Implementation

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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.

A Situational Classroom: What about the impact of group dynamics?

So far in our situational classroom series we have stressed what classroom format and delivery model the instructor might best utilize to maximize learning by the individual student. So when the instructor determines that a supportive style of instruction is most appropriate, plan carefully. For the best learning results review the course content and design well ahead of time. Consider how different the skills of supporting and facilitation are from lecturing, directing and coaching during the implementation and delivery phases of this learning model. Remember that facilitation of a group correctly usually takes more time to cover. Think of covering the material by a lecture or covering the same material using a case study. http://www.lowther7.com/courses/instructor-facilitator-understanding-gro...

Let’s look here at the similarities of an individual’s learning development and stages of group development. According to Bruce Tuckman there are four stages to group development. The first stage is forming, individuals seeking acceptance as they avoid conflict. According to the Situational Leadership, team approach, this first stage is orientation. Group participants enter with low to varied competence but generally high commitment, similar to an individual’s first development learning level.

Storming is Tuckman’s second stage of development. At this level team members determine what they are suppose solve and how they will participate within the group. The situational team approach calls this stage dissatisfaction with individuals demonstrating some competence with a low to varying level of commitment.

Groups that successfully work through stage two move into Norming or resolution, the third stage. Some members of the group may have to give up their ideas and agree with others to work towards a common goal. Individuals demonstrate a high competence with variable levels of commitment.

Successful groups reach the fourth stage, performing or production. The team members are motivated, demonstrating high competence and high commitment while working towards the completion of the groups goals.

In a situational classroom, the instructor using a supportive approach needs to be aware that student’s may enter into the group learning activities at different levels of competency and commitment. It is important to facilitate the group as if they are all at the same basic level during the forming/orientation stage. On the part of the instructor/facilitator it is critical that they carefully guide the group to each new development level as a group. Moving to a new level is a skill of balance. Move too soon and you can lose the involvement of students who are not ready. Move too slowly and you can lose the involvement of your advanced students who may get frustrated.

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.

A Situational Classroom: When to use a delegating style

As your students progress, at some point they should reach a high level of understanding and competence in the subject matter. When they also demonstrate a high level of commitment it is the right time to adjust your instructional style, using a delegating style. Think of the individual who has mastered the basic theories and concepts. They have demonstrated some advanced technical techniques. Working in small teams they work well and are able to design some interesting buildings with sustainable features. As their instructor it is now time to challenge them again. Since the key to continued successful instruction in the situational classroom is matching the right delivery style to the development level of the student at the correct time of need. It is time for the student to demonstrate what they have learned moving beyond theory and concept and into practice.

Several models that you can use to engage students at this high level of learning development include research projects, self-directed studies, or learning contracts. It is time for the instructor to turn over responsibility to the student in decision-making. That means that the instructor provides little supervision or support. As within the structure of a contract, expectations and outcomes should be agreed upon between the instructor and student at the start of the project. Unless specified, either individual or network group approaches should be acceptable for the project. Upon completion of the project the instructor should providing constructive feedback.

For the instructor, using a low level of directive instruction along with low supportive behavior and feedback, the instructor is using a delegating style of delivery correctly. Delegating behavior should not be confused with dumping or “hands off” instruction. Delegating means that there is still some, just limited involvement of the instructor.

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, Leadership and the One Minute Manager authored by Dr. Ken Blanchard.

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.

The 6th Key for a Product Manufacturer: Implementation and delivery of continuing education

For the product manufacturer, the first rule of implementation and delivery –keep it simple and follow your action plan. One strength of the product manufacturer is their product research department. The big question is how do they use that information when delivering education? Add to their research, the product manufacturers are in a prime position to develop project studies or case studies about actual application. Where so many product manufacturers slip up, they run their client continuing education programs from their marketing department using their sales force as the trainers. It is difficult to be an effective trainer if your income is based entirely on what you sell. An answer to this problem –rule number two is to have your technical staff deliver the education to your clients. Team them with a sales staff if you must but then structure their salary to reflect that some of their time is spent in education marketing and not direct sales.

Here is an example of one company that has learned to design and deliver product education correctly,Pella Windows, Commercial Division. In 1989 Pella hired an architect, Terry Zeimetz, AIA, CSI, CCPR to design and teach architects and engineers about their products. Based upon adult education principals and clear learning objectives Terry incorporated Pella’s research and developed courses slowly over time that were based upon projects related to the architects and engineers needs. These education courses were not sales pitches. Pella was patient and gave their plan time to develop and unfold. They built their program around their research and ongoing need assessments. Because of a solid foundation, by the time they reached the implementation and delivery phase the process went reasonably smooth, it grew and continues today. Terry was not afraid to try the new and the different, something that connected to Pella’s strategic education plans. Pella’s on-site education and product tour has become the standard for offering site tours for the industry.

