Professional Practice

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 – Planning and Performance Projection

Photo of staff reviewing graphs

Planning and performance projection is the critical third step to building a successful professional development program. This step should be based upon the results your needs assessments and analysis. At this point you develop measurable short and long-term educational goal with performance projections of key education results that tie into the overall business strategy. If you have not already done so at this point, be sure to develop a realistic budget that supports your project.

Continuing in part four 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 3: Planning and Performance Projection

Here we examine the firm'€™s planning, support and performance projections. This section examines how the firm identifies, develops, and supports program designers and faculty. Key 3 also takes into consideration how the firm effectively collects and reports information about activities and participants.

Planning Process
1. There is an established organizational planning process leading to the implementation of learning solutions and educational programs. As appropriate this process includes on-the-job support where and when your L&D customers need it.
2. There is a process that addresses how technology supports the learning evaluated, improved, and kept current with changing business needs.
3. There is a process involving how to use key information in the determination of learning objectives for learning and knowledge sharing activities.
4. There is a short-term planning process leading to necessary adjustments of educational programming, staffing, and delivery.

Human Resources
5. There is a process to identify and involve key personnel in roles of program designers, developers, instructors and facilitators, and evaluators.
6. There is a process to train and support key personnel to serve as program designers, developers, instructors and facilitators, and evaluators.
7. There is an established process that ensures all appropriate staff is kept current of all requirements, regulations, and laws related to course content.

Performance Projection
8. There are identified metrics used to assess the effectiveness of your learning solutions that are updated annually.
9. There are short and long-term projections related to desired key education results.
10. There are short and long-term projections related to performance and/or benchmark data that can track improvement.
11. At least some of the short and long-term projections for the education program reflect measurable goals.

Program Tracking & Maintenance
12. Detailed summaries of all revenue and expenses related to the overall program are maintained and evaluated on a scheduled basis.
13. There is a process that ensures that program standards are maintained when partnering with other organizations.
14. There is a process for compensating and recognizing individuals and groups who help reach the education objectives and for those whose performance improves.
15. A process for tracking and reviewing the education program marketing results - internal and external.
16. There is a process for tracking, reviewing, and improving the program content and offering new educational activities.
17. A process is in place for recording and filing required designations for activities, such as Health, Safety and Welfare (HSW), LEED, ISO, ANSI, Mandatory Continuing Education (MCE), PDH, 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 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 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.

Building a Design Firm'€™s Professional Development Program – Implementation and Delivery

Photo of staff reviewing graphs on a laptop

Be patient and allow time for your implementation and delivery action plan to work. Individual courses can often be created and delivered in a short time frame if there is an established system in place. However, for an organizational-level program or curriculum, think in terms of a process that may take 2- 3 years to see real results. Your needs assessment and analysis (Key 2), and planning and performance projection (Key 3),will provide you with direction and a path. If the firm is committing time to the development of internal courses be sure that each support the firm'€™s strategic business plan. Most mid-sized firms and larger have a generational mixed staff so don't be afraid to try the new and the different methods of delivery. Stay as current of technology as your budget will reasonably allow. Be prepared for continual change and adjust accordingly. For those firms that already have some in-house programs in place consider tapping into the expertise of your own staff members, those who present at professional conferences or are adjunct instructors for your local college or university. I offered several suggestions last year in my blog An Overlooked Internal Training Source for A/E Firms.

Continuing in part seven 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 6: Implementation and Delivery

Key 6 examines the firm's process for course / program delivery methods. This section provides recommendations for matching the appropriate delivery method based upon expected Learning Outcomes.

How well does your firm'€™s implementation and delivery process match up?

1. For each course/program the question is asked, “What do you want the participant to be to do, or what should they know when they finish the course /program?€ Then, €œwhat is the best delivery method to achieve the expected outcome?€
2. Courses and curriculum include provisions for practice and application, not just volume of information. There is a process for ensuring that program delivery methods are consistently appropriate for course content and material. [Ex: Instructor -led, PowerPoint, Case Study,Case Study, Gaming, Webinar, Podcast, etc.)
3. Selection of delivery methods that is appropriate to the learner'€™s skill/knowledge level is considered, such as awareness, practitioner, and mastery level.
4. Technology is used as a tool to support courses and curriculum, not drive them.
5. The firm ensures selecting appropriate delivery methods as required by external agencies when supporting special designations and license requirements.
6. There is a process to establish a schedule that meets requirements by external agencies when supporting special designations and license requirements.

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 learning and development.

Building a Design Firm's Professional Development Program -€“ Evaluation and Improvement

Photo of an evaluation form

This final segment of an eight part series covers evaluation, feedback, and continuous improvements. As before, I have assembled requirements from various award programs that appear among several prestigious organizations with consistency. My intent here has been to provide a self-assessment tool that can be used to help improve and more effectively manage a firm's professional education department.

All successful programs include an evaluation and feedback process. A system should be established that will evaluate each course, service or product against (Key 3) measurable short and long-term educational goals using performance projections. Don'€™t collect data just because you can. Collect what you need to help make informed decisions. And if you collect it, don'€™t ignore the information and let it collect dust. Use the information to continually improve your program, build your reputation as a quality organization, and become more profitable.

KEY 7: Evaluation and Improvement

This section provides a list of award winning recommendations for the areas of educational evaluation and program improvement. For each section below there is and established process.

Selection of Information and Data Collection
1. Determine what program evaluation information should be collected, maintained, and reviewed.
2. Addresses the methods used to evaluate the quality of the education program.

Evaluation and Review of Educational Performance
3. Determining comparative data to be used to measure performance.
4. Evaluation of the educational system with identified areas for improvement.
5. Determining how learning activities reach their stated objectives.

Education-Specific Results
6. Evaluate performance results for education services, programs, certification, and licensure compliance.
7. Using information to improve program effectiveness.
8. Keeping current with the changing educational needs of the audience.

Accessibility and Complaint Management
9. Providing access and information to participants who seek assistance or voice complaints about the educational activities.
10. Ensures that complaints are resolved effectively and promptly.

Feedback and Continuous Improvement
11. Insures information is and data shared and reviewed by leadership, and appropriate committees and individuals with the expectations of continual improvement.

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 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

Flickr photo by ariwriter

How do you design and build a situational mentoring program? Take the traditional approach of pairing or matching a mentor and mentee and turn it inside out by adding several more mentors and mentees. And yes, you now have a situational mentoring group or team.

In today’s society of social networking and media apps think in terms of 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. As stated in the book Nine Shift, networking is replacing the hierarchy structure in business and society, so too should we restructure the mentoring process so that it draws from the strength of a network.

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.

The win – win of situational mentoring comes when the mentor using his or hers most effective delivery style is matched to the level of development of the mentee at the time of need. One example would be the mentor best at using a coaching approach when the mentee has a low commitment but some competence on a project. Another correct example would be the mentor most effective using a supporting approach is matched to the mentee who has high competence but variable commitment.

The intent of a well planned mentoring program is to identify key leaders (mentors) that are willing to share their knowledge and time with the next level of potential leaders (mentees). A situational designed mentoring program allows for the mentor who is most effective in a delivery approach to be matched with a mentee as the mentee learns and works through different development levels. It is very important that clear goals and expected learning outcomes are established and communicated from the outset of the mentoring experience by all participants of the group. A successful situational mentoring program can be a win – win –win for everyone, the mentor, the mentee, and the organization that supports the program.

Successful Change Agents

Photo of brainstorming activity board

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

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