Archive for September, 2009

Uploaded on August 13, 2009 by DABlanco69

K-12 is based on a fill up the bucket model.  You start with 13 years and then fill it up with topics or subjects.  If you have an empty space you can fill it up with a home room or study hall.  The same holds true for a 4 year degree in college or even a two-day training program in business.  The calendar is the boundary and filling it up is the goal.

What would happen if you flipped things around and said, “we have a goal and we are going to try and reach it as fast as we can?”  For example, we are going to teach you how to read at 500 words per minute with 90% comprehension as quickly as possible…And when you’re there, you’re done.  We aren’t going to fill up your time with busy work or confuse you by loading another dozen subjects at the same time.

If by this approach, you are able to complete k-12 in 12  years or less, the entire system can literally save billions of dollars.

In business training, you find that after a certain number of days that you reach a saturation point where there’s no more room in anyone’s head.  Staying focuses and accomplishing the goal will end up taking less them without wasting time.

So my slogan for improving public education, is..stop filling the bucket and focus on the goal.

Photo Uploaded on August 13, 2009
by DABlanco69

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One of the goals of most quality improvement efforts is to eliminate waste.  Have you ever gone to a training program or class and that it was a waste of time?  Here is a definition and example of the waste in training.  Taking out waste will save time and money.

Waste is defined as anything that doesn’t add value.  Eliminating waste is one of the easiest and least costly thing to do because it usually means deleting training programs or portions of training programs.  If a learning activity doesn’t improve proficiency or shorten time to proficiency, it’s waste.  Here are some examples of waste.

1. The Forgotten

    We know that the retention rate for lectures is less than 20%.  Everything that is forgotten the next day or next week is waste.  At the end of a four week training program, few participants can remember what happened on the first few days.

    2. Waiting Time

    Companies often wait until they have enough employees to make up a class.  Waiting time is often weeks or months.  If the training is really important, waiting time will have a direct effect on performance.

    3. Old Stuff

    When training programs aren’t frequently updated, they become filled with out-of-date information, processes that have changed or are no longer used and old procedures.  Take a blue pencil to these items or toss them in the trash because they are now waste.

    4. Overstuffing

    When you set a limited amount of time for a training program such as a day or week, there is always an urge to maximize participant time at the expense of what can actually be learned.  Over time, more and more gets stuffed into the program.  Imagine a week of sales training that includes the sales process, listening, communications skills, negotiating, product training, time management, prospecting, proposal writing, and presentation skills.  Very little of this training will end up being used because it’s too much, too soon with too little practice.  Most of it becomes waste.

    5. Tests

    Paper and pencil tests are relatively easy to score and easy to create.  They are almost always about testing knowledge.  However, there is often no correlation between doing well on a test and doing well on the job.  These type of tests are often waste.  Evaluating participants on-the-job is a more useful way of connecting the classroom and work.

    Waste exists in other forms.  Please add your examples of waste.

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    There seems to be a built in resistance to looking at taking the variability out of training, learning or education because people are different and have different learning styles.  Some people are looking a variability as a good or necessary thing.  I think what people are confusing is the difference between variety and variability.

    Here’s an example of the difference.  Let’s go to Baskin Robbins and see the 31 flavors of ice cream.  There’s something for everyone.  That’s variety.  However, if every time you order Chocolate it looks different and tastes different that’s variability which isn’t very desirable.

    To accommodate different learning styles we can teach a sales process in different ways.  However, we need to teach the same sales process.  Variability often comes in when trainers decide to substitute content, processes or models with there own preferences.  As a result, people are trained differently.  This difference leads to work being done differently which makes it harder to manage and leads to more mistakes and lower performance.  It also happens when trainers aren’t up-t0-date on what’s actually happening in the work place.  It’s not uncommon for a process or procedure to change on the job but not in the training.

    It also happens when people assigned to coach and mentor do things differently.  They pass along these differences and one shift does things one way and another shift does them another.  This means that best practices aren’t shared.  So I’d say, variety…good, variability…bad.

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    Variability is a key enemy of quality.  In training, it shows up in a lot of places especially in these situations:

    • Multiple classroom instructors
    • Joint calls with other salespeople
    • Hands on training with a supervisor
    • Buddying up with other call center agents

    In addition, there is often variation depending upon when you were trained and sometimes where.  The class of 2008 often gets something different than the class of 2009.

    You can see the effects of this variation in different levels of performance, different job practices and different levels of knowledge.

    So how do you drive out variation?  It’s really the same as any other quality improvement project.  You need to treat learning as a process not as a series of events and then look at what causes variation and look for quick hit ideas on how to drive it out.  Working on it as an ongoing quality improvement project works well.

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    The first question is how does social media change or effect the way salespeople can and should prospect?  On everyone’s prospecting plan there should be a strategy for networking and in many cases, social media can be faster, more wide ranging and effective than traditional approaches such as association meetings or even trade shows.  The advantages are:

    1. You can network everyday 24/7.
    2. You can reach a larger pool of prospects especially internationally
    3. You can link activities together such as a blog, twitter, facebook, linkedin, etc. so one action is multiplied

    The big disadvantage is that you can’t reach those who are not social media literate or willing.  I’m sure today this is a large pool of people but it’s shrinking.

