CLO

Chief Learning Officer

Successful Change Agents

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Three Qualities of Highly Successful Change AgentsThree Qualities of Highly Successful Change Agents was written by Alastair Rylatt for the July 2013 issue of T&D magazine. This short article was a result of Dr. Rylatt’s research study highlighting the capabilities that enable professionals to be effective change agents in their organization. The article begins with Dr. Rylatt asking the question, “why do some leaders and managers succeed against the odds to facilitate and influence change?”

Well, with that opening question I was hooked and so I kept reading the article. The questions that Dr. Rylatt raised in the article made me reflect back on past situations and the positions I’ve held in different organizations. For several days I kept thinking back to what I thought were some of my perceived better successes and some situations that were, well … not so successful.

In his article Dr. Ryatt listed just three categories that effect change:
1. Resolving difficult challenges
2. Communicating compelling reasons for change
3. Ensuring accountability over time

The categories were not unusual. The categories Dr. Ryatt supported with two - three questions for each category. The questions were penetrating. Under resolving difficult challenges one of the questions related to acceptance of responsibility and how you deal with it. One of Dr. Rylatt’s questions was about reaction when confronting resistance and a reflection on communication style. As for accountability, Dr. Ryatt challenges the reader’s relationship with senior management. The questions are pointed and thought provoking.

It may only have been a sampling of his research but using those three categories and nine short questions I was able to match in each of my situations, why I might have been successful and why the situation did not work out the way I had planned. Now I am looking closer at some of my current situations and rethinking my approach to several of them.

I’ve read hundreds of similar articles but this one was refreshing and thought provoking. After reading Dr. Rylatt’s article you may just want to rethink your approach to becoming a more effective agent of change in your organization.

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

Learning Objectives Simplified: Check out the New Bloom’s Taxonomy Tool

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The tool is simple, easy to understand, and easy to use. If you are the course designer, a trainer, an instructor, or the firm's Learning and Development Coordinator, Manager, Director or the CLO - this tool will make your professional life a little easier. If only this tool had been available during the past 30 years.

I would like to thank the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) at the University of Iowa for posting on their website the Model of Learning Objectives. This model was created by: Rex Heer, Iowa State University.

Sharing this tool with my professional peers who are working in the A/E/C design industry, this is probably the best gift I can offer for the New Year. Try it for yourself; I think you will like it.

Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.

If you have trouble accessing the interactive Flash-based model the content is available in a text-only table.

Instructional Method: A Professional Action Plan

Learning contracts do not need to be complex. A number of years ago when I was involved with the AIA/CES Firm Leadership Symposium we needed to a simple method for an after-training-support-by-the-faculty. The process and tool we developed was simple. At the beginning of the workshop we would spend a few minutes explaining that each participant would be expected to identify at least one goal that they would like to accomplish after the workshop was over and they returned to their work environment. The action plan exercise was always planned at the end of the workshop so should that should they choose, the participants could include some of what they learned during the workshop into their action plan.

First we would discuss the purpose of the action plan. We would provide each participant with a Leadership & Learning: Professional Action Plan worksheet. The worksheet was intended as a simple structured outline for developing an individual action plan. Each participant was expected to identify at least one goal or action that they wanted to complete. The Leadership & Learning: Professional Action Plan required that the participants respond to 7 questions:

What is the goal?
What are the strengths related to achieving the goal?
What obstacles are we likely face?
What opportunities would likely be present?
What resources would they need?
What action steps are needed to complete the plan?
What were the related timelines?

First the participants would work to complete their own action plans. Additional time was then set aside to work in pairs - sharing with each other their goal and how they intend to accomplish it. At the end of the exercise participates exchanged POC information and committed to contacting each other after 30 days and again after 60 days.

The group faculty member or facilitator can become as involved after the event as appropriate. For those who did make contact at the 30 day mark, most went on to complete their goals. This process can be accomplished on-site, on-line or as a blended approach. I have since used the action plan approach successfully at the executive, manager and supervisory levels, and in both the private and public sectors. Hope this provides you with enough information. If you would like a free WORD copy of the worksheet just contact me directly at tlowther7@gmail.com.

