Tuesday, December 15, 2015

An open letter to ATD and the ATD CI


In your letter to CPLPs on 12/1 you asked for questions and feedback. I had hoped that these might be conducted in an open forum where our Community of Practice might engage in a wide ranging conversation. As you have clearly made the decision not to engage in that conversation I have to send this directly to you.

However please be aware that I will be posting this and your response in the thread that has over 150 comments from over 2 dozen people.

I’ll start with my feedback.

I was attracted to the CPLP because of the 2 part structure of the certification process. The way I have shared this with employers, fellow ATD members and potential candidates is that the first part proved that I knew what best practice in my profession looked like and to some extend how and when to apply it. The nature of the KE questions being mostly situations requiring responses rather than simply recall of facts lent strength to the applicability of it. But it was the Work Product submission that added in the proof that I have applied those best practices in real life.

Part 1 proves I COULD use best practice
Part 2 proves I HAVE used it.

And in a nutshell that is where I see the problem. Although you say that an online case study can “effectively measures real-world application of skills” it can only prove that you COULD and not that you HAVE.

I fundamentally believe that this is  downgrade of the credential.

I understand the difficulties that existed with the existing setup. Anyone involved with the CPLP community can’t help to be aware of how learning professionals feel about the level of feedback provided to them when they submit and either pass or fail. However our community is full of some really bright folks who have shown their commitment to the professional and would be happy to work with the CI to improve this. When this first ‘leaked’ in early October I spent 30 minutes with half a dozen chapter leader CPLP colleagues and we came up with several ways worth exploring to improve the process. And that was just a few of us over some drinks. Our community is a great resource and one that it appears you have chosen to ignore.

This brings me to my second point, the change management process. When dealing with a group as  passionate and who have made such a large investment of time, effort and money it was surely no surprise when we reacted the way we did. If it was then I respectfully suggest that the leadership of the CI needs to get to know it’s community a bit better. Every Change Management process I’ve ever encountered talks about the vital importance of communication with key stakeholders and time and time again on this and other things that impact us, ASTD , then ATD and the CI have failed to do so, despite multiple opportunities.

In only 4 years , since I deepened in my commitment to my profession and involvement with my professional association there have been 3 occasions where changes that have significant impact have been presented as fait accompli.

  • In 2013 when the competency model was revamped ASTD chose to lose the ‘Workplace Learning & Performance’ format from not only the model name but from the entire ASTD ecosystem. This was not announced to key stakeholders such as Chapter Leaders and the CPLP community, but instead this was done without letting anyone know. We discovered it when we first saw the new name for the model and then saw that it was being scrubbed from all ASTD web pages. - You know that angered a whole bunch of people.
  • The irony here is that there was absolutely no need to do so because you already had the big name change in the works. Something that again was communicated to key stakeholders in the communities as the done deal it was. Chapter leaders in that case who were being asked to take on massive amounts of change in the chapters they run.
  • And then this year with the fundamental shift in the direction and value of the certification being snuck in behind the backs of the very people who have shown the biggest commitment to the profession and the certification. I realize the emotional level in that choice of wording, but when the Director of Certification for a chapter where this is being piloted only finds out through rumor and back channel, there can be no surprise that we feel that we are being deliberately excluded from conversations about our certification

So that is my feedback now a few questions.
  1. What other options to improve the certification process were discussed and who within the CPLP community did you involve in those discussion? (I don’t see them included in “In consultation with the ATD Certification Institute Board of Directors, psychometricians, and testing experts, an online case study approach was selected”.)
  1. As this is such a deep and fundamental change to the certification, how will those who certified against the original, more stringent, criteria be recognized?
  1. Why were these proposed changes hidden from Chapter leaders when Tony presented slides on changes to the CPLP?
  1. Why were these proposed changes again hidden from Chapter Leaders in the chapter leader update email sent this very week?
  1. Why, despite repeated invitations, have you refused to engage with the CPLP community in the LinkedIn forum? 
  1. Why, as a chapter leader, should I try and encourage people to go through the CPLP certification process that I consider significantly devalued.
  1. Why as a chapter leader should I continue giving my time, energy and effort to a chapter of a national association that appears to treat it’s members as simply sources of income?
  1. Why should I even retain my membership of the Association?

