Archives for June 2013

Measuring Learning’s Impact: Stop Making Excuses and Just Get Started

Stop making excuses for not measuring the impact of learning and just get started. This was the consensus among the panelists at a recent Skillsoft Perspectives Conference in Orlando, Fla. The panelists were Laurie Bassi of McBassi & Associates, Jay Jamrog of i4cp, Kendall Kerekes of KnowledgeAdvisors, Patti Phillips of ROI Institute and myself, with Kieran King from Skillsoft moderating. We had 1,000 in the audience, a provocative subject and a great panel.

King set the stage by sharing research from Jack and Patti Phillips showing CEOs want to see the impact and ROI of their learning investments but instead receive only activity and satisfaction data (confirmed by research from Bersin and many others).

So, why aren’t learning leaders measuring impact and sharing with their CEOs? After all, this is not exactly a revelation. According to a survey by Cushing Anderson in May, the leading reasons are lack of resources, lack of support from the CEO, lack of funding and lack of skills.

My take: these are all just excuses which strongly suggest that many of today’s CLOs (or vice presidents of training) should be replaced.

I did not have the resources or funding I wanted at Caterpillar, and I never asked the CEO to support my measurement or impact strategy. I also came to my position with no knowledge of training, let alone the knowledge or skills to measure impact. These limitations did not stop me from putting a measurement strategy in place, and they should not stop you either.

To begin, there are numerous books and workshops available to help anyone new to the field or to measurement. And there are many great consultants and providers to help you (like the panel members). Even if you cannot afford hired help, you can quickly come up to speed on the basics.

Next, you need to adopt a management mindset and resolve to do the best you can with whatever resources you have. Forget perfection: perfect data, absolutely consistent data and comprehensive data. Stop waiting for the new LMS or for a bigger budget or for a dedicated staff person, or a completely automated system. Start with what you have and where you are.

Focus. What are your key programs in support of the key goals of your organization? Start there even if it is only for one program. You can use a sample of participants to gather the required data to estimate impact or you can use a survey. This does not have to be expensive or a major undertaking. You can make a start.

Adopting a management mindset with regard to measurement of impact also entails working with the sponsor upfront to agree on the expected impact of the initiative and on the roles and responsibilities of each party (training and the sponsor) to achieve the desired impact.

Once you have an agreed-upon plan with the sponsor, then you will need to manage execution on a monthly basis. Reaching agreement with the sponsor on expected impact requires NO additional resources, just a little time. And monitoring progress against plan on a monthly basis can be done on an Excel spreadsheet (which is what we did at Caterpillar).

Bottom line, the panel agreed there is a lot you can do to measure and manage impact. So, stop making excuses and just get started, even if that means starting to manage and measure impact on just a few select initiatives or even only one.

Don’t wait for new systems or technology or a bigger budget, and don’t wait to be asked for impact. Start now to whatever extent you can, and look forward to improving in the future.

About the Author:

David Vance is the former president of Caterpillar University, which he founded in 2001. Until his retirement in January 2007, he was responsible for ensuring that the right education, training and leadership were provided to achieve corporate goals and efficiently meet the learning needs of Caterpillar and dealer employees.

Reprinted from Chief Learning Officer

Infuse Instructional Design with Practical Project Management Principles

I was fooling myself. I truly believed my training and development projects were successful. However, “successful” meant something different for me than it did for my sponsors. I missed a few deadlines or went over budget, but as long as I met my learning objectives I didn’t concern myself.

It wasn’t working.

Later, I discovered project management concepts and slowly started weaving them into my daily work. I quickly found that while I still met my learning objectives, I also met my deadlines and budgets.

Instructional design processes

We all have our favorite instructional design methods. Most of us use ADDIE in some form or another. However, I pose that ADDIE, or any instructional system design (ISD) model by itself, is inherently incomplete.

As workplace learning professionals, we are expected to create more than just a learning experience. If we are focused only on our learners, we are shortsighted.

We must manage our training initiatives the same way our other business partners manage their initiatives. We must learn to incorporate more project management into our daily work.