How to Analyze a Case Study

Photo by Thom Lowther

Most of you who know me well know that I believe passionately in the use of cases studies as a learning tool. Years ago I discovered a excellent tool for analyzing case studies in the "Handbook for Training and Development" published by ASTD. I share below a simplified version of tool. I have used it often - in professional firms, in associations workshops and in college classrooms.

When analyzing a case study, an orderly, step-by-step approach is helpful. It is important to gain an appreciation of the overall situation initially, as well as to learn what information is contained in the case. Therefore, it is suggested that the case study be skimmed first to gain this overall perspective. While or after doing so, jot down the key points and issues that come to mind, as well as your first impression of the problems, issues, and opportunities facing the company. Then read the case in detail, adding to and modifying your initial thoughts. Remember that not everything in the case is vitally important, nor is all the important information necessarily included. The case represents someone's (e.g., management's) description of the company and its situation - it is up to you to probe deeper, sort and shift things out, and acquire additional information. It is your responsibility to analyze and recommend alternatives and approaches to management.

The following guide may be helpful to you in your task:

1. Define the situation. What are the challenges, problems, potential problems, opportunities, and potential opportunities facing the company? Typically, the case will contain various systems you will have to diagnose. To do so, try and isolate the major issues facing the company and their causes. Keep in mind that there are likely to be sub and secondary issues, as well as related and perhaps extraneous issues described in the case. Your task is to assign priorities to the issues, focusing on the critical few.

2. Assemble and analyze the important facts (gleaned from the case) which bear on the situation.

3. Specify important information that is needed but not included in the case. Determine whether or not it is available elsewhere. If available, acquire about it.

4. Make assumptions! For important information that is not available from the case or elsewhere, make logical assumptions as to what it might be. State these assumptions.

5. Draw conclusions Based on your analysis, information, and assumptions.

6. Determine alternatives and their likely outcomes. What are the major alternative actions open to the company, and what is likely to happen if each is adopted? Evaluate each.

7. Make recommendations. Based on your analysis, what do you recommend to management and why? Be prepared to defend your recommendations under critical questioning by the instructor and the class (the types of questions which might be posed by the company's management and other stakeholders).

8. Prepare an implementation plan. How should your recommendation be implemented, by whom? and in what sequence (short-term versus long-term actions). Where will the resources come from?

9. Prepare contingency plans. What do you recommend if your suggestions do not work as anticipated, or if certain external or internal conditions change?

After the Storm- A Plan for Renewal

Lowther7, LLC Sunset photo of a gazebo in Sanderling, NC

The challenge: How can we survive right now and prepare to thrive as a relevant business for the future? The answer: Channel resources toward organizational and professional development renewal.

By Guest author Sonja H. Winburn, SPHR.

Industries serving the built environment continue to weather a perfect storm: a tough economic climate, new technologies, and varying delivery systems. The tension between the way we have done our work in the past and the way it will need to be done in the future is causing firms to feel disconnects and dilemmas in all operational areas. There is fear, confusion and ambiguity in how leaders need to lead and carry their firms forward. This indicates that organizations need to create and communicate a new vision for their new reality and then realign their business model to match the new direction. In order to accomplish this, firms need to define where they are now and where they want to go in the future.

Firm Leaders need to be able to see and communicate clearly the changes they wish to make and the activities that may need to be eliminated. One way to start defining your needs is by challenging some of the assumptions held from the past. As we look over our shoulders and examine current dilemmas in light of past assumptions, the disconnection between them can be seen. Similarly we can look ahead, reviewing the current state of affairs in terms of the new environment and then make connections to new needs. Such efforts can only be accomplished if we can see and highlight the gap between the current reality and where to go from here. Then translate the change to the people that will need to carry out the strategy. Then the firm and its people can change and realign with the leaders newly defined path.