I look forward to hearing your reply.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The meaning of E-Learning

I had a really interesting conversation with my new boss the other day.
We were talking about which learning outcomes are best approached by different types of learning.
I threw out a comment about what eLearning was not good for and she stopped me.
She pointed out that to her, eLearning meant way more than the sort of self-paced self contained eLearning I was thinking about.
To her, and far more importantly to the learners we serve, eLearning means lots of things.

  • It means googling a concept when you come across it
  • It means reading an e-book
  • It means watching a TED talk
  • It means attending a webinar
  • It also means taking the kind of self contained eLearning module that I'm creating for my current project.

There is no way I can know what it means to an individual learner when they hear the term. There is also no way I can know about their experiences with what they call eLearning and the connections, positive or negative, that the word brings to them.

I'm reminded of the fact that as a Learning Professional I'm often having to catch myself in the use of the jargon in my profession. Our learners don't really care what it's called.

As long as it works for them.

Happy Learning

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Professional Certification from a professional body we can be proud of? OR a revenue stream for a publishing, training and events company?

I heard some interesting but somewhat disturbing news today about the certification that I hold and support.

As regular readers will know I am a CPLP. A certified Professional in Learning & Performance.

One of the things that most attracted me to the CPLP designation is that to get certified as a professional in our profession required not just being able to answer (a ton of) questions about the field but you also had to submit an example of how you followed what is considered best practice in an actual piece of work you have done.

The Work Product submission is what set CPLP apart from other certifications that I’m aware of.  Getting a CPLP was something to be proud of because it was hard.

And there is the problem. It appears that an increasing percentage of candidates are failing the tough requirements of the CPLP Work Product. Unlike the standard in our profession there is virtually no feedback given to failed candidates and none is available. A candidate can give somewhere from 40-100 hours to preparing their WP submission and in return get a score broken down into the sub areas for their Area of Expertise. Ask someone at the CI about this and they will tell you that this is best practice in the certification industry and is done to ensure fairness and integrity. Ask anyone in the Workplace Learning & Performance industry and they will tell you that sucks!

So ATD was clearly facing a problem. They want this certification to be both respected and popular. I can imagine it would be a lot of hard work to achieve that. A long slog of hard work, showing very small incremental gains but that eventually could succeed. Sounds like  our lives in the industry. A professional body that truly represents the best interests of the members of our profession would have grimaced about this but gotten down and done the work.

But instead let us look at another model. Instead of thinking about ATD as our professional body, instead think of it as a company that sells 3 products. Books, Conferences and Training events.

A company like that would see a valuable potential revenue stream in certification fees, learning materials and training events that was being jeopardized by a rigid policy. The solution for that type of entity is simple, change the rules and make it easier.  Add in the driver of large corporate clients who are trying to get teams certified and so many are failing and you get an extra kick in the direction of sacrificing the integrity and respect that the certification has been very slowly getting to the gods of expediency.

“But ATD is OUR organization” I hear you cry! They wouldn’t try and sneak this sort of thing through without discussing it with their membership and other stakeholders. They  surely would have had extensive consultations with the CPLP community about replacing the Work Product Submission with something easier like maybe an online case study. They would have asked for input from credential holders about options before trying a pilot of one of those options. They would have reached out to their chapters, to hear the word of the professional on the ground about this. They surely will have learned the lessons on Change Management from the way they changed the organizations name without getting stakeholder buy-in and the bad blood that created.

They wouldn’t be so dumb again.

You would hope not.

Friday, May 15, 2015

ATD2015 TU400 preview. Why Listening is important.

I'm on my way to Orlando to attend the ATD International Conference & Expo.

