For anyone who creates or oversees the creation of learning events:
You generate learning events to deliver professional development, at monthly meetings or at conferences. How are you ensuring high-quality sessions from your presenters?
Five steps towards dynamic programs:
FORMAT: Identify a format that works best for your members. What’s important to them? Networking, learning new tools, peer coaching?
NETWORKING: You can include informal networking time before your meeting, and you can create something more structured, for example: have people introduce themselves in their small groups. Give them a guiding question, such as: What brought you here today? What would you like to get out of this meeting? Bonus step: connect the guiding question to the topic of the meeting! I.e. “What’s a current challenge you’re working on relative to (topic x)?”
STANDARDS: Define standards of excellence for your programs, for example: Members will have a chance to get to know 5 new people; Participants will report feeling engaged and able to contribute knowledge; There will be a buzz in the room from small group discussions; People will leave with 2-3 skills or tools that they can apply in their work or practice.
ENSURE SUCCESS: Coach presenters in advance on the desired format and standards. Review their agenda to make sure it conforms with your standards. Tell presenters: I want to be sure that you’ll be successful with our audience!
DURING THE MEETING: Don’t be afraid to intervene gently but firmly during the session if the energy is lagging. If necessary, engage someone with facilitation skills who can do this for you.
When we create learning events, we often focus on what the presenter can provide to participants – at the same time, participants want to feel that they are contributing value to the conversation; members bring their own knowledge to the table, so an ideal meeting will include both! When you coach the presenter, you might suggest that they build off the wisdom in the room.
If you have a topic or question about program design that you’d like to see featured here, let me know.
Someone asked recently "How do you evaluate meetings?" (You are evaluating them, right? :-) Many facilitators use a "Plus/delta", i.e. "What worked well" and "What could we improve?" Others suggested Start/ Stop/Continue (SSC) - What should we continue doing (that's working well); What should we start doing (that will make things better), and, What should we stop doing (because it's not working). For example, “I think we should continue clarifying the objectives for each meeting”; “I think we should start inquiring into our own and each other's assumptions, in order to understand everyone's reasoning,” and “I think we should stop spending a lot of time on updates.” I find SSC generates richer data.
I've also seen an interesting twist on Plus/delta, which connects the outcome to people's needs - where were your needs met and where were they not met. So a plus for me could be "The meeting met my need for clarity about the decision making process", or a delta: "The meeting didn't meet my need for staying on topic". I really like that twist!
We know about the benefits of doctors using checklists to improve their delivery of care. (“Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande). As you probably know, “wrong site surgery” sometimes occur, where surgeons operate on the wrong side of your body. There are several steps in the checklist to prevent this from happening: they mark your leg or arm with a special marker (which should not be erased when they cleanse the area during prep); they check with others on the team, and they ask the patient “What side are you having surgery on?”
I participate in a Health Care Innovation Network, where recently one surgeon described what happened when his hospital implemented this procedure – they ask the patient ”which side?” so many times that the patient loses confidence in the clinical staff, and wonder whether they’re paying attention. Ouch – unintended consequences!
So when we talk about introducing a new procedure such as this one, let’s remember to:
a. Include the patient/customer/client in the conversation. Ask them: what could you imagine going wrong, if anything?
b. Ask the staff: What unintended consequences could you imagine when we implement this? If we go to the other extreme, where we ask too many times, or do X too often, what do you think might happen?
c. What are our measures for evaluation of success? When and how often will we evaluate if things are working? What’s our plan for adjusting the procedure as we go forward?
What’s your experience implementing new procedures? What checks do you put in place to make sure things are going well, or to make any necessary adjustments?
I’ve had my eye out for examples of where Organizational Learning goes right, or wrong. I came across 2 fascinating examples:
Working with a client group last month: they were encouraged to spend time learning and sharing new skills with one another; it was even written into their job description. They were to have x% of their work time devoted to learning. Problem was, no-one was protecting that time; neither HR nor, in many cases, the supervisor, unless s/he thought it was important. So the intention is there, but not the follow-through. My job as a consultant was to point out this structural problem to them, and suggest that maybe the workers raise this to senior management or the board. Great example for the need to get commitment from upper management to implementing ongoing learning.
Part 2.Health Care Improvement (see next blog entry)
Picture this: Your organization is delivering skill-building programs to several project teams, all at different stages of team development. Do you have one curriculum for all these teams? Hopefully not – you/we need to adjust the curriculum to the different stages of development of the teams. For example, if team members are doing very well at figuring out the distribution of roles among the team, then you can skip that.
