, AECDaily, Saylor.com, P2PU are using college faculty to develop and on offer online CPD. And don'€™t forget McDonald'€™s Hamburger University or the Disney Institute.

Throw into the mix a few online certificate or certification programs offered by associations, community colleges and technical schools. Suddenly the lines between degrees, certifications, and professional development begin to blur. You now have a real conundrum. How do you sort through what I refer to the "€œterrible T's" - Turf, Trust and Tradition. Who is supposed to offer what to whom? Who can you trust? And, who are these people – have they ever offered education before?

So, what’s next? What can we expect? In the upcoming series of the “emerging blend of college degrees, certificate and certification programs, and continuing professional development” we will offer papers specific to the impact on higher education, associations, firms, product manufacturers and the workforce.

“Where’s the data?” – The second key to unlocking the secrets of a quality education program

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The question I always heard from superiors and peers, “Where’s the data?” I believe that the seeds for needs assessment should be planted with the establishment of the strategic goals. Early on the organization should develop a systematic approach for identifying and analyzing the educational needs that relate to the overall strategic plan. Planning and analysis are simultaneous and should be ongoing.

As defined by Wikipedia, Needs assessment is a process for determining and addressing needs, or "gaps" between current conditions and desired conditions, often used for improvement in individuals, education/training, organizations, or communities. The need can be a desire to improve current performance or to correct a deficiency.

For education and training assessments there are a growing variety of models to from which to choose. Select a model or a blend of models which most closely match your goals, operations, personnel and budget. Methods and techniques for gathering information can vary from formal focus groups, to telephone or mail surveys, to online surveys such as survey monkey. The intent should be to gather timely information to enable those in the organization to make smart decisions based upon relevant and appropriate information.

If the program is intended for internal use of the organization’s staff education then it is important to match the model to the organization’s culture, operational structure, and short and long-term education and professional development needs. The content could relate to technical, conceptual, and/or personnel related needs. It is important to focus on the details of professional staffs’ participation in the needs assessment process. Determine how the needs for the educational program and products/services are identified, how the programs are developed and designed to address those needs.

If the education program is intended for external use, the assessment should relate to the business needs, support the organizations need for delivering training; ensure training delivery design relates to customer’s needs; verifies effective performance; and provides guidance into the evaluation process.

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