Project management

Project management refers to the skill sets of managing a team of individuals and resources to create a specific deliverable. Projects have a defined start and end point. They have budgets, teams, and managers. Creating a specific learning solution and delivering it to an audience fits the definition of a project.

We all want a seat at the table, and to achieve that we must speak their language. We must talk in terms of timelines, budgets, and resources and not just learning objectives. We must achieve our learning objectives, but we also must complete projects on time and on budget.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) breaks down project management into five process groups and 10 knowledge areas.

The five process groups are initiation, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing. Some may be larger or smaller, but each should always occur on every project. This ensures that projects are set up and planned correctly, managed along the way, and then completely closed.

PMI’s 10 knowledge areas are integration, scope, time, cost, quality, human resources, communications, risk, procurement, and stakeholders. These areas are designed to categorize the various tasks typically performed during a project.

Not all projects warrant all of the knowledge areas. For example, if the project requires no procurement, there will be few or no tasks required, so that knowledge area may not be used.

Although we should incorporate more project management techniques into our daily work, we can’t rely on project management techniques alone to create a successful learning solution. The use of SPADES blends together the concepts from ADDIE along with the best practices from project management to create a winning combination.

Putting project management into ISD

SPADES stands for start, plan, administer, develop, engage, and stop. Each of these stages incorporates tasks typically completed with ADDIE, but adds project management techniques to ensure everyone’s needs are met.

Since every training solution is different, you may not need all of the various tasks in each stage. However, every project should go through each stage to some degree.


Lay the foundation of your project and complete critical tasks. One of the first steps is to get a clear understanding of who has a stake in your project’s outcome. This will obviously include the training team and the learners, but think beyond the standard audience.

Does your boss have an interest? How about the learners’ bosses? Do the learners interact with another customer or could this training initiative change something in how the learners interact with another group? Will your project use someone else’s resources (for example, subject matter experts)?

Each of these people is a stakeholder. They all have an interest, or stake, in how your project moves forward and the result it creates.

The start phase also includes a needs analysis in which you determine what kind of gaps you are attempting to solve and how it will be measured. These results become a part of the project’s measurements of success.


During the critical planning phase, take stock of the tasks your team will need to accomplish and the resources required to complete them. For the right projects, project managers will create detailed plans for tasks, communications, budgets, risks, procurements, and resources.

Task plans help you to build your schedule and determine how long it will take. Knowing this is important because you may have a requirement to complete a project in three months but your plan tells you it will take four.

If you have a good plan, you know in advance that you need more time and this helps to maintain a relationship with a stakeholder so you aren’t missing a deadline later. Task plans consider not only the amount of time, but also the resources you will need.

Training solutions often rely on SMEs to provide content and direction. Task plans help you understand when you are going to need time from the SMEs so they are better able to plan their involvement. Having a clear plan helps you know what needs to happen and allows you to adapt if something doesn’t go according to plan.


Administration involves tasks that can occur at any point in the training project. A prime example would be communicating.

Project managers spend a majority of their time communicating with the project team, as well as stakeholders, users, suppliers, and resources. Project managers should take time to understand what kind of communication expectations each person has. This helps to understand if you need to create a weekly status report or if a less formal verbal update is appropriate.

This also is where the project manager controls much of the work. The project manager should make sure the tasks are on schedule and on budget. Delays and cost overruns early in a project could cause the entire project to miss a deadline or go over budget if not caught early and addressed.


Develop is one of the stages unique to the ADDIE process. This includes the design and development stages with which you may be more familiar.

The design process includes the work to create the overall design of the training solution, including determining the evaluation methods needed and training methods used, mapping the course topics to the various behavioral objectives, and making sure the curriculum meets the learning needs.

Development takes the design and creates the training materials needed to achieve it. This would be when the developers create the online learning modules, or when the instructional designers create the classroom training materials.


