Getting Strategic About Social Learning

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A presentation given at ASTD TechKnowledge 2012, based on a case study from 2008-2010.

A presentation given at ASTD TechKnowledge 2012, based on a case study from 2008-2010.

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  • My disclaimers right off the bat are such: I am contracted by the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative, which is an advanced research & development program centered on learning technology in the US Department of Defense.  I’m the Chief Learning Officer of Problem Solutions, LLC, which is the organization that provides my services to ADL.Much of the work cited in this presentation is work performed prior to my employment with Problem Solutions and my services to ADL, where I was an internal consultant to a Fortune 500 company.  If the discussion we’ll have in this next hour resonates with you, I'll be happy to talk with you offline about the organizations I work with, the strategy you’ll see on the following slides, Twitter, dogs... whatever.  
  • Let me tell you a little bit about me for your voir dire.  I'm 39 years old, I'm on my 8th job since college.  Job #5 (and #8) is with Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL), which is an initiative out of the US Department of Defense that is most known for shepherding this specification for E-Learning called SCORM.  My job was to decipher the specs and figure out how to build SCORM content so that ADL could explain how to do it to everyone else.  Now my job include systems and service design of a next generation of learning technologies, such as Tin Can and the Federal Learning Registry, as well as develop community efforts and interest around the program activities.I have a background in teaching and Curriculum & Instruction.  I mention all this because it might help you to know that I'm an expert in something as opaque (yet concrete) as SCORM; and, even though I am on the lower edge of the demographic known as Generation X, my career has taken the sharp turns and rapid evolutions of many of the 20-to-30-somethings who get lumped into Generation Y.I also mention this because you knowing a bit about me is important; not just to me because I have a lot of Generation Y-like tendencies and an admitted need to be recognized as a unique snowflake unlike any person you've ever met before ever... but because knowing who I am is just as important as the information I'm going to share with you.In Knowledge Management circles, this concept is called provenance and it allows you to relate the credibility of information to the credibility of the source. Some interesting tidbits about me:In my K-12 education, I had to skip Kindergarten and jump right into 1st grade in an inner-city Chicago bilingual school.  My parents moved us around a lot growing up and I ended up going to seven different school systems before I was 15 years old.  I lived on a farm in western Wisconsin from when I was 11 until I was 14.  I was awkward at making friends until I transferred to a suburban Milwaukee high school and then moved on to college. 
  • I mention these things because the sum of these personal development experiences forged and eventually honed an ability to adapt to new environments with new peer groups. With each new experience, I improved on a hard learned practice of assimilating.  Key to successfully connecting with new people is to spend a lot of time up front observing while leveraging and cherishing the first good human connection you make.  If you're a disciple of Stephen Covey, you might sum up this principle as "Seek First to Understand."  (Other learnings as an adult involve always volunteering to buy the first round at every social gathering for the first five weeks with a new group, but that is another topic for offline conversation.)This talent I honed for observation and "sense making" (admittedly colored by relativity), supplemented with methods from my professional training as an educator, this talent has empowered me to help forge effective teams in a workplace, whether I've been on a team of • middle school teachers, • school librarians, • web developers, • learning technologists or • cross functional/cross-discipline teams in large enterprises.
  • In several professional experiences over the last thirteen years, whether I was teaching or coordinating technology for public schools, developing commercial websites and online games, prototyping E-Learning and advocating international standards or even working in small and large companies in the commercial marketplace, I've noticed time and again some very similar dysfunctions which both imperil the development of organizations and the retention of their people. 
  • Perhaps these sound familiar to you.. Unplanned service disruptions impact team members who aren't "in the know."Critical skill gaps keep employees from developing, and failure to anticipate these gaps cripple organizations from growing.Wasteful exercises -- especially those caused by duplicative and competitive internal efforts often demotivate people while expending resources that would otherwise sustain or grow the organization in other ways.The need to be quick and flexible increases, both for organizations and for people -- but the resources both can work with seem to be evaporating. Groupthink and/or bureaucracy seems to be killing innovation (or even just the things you need to do right now).Continuous Improvement efforts, programs like Six Sigma and LEAN -- these are effective if you can guide the organizational culture to embed a shared vision of continuous improvement into its DNA.
  • Here's the trick, though: a shared vision of continuous improvement is something you can't mandate to your employees through compliance training.  Real "alignment" doesn't happen through a series of quarterly weekend retreats with your top 200 leaders.  Pizza lunch & learns or free donuts won't build the grassroots, holistic employee-engagement vital to an agile and innovative organization. These are tactics, and as much as continuous improvement programs like Six Sigma and LEAN can eliminate "waste" (however you want to define "waste") from your organization, these programs -- just like lunch and learns -- are tactics; maybe operational practices in as much as they're planned.  They're not strategies.
