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ASK, NOT TELL

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  • David

Make them Apply rather than Teach

Updated: Mar 21



I had a great ‘Aha’ recently. I learnt it from one of our colleagues – an experienced learning professional.


We worked together on a request from a business head who wanted to run a time management course for her team. Instead of offering a typical time management course e.g. urgency vs importance, we ran a workshop. In the workshop, we made the team to apply the fishbone analysis to work out actions in order to cut down their real process turnaround time. In short, instead of simply teaching them the tool, we apply it together. The beauties in doing this are:

  • The team learns the tool (arguably more effectively than just being taught)

  • The business head is more motivated to do it since we are tackling directly the real business issue

  • This naturally makes possible the L3 evaluation (i.e. how much they apply the action), and even L4 evaluation (i.e. how much the turnaround time shortens)

  • Our value is more transparent as perceived by the business head

My colleague loves such an approach in doing the learning job for the very reason that it is linked to business result. He pointed out that when a learning professional is out in the market, the business result you generated speaks loudly for your value. The potential employers are not looking for “activities” e.g. # of courses / # of certification. They are looking for result. It is exciting true that ………. ‘if you could help the business save USD1m, they would not mind spend 0.5% or 1% on you!!’


Anyway, let me ‘reverse engineer’ the approach a bit – the underlying principle is:

  • To work with a group of learners belonging to a natural team i.e. with straight forward common goals (not from open nomination)

  • To make them learn the intended content by applying it towards specific bottom-line results.

In a way, we should treat the learning requests as business consulting projects. The process would look like the following:

  • We first understand what the underlying performance indicator is in relation to the learning topic mentioned by the sponsor. The more specific and measurable the indicator is, the better the suggested approach will work.

  • We then work out what skills / knowledge / attitude. Well, hopefully it is the topic as mentioned by the sponsor!!

  • We then make the learners to apply them on real business issues.

If I understand correctly, it is also like doing an OD task with learning also in mind. It is really interesting!

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