I saw this in one client’s training programs, and urged them to adjust the curriculum. The case studies they/we use should also come from the industry or work examples of the participants. If you’re working in health care, you wouldn’t use an example of a zoo board of directors. Adult Learning 101. In addition, the trainers need to identify more clearly the learning objectives of the different teams – which they could do through a survey or a focus group. Whatever’s necessary to streamline the workshop to the needs of the participants – and to get them off their blackberrys
I also noticed that the trainers were facilitating the discussion among team members (on project content), while the team leader was sitting down and participating in the discussion. Why? If we’re trying to build capacity (that’s what training is for) then we/the trainer should let the team leader facilitate the discussion, and then we can sit in the back and make ourselves available to coach the team leader if necessary. That might be a new role for trainers, but could be fun learning to observe and comment only when needed. Capacity-building at many levels!
Most of us working in Leadership and Organizational Development (OD) focus on applying theories to organizational problems – for example, we apply Ron Heifetz’ model of Adaptive Leadership when we’re coaching leaders to help their staff adapt to change. This model distinguishes between technical problems, which have known answers, as in best practices – vs. adaptive problems, for which there are no existing answers, and which require people who have the problem to change or to adapt to a new situation. It is the task of the leader to engage people to create a solution to the problem.
How wonderful, then, to hear when leadership theories, such as Adaptive Leadership, are applied to a larger scale. NPR ran a story today (Nov. 11) about politics and international disputes, called “Lessons In Leadership: It's Not About You. (It's About Them).” The story focuses on George Papandreou, former Prime Minister of Greece. In 1999 when he was foreign minister; there was heightened conflict between Greece and Turkey, on issues like natural resources and issues of sovereignty. Papandreou reached out and offered to help get Turkey into the EU. But the Greek public, who felt animosity towards Turkey, was against dialogue. Papandreou realized that he needed to help people deal with, and hopefully change, the deep sentiments of hatred towards each other.
What to do as an adaptive leader? Coincidentally, at that time, a huge earthquake struck Turkey. Papandreou led the charge: Why don’t we give blood? That led to an outpouring of help. Second, they created Greek-Turkish cookbooks, and had a competition for “Who makes better baklava?” Brilliant. They also created TV programs to bring the two peoples closer together. And voila – emotional catharsis.
What a gift to have a theory and tool achieve such an amazing impact. What other examples do you know of successfully applying adaptive leadership on a larger scale?
How does your organization rate on Organizational Learning? Are your staff sharing knowledge and teaching one another what they know – about your clients or customers, about best practices? Who has valuable knowledge that’s not being tapped into? We’ve heard a lot about “Learning Organizations”, which refers to continuous adaptation and improvement of organizational practices, as defined by Peter Senge. In learning organizations employees reflect on what works and what doesn’t work in business practices; they also discuss how effectively people are working together, in teams and departments. Companies who want their employees to learn and grow spend time developing a strategy for knowledge-sharing, which can include any of these activities: - Provide time for employees to reflect on what’s working and what’s not, and have them generate recommendations to improve business processes. Make sure HR and management are committed to giving staff time for these conversations. - Create Action Learning teams with people from different departments who come together to solve an organizational problem. They’re like an ad-hoc team, meeting for the amount of time it takes to generate a working solution. Use an Action Learning coach to guide the team to harness their learning and to develop their leadership skills during the course of the team’s work.
- Set aside time should allow for employees to teach one another, so you might think of this as a “teaching organization”, which was coined by leadership author Noel Tichy. He points out that everyone in the organization probably has something to teach others, regardless of their position. For example, the parking valet in a hospital lot is the last person to see patients before they leave the hospital, and may have a conversation with the patient about their experience. The patient might complain, or s/he might praise the hospital staff on excellent treatment. That’s valuable feedback; don’t wait for the “patient experience” survey, just ask the valet! - Create a structure for collecting knowledge and for disseminating it – through brown bags, trainings, team meetings. - Clarify feedback loops and make sure that the feedback about processes and systems is getting to the right people. Make sure that there is accountability for mistakes, so that something is done with the feedback to improve the way work is done. In a learning organization, everyone is responsible for what happens; rather than blaming an individual, we need to ask “What is it in the system that’s not working that allowed for this mistake to happen.” So, How does your organization rate on Organizational Learning? Are your staff teaching one another? Who has valuable knowledge that’s not being tapped into? Does your organization have clear feedback loops, and do you have activities to generate feedback?