This year as well as attending I'm going to be presenting.
My session on Tuesday at 4:30 will cover exercises that the corporate world has borrowed/stolen from the world of Improvisation.
If you have ever seen any improvised comedy shows you might marvel at how the performers are able to make up a scene or sometimes a whole show from a single idea thrown out by the audience.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret.
We rehearse

NO, Not that doesn't mean we work it all out beforehand and plant our audience suggestion. That might be easier but it would be far less fun for players and audience alike.

What we rehearse is the skills that we are going to use on stage. We practice using the skills that will make our performance more likely to be engaging, entertaining and successful.

Top of the list of those skills is listening.

We have to listen to what the audience is shouting out so we can hear something to build our scene from.

Let's say that the word that is first clearly heard is the word 'Candy' The performer who asked for a suggestion will repeat it clearly to acknowledge it and make sue that all their fellow performers hear the same thing.

Then one person steps up and says or does something based on that suggestion. None of the rest of us know what that person is going to say or do. We have to pay close attention to it because whatever they say to start things going creates a reality that we all have to keep alive until the scene or the show is over.

Sticking with the 'Candy' idea there are lots of things that could be that first choice. (we call it an initiation) Let's imagine that a woman steps up and says "Billy, do you want another piece of candy?"
By listening then we know a few things.

  1. There needs to be someone else (Billy) on the stage to respond to that.
  2. That there is candy available for Billy.
  3. That Billy has already had (at least) one piece of candy.

And that is just from the words.

Add to those words the tone of voice that they are spoken in.
If the words were spoken in a light friendly way they mean one thing. but there are so many other possibilities
Imagine the emphasis on the word 'want'. Maybe she is no longer offering her child some candy but is helping their spouse resist taking an extra piece.
If the emphasis was on 'another' then we start to wonder how many pieces have already gone.

Even if the tone of voice is neutral then the body language can provide a bunch of clues.

As improvisers we learn to pay attention to all these things. That way we can get things moving and keep things going.

Now think about the last meeting you were in at your company or organization.

How good were your listening skills?

Did you pay complete attention to what everyone else was saying or were you maybe trying to think of what you were going to say when it was your turn? If you were 100% then that is fantastic and I applaud you. How about everyone else?

If you think that meetings at your organization might be a little more productive if people could get just a little bit better at this simple but complex skill, then I've got some great exercises that you can run to help people build that skill.

Come along on Tuesday at 4:30 in room W109AB and see what hey are, learn how to run them and how to get the most from the debriefs.

See you there.

Happy Learning

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Starting the Revolution.

Clark Quinn came to speak at ATD Golden Gate Chapter last night.
He was talking about the L&D revolution that he says we need to have.He says that "L&D isn’t doing near what it could and should be, and what it is doing, it is doing badly"

Clark is laying out his ideas not only for what L&D should be doing but also an approach that we can take to get there.

I was live tweeting the event and my tweets are here.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Droughts and Storms: Learning should be like rain - gentle and regular

After too many years in the chill winters of Chicago I've now been in the Bay Area for coming up for 3 years.

California has been in a drought for a few years and desperately needs rain. My new home is in Napa, and the agricultural nature of this area means that it is particularly concerned about the lack of rain. So the rain that is soaking Northern California this weekend is welcomed by all, me included, even if it's keeping me off my bike.

But the type of rain we are getting is not ideal. A few days of heavy downpours quickly saturates dry ground, and runs into creeks and rivers that can't always take that much flow. All too quickly it runs off into the Bay or the ocean.

And sitting here trapped by the rain, I can't help but think how similar this pattern is to so much in the way of workplace learning.

A workforce parched of the skills and nourishment that they need to flourish and grow, And then all of a sudden there comes a deluge. It rarely comes with adequate time to prepare, When it comes it's in concentrated form. New facts and information pouring in, without time to get absorbed before the next set comes rushing in to follow. The minds of the learners fill up quickly and but the facts are still coming. Instead of giving them time to absorb and reflect on what they have just heard we move on to the next chapter. Instead of making time for people to integrate their new learning along with their existing body of knowledge we keep pouring. And worst of all instead of giving time to practice using their new skills we look for ways to bring it to their work, we add to the flow of facts until it runs past being useful and is instead wasted.

