• Peter Franklin

Training slowdown:

During the pandemic face to face training has stopped as everyone who can, works from home.

Indeed, this new work paradigm may persist after the pandemic has passed, as companies take the opportunity to reduce office space and costs.

Equally importantly, many employees indicate that they prefer working from home – at least most of the time, since they reduce commuting and have a better work/home life balance.

On-line training also seems to have slowed down as employees who now work from home find it hard to juggle the hours in the day to cope with day to day work and home life.

Organisations are focusing on business survival and adapting to the new world – training appears to have been pushed out into the long grass.

Whilst understandable – this is dangerous since employees will need the skills and competencies training can provide, especially if those skills and competencies are those needed to be successful in the new world.

The on-line challenge

In our training activities we are focused on delivering Pyramid Thinking Plus training. This equips people with the skills to be able to craft compelling logics for their proposals, presentations, reports and even emails. This is an essential skill when communicating on-line with prospects, customers, stakeholders, and colleagues.

Let me share our experience of moving on-line with you – I hope it will help you choose the best training solution for your organisation.

We have traditionally trained people face to face in groups of 8-12 pulled together for a one, or one-and-a-half-day training course. That clearly could not now happen.

Luckily, we had taken our face-to-face course and turned it into self-learning modules on a professional learning platform at the back end of 2019 – so it was available when the pandemic struck.

Self-learning on a professional learning platform is often the in-house corporate training solution. It typically comprises self-learning videos and a set of quizzes to test learning. This form of training is very flexible for the delegate given they can choose when to do each module – which typically only take 20 minutes to an hour to complete. It is also automatically monitored and controlled so you can track learner activity and regulate progress through having hurdle pass rates to questions on the learning received.

However, what you lose is the richness of trainer/delegate interaction and group working, which in our experience has always been highly valued by participants.

As we were in the first lock-down we decided to offer the self-learning course to existing customers for free so they could train new entrants. We thought this a legitimate thank-you for having taken our face to face training in the past. However, there were no takers.

Individual and corporate bandwidth for training was simply too narrow.

There was also the question of whether the loss of facilitator interaction and the group work we conducted as part of the face to face offering made the training less attractive – even though we did have one to one on-line mentoring with a live trainer built into the programme.

We then discovered that the video-conferencing and electronic white boarding offered by combining Zoom and Mural enables group work in plenary and in syndicates, and Q&A interaction with a live trainer.

We then built the course for a group of 8-12 people on-line, complete with live facilitation group work and syndicate work.

So, when you are looking at your training needs should you choose the individual learning platform or the group e-learning option?

The answer is Neither! - – you should think about your audience and choose the right mix for them!

1. You don’t have to choose; you can mix and match. Whilst you could opt for either the self-learning option or the group learning option you can go for a mix of self-learning modules interspersed with group sessions.

2. You need to match the time schedule needed to the time schedule availability of your audience.

In the working from home world committing significant uninterrupted periods of time e.g. half a day can be quite onerous depending on family circumstances. In the case of our Pyramid Thinking Plus course, participants would need to set aside three half day sessions within a week to complete the course content as a group course on-line. The self-learning modules however take 20 minutes to an hour to complete and are much more flexible to schedule since participants can do them at different times – whereas group work has to be done at the same time.

However, sharing time together in a group is often a welcome human interaction in today’s world – if time can be allocated by everyone group activities can really add value. And with the new technologies available they work really well on-line.

The trick is to create a hybrid training model where you strike a balance between group work – where everyone has to commit to being together on line for a given period of time with self-learning modules to be completed at times to suit each individual in the interim.

3. You need to find the solution that delivers highest audience engagement

Luckily both forms of training, self-learning and group learning, have high engagement elements.

· Quizzes for individuals on a learning platform are highly engaging because the participant has to engage to progress and they are a form of game which people enjoy

· Facilitated group sessions on-line are also highly engaging due to the interaction between participants using whiteboards where people can move things around.

A hybrid solution can leverage the engaging elements of both worlds – and indeed by having a combination of elements ends up being more engaging than either self-learning or group learning on its own.