    In adding it to sales training, I think there are a few things to consider:

    1. Social media etiquette
    2. How to write discussion question and other posts
    3. How to build your credibility using social media
    4. How to build your presence in various social media

    This are just a few of my thoughts.  Please add yours.

    As an extra, here are a couple of articles on  using twitter you might like:

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    Thinking about a green belt or brown belt project around training or employee development?  Here’s the key.  You have to think about learning as a process and not an event or series of events.  If you map out from end to end how you actually learn something to a high level of proficiency, you will have the steps in a process.  Consider how you learn to make an effective presentation.  You might take a course or series of courses, but you also have a lot of practice, feedback and coaching required.  It takes more than one role play to master presentation skills.

    Once you have a process, you can apply all the process improvement tools to do four important things from a quality perspective, 1 reduce time, 2 eliminate waste, 3 decrease variability and 4 cut costs.  Take just the area of variability.  If everyone learn how to do something in a slighty different way, you have a high degree of variability on the job.

    There is a lot more to this, but this is the logical start.

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    Do teams always outperform individuals?  If not, when to individuals excel over teams?  As a general rule, I’d say teams work best when there is more to do than one person can handle, there is enough time to work on team formation and team work, collaboration will produce a better outcome and there is a need for a wide range of skills and talents.  On the other hand individuals work best when time is critical, you require unique talent or require superior individual performance.

    Let’s take the example of something as simple as a tug of war.  On one side you have a team of three who have practiced together and now work well together.  One the other side, you have the world’s strongest man acting alone.  Guess who wins?

    How about something creative?  If you have a team of successful novelists together writing a book, do you get a better product than if a single author wrote the book?  For the answer check out the audio book, “The Chopin Manuscript.”  This is a collaboration of great mystery writers.  It’s nothing special.  I don’t think team Rembrandt would have improved things.

    As a general rule, when you need teamwork use a team, when you need individual excellence use an individual.

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    Uploaded by Poofy Many people will tell you that top performers don’t make the best managers or leaders.  So what I wanted to post here are some of the things that only top performers bring to the position of manager or leader.  For our example, we will use the positions of sales manager and top salesperson.

    For me, a great leader is the person who is first out of the foxhole and says, “Follow me, I’ll show you the way.”  A top performer is in the best position to help other salespeople with tough sales situations by saying, “Follow me, let’s go make a call together.”   When top manager who isn’t a great salesperson makes this statement, the subordinate is likely to say or think, “that’s okay, I don’t want you to screw it up.”  The top performer is someone who can lead by example with the respect of subordinates.  The top manager can only say, “I’m right behind you.”

    Okay, whose going to be the best teacher, coach or evaluator?  The top manger who isn’t a top perfomer has to rely on want others  have written or said.  It’s not first hand experience.  If the salesperson offers push back or questions what the manager said, the manger is in a tough spot.  Whether you believe it our not, there are things that Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus can tell you about winning that even great golf teachers can’t and certainly beyond the average club pro.

    There are certainly skills that great managers and leaders have that you don’t develop as a top performer.  There are many things that are a different skill set.  So what’s the best approach?  I think you need to decide if you should hire a great manager and teach them how to be a top performer or you hire a top performer and teach them how to manage.  You have to decide which one takes less time and which one is most cost effective.   (Picture Uploaded by Puffy)

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    by billedgar8322Competency models look at a task, job or something like teamwork or leadership and ask the question what are the skills, knowledge and attitudes required.  Some models replace attitudes with attributes.  For our discussion either one fits.  What you end up with is groups of statements that break everything down into small pieces.  A sales competency might be around something like asking good questions or questioning skills.

    When you break things down into small parts it looks like the picture of car parts above.  You’ve got a lot of pieces that you may not recognize as a car any more and you probably couldn’t put it back together again.  What’s missing is how things work together and what you need to do all at the same time. Salespeople don’t just ask good questions in isolation.  It’s part of an interactive discussion or presentation that is free flowing.  It’s not a questionnaire.

    Instead if you start with a results measure such as gathers critical information you end up teaching the interactive process and not just the pieces.  In addition to the need to do things all at the same time, there is always an element of quality and time required.  Responding to a customer quickly shows a higher level of performance.  I’d ask the question, who is more competent, someone who got 800 on their SAT or one who got the same score in half the time?

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    Casey Stengel

    Before there was Yogi Bera who said, “When You Get to the Fork in the Road Take It, ” There was Casey Stengel.  Here is a source for his quotes. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/c/casey_stengel.html

    Some of his sayings include:

    “I was such a dangerous hitter I even got intentional walks during batting practice.”

    It’s wonderful to meet so many friends that I didn’t used to like.”

    “Never make predictions, especially about the future.”

    The key to being a good manager is keeping the people who hate me away from those who are still undecided.”

    There comes a time in every man’s life, and I’ve had plenty of them.”

    Hope you enjoy one of America’s Great Philosophers.

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