This kind of organizational change has to be addressed holistically. Plans for redirecting or reshaping an organization have to be purposeful, systemic, and coordinated. A new vision, ideas about innovation, attitudinal changes, and appropriate process changes all need to be aligned and communicated in a renewal plan. The plan should address what services we provide and to who, how we will lead and develop people, how to achieve operational excellence, and then utilize resources effectively. When we accurately describe our strategic goals and current reality, and then line up our resources to close the gap between them, we can move ahead with confidence.

Terminology from the industrial environment separated organizational development from individual profession or employee development. A/E/C leaders do not make this distinction and it hinders communication and holistic system change and planning. A successful plan will address both your organizational plan and include how this should impact the new skills and information needed by staff to be productive in their work. The implementation of the strategy must permeate employee selection and development, the orientation processes, skills training, manager’s mentoring, and the relevant education of your business along with the relevant issues in the markets of our clients. In other words this is an entire system “upgrade”.

Your renewal plan’s implementation map will look like a spider web that runs through all efforts and activities. For example, how do you now communicate with people on important information? All firm systems should be examined for more effective ways to access any needed information quickly and easily. Utilization of an intranet or a company Wiki to capture and disseminate knowledge and changes, or the use of VOIP options such as Skype to help facilitate long distance communication, are inexpensive ways of improving the effective use of time, people, and resources. Firms can also use forums and lessons learned sessions to share problems and solutions. There should be opportunities that require face to face interaction as well as the use of blogs and the standardization of project documentation. There is no replacement for face to face interaction because business is about relationships and trust. It takes time and personal interaction with those you work with to develop this kind of trust. Also remember to apply more than one method to reach target audiences because of differing experience levels and generational communication preferences.

As a starting point for developing a renewal plan:

1. Put forth the effort to discuss your business issues, markets, disconnects etc. with those in your organization that know the current environment and markets.
- Choose this group carefully. Rethink who can and will contribute in terms of defining the current and future needs of “your” business.

- Center your discussion on what your people need to know today to be more effective.

- Topics should include markets, operations, people, project management, technology, research and innovation, etc.

- Document the discussion and highlight any ideas for change or improvement.

2. Focus on the real and current client and business needs first.
- Correctly and honestly identify the issues that come out of this discussion. This will determine if your plan will impact and change your effectiveness as a firm.

- This effort should lead to ideas that will have full system impact, process changes in the way you market, manage projects and define subjects for an employee education plan.

3. Choose a champion.
- Make sure this is someone you will allow to take the time to work on this.

- Someone that understands learning theory and people.

- A person that really believes in the process and cares about the outcome.

- Someone that has a good understanding of the resources and can allocate them for this kind of effort.

4. Develop and document a formal plan.
- Commit to it.

- Designate responsibility to appropriate staff and set timetables.

5. Align defined implementation strategy with the resources you can afford and have available.

After you have established your needs, do what you can today with what you have today. Don’t wait until you have it all worked out.

In the past, one of the primary obstacles to establishing and completing this kind of planning effort was finding the time to devote to implementation. The people most qualified to take on such an effort are the same people wearing the project and managerial hats. When a conflict between the urgent project need and the important strategic need arise, the immediate project wins. The trick here is to either elevate in your mind the value of your strategy needs or to minimize in terms of your use of resources the conflicts by allowing someone with the proper skill set to hold this as a primary responsibility.

Another obstacle connected to having our project managers and our leaders combined in the same individual has hindered the development of good and relevant content for programs and training for the needs of the A/E/C environment. As technology and information sharing explode there are now ways to get this content at reasonable costs.
As a result of converging macro environment factors, the recognition by multiple design practices that this is the perfect time to leverage sustainable design and the LEED building certification process, together have allowed the USGBC to offer some ground breaking choices for firms. The education arm of the USGBC has developed case studies on green buildings and also provides content subscriptions. that are available for purchase, thus providing good and relevant content for at least this one area of possible program need.

