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November 06, 2006


Karl Kapp


I think your comments about our need for models and to tweek the models have a common theme which is "alignment with the business needs of the organization." As you stated, we can't have blackbox ROI because it is too complex and confuses our customers.

Instead, we need to have an understanding of the business. Too many times training is done without thought and without consideration of the business and, in regards to our models, without Analysis or Evaluation. I often tell my students that when the ADDIE model is applied in business, it becomes the DI model (Develop and Implement). We really need to, as an industry, work on restoring the lost letters or we will not be aligned with the business units we are supposed to support.


dave lee

I'm in agreement with you Karl, but I know that where many of us struggle is getting our internal business partners to look beyond next quarter's qoals. Needs assessment and evaluation do take time. And crisis management seems like it will never cease to be a major component of business life.

My gut feeling is that a portion of the solution is to establish needs assessment and evaluation systems that are overarching and somewhat independent of particular learning interventions. Ongoing monitoring of enterprise knowledge, strategy and he resultant learning needs.

As long as we remain caught in the DI, it won't matter what model we use, we'll always be trying to justify ourselves against criteria we've not been a part of setting.

Dave F.

Here's hoping for better late than never...

(And hi, Dave)

I've often found myself working at what I see as the intersection between a group of people and their organization's customers (e.g., Amtrak reservation agents; GE EDI salespeople). So the user-generated content and experience is (and I think has always been) vital.

On very short notice, I worked to create some initial-sales-call roleplays. I could never have done this without the product managers providing facts, indicators, and red herrings, or without the sales managers identifying plausible attitudes and background info for the people playing the prospects.

In the context of this discussion, the real point is that we did a highly condensed "design" -- we identified the products, indicators of a good or poor fit with a prospect's situation, brainstormed some likely objections or false leads, and agreed on the basics for each case (description for the salesperson, description for the prospect, background for the sales-manager observer) in just a few hours. I fleshed out the information, and the product managers and sales managers reviewed and revised it. Not exactly ADDIE, but not improvisational theater, either.

I want to endorse the 'understanding the business' viewpoint, too. I recall a sales rep coming in for a session saying to me, "This thing better be worth $15,000." That was her viewpoint: she divided her annual quota into workdays, and needed to average that much business closed in the time devoted to the training.

She was not saying "this training is worthless," or even "I don't want to be here." What she was saying is, "this is the investment being asked of me," and expecting there to be a corresponding payoff.

dave lee

always better to be involved. timing is secondary. great to hear from you dave. i hope all is well this end of the year.

i love your sales rep's comment. often times the perspective of a seasoned sales professional is dead on. thank you also for the analysis that she wasn't slamming the training at hand. although depending on what her previous experiences with had been, she may or may not have been voicing some skepticism that chances of $15,000 in value where unlikely.

no matter the case, as you point out she just wants to get her time's worth out of the session. the question i have is were you aware that $15,000 worth of her time was an expectation when building the course?

Dave F.

Dave --

Glad to be back in touch. I want to do more of that this year -- I spent more time working on my own than I'd prefer. I learn (or discover) a fair amount by talking about what I've been doing or reading, but talking to myself doesn't have quite the same effect.

Re sales training and the sales rep: I had difficulty working in sales training because my bias is there's an enormous precedent of rah-rah stuff... motivation, "efforting" (in Ruth Sizemore House's phrase)... and less emphasis on trying to analyze what works when, and why.

My goal when designing wasn't exactly to make the training worth her $15,000 -- but in a way it was to have her say at the end of the year that training she'd received was an integral factor in breaking quota. Training was only one part of the performance system, but it was the part I was most associated with.

In another effort to break the pep-talk and information-dump module, we had a group of new telemarketing people who had to learn quickly about three key products. The product managers were ready with their usual PowerPoint-driven pitches. I was able to get each of them to agree to cut the pitch short by 45 minutes. Then, a team of participants would work on their own pitch -- presenting to the rest of the group what they saw as the presenter's 10 most relevant points.

This did several things: one, stopped the poor newcomers from being talked to deal. Two, stopped the routine death-by-PPT. Three, got the newcomers talking with one another (and searching through resource material) and thinking about what in fact had been important. Forth, gave the presenters some strong feedback on how effectively they were communicating their own top points.

I hadn't really thought about this as "informal learning" at the time -- but it was a way to restructure learning that I could, well, sell to the sales force.

The following Monday, I found on my desk a handwritten thank-you from the VP of sales (who was no slouch in stepping outside the unexpected).

dave lee

happy new year, dave.

yeah, i have to be careful not to fall into the trap of limiting my conversations to talking to myself too. fortunately i'm becoming fairly addicted to the give and take of the dialogue between colleagues here on eelearning, on learning circuits blog or on their blogs. The funny thing is i not only learn from them, but invariably, i end up learning things from myself as well.

You are right to refine my comment about being responsible for your sales rep's $15,000 of worth. training is only a part of the equation. i like your way of making the point that you want her to feel the training was integral to her being able to make quota at the end of the year. however we quantify or otherwise measure it, my point is that i think all too often we get focused on the content and process of the training and loose track of what truly matters to the learners and to those who have sent them to us.

to your list of accomplishments i'd suggest that you also likely helped the newcomers understand what resources their peers would/could be. you also provided the presenters, if they were paying attention, with new insights into the qualities of their products. having done product presentations to sales reps for eight years, i fortunately learned early that i had as much to learn from the reps about my products as they had to learn from me.

whether you were doing informal learning or not isn't as important, as you say, as whether or not you were successful in your mission to sell to sales people. which is as gnarly a challenge as you can find. i'll share my thoughts on selling to sales people in a new blog post (it's a bit off topic here).

dave, thanks for your insights. one thing i liked about you from the very moment we met last spring was your willingness to put yourself out there for the sake of starting a dialogue. it's not an easy position to put oneself in and it's often under appreciated. if you ever are for want of a dialogue partner, i'm always game!

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