4. You want to achieve the right balance between cost and outcome

Individual learning is more cost-effective since you can use a trainer video and quiz rather than a live trainer facilitator. You need the trainer once to create the video but then you can use it hundreds or thousands of times at no additional cost.

However, group tuition is more learning-effective since people learn from each other and can Q&A the facilitator – who in our case is always an expert practitioner.

Mixing and matching can achieve the best balance – and, based on our own experience, adding in a bit of individual mentoring can optimise.

So, no need to go for either extreme – a mix of individual learning modules combined with facilitated on-line group work may well provide the best answer to your training needs

Whatever your training subject matter – you need to configure your solution to the needs of your audience. If you are interested in Pyramid Thinking Plus – please contact us and we will tailor the training to your needs.

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Your strategy for the new world

You and your team are faced with a challenge.

On the one hand the world you need to engage with has changed. The behaviours and attitudes of customers have changed and are changing further as they adapt to an ever changing new normal. What worked before may well not work now and in the future.

Is there a way for you to adapt and become one of the future winners or should you shut up shop and concentrate your energies elsewhere?

The strategic conversation challenge

You can no longer gather all your colleagues in a room to discuss the issue – to have the strategic conversation. You are all spread out – some working from home, some in the office observing new social distancing arrangements.

Yes, you now use Zoom or some other web conferencing service. However, you are becoming increasingly aware of their limitations. Even though you can see participants the images are too many and too small to pick up on the non-verbal signals which alert you to issues in face to face meetings.

In addition, when dealing with a highly uncertain future, as we face today, each participant in the conversation will have their own implicit set of assumptions they bring to the table. If these remain implicit the group will never be able to reach an agreement about what to do since they all have a different view of how they see the world working.

For example, if you consider the restaurant sector: Some team members may believe you can raise prices 50% and still fill a reduced capacity restaurant, other may believe you can only raise prices by 10% at most without having an empty establishment. Some may believe that customers want a fully sanitised experience with screens and full PPE, others may believe that customers want the minimum disruption to previous experience possible. How can a team with such diverse starting points possibly come to a rational consensus decision. It can’t.

So how do you have the strategic conversation in the team to find the best way forward?

You can have a successful strategic conversation, and find the best solution for your business, by converting the implicit assumptions in individual minds to a view of the world shared by the team.

This is because:

· You remove the disagreements that stem from different implicit assumption sets

· Everyone is working on the same problem definition – so mental energy is expended in the right area

· The team can unite in a shared vision of the way forward – which they can then all play their part in implementing

So how can you achieve this in the new online world?

The answer is to create a visual representation of the business system you are grappling with – one that all participants buy into.

To get there you first need to understand the implicit assumption sets in each of the participants’ mind. You do this through a 1 to 1 interview using a set of trigger questions to get each team member to put their assumptions and issues on the table. This should be done by an independent facilitator on an anonymous basis so that no-one feels threatened for expressing their views.

You then need to make sense of all the issues raised by creating a diagram of the business world showing each issue and how it interrelates with others. You may have seen business system diagrams or influence diagrams. These are however not enough. To make real sense of the world you need to think through what value looks like – since that is what you are trying to find a way of maximising. You then need to think through how each of the issues impacts on value. The resultant diagram is called a “Value Map”.

You then play back the map to the team and let them challenge it. Given it is built out of their answers to the trigger questions you will find that challenge is minimal because they see the picture as originating from them.

You then ask the question – if this is how the new world works – what are our options. You then discuss them and arrive at a robust and sustainable view of the best strategy for moving forward.

Doing this is not new!

I have been creating value maps since the late 80’s – albeit for face to face team discussion.

What is interesting is that taking the process on-line makes it much more efficient.

For example, I used to carry out interviews face to face with an audio recorder, then transcribe the interviews and get them checked by the interviewee. In an online interview the transcript is visible real time on screen for correction immediately.

In the beginning the diagram was built up piece by piece on a metal whiteboard or walls using large magnetic hexagons in the former case or large hexagonal post-it notes in the latter case. What people said about each element of the diagram would be fed back using PowerPoint projected on a large screen. In the online world the software is now available to show both the build of the picture and the accompanying quotes in a captivating video. And the feedback materials can now be produced in a fraction of the time it used to take.