Most small to mid size firms do not have people on staff that can facilitate this kind of holistic change or focus on the individual development components of the system. After you have specifically defined your needs you may need to seek help from outside resources in terms of outside consultants to help with implementation or program content development, facilitators, etc. But someone internally needs to be tasked with primary focus of the development of staff and their alignment with the newly defined vision.

If your firm develops this kind of holistic plan then you will feel more comfortable with your ability to deliver improved service that can impact fee and/or profit. The resulting changes will have elements to capture and communicate the strategy needed, then search for appropriate solutions to business and project needs, and somehow stretch the searching and communication into a continuous process. The new business system model itself should also hold people accountable to a defined, well-communicated specific set of expectations. Research shows that when people accurately understand what the firm expects of them and they have the right skills to execute it then performance does improve sharply. A comprehensive plan for renewal will translate into better project performance and more credibility with clients and staff.

Sonja H. Winburn, SPHR. is an HR and Business Operations Consultant for her firm “People and Solutions” Sonja helps organizations serving A/E/C organizations with organizational planning and implementation strategy. You can contact Sonja at sdhwinburn@bellsouth.net

An Emphasis Shift from Teaching to Learning

Emphasis on the learner

The situation, instruction and facilitation are becoming more difficult and challenging. Today the emphasis is on the learner, not the instructor. In January I wrote that learning objectives where a key to selecting the best delivery approach by the instructor in a classroom. Today’s learning objects are the contract between what the course designer and faculty are supposed to deliver and what the learner or student should expect to learn. For continuing professional development (CPD). in today’s firms the learning emphasis should be focused on the learner, not the instructor or facilitator.

Traditionally the transfer of knowledge occurred when the subject matter expert or instructor imparted their knowledge to the student. I still support this approach, but conditionally. In several of my earlier blogs I stressed the use of situational instruction, how the instructor could determine effective approaches to teaching the subject matter. Once you determine the development and motivation level of your students the learning objects should indicate when it is appropriate to be directive, when to use a coaching technique, when to be supportive and facilitate a group activity or when to delegate a learning approach. For the instructor the critical key to successful instruction or facilitation in the situational classroom is matching the right delivery style to the development level of the student, at the correct time of need.

While the situational instruction approach is still valid in traditional education, for employees with experience, graduate level courses, and professionals concerned with their CPD the focus has shifted to the learner and away from instruction. The learner is no longer exclusively dependent upon the instructor. Regardless of the expertise, experience, or knowledge level of today’s instructor, if the instructor cannot gage the development level of the learner correctly and deliver the material accordingly the learner will simply tune out and seek alternate sources of learning. By searching the internet, an iPod, or a personal tablet, sharing with the learner’s peers, any number of delivery methods are now available to the learner for finding on-demand and open source education material. Various sources of information can provide the content outlined in the learning objects of a course in a format and pace where the learner will successfully learn – without or without the instructor.

The emphasis of learning today is literally in the hands of the learner. The classroom style of instruction is not obsolete, however instructors beware! Once the course learning objectives are agreed to between the deliverer and the learner, the instructor needs to be flexible and adaptable to the changing needs of the learner. If not, someday all instruction may be limited to mechanical or experiential.

For individuals who wish to refresh their knowledge or who want to learn more about situational leadership, the basics upon which this learning approach is based, visit Wikipedia or read the book, The One Minute Manager Builds High Performing Teams authored by Dr. Ken Blanchard, Donald Carew, Eunice Parisi-Carew.

Appropriate Education Provider: Line dance or tango?

Dancing Partners or Selecting an Education Partner

Organizations can develop simple certificate programs or complex certification programs. However, before your organization progresses too far into the development of the standards and requirements take a pause and think strategically. During your development process, think about those education providers who will be developing and offering the education courses that support your program. Consider those certificate holders who be required to take classes from the education providers and how in the long term that relates to your overall program. Think strategically about your education providers. Do you set up a system that shapes and influences the education or do you rely on randomness, good luck and the good intentions of the education providers? Let me give you three simple examples of what it could look like and then suggest four indicators that will help you determine if the education provider(s) is the right dance partner for your organization.