  • Strategy -- real strategy -- is tough.  It needs to be simple enough to be explained and shared.  Strategy also needs to be big, bold and audacious.  Strategy requires a vision. It needs to captivate people, not with awesome and mighty flow charts and processes but with ideas, pictures and stories of how the end state will look and feel.
  • Strategy Diamonds are a way to show what the actual bits and pieces of a strategy are and how they fit together.  Strategy is about making important choices, and the real power of a Strategy Diamond is that it integrates important choices into a bigger picture, instead of as a piecemeal approach.The five key parts of a strategy are: arenas, vehicles, differentiation, staging, and economic value.  By answering key questions in each area, you paint a picture of your strategy with increasing clarity.Arenas – “Where will we be active and with how much emphasis?”:Vehicles – “How will we get there?”Differentiation – “How will we win?”Staging – “What will be our speed and sequence of moves?”Economic Logic -- “How will we obtain our returns?”
  • When most people say they wanta strategy, they’re really looking for an actionable plan. Such a plan emerges from teams that participate in a series of exercises, such as a Critical Success Factor analysis, which shifts the strategy from being heuristic—a loosely defined explanation for a wicked problem—into an algorithm, an executable project plan with identified steps, procedures, and benchmarks that identify what success will look like. The goal we ultimately identified as a team was to improve the customer experience by creating a culture where learning through others and knowledge sharing are the norm. To meet this goal, several critical success factors were identified.
  • There are many ways to designa learning strategy involving social media.I approached social learning strategically as a means for continuous improvement in an organization. It took multiple in-depth discussions over the course of a few weeks to determine a hierarchy for these success factors, with the most granular being the most actionable tasks that would support the greater strategy. For example, one of the enabling success factors for “provide structured mechanisms for people to share what they know” meant we had to definea governance model so that the right tools were available for different kinds of social exchanges. The organization would continuously improve as people inside the company learned from one another, and some direct information pushed from the organization could attract the attention of employees.
  • The strategy I share with you today involves an organization seemingly removing the layers of leadership between the front-line worker and the leader at the very top of the organization, while retaining a familiar distributed leadership structure for the purposes of team-coaching and obstacle removing. In such an organization, the competitive functional silos translate to communities of people with shared interests, but the organization feels more atomic -- where every person regardless of position is empowered to use their own matrix of resources to perform better and faster.
  • In such an organization, there aren't just communication plans, but actual communication -- between the organization and its employees, business partners and customers.  Continuous Improvement is also more than a plan -- it's actual way of working and living at every level from the individual, concurrent with improvement in workflows and processes; concurrent with filling the voids in customer service which builds the relationships that organizations need to survive and grow long term.This is how a cycle of knowledge exchange works.
  • I wish I had a sexier name for this idea than the "Knowledge Exchange Cycle."  "The Bacon Exercise" doesn't lend itself implicitly (even if bacon is delicious).A boring name, however, is descriptive and it conveys how organizations can leverage the activities that their employees are already participating in, learn more about itself, find the performance gaps, fill them and dig deeper as they repeat the cycle.  We believed that the organization would continuously improve through cycles of knowledge exchange that would build on top of each other, like a coil or a spring. Any one cycle of knowledge exchange can be broken down into six activities: 1. social networking2. community building3. collective knowing4. finding knowing or doing gaps 5. introducing new or corrective information6. reframing collective knowledge.These activities, leveraging various modes of communication, represent a full cycle of knowledge exchange capable of moving a team, directorate, division, and even a whole company forward in terms of continuous improvement.
  • The big picture is really pretty simple:employees in an organization share and exchange information with each other in a variety of formats using a variety of tools. A group of librarian-type people use tools, some the same and some different from your contributing employees, to collect, codify and tag all that information in a way that the organization can now and forever know things about itself in a lasting organizational way. Learning professionals take in the gestalt from the employee interactions, much of which is through collaboration or social media AND look for the gaps in the official knowledge that’s being collected — and those Learning Professionals fill in the gaps they find through formal instructional methods… and then wash, rinse & repeat.It’s a recipe not just for institutional knowledge exchange but also for continuous improvement. There are always gaps in individual, team and organizational performance to fill in.  With each cycle you reduce the impact and severity of such performance gaps— and by continuously chipping away at performance gaps an organization steadily and assuredly improves because unlike learning “events” that never seem to fully solve the organization’s issue de jour (chances are that no single event ever did), continuous improvement is being embedded into the culture of the organization. 