In the old world all participants would be gathered in a room and asked by the team leader to agree with final version by physically raising their hands. In today’s world we have electronic hands.

The whole process can be effectively and efficiently managed through Zoom or its equivalents.

If you would like to find out more take a look at Value Mapping or get in touch. I am always delighted to have a conversation on having good strategic conversations.

  • Peter Franklin

Updated: Mar 20, 2020

Growth of e-learning

Whilst most management learning is still centred on the classroom there has been a rapid growth in e-learning over the past decade. Many of the top business schools offer Massive Open Online Courses and YouTube is awash with instructional videos – for virtually any subject under the sun. In tandem with the growth in popularity of e-learning has been a recognition of the potential for high drop-out rates on e-learning courses.

The new Corona world

Over the last twenty years we have seen significant growth in homeworking. Many professionals now spend at least one day per week “working from home”.

The corona virus is forcing businesses and organisations to restrict social contact. Organisations across the world are now asking their staff to work from home and to restrict gathering together. The aim, of course, is to protect the health of the workforce – and to maintain business continuity in the face of the threat of mass staff unavailability due to illness.

From a learning perspective this creates both a threat and an opportunity.

The threat is that learning opportunities disappear as training just gets cancelled and learning on the job from peers just cannot take place. This in the long term, leads to lower skill levels, and in turn lower sales, lower quality outputs, lower customer satisfaction which inevitably results in lost revenues and profits.

If home working is a short lived temporary feature, the loss of learning will not have much impact. However, if we are looking at many months, or even a year or more the impacts could be significant.

Indeed many organisations may well find that home working works well and shift the post-Corona balance between office based work and home based work towards the home - thus reducing real estate costs significantly. However, if this comes at the cost of organisational learning the trade off could do more harm than good.

The opportunity is for the out-of-office time to be used to build skills and knowledge through e-learning, which in turn leads to improved performance and profits. However, if e-training initiatives are to be truly successful they need to include interventions that reduce drop-out rates.

So, what should your organisation do?

You need to take advantage of the changing work environment to build the skills and knowledge which lead to improved performance.

And you can do this by:

1. Capitalising on the shift in time balance

As a consequence of the Coronavirus outbreak the balance of time has shifted further from the office to the home. For many staff this may well mean more time in an environment with less distractions than a busy and bustling office – which is perfect for e-learning.

For staff with children, and schools closed this will not be the case. However, given home workers do manage to separate work time from family time they should also be able to carve out some time for training. One of the characteristics of e-learning is that subjects are broken down into short modules which can be slotted into appropriate e-learning windows.

In addition, shifting the balance of time to homeworking also removes the time spent commuting potentially freeing up many hours per week for e-learning initiatives.

2. Use blended learning

By this we mean ensure that there is a tutored component to the learning. Experience has shown that having some tutor involvement is vital for two reasons.

a. When a student goes through the learning material on their own, they may well misunderstand some things, or not fully take on board others, and have questions unanswered. Having a web-based session with an expert tutor enables these mis-learnings to be surfaced and corrected – which yields a far better outcome than self-study alone.

b. When a student knows that they are scheduled for a session with a tutor they are incentivised to complete the course work prior to the session which reduces drop-out rates compared to an untutored course.

3. You need to pro-actively manage the learning.

By tracking the progress of the student/delegate through the training programme you can make sure they stay on track. To achieve this, you need to have the course delivered on a professional learning platform. Many large organisations now have these available, and smaller organisations can outsource to learning platform providers.

Pro-actively managing students/delegates ensures that completion rates are maximised.

4. You need to celebrate student achievement

By recognising successful course completion you create an additional incentive to complete learning programmes – which reduces drop-out rates. Furthermore, it also incentivises others to take up good programmes.

So, blended, managed, e-learning would seem to be an excellent way forward. Embrace it to take advantage of the changing work environment to build the skills and knowledge

At Compelling Propositions we have created a blended, managed, e-learning programme in the field of Communications Effectiveness. If you are interested in this specific area of training, please take a look at our Pyramid Thinking Plus e-learning programme.

Details of all our Pyramid Thinking Plus training courses can be found at:

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