Five Tips For Agility in Learning

Agility is a big topic in business. Along with SCRUM, they form a solid core of project management best practices that can easily be used to teach anyone to implement changes faster, communicate better and be more of a team player. All of this originally came from the software industry adopting sections of Japanese management (such as the Toyota way) for use in Western software development. This fast-paced and close-knit industry required speed and precision to deliver software packages, updates and new versions in line with increasingly strict consumer expectations.

Human Resources, on the other end of the spectrum, is a very mixed bag in the adoption of new processes and tooling. While quite a bit of budget is spent on HR Information Systems or Learning Management Systems, you will find that this attention to detail often ends when it’s time to create or manage the actual content contained in these systems.

While it’s unlikely that all of the lessons from Kanban, Kaizen or Genchi Genbutsu are going to be equally practical for people in HR, there are some strong lessons to learn from these methods that will be of great value in how you generate, source and manage your learning content. In this case, let’s look at five lessons that can be learned from “Kaizen”, or “Continuous Improvement”:

1: Seiri (Sort things out)

It’s impossible to get started on improving how your learning management affects the people involved unless you have actual knowledge of the before, after and expected results.

You need to get close to the business, and find out what is needed for the company to be a success. This is one of the reasons why having a CHRO at the table in a multinational company is so critical. It’s to make sure that managers do not try to extrapolate their training needs based on their business themselves, but that they are assisted in doing so by seasoned experts who know the causality between what skills and behaviors are trained, and what results are achieved.

In addition, you need to have strong analytics to support these decisions with evidence. What are the current results and skill levels? What is expected to happen as a result of these trainings? What did actually happen? Is that truly related to the training, or did other factors (also) influence the results.

Without analytics and the evidence and knowledge that comes with it, your training programs are nothing but wishful thinking and based on luck more than skill.

2: Seiton (Straighten)

How your learning opportunities or catalogue is presented to your customers, the employees, is crucial to remaining viable and current. You want people to find what they need in an easy fashion.

  • Web-based Training should be available at any time, from any device.
  • It should be easy to request (and approve) trainings that are not web-based.
  • Tooling should be quick to load and preferably single sign on (SSO)

When organized, it should take at most three steps to come from the top level (say, trainings per department) to any individual training. You should be able to search for trainings by department, by role, and by category of training. Ideally, a person’s job role should come with a preset that allows for people to easily find related trainings to their actual job.

3: Seiso (Shine)

Learning is affected by many things, but lack of engagement certainly is the top reason why people stop using even the most useful or mandatory learning paths. A treasure that does not glimmer is unlikely to attract people.

Don’t believe that even the greatest amount of professionality or interest can weigh up to boring presentations, dry text-based web trainings or “mandatory compliance trainings” that do not explain properly why they are so mandatory. The availability, user interface and quality of the trainings themselves can be directly related to the amount of proper use made of them.

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  • The user interface should be simple to use, even without a manual.
  • Modules should be clearly named and if they are part of a curriculum, the connections must be noted.
  • It should be clear who the training is for, what is to be learnt, and why they should care.

In addition, the content itself requires attention. It should not be made longer or expanded for the sake of making a longer training. If it can be explained in two paragraphs, do so and leave it at that. Conversely, if it needs a lot of space, think about cutting it up in parts with a smaller intro (what went before) and outro (what comes next) to keep people motivated.

Blended learning doesn’t just mean mixing various training methods; mix up text and video, audio, tests and games. If the training is a chore, people will procrastinate. If they do, fewer people complete it and the value of the training is lost.

4: Seiketsu (Standardize)

Modularity is a key component to maintaining a well-organized library of content if you want to remain future-proof. Standardization is good, but you have to be smarter about it in an agile world.

First define the trainings that all people need – those are likely mandatory corporate trainings, and either available all the time or regularly repeated. They require the least effort to maintain. Then there will likely be trainings separated out by department, seniority and role. Good analytics can help you organize these trainings. If two or three trainings are 99% likely to be taken together, put them in a curriculum together to make them easier to spot.

But if you have trainings that would normally be interchangable except for branded or product-related content, or perhaps a difference in process or tool used between countries, it can pay off to take those specific components out of the general training, and offer them as optional add-ons instead.

For example, you could standardize all individual sales trainings if they basically use the same format. Then, each Sales Curriculum would then have a number of modules applying their newfound sales knowledge on specific products, or using specific methods. That way the core training will remain relevant even if processes or tooling changes. All you need to update are specific modules, rather than an entire range of trainings.

5: Shitsuke (Sustain)

The greatest danger to a well-maintained Learning and Development strategy is complacency. Training catalogs can get clogged if they are not maintained, tooling can slow down because of the heavy load, and content can go out of date without continuous monitoring of its effectiveness.

Because of this, it is important to have a proper system of feedback on the training method, the training tool and the content separately. Employees are part of your customer base; do they feel that they learn what they need to, in good time and good spirits? Does the tooling work well, without undue downtime, errors or slowness? Is the content up to date, appropriate to their role, and connected to the performance targets they are asked to make?

The upkeep of a garden takes a little time spread out over the year; but getting a wild-growth back into shape takes weeks of back-breaking work. It’s no different with an LMS and the associated content. It’s much easier to pro-actively shape the contact throughout the year(s) to keep it relevant, rather than having to replace, reorganize and rewrite all of it in a short amount of time.

Conclusion

The keys to being agile in presenting your learning content is to be modular, engaging, accomodating, organized and relevant to the needs of the organization – whether it’s digital or physical, bespoke or outsourced.

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