Archive for October, 2007

I remember the old days when people argued a lot about facts and figures.  Who did what in the world series of 57 or what’s the tallest building and so on.  What’s changed today is that it takes seconds to find this answers so we have to find other things to argue about. 

Take the issue of “are all the jobs going overseas?”  Well it’s easy to look up the answer and get the exact numbers.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which has a great website, reports that there are 140 million jobs in America.  Of that 90% are location fixed.  You can’t move them if you wanted to.  Jobs like airline pilots, dentists, school teachers, truck drivers, etc.  Of the remaining 10%, about 3% have been outsourced.  This has to be balanced against the increase in jobs here to provide products and services to things like outsourced call centers.  These new call centers buy a lot of things like Dell Computers, etc. 

So the discussion changes to something more important than just the numbers.

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With any change 15% will readily accept it.  15% will reject it and fight you and 70% will do nothing and hope it goes away.  Since training really requires that people change what they do, you always have the 70% to worry about.  Ever wonder why you put on some great training and nothing happened.  What you were missing is a change strategy.  There are a lot of change management tools, here’s just a few to consider:

  • Get a high level executive sponsor
  • Create a team of stakeholders to help you design and review the training
  • Put in a measurement strategy which holds others accountable
  • Add a communications strategies that keeps everyone involved

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Storytelling and analogies are proven to improve retention and understanding.  So here’s one I like.  I had an interview with a world class luger.  Luge is the sport where you go down something like a bobsled run but on a your back and on a tiny sled.

Do you know how to learn to luge?  Well, you start a one or two turn at from the bottom on the hill and learn to do it from there without crashing before you move up.  At each level you go faster and it’s also a lot scarier.  So you work up to the top which is between 15 and 19 turns.  It takes about a 1000 practice runs and about 3 or 4 years to make it to the top.  Now if you link this story to learning other things like making presentations or selling, you have a powerful learning tool.  Note that I picked two things with a lot of fear attached.  People would rather go  to the dentist than make a presentation in front of a lot of people.  Start small, work your way up.  Overcome your fear as you go.  Make a 1000 presentations.

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A Quick Word on Role Plays

I think we over estimate the amount of practice or learning that goes on in a role play.  While it is a good learning situation, it has it limits.  Take learning how to make a cold call.  One role play teaches at best how to handle one situation.  While in real life, all of the different potential customers present different situations and challenges.  I’d say, here’s your role play and here’s your plan for learning with your next 50 calls.

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New Hire Orientation??

You’ll like this video.  I shows what happens when you assign someone to train the new guy in.  This happens all the time.

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Think of anything that you do well, maybe a sport or hobby.  Maybe selling or teaching.

 Now think about the difference between how you were taught versus how you learned.  Using the teaching is much shorter and condensed and the learning was much longer and involved. 

So if you were to build training, which would you choose.  How someone was taught or how someone learned?  There are a lot of missing elements that often includes practice and experience that were missing from the training.

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This is an article written by Ed Robbins on Learning Paths Applications.

If you are or will be in the midst of a merger or acquisition and have read the research on how high the failure rate is for success you can take a sigh of relief.  One of the results of any major change especially a merger or acquisition, according to most studies, is about 70% or your workforce is going to either ignore or reject the change. 

One of the first indicators is the number of resumes that get updated and sent into the market.  Recruiters will tell you they get flooded with resumes when this type of change is announced. The other part of what makes integrations a challenge is that customers also start shopping.  They are concerned about losing service levels, product solutions they have purchased, and trusting relationships with their suppliers’ sales and service people. Smart companies have a plan to prevent this from happening. 

They also have a plan to transfer/share critical knowledge, skills, and best practices so that they leverage what they bought.  Most efforts to integrate acquisitions do not incorporate a planned process for engaging, retaining, and preparing the workforce and its leaders for immediate and future success.  In many cases it is a survival or recovery strategy and not a strategic initiative to position the organization for success in the future.

Many companies start with good intentions but then cut the plans short and start downsizing because they lose their patience or Wall Street puts on the pressure to show immediate results.  They also do not realize that similar integration initiatives that work for employees also work with customers and suppliers, so having the plan and patience with execution the  is critical for both short term an long term results.  It becomes a paradox because speed of execution gets better results but you need the patience to execute on the whole plan. 

Organizations start compromising the potential for success when they begin picking and choosing or piecemealing parts of the plan.It is challenging because the people you need to bring the organizations together are often the ones who have one foot out the door, they are concerned about whether they will have a future with the organization.  When you need them at their best they are often not focused and very nervous about their future which can result in poor judgment, high stress, conflict, and even disengagement.

Likewise with customers. What is needed is a strategic and tactical process that insures the new organizations has not only engaged and gained commitment of employees but has captured and retained the knowledge, skills, and best practices that are part of the investment. Learning Paths integrated with an employee engagement strategy, change leadership, and a listening strategy can attain the results needed for a successful integration. 

Over the last 20 years I have been involved in integrating acquisitions as an insider and as an outside consultant.  I have been involved with ones that have not worked and ones that have been extremely successful.  There is a formula for success.  This formula has critical elements and processes that include an integration methodology, cultural integration plans, a change management plan, empowered integration teams that includes a learning path team for key functions and jobs, an aggressive employee engagement strategy that includes coaching and retention tactics using things like “stay interviews”, one on ones, and listening strategies. We see integrations taking too long, almost never ending, and focusing only on the technical, department, and functional integration work then forgetting about the culture, people and process elements.  When they do not maintain a big picture focus they usually do not have a lot of success. 

Questions that need to be answered immediately and built into all the integration plans are why are doing this change, what do we want to preserve, what do we want to consolidate, what defines success of this change, how quickly can we complete this change, do we have the appropriate resources and have we dedicated the time and energy into insuring the success of the integration?

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Did have much time for a post this morning so I thought everyone would like to spend some time with the trunk monkey!

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Traditionally we’ve separated hard skills or technical skills and soft skills.  What we hope is that if we teach them separately people will figure out how to use them together.  Unfortunately, this seldom happens.

I had a long discussion with a technical college that is well known for their competency based education.  What they say is that they teach people how to fix a water heater but they end up with very poor skills in dealing with homeowners.  This is true for automechanics as well.  They can fix a transmission but can’t explain to a customer why it’s going to cost them a $1000. 

The key is that you have to teach them together and practice all the situations were technical people have to interact with others.  It’s the reason you have to start working on bedside manner with doctors in med school.

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Consider this … the student experience in every classroom in America is different.  If you have 50,000 different 3rd grade history classes, that’s a tremendous amount of variation.  Even with the same textbooks or lesson plans they still have a lot of difference.  It’s virtually impossible to make improvements that have much of an effect.  With everything else, quality goes up as variability goes down.  You can only take advantage of best practices when everyone is roughly on the same page.

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