If you have ever been to a western style or honky-tonk bar you may have witnessed the country line dance. You know the one - where two or three of the patrons get up on the dance floor in a line and start a two –step motion. After awhile other patrons join in with various levels of skills. This can be entertaining and fun to watch as you never know how the dance will conclude.

Have you seen the Broadway production or the movie of the Chorus Line? It starts out with professional performers who are generally better dancers than your average two-step line dancers. After a lot of practice and rehearsals on the part of these dancers they provide a well choreographed dance routine that even an untrained eye can appreciate.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit Argentina and my host took me to a cabaret show where the performers did the tango. It was a totally new level of dance to which I had not been previously exposed. The performers showed a grace, elegance and harmony where the partners performed as one motion.

Now, think about the education providers that your organization relies on to provide the education to your certificate or certification holders. What are your education outcome expectations? There at least four basic indicators that will help you determine the type of dance partner that you are dependent upon.

Do you and your education providers share the value of credibility? Is the big motivator for your organization or that of your education providers to generate revenue as a result of your certification program requirements? Is participation growth the primary concern of your program and that of your education providers? Do you and your providers emphasis quality as the most important issue?

In several of my other blogs I point out seven keys to developing a quality education program. The first key is a strategic approach that stresses the integration of the organization’s short and long term goals. This would include how the education providers would support your certificate or certification program. The second, develop a systematic approach to engage the education providers in a way that benefits and supports your certification program. Do you want the relationship to look like a line dance or a tango?

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.

Virtual Curriculum: A program design solution for A/E/C firms.

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The responses were interesting and varied when last month I submit this series of questions to more than a dozen online professional discussion groups.

“Does anyone have an example of a virtual curriculum based upon an individual’s subject matter interest rather than group subjects or topics? Is success measured based upon the participant’s mastery of the subject or some type of norm scores? Are the results tied to work performance, pay, or certification?

Quickly, a definition of “virtual” needed to be established. It was generally agreed in most of the discussion groups that “virtual” meant “online.” Bill Brunk, Ph.D asked the question on the CLO Magazine discussion group, “ I wonder if you might not be confusing two concept here: self-directed learning and virtual (online) learning.” Dr. Brunk brought up a good point and I thought we were beginning to address the question but the largest number of immediate responses came from consultants and schools who obviously were trying to market their online courses. If they bothered to look, I too offer online classes on my website– but that did not really address the questions.

To clarify I stated that I wanted to explore the curriculum definition that relates to a set of courses constituting an area of specialization, where curriculum is built around the individual’s interest rather than the institutions offerings. I was looking for more than simply saying we (the association/consultant/university) give online degrees or provide certification in...(fill in the blank).

From the TED discussion group Donald R. (Chip) Levy, a former Senior Director of Professional Development at the AIA responded with, “In common practice, many think of a curriculum as a generally linear, organized learning path to some goal (degree, certification, specialist credential, etc.). For me, the interesting twist has less to do with getting one's ticket punched at the end of a process, and more to do with building a thoughtful, if idiosyncratic, learning program that continually moves each learner toward evolving performance excellence and (career) success. The resources can be from a variety of sources, focused on a variety of KSAs, employing a variety of delivery channels and media, and uniquely aggregated for each person. It is an ongoing, evolutionary prospect -- a "lifelong curriculum" that guides "lifelong learning" as we progress through our careers.”

In conclusion, I believe that technology allows us to expand our learning options in a format where we can pick the one that works best for us. If I take courses at my own discretion I would be reluctant to call that a curriculum. In order for the learning to become a curriculum I would suggest that the process follows a guided path, such as one outlined by a negotiated contract. I would advocate however that the curriculum options are greatly expanded when the learning process is not limited or restricted to just the courses offered by the school, the association or a business. The instructor or consultant thus becomes a learning adviser - guiding the learner toward agreed upon learning goals.

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