If we want to link learning to better performance, and if we don't then we are in the wrong game, then we need to change the way we do it.

We need learning in small, absorbable showers.

We need to allow our learners time to let their new knowledge sink in deep.

We need to think about ways to make the learning available when and where it's needed.

It is our job as learning professionals to guide and direct our learners and to give them what they need to grow.

Happy Learning.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Monday, February 2, 2015

Monday Morning Quarterbacking or Why didn't he run the ball?

As an ex-pat Brit, I have to confess that when it comes to what the Americans call Football, much of the finer points of the game escape me.
Of course that doesn't stop me from going to Superbowl parties and watching the game.

Yesterday's game was certainly an exciting one.
And those, far more knowledgeable people around me were stunned by the decision of the coach to throw a slant rather than run the ball.
After all handing the ball to 'Beast Mode' Marshawn Lynch is what everyone (including no doubt the Patriots defenders) would have been expecting.
The throw to Ricardo Lockette, who was inches away from what would have been his 4th catch of the evening, was intercepted by Malcolm Butler and that sealed the Seahawks' fate

Everyone in the room thought that this was the wrong call. (as it would appear did almost everyone)
Now they did have the advantage of saying that after the play and after the interception. The fact that the interception was a great one crept into everyone's mind at that point  But not the fact that Malcolm Butler had not made an interception all year. The people in the room didn't know that.

After the game the coach explained his decision. It sounded complex to me, involving who he had on the field how much time was left on the clock and how many chances they would have had to try things and some other stuff. In the end he said he told his players "that was my fault totally."

People didn't really buy his explanation.

So what has this got to do with the world of the Learning Pro?

Had he done what everyone had expected him to do then he would have sent Beast Mode' running into 8 opposing players. A learning professional looks holistically at a performance need and should see if there are too many factors lining up to block success.

Instead he evaluated the situation, armed with ALL the information, and did what was not expected. If you have the fuller picture and it's pointing you in the direction of something different, then a learning professional should not be afraid to do the unexpected.

Had the play worked, people would have been calling it the best call of the night. If you get the results you are aiming for people will be prepared to respect your decision and your courage in making them.

Instead Monday Morning Quarterbacks are calling it the worst call in Superbowl History.  If you fail, take responsibility and know that many people will just see the failure, not the courage it took to try.

Happy Learning

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

We ARE The eLearning Police.

My friend , former colleague and now President at CCASTD (now ATDChi) Greg Owen-Boger just placed a great post on LinkedIn entitled 'We are not the PowerPoint Police' about people wanting rules on how to create PowerPoint slides.

One of the paragraphs that got me thinking said this.

We like to think of PowerPoint as a tool to provide structure and to trigger the presenter’s thoughts. You are your presentation, not the slides. Use them to guide you through the presentation, rather than BEING the presentation. It will make your life easier. It will make the task of following you easier as well.

But what about when the presentation is ALL there is. And by that I mean what if we have no live presenter to have thoughts triggered by a PowerPoint but instead have a piece of Self-paced eLearning.

In my opinion that means the focus has to change. Now instead of looking to trigger the presenter's thoughts on content they already know intimately, we are trying to trigger the learner's questions on content they probably don't know that well at all.

Regular readers will recall that I recently managed to persuade some folks at my client that they didn't want me to create 'a 2 page pamphlet' for something but instead they let me create a multi-layer stand alone piece in Storyline. The driving force behind this was to give the reader the option of how far they wanted to delve into each of the areas being explored. From a single sentence on the top screen to multiple page explanations with accompanying videos if they choose to go that deep.

I hope that doing it this way triggers their questions.

I know it is a better option that the '2 page pamphlet'

Happy New Year and
Happy Learning