“Inevitably we will make mistakes” – record key decisions

I’m working on a complex organisation design project.  This has necessitated a lot of stakeholder consultation – over 40 workshops completed so far, and a lot of other conversations and meetings.  We’ve traversed from understanding the customer, reviewing current state, and defining how solutions need to change, to identifying what drives workload.  We’re now exploring options for the future state operating model.

When preparing for a design workshop this week I was speaking with a senior manager who has led a new shared services function in the organisation for the past two years, so has relevant experience to draw upon.  As our discussion progressed he observed “inevitably, we will make mistakes” in this project.  Acknowledging this means we can prepare for the need to make informed adjustments in the future.  One way we can do this is to record key decisions.


Harold Jarche suggests that recording decisions should be normal practice, and that it helps to build institutional memory.  The project I am working on is an excellent example of the value of recording key decisions, including date that decision was made, who made it, alternatives considered and why one option was chosen over others.  To assist with consistency in decision-making we are also defining design principles and criteria to review alternate operating models.  We recently set up a project decision log to record decisions, along with these principles and criteria.  Tracking version history of principles and criteria in the log will provide the ability to correlate decisions with the principles and criteria in use at the time.

Recording decisions will help the project team to explain rationale for recommendations consistently to stakeholders, Steering Committee and others who need to approve deliverables.  It will also ensure that “when” a need is identified in the future to fine-tune the operating model to address those “inevitable” mistakes that people will be able to review the original decisions and make better informed choices about changes.

Learning Trends and Technologies – What Would You Ask?

technologyI am moderating a panel discussion at an Instructional Design and eLearning MeetUp on ‘learning trends and technologies’ on Tuesday 5 September 2017.  I’m working on some questions for the panel and invite you to leave your thoughts and suggestions in comments on this post or message me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

The panellists are:

The panel is being held on the eve of LearnX in Sydney, and over 100 people have signed up to attend.

My draft list of questions is:

1.  Tell us about one project or initiative you are currently working on in the design or technology front.

2.  How do you think learning design has changed in recent years and what are your thoughts on the impact of this change?

3. What do you see as the most significant developments currently underway in learning technologies and why is it significant?

4. What are the most important skills a Learning and Development professional needs today and why?  (Alternately this question could ask about skills needed in an L&D function rather than a specific individual.)

5.  What is one thing you have done which has had a significant impact on your career in L&D? (Could substitute ‘work’ for ‘career.’)

As this is an all-female panel (and has been dubbed ‘Leading Ladies’ by the Meetup host, David Swaddle) I’m toying with the idea of including a gender-focussed question.  My question would be either about encouraging girls in Science, Technology, Education and Math (STEM) – which has a link to the panel topic.  I’m not sure if it would be seen as irrelevant or annoying to some attendees.  I will probably let the panellists decide whether to do this.




A new place for me to Work Out Loud

When was the last time you hesitated about putting something imperfect out into the world?  When you wondered how it would make you look, whether it would expose you as flawed or inadequate in some way?  It’s one thing to talk and write about what stops people from working out loud and the feelings of vulnerability that it can create (I recall my colleague and friend Simon Terry using a phrase along the lines of ‘the quivering finger,’ alluding to the hesitation of hitting the send key to post something you know to be imperfect).  It’s quite another to to experience this vulnerability and hesitation.

I have spent a little time sitting in that space recently – feeling unsure and vulnerable.  I am clear on what I want to do professionally – to help organisations improve the impact of learning on their business and the everyday experience of their people (the tagline I have settled on is ‘Building high impact Learning and Development’).  I want to do this by working with Learning and Development (L&D) teams – to help guide their strategic thinking and implementation planning, and to build their capability to execute on their plan.  My preferred delivery modes are mentoring, facilitating, and training – with a little consulting.  I want to be both a thought leader (yep, that feels like a ‘risky’ label – shall write about that another time) and an action leader (new term I think, not quite the same as a practice leader – wonder if it will catch on).

Here’s one of the things I’m unsure about and that is making me hesitate.  I work for myself.  I need to connect with people who can make a decision to pay for my services and expertise – people who have purchasing authority in organisations.  L&D leaders have some budget and purchasing authority – however, there are business leaders in other parts of organisations that have more.  I want to present myself and my thinking to business leaders in a way that makes them want to engage me – and pay for my services.  I’m concerned that working out loud will undermine this objective, as:

(a) sharing my work in progress, work processes and what I’m learning may make me look unprofessional, and

(b) my working out loud posts will outnumber the opinion pieces I want to write for business leaders and they will not stand out.

Another thing that has been making me hesitate is wondering how best to serve the L&D profession / industry.  I’ve put a lot of energy into speaking with L&D industry colleagues, being part of the conversation that is building an industry-wide aspiration to modernise our practices and have a higher impact in organisations.  I want to continue to be part of that conversation.  Yet, there is another group with whom a conversation about the value of L&D is essential.  That’s senior business leaders.  This conversation is about shifting their perceptions and expectations of L&D and encouraging them to engage L&D differently.

Colourful speech bubbles

I want to participate in both conversations.  I’m much more comfortable in conversation with L&D leaders than with business leaders.  Yet, I feel it’s important to be active in the conversation with business leaders.

This brings me to the point of my first post on this new ‘Michelle Works Out Loud’ blog site.  I want to distinguish between the two conversations to create clarity and cut-though in my conversations with business leaders, and sustain my engagement with others in my network.  I have been trying to use my business website to speak to both groups, to the extent of creating two blog pages on my business site.  But it wasn’t separate enough to give me a sense of freedom with my working out loud.

So, here I am on a new website dedicated to my working out loud posts.  This is my sandpit – my space to reflect, to keep a record of what I’ve been working on and learning, to talk about my work practices, to allow my ideas and insights to unfold and evolve.  I hope that it’s a space that others want to visit, that they find the content useful, and we have some conversations that advance our thinking and help us to improve our practices.