Engagement aligns closely to the implementation stage of ADDIE. It also includes many of the tasks involved with evaluation, including analysis. If the solution is online, this may be when the online course is published and learners begin to take the course. For classroom solutions, this may be when the first classroom course is facilitated.

When you establish your project, mark where the project should end. Some training solutions may involve a training program that is constantly repeating and ongoing.

For example, you may develop a new-hire program delivered each week without an end in sight. This doesn’t mean the project continues on indefinitely. Otherwise it isn’t a project.

The end can be the conclusion of a pilot session or it could be when the course begins facilitation. From there, the work transitions to operational or maintenance.


Stopping a project is a necessary step, but it is often overlooked by project managers. When closing a project, project managers should take time with the stakeholders to determine if each of the project’s requirements and objectives was met.

If they all were, then you can consider the project a success. If they were not, it provides an opportunity to determine where something went wrong. This helps to create best practices to ensure success with future projects.

Project managers also should make sure final paperwork is completed, suppliers are paid, and resources are released. In addition, they should ensure that the deliverables are transferred to the people who become responsible for them.

Tying it all together

ADDIE and other similar models allow us to meet learning objectives, but fall short when considering timelines or budgets. To work well with our business partners, we must act and manage our projects with a broader perspective.

SPADES will enable you to get the best from the development world while incorporating the critical project management processes.

About the Author:

Allan Harris is an instructional designer, project manager, and a learning and development leader. He has a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification through the Project Management Institute.

The not-for-profit Project Management Institute (PMI) strives to collect the best practices of project managers everywhere and to create a common standard within which all professionals can work. It also offers well-recognized certifications in project management. Learn more at

Reprinted from T&D Magazine

Wal-Mart Drafts Leaders for Military-Style Training

Attending Wal-Mart Leadership Academy rekindled Tracey Lloyd’s memories of boot camp.

Although hardly dangerous, Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s training program for top leaders has a military air that gets participants “thinking two ranks above their level,” says Lloyd, a retired Army captain and Bronze Star recipient who joined the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer in 2008.

Lloyd embodies Wal-Mart’s fast-track approach to selectively developing new leaders. Since completing the academy training in 2009, Lloyd has been promoted three times, including her current role as one of the directors at the academy.

The 16-weeklong program puts Wal-Mart’s store managers, merchandising managers, operations managers and shift managers through their paces. Different learning objectives are set for each week, ranging from how to win the trust of employees to selling mass merchandise in Russia. Just like boot camp, the intense program “breaks you down so it can build you back up again”—a necessary experience in adjusting to the pressures of running a retail store.

“It’s designed at the outset to overwhelm you, which can be frustrating. Then again, running a store can be frustrating. As a leader, you must learn to push it deep down in your belly until you get the hang of it,” Lloyd says.

In addition, managers gained a newfound appreciation of different roles inside Wal-Mart, Lloyd says. “As a store manager, it’s easy to think everything is up to you. The academy experience showed us how the various functions need to work together to make the store successful,” Lloyd says.

By providing focused development for new leaders, Wal-Mart is trying to avoid the fate common to many other companies: Promoting people without adequately preparing them. Nearly 40 percent of first-time leaders ultimately fail, according to a comprehensive study in May by Development Dimensions International Inc., a Pittsburgh-based consulting firm.

The report, Be Better Than Average: The State of Frontline Leadership, is based on a survey of 300 human resources executives.

The No. 1 reason for failure is a lack of training on interpersonal skills, including listening, empathizing and involvement. “Leaders are not receiving the development or support that they need to succeed given these new expectations,” says Richard Wellins, a senior vice president at DDI.

Building Leaders

The academy was launched about five years ago at the urging of President and CEO Bill Simon following a determination that Wal-Mart lacked the leadership depth needed to meet anticipated growth. Wal-Mart posted revenue of $469.2 billion in its fiscal year that ended in Jan. 31, 2013. In the U.S. alone, Wal-Mart operates more than 4,100 retail stores and distribution centers.

“Our analysis showed we were capable of building new stores faster than we could prepare new store managers,” says Celia Swanson, Wal-Mart’s senior vice president of talent development.