The 6th Key for Associations: Implementation and delivery of continuing education

One advantage of working for an association or non-profit, they have access to their membership data base that stakeholder organizations and marketers often only dream about. While it may be tempting to react with education offerings because a committee or board member has a friend who knows somebody, or they have an interest in a specific topic, please try not to act too quickly. Use your database to do an education need assessment of your members and their clients before saying yes to the committee or board member. Analysis the results of the assessment then develop a plan and design the course. Or just maybe, after analysis of the data you might just say no to the committee or board member. At least the decision or justification will be based upon actual data and not just a reaction.

Once a decision is reached and a plan is drawn up, follow your action plan of implementation and delivery. Association leaders need think in terms of a process that may take 2- 3 years before expecting to see major results. Action plans should include measureable steps throughout the process. Expectations however need to be realistic so be patient and give your plan time to develop and unfold.

At the program level successful associations generally have partners in their education initiative. Keep your lines of communication straightforward and open with your partners. Share information with your partners about what the competition is doing, or about new technology delivery methods. Stay abreast of advocacy or legal issues that may impact your program implementation or delivery directly or indirectly.

There are now four generations in the workplace. Is your association shrinking because new members are not joining? Or growing as the emerging professionals begin to outnumber your long term core members? Add to the mix, diversity in our social structure. Is your association the same core membership that you have experienced for generations? Or are you witnessing a change in membership make-up who hold new points of view? And every association is dealing with a rapid change while members are struggling to accommodate advances in technology. With all of these changes, expectations encourage you to try new and different approaches to delivery. Be flexible in your program implementation. Be flexible in your conference and course delivery methods. But don’t forget to measure progress and adjustments against your plan.

Implementation and Delivery: The 6th key to quality continuing education

Flickr Photo by NASA on The Commons

The first rule of implementation and delivery, follow your action plan. Be patient and give your plan time to develop and unfold. On an organizational level think in terms of a process that may take 2- 3 years to see real results. Between your needs assessment and analysis (Key 3) and planning and performance projection (Key 4) you should discover that you have been provides with direction and a path to follow. At the course level, keep a close eye on the competition, technology, along with your profession or trade issues. The entire world of continuing education and professional education has changed in the past several years. With four generations now in the workplace there is still room for the tried and the traditional but build a little flexibility into your plans to accommodate some advances in technology. Don't be afraid to try the new and the different but do so in measured steps that connect to your strategic education plans. Technology is changing faster than your three year plans. Stay as current of technology as your budget will reasonably allow. Be prepared for continual change and adjust accordingly. Plan on it!

The Fifth Key for Successful Association Education: Marketing and Promotion.

Associations can be successful by concentrating on their core mission. Their marketing approach should draw attention to the mission using a focused brand image. But just because the overall marketing approach contributes to the success of the association do not expect that same approach to work as well for the association’s education program or courses. When I discuss education within the context of an association I go back to my first key to building a successful education program - the commitment and support from the association’s leadership toward supporting and promoting the education program. Needless to say, the association’s education program should support the mission. However, while providing mission support education programs are still bound to their own set of traditional guidelines and business rules. My experience tells me that everyone knows what good education looks like – just ask them. Everyone has gone to school and attended classes at some point in their life. And everyone has an opinion on which teachers or instructors they liked or didn’t like, and why they feel that way. I call this the education expectations of the association’s leaders and members. Key two is critical in focusing in on the education expectations of the members through needs assessment.

For associations the fifth key is to promote the mission through education while identifying the related issues and developing education content that is offered to the membership meeting their expectations. The leaders of the association education must commit to including a separate promotion and advertising campaign of their education programs and courses not only to the general membership but also to targeted, special interest groups. I do not know of any association that would try to hold an annual conference or convention and not provide a directed promotion and advertising campaign to support that effort. Within most annual conferences you find sub-groups, those looking for information that addresses their interest.

There are those that believe that by simply marketing the association brand, they are also promoting their education courses. I do not hold that belief. What I have observed working closely with numerous associations over the years: poor promotion and advertising generally results in poor results based upon industry standard measurements of successful. Education programs and courses frequently succeed or fail based upon the success of the promotion campaigns of individual courses or specialized education programs such as certificate programs. You can have the world’s most advanced cutting edge courses taught by the most knowledgeable subject matter experts (SME), and delivered in the most appropriate formats at the right price - but if your target audience doesn’t know about event – it will fail. Associations that rely primarily on their reputation and branding for the association alone will incur poor results for their education efforts. When it comes to education adequate promotion and advertisement of the courses, related products, and services is essential for success.