Tag: challenges

The hardworking woodcutter

Late last year, I stumbled upon the story of the hardworking woodcutter.

It was shared by Dr Nupur Jaiswal in her article Engaging your
audience: Tips to try
in Training & Development, 38(4).

The story goes like this…

There was a woodcutter. He used to work incredibly hard to ensure a good livelihood, but he always felt that his work was not giving him enough output. Every day he would decide to work harder and longer, but at the end of the day he would find his pile of wood smaller than the previous day.

One day, when he was busy as usual, he noticed a bigger pile of logs with a woodcutter sitting next to it. He asked, “How can you have a bigger pile than me in less time, and how can you relax so early in the day?”

The other woodcutter replied, “I take time off to sharpen my axe.”

The first woodcutter said, “But how do you get the time? I don’t have any time for sharpening my axe.”

Pile of chopped wood

The first woodcutter’s perspective is surprisingly common in the corporate sector – particularly in over-worked, under-resourced teams.

It’s tempting for the managers of these teams to deny their staff the opportunity to attend training, or even to undertake e-learning at their desks.

Why? Because they fear it will impact their performance stats.

And you know what? It will.

But what these managers don’t understand is that learning is an investment. Yes, your performance stats will probably take a short-term hit, but in the long term your team’s performance will be better than it otherwise would have been.

At the extreme end of the spectrum, those who fail to keep up with the necessary training will one day, sooner or later, discover they can no longer do their jobs.

And their heads will be chopped off by others with sharper axes.

The 2 sources of freebies

A little while ago I attended the latest Learning Cafe in Sydney. The theme this time around was Learning in a cost conscious environment.

We’ve all seen it with our own eyes: when a company hits hard times, its training budget is one of the first casualties.

Bob Spence rightly pointed out that the training function is often seen as a cost rather than an investment. To counter-act that perception, the L&D team must do a better job of demonstrating its worth to the business in terms of performance and, ultimately, profit.

Bundles of US $100 bills.

We all nodded in agreement and a lively discussion ensued on how we should go about doing that.

However in the back of my mind I was empathising with the poor bunnies who are stuck now with slashed training budgets. What can they do about their current reality?

Of course the remedy is simple: spend less. The challenge is doing that without compromising value.

While there are many pieces to this puzzle, I think an oft-overlooked one is the exploitation of freebies. Freebies are everywhere, just waiting to be gobbled up. The trick is finding them.

There are 2 broad sources…

1. The external environment

Everyone knows there’s a wealth of free learning resources on the web, and many of them are relevant to the corporate sector.

I’m referring to things like:

  • Blogs
  • Slides
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Webinars
  • Social networks
  • E-Journals
  • News articles

Why waste money reinventing the wheel?

Whatever topic you care to nominate, odds are some expert somewhere around the world has written about it, talked about it, filmed it, or presented a slideshow about it.

And published it to the web.

2. The internal environment

This one isn’t as obvious, but it’s arguably more important: every employee knows something worth sharing with their colleagues.

Furthermore, I contend they have an obligation to do so.

Our job as L&D professionals is to facilitate that collaboration. I’m referring to things like:

  • Discussion forums
  • Wikis
  • Communities of practice
  • User groups
  • Brown bag sessions

Why pay for training when you have an army of SMEs at your disposal?

Whatever topic you care to nominate, odds are some expert somewhere in the organisation can write about it, talk about it, film it, or present a slideshow about it.

If that person does not exist, perhaps a number of employees can chip in their nuggets of knowledge and experience, and together make a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

Who owns the photocopiers?

Debra Ellis asked recently: Does social media belong in Marketing or Customer Service?

I replied whimsically that the way I see it, asking who in the organisation owns social media is a bit like asking who owns the photocopiers.

Marketing and Customer Service – not to mention others such as Media Relations – each have their own contribution to make for the success of the group. So why wouldn’t they take charge of their respective social media initiatives? (Just like they take care of their own photocopying.)Various pegs in their right holes

Of course they should work together to maximise impact, but the point is:

Marketing should market and Customer Service should serve.

Ignorance is bliss

Time and time again I have seen new ideas (such as leveraging social media) stall in the corporate sector. Some call it analysis paralysis.

No one wants to stick their head out or, alternatively, dig in and do the dirty work. So they sit on the merry-go-round of meetings and proposals and committees and reviews and research and meetings…

Occasionally, someone highly pertinent to the conversation (yet inexplicably left out of the loop) will have the guts to give it a go – all the while blissfully ignoring protocol.

And it’s probably successful because it aligns to purpose.

On purpose

Who owns the photocopiers? Who cares!

They are tools that are used to achieve goals.

If using a photocopier is integral to your role, then use one. And if you don’t have one, then get one.

If you need authority or approval, get it. If you need advice, get it. If you need training, get it.

Do your job!
 

Reach for the clouds

Earlier this week, Michael Bromley, Head of Online Services at Telstra Business, visited my workplace to provide me and my colleagues with an overview of cloud computing.

A cloud with 1's and 0's streaming into it.

What is cloud computing?

Michael defines “cloud computing” as:

…common business applications, platforms or infrastructure that are hosted on the internet (i.e. in the cloud) and are accessed locally from a web browser, while the software and data are stored remotely on servers.

This definition may be particularly relevant to the corporate sector, because it could reflect the typical corporation’s chronological journey into the cloud.

For example, Company X might dip its toes into the cloud by discontinuing local installations of their standard desktop software onto individual PCs, in favour of connecting to Google Docs.

Of course this is a far cry from migrating all of their data and IP into cloud-based infrastructure, but it’s a significant start.

Private clouds

The major barrier to wholesale upsourcing to the cloud, I feel, will be data security. I can’t imagine too many organisations rushing to shift their sensitive customer details onto unseen servers in foreign jurisdictions. It’s one thing to use an online word processor; it’s something else again to store names, residential addresses and social security numbers out there, somewhere.

I can also appreciate corporate hesitation with public clouds like YouTube; many companies won’t want to share their IP with their competitors. That’s where I think private clouds may prove useful. By restricting access to jealously guarded content, but managing it within the cloud infrastructure, the company might strike a balance between security and efficiency.

vpc1, courtesy of Michael Bromley

What does this mean for e-learning?

Local installations of specialised e-learning authoring software is notoriously difficult in hierarchical corporations.

Even after you have secured funding (which is a feat in itself), you need to secure managerial approval to use the software, then you need to justify to various IT people why you need it, then you wait for a technician with the necessary admin rights to install it, then after 14 days you realise he didn’t register it properly, then you have to call him back to re-register, then he tells you he can’t seem to register it for some reason… By the time it’s all set up, a new version is released.

Wouldn’t it be nice to skip all that?

Wouldn’t it be more efficient to simply log into the software on the web?

If you need 20 licences now, you can subscribe and have them in an instant. If you need only 12 licences next month, you can drop the other 8. On the other hand, if you need 30 licences, you can subscribe for 10 more.

Sure, you’ll still require the necessary funding and approval, but already the flexibility of licensing is promising an attractive ROI. Add the fact that you don’t need to install or register anything, nor maintain it or upgrade it, and it looks even rosier.

Suffice to say I’m keeping an eye on Lectora Online.

But online course creation is only one aspect of e-learning. Consider also:

  • YouTube channels
  • Podcast hosts
  • Blog platforms
  • Wiki spaces

The list goes on…