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Posts Tagged ‘Steve Rosenbaum’

Help with My Next Book

I’ve uncovered some of my research for a book that I want to write, book #6. I’d like the book to be short statements by highly successful people, hopefully tops in their fields. The statement is an answer to 2 questions:

1. How did you really learn to do what you do?
2. Would you have done anything different?

The underlying question is how close is the way these people learn to how we teach people to do things. And if so why?

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When most people start to define leadership, they list a number of traits or qualities. Often it’s a definition of the type of leader they would like to work for rather than one that is focused on being highly effective. For example, I often see the trait of “kindness.” While it’s desirable, the list of effective leaders who didn’t have this trait, is very, very long.

What if you started to define leaders from a different angle? Start with the question, “what do leaders produce?” “What is the result of effective leadership?” It would be a filled out description of leading others to achieve a vision or goal.

Does that vision or goal have to be positive or ethical for someone to be an effective leader? Take the example of Jim Jones (rather an extreme example.) Obviously he was an effective leader, you can’t say he didn’t lead others to achieve his vision. Was he a good or ethical person? We’d probably all say no.

It’s possible that someone can have all the traits of a great leader and lead everyone off a cliff. As they say, the road to hell is paved by good intentions.

Finally, I think then when we list qualities of great leaders we list what we’d like them to be rather than what they really are.

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I’ve been reading the new Ken Follet Book which tracks 5 families from 1911 to 1924.  What’s interesting is that leadership that top level leadership is removed from the actual work or from the front lines in World War I.  As a result, countless decisions are made that end up in disaster.  In addition, those who survive start to learn what actually works but this information never filters up the line.  Now shift the scene to my visit to the Comcast store last week.  They have countless problems with service and equipment quality that front line customer service needs to address.  Upper management has put them in a position to have to handle the same problems over and over again rather than looking for systematic fixes.  The morale of the story…when top management looses connection with the front line, front line employees become cannon fodder.

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by ulterior epicure

One of the core principles of quality improvement is that you improve quality by reducing variation.  In a learning context, this is often a hard point to get across because of the differences in learning styles and needs of learners.  But that’s really a discussion about offering variety.

Here’s how I explain the differences.  Baskin Robbins has been famous for decades for offering 31 flavors.  On any given day, you might see several different types of chocolate ice cream from mint chocolate chip to rocky road.  That’s variety and most people would say it’s a good thing.  They cater to the tastes of a wide range of customers.  However, if every time you ordered chocolate it tasted different that’s variation and that’s not a good thing.  You’re not getting a different flavor, you’re just experiencing lack of quality control in the ice cream making.

So here’s how it applies to training.  Let’s assume that new salespeople learn by going on joint calls with experienced salespeople.  Without a lot of structure and direction, it’s likely that the training will be different on every call and with every mentor.  They may sell differently so they will teach differently.  This is not because of the differences in the students by rather the differences in the instructor.  Imagine going back to 10th grade history.  Depending upon the school system, the school and the teacher, you will be a different class.  Some will be good, some will be bad and other will be indifferent.  Because of the variation, the quality of what you get is by the luck of the draw.

The best way to reduce variation is to identify it and try to reduce it, just like working on any other process.  As you do, you will also find you can take out time, waste and cost.

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I’ve been going back to find out where the statistics came from about the percentage breakdown between formal and informal learning.  It seems the origins go back to a 1995 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  But as I looked at that study and some of the more recent ones, I discovered that there really isn’t a uniform agreed upon definition of informal learning.  The line between formal and informal learning is blurred even more as new forms of delivery are developed.

I think it might be more useful to exchange the terms formal and informal for structured and unstructured.  You also might considered learning by design and learning by trial and error.  Take something like on-the-job training.  It can be done in a highly structured way or as informally as go work with Joe for the day.  When you go work with Joe for the day, it’s often highly unstructured and different every time.  It become informal learning.

Interestingly, when you start to add structure to informal learning such as identifying and guiding practice and experience, it’s really more like formal learning.  We think this is one of the fastest ways to accelerate learning.  We like to put all practice and experience on a learning path and then write directions on how it should happen.  This helps eliminate the waste of trail and error learning, and takes time out of the process by eliminating a number of wrong turns.

So what’s the point?  I say dump the terms formal and informal because they are too vague to be helpful and substitute structured and unstructured.  Then try to eliminate all the unstructured learning.

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If you do one or two role plays in a class, is that enough practice to master a skill?  Probably not.  That’s often why students do well in the classroom but can’t transfer the same level of performance to the job.  But I haven’t seen any companies that try to quantify the amount of practice.  They might set aside a certain amount of time, but not the number of repetitions.

I recently read Vince Flynn’s new book the American Assassin where the main character becomes highly proficient with a pistol after 20,000 rounds.  That’s a very specific amount of practice and might be a good guideline for other that follow.  I know that if you’d like to break 70 on a golf course hitting 25,000 golf balls is about right.

By the way, here’s what it means to hit 25,000 golf balls.  The average bucket has 85 balls.  So it’s around 300 buckets which is roughly 300 hours.  But not over your lifetime but in a relatively short period of time like a single summer.

I’ve heard to master a presentation that professional speakers charge money for, takes about 200 times to work out all the bugs and get the timing right.

So how many cold calls does it take to learn how to cold call?  How many customer complaints does it take to master customer service?  How many orders do you need to enter to reach a high speed without error?

Once you know this number, you can then build it into your training and coaching plan.  You can always shorten the number of repetition with good instruction, coaching and feedback.

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I’m continuing to research webinars.  It seems that around 10 people or less people have found ways to do almost every type of activity that you can do in a classroom.  This is particularly true if this is an internal session where you know everyone.  If you do this sessions a lot with the same people, they get to know the functionality of the technology and how you like to run certain types of sessions.

So the bigger challenge is running larger open sessions.  In reality if you have a 50 person classroom session, you still have a lot of people multi-tasking or not paying attention to everything you’re doing.  That’s why you have to repeat directions several times to get everyone to do an activity.  However, I think with a little creativity you can do a wide range of activities and add some entertainment value.

For example, video has become something that’s very easy to add.  Services like Vyew.com and others allow you to upload Youtube videos.  This gives you access to all the Youtube videos include you videos that you upload to Youtube.  Small one and two minute videos provide a break from staring at PowerPoints and make great conversation starters.

Another idea to get a little more discussion going, is to create a four or five person panel to discuss a question or topic.  They can also be armed with the typical questions you expect to be asked.

I’m going back to my list of icebreakers to see how you would do some of them in a large web setting.  I’ll post some of the up.

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