The academy is geared to leaders deemed to have high potential, Swanson says. Those tapped to participate are pulled out of their daily role and immersed in hands-on exercises and work projects. The training blends theory with practice, using business-case scenarios to expose people to a range of different experiences.

The program works this way: Participants spend two weeks at a time at Bentonville, followed by two weeks back in the workplace. The process repeats itself up to four times, for a total of 16 weeks.

The endgame is to get people ready for promotions within 30 to 90 days after graduating. Since its inception, more than 500 leaders have graduated from the academy. That is a fraction of Wal-Mart’s 2.2 million employees—1.3 million of whom are based in the U.S.

“It’s a small group that we’ve put through the training, but that’s the point. It’s an accelerated development that enables them to step more quickly into a broader role,” Swanson says.

To develop its training, Wal-Mart turned to global consulting firm McKinney Rogers, whose clients include Wirtz Beverage Group and ITV, the largest commercial television network in the United Kingdom.

The academy borrows liberally from military training, which blends theory with practice, says Damian McKinney, CEO of London-based McKinney Rogers. Store managers are exposed to simulated situations that commonly occur in retailing, forcing them to think critically and make decisions under pressure. “It’s similar to how military leaders plan strategies for defending and defeating an effective attack,” says McKinney, a former operations commando with the U.K. Royal Marines.

Military-style training complements Wal-Mart’s approach to developing leaders, Swanson says. “The military has application to us in the sense that we have to teach lots of young leaders very quickly. The military also no longer relies as much on a command-and-control structure, and similarly, our leaders need to know how to get a new store and community [of employees] up and running quickly.”

Helping the Community

Community projects are a key part of Wal-Mart’s leadership academy, Swanson says. For example, leaders often participate in community projects to build homes for low-income families, volunteer at children’s hospitals and similar initiatives.

“Our store managers are usually one of the largest employers in the markets we serve, so the role they play as community leaders is influential. We have to prepare them for it,” Swanson says.

Lloyd joined Wal-Mart shortly after retiring from the Army in 2008. She made a list of desirable employers and then winnowed it down to about a dozen companies. She says Wal-Mart’s commitment to professional development was the clincher.

“That commitment to developing people resonated with me because of my time in the military. Investing in technology and innovation is important, but it’s not nearly as important as investing in the people that drive business forward,” Lloyd says.

Wal-Mart hired Lloyd as a developmental store manager in Jacksonville, Florida, shortly after retiring from the Army. She was invited to the leadership academy about 10 months later and was one month into the program when Wal-Mart named her general manager of its supercenter store in Palm Coast, about one hour south of Jacksonville.

Lloyd served as GM from August 2009 to January 2011, leading a team of 425 hourly workers and 12 managers. The Palm Coast store generated revenue growth topping $100 million.

Wal-Mart’s executive team was impressed enough by her store’s year-over-year revenue growth that Lloyd was promoted to director of store innovations. During those 18 months, Lloyd’s store of 425 hourly workers and 12 managers generated annual revenue topping $100 million. Wal-Mart’s executive team was impressed enough to bring Lloyd to Bentonville as director of strategy for store innovations.

She subsequently served a year as director of hiring and placement solutions for a year before becoming an academy director. Her present job includes developing content for Wal-Mart’s varying levels of leadership.

Says Lloyd: “The leadership academy is not a one-time thing. It’s designed to help leaders progress a career at Walmart.”

About the Author:

Garry Kranz is a Workforce contributing editor. Reprinted from

5 Ways to Spot an Emotionally Intelligent Leader

Research has shown us that more than 90 perecent of top leadership performers have a high amount of emotional intelligence or EI. The higher up the ladder that leaders are, the more people they impact and their EI becomes increasingly important.

The person at the top sets the atmosphere that permeates the organization, including the emotional temperature. Not only does a leader with low emotional intelligence have a negative impact on employee morale, it directly impacts staff retention. We know that the biggest reason that people give for leaving an organization is the relationship with those above them.