Transcript

  • 1. Getting StrategicAbout Social Learning#FR105 – January 27, 2012 Aaron E. Silvers, Community Manageraaron.silvers.ctr@adlnet.gov @aaronesilvers
  • 2. Caveats…Aaron E. Silvers provides support tothe Advanced Distributed Learning(ADL) Initiative. The views expressedtoday are his own and do notnecessarily represent the views orpolicies of the ADL.
  • 3. Provenance Provenance – Relating the credibility of information to its source.
  • 4. Make friends and influencepeople • Seek first to understand. • Leverage and cherish personal connections.
  • 5. Dysfunction vs.Moving Forward http://www.flickr.com/photos/felix_castor/3557364186/
  • 6. Obstacles to developing peopleand organizations • Service disruptions • Skill gaps • Waste http://www.flickr.com/photos/drp/362588973/
  • 7. Alignment is not won by donuts http://www.flickr.com/photos/kodamakitty/2404875788/
  • 8. Tactics are ways to navigateStrategy http://www.gapingvoid.com/ms2125.jpg
  • 9. Strategy
  • 10. What is a strategy?Strategy is the approach to acomplicated, if not complex, set ofchallenges designed to generate asuccessful outcome.
  • 11. How do we create a strategy?• We use one of several models.• Search these… – Strategy Diamond – 7S Framework – Curriculum-Centered Strategic Planning Process – Six Rings Planning Model
  • 12. eA Om n cAgn Hl s i I F r Na O f t
  • 13. What’s a Critical Success Factor Analysis?A Critical Success Factor is a key areaof the business where highperformance is required if goals are tobe achieved. These factors most affectan organizations ability to succeed…those things that must go right toreach the goal they support.
  • 14. My example’s Critical Success Factors• Measure the impact of knowledge sharing on performance.• Examine business performance.• Enable people to collaborate• Provide structured mechanisms for people to share what they know.• Integrate L&D activities with learning that takes place outside of L&D.
  • 15. Without silos, anyone canconnect with anyone. http://www.flickr.com/photos/thomaspurves/522157472/
  • 16. Getting people talkingencourages continuous improvement http://www.gapingvoid.com/sunlogo006.jpg
  • 17. How this Knowledge Exchange Cycle works• Employees share through social networking.• Employees collaborate in Communities of Practice.• Cybrarians curate products of collective knowledge.• Leadership, performance indicators and job performers identify knowing/doing gaps.• Formal learning fills the gaps.• This new information is negotiated into the collective understanding.• Wash, rinse, repeat.
  • 18. Social Networking• “Hallway conversations”• Enables groups to come together on their own terms: informally and virtually.• Share information and solve immediate problems.
  • 19. Community Building• In communities, people do something to belong.• Communities are comprised of people who share an activity in common and come together to discuss it, swap stories, share know- how.
  • 20. Collective Knowing• Collective knowledge activities emerge from communities.• Collectives are small groups of people who belong to do something together.
  • 21. Curation• “Cybrarians” reduce barriers for collectives to document what they’re learning; help organize the products of collective knowledge.• This is a powerful and emerging role for L&D in organizations.
  • 22. Find the Knowing/Doing Gaps• Collective know-how must be reconciled with strategic organizational goals.• Provide access to tools and datasets that aren’t normally shared across departments; focus on usability and usefulness.• HINT: where the flow of know-how is slowing down indicates a knowing/doing gap.
  • 23. Measuring Things• Look to what employees are asking and how they’re answering each other.• Analytics… – Raven Tools – Cisco SocialMiner – Adobe SocialAnalytics – Girih
  • 24. Introduce New Information• Information pushes (formal learning) to reinforce the desired state identified• Create “business objects” that give employees a reason to talk about the new information you need them to have.
  • 25. Reframe the Conversation• Get people talking about the new information so it gets reinforced.• In advance, identify performance measures & social analytics to qualify and quantify the success of your new information campaign.
  • 26. Supporting the organization• Think of a knowledge exchange cycle as a coil on a spring.• This coil tightened provides continually growing support for whatever impacts hit the organization.
  • 27. More information…• Attribution for all non-original images given, using CC-licensed images.• This presentation is licensed through Creative Commons.• Questions? Comments – @aaronesilvers – aaron.silvers.ctr@adlnet.gov