Here are five ways to spot an emotionally intelligent leader:

1) Non Defensive and Open

Insecure leaders that demonstrate low EI become defensive and take it personally whenever they encounter anything that appears to them as criticism and a challenge to their authority. A secure leader with a healthy dose of emotional intelligence strives to listen, understand and find out what is behind behaviors and actions of those they are responsible for managing.

They listen before they respond and if they don’t understand something ask open ended questions that are meant to gather more information. As opposed to leaders with low emotional intelligence, they don’t make it about them, but look for ways to make the situation better for everyone involved.

 2) Aware of their own emotions

Leaders who are oblivious to their own emotions and how they are impacted by them have no awareness of how their words and actions affect others. This can have a very devastating effect on staff morale and lower productivity.

Highly emotionally- intelligent leaders are aware of strong emotions and avoid speaking out of anger and frustration. If they feel the urge to give in to strong emotions in their interactions with others, they give themselves a time out, waiting until their emotions have leveled off and they have had a chance to think about the situation.

3) Adept at picking up on the emotional state of others

A skilled and empathetic leader that is aware of other’s emotions is able to use that awareness to develop stronger relationships with those they manage. Even if delivering bad news, they are able to cushion the impact by simply letting the receiver know that they are aware of how they might be feeling.

Leaders with high EI are able to put themselves in place of the person receiving criticism or negative feedback, allowing them to give it in a way that might be more beneficial and less destructive.

4) Available to those reporting to them

Good leaders make themselves available to those reporting to them both physically and emotionally. They are responsive to the fact that there will be times that those reporting to them will be having difficulties outside of work that will impact them. Death of family members, friends, relationship breakdowns and all sorts of life crisis will affect virtually everyone at work at times. Emotionally open and secure leaders understand and are there for support during these times.

5) Able to check their ego and allow others to shine

While possessing self-confidence, high EI leaders do not have a need to demonstrate their own importance or value. They chose their words carefully and speak and act out of concern for their staff, and the health of the organization. They do not have the need to have their ego massaged and are not looking for ways to take credit for the work of others.

Understanding that people work better when they feel appreciated, they are always looking for ways to show give positive feedback and rewards for a job well done. Secure in their own abilities, they are not threatened by those under them and actively seek to help them work to the best of their capabilities and rise up the organization.

 About the Author:

Harvey Deutschendorf is an emotional intelligence expert and internationally published author of The Other Kind of Smart: Simple Ways to Boost Your Emotional Intelligence for Greater Personal Effectiveness and Success, from the American Management Association (AMACOM). He has been speaking, writing and coaching in the emotional intelligence field for close to 20 years.  From more information, visit

Putting Out Fires: Picking Up Someone Else’s E-Learning Project

As eLearning professionals, we have found that modifying someone else’s work is one of the hardest things clients ask us to do. If you’ve had to modify other people’s work a few times, you know what we mean.

This is the first in a series of four articles in which we offer some tips about picking up other people’s eLearning projects. We’re going to offer these articles in a first-to-last sequence: 1. Ten questions to ask before you start 2. Opening the files: what to review 3.Finishing an eLearning project: what to document 4. eLearning standards: making it easier to change each other’s work. It’s always best to start with some basic questions!

Do you smell smoke?

Often when managers or clients ask us to modify an eLearning course, they have an urgent issue and are anxious to put out a fire. These requests are full of landmines that could put a dent in our otherwise shining reputations. It’s so much easier (and more rewarding) to build stuff than to fix it.

But sometimes someone has to make fixes, so we’re writing this series for all the good eLearning professionals out there who want to solve the problem and keep their good names at the same time. When an assignment involves modifying someone else’s eLearning project, the most important thing you can do is ask the right questions before you start. This is a list that we compiled by putting our heads together and discussing the situations we’ve both gotten ourselves into over the years.

1. Course overview— Tell me a little about the course. Who is the target audience? What is the purpose of the course? What modifications do you want me to make and why?

It’s always helpful to know what you’re working with and who uses it.

2. Original developer— Who developed this course? Why not ask the original developer to do the modifications? Is it possible for me to contact the original developer?

In nearly every situation where we’ve been asked to revise someone else’s course, the original developer cannot do it. If the developer were available, typically the client would return to the original developer. Perhaps the developer is now too busy, but you should nudge the requestor in this direction.

Avoid the fire, if possible. If the client is very critical of the original developer, it’s possible the developer did a bad job, in which case you may be looking at an even bigger headache to fix the course than to re-author it from scratch. On the other hand, the original developer may be good and there is an ulterior reason that things didn’t work out: Watch out for this situation, because it could indicate underlying issues, such as poor work quality, poor communication, or unrealistic client expectations.

3. Source and published code — Do you have the source (editable) files and the published (LMS/SCO) files for this course? Can

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I look at them?

If you can’t get the source files, then this isn’t a revision job, it’s a do-over. If you can get the source files, you need to plan what you will review. Joe’s article “Opening the Files: What to Review,” which is next in the series, will give you tips about this.

Sometimes clients don’t understand the concept of source code and will deliver the published files to you, assuming you can work with them. You need to be very specific about the file extensions of the files you need.

4. Storyboards or other documentation— Is there any documentation on how the course is assembled and published? Are there storyboards for the course? Did someone update them as changes were made to the course after initial production? Can I look at the documentation you have?

The course documentation can tell you a lot about how the instructional designer envisioned the course, but be aware that designers often do not update the documentation when they update the course files. So if the course and the documentation are different, ask about it or go with the course files as being the most up-to-date.

If the latter, you may want to ensure that you build in time (and cost) to update the documentation, especially if the client will base the evaluation of your work on how it compares to the storyboards or other documentation.

5. Development tools and versions — What tool(s) and version(s) did the developer(s) use for this course?

When you look at a course, you can often determine which development tool the producer used by looking at the interface and file structure. But determining which version of the tool a developer used is more difficult. If the requestor can’t answer the version question, ask when it was developed or look at the dates on the files themselves.

The date may give you a clue as to the version of the development tool. If at all possible, use the same version of the tool as the original developer. Upgrading the course to a new version of the tool can cause its own set of issues, so try to avoid these added issues.

6. Course delivery — What LMS or website are you using to deliver the course? Do you know if the course is published in SCORM or AICC? If they use SCORM, ask which version (1.2 or 2004)?

You will need to know this when you republish the revised course.

7. Evaluation — How is course completion measured? What reports do you typically look at from the LMS? Are you getting the data you need about course usage and completion?

We have had situations where a course we were asked to revise was never communicating properly with the LMS. After making a simple revision, we loaded and tested the course in the LMS and found out that the reporting didn’t work. At that point, this major problem that existed in the original course became our problem.

To avoid being blamed for breaking something that was already broken, make sure that the original course is working properly in the LMS before you start.

8. Voiceover — If the course has voiceover and they want to change the script, ask if they know who the voice is. If not, will they accept two voices or will they want to re-record everything?

9. Number of lessons/SCOs — How many SCOs/lessons are there? Can users take them in any order, or is there a forced sequence?

This could seem obvious by the file structure, but we actually had a situation where a client gave us 13 sets of files for a 15-lesson course, then they wondered why we didn’t revise two of the lessons. It doesn’t hurt to ask, but this item can cause a “backdraft” if you don’t have the right information.

10. Any issues? — Is everything functioning properly for the users who take this course, other than what you are asking us to fix?

We’ve had situations where we revised multiple lessons, published the SCOs, loaded them in the LMS, and tested them and ensured they were working properly, after which the client gave us more changes to make. It would have been much easier (and less costly) if we had made all the changes when we had the files open and were making the first set of changes.

What’s next?

We hope that this article gives you a solid checklist of questions to ask when you’re tasked with revising someone else’s work. Asking and discussing these questions will help you formulate a logical plan of action with the person who requested the changes. This honest and open communication can help you set realistic expectations.

Reprinted from Learning Solutions Magazine

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