Monday, 24 June 2013

Recent Reflection #3 - A Challenge

What did I do?

A week ago today (Tuesday 18th June) I took part in a session at the Learning and Skills Group Summer Conference at Olympia in London. The idea was that three L&D professionals 'compete' in public to showcase our proposed learning design solution for a piece of compliance training on Data Protection. The session was coordinated by Julie Wedgwood and Chaired by Alan Bellinger.  The contenders were myself, Matt Brewer and Craig Taylor - stiff competition!  We had 10 minutes to present our idea and 5 minutes to be grilled by the audience.

Straws were drawn, Craig went first, me second and Matt third.  Alan was a firm timekeeper and it all ran to time.  The audience voted and the results were declared - and I got first mention! 'Cos I came third. Craig took second place and Matt was the well-deserved winner. By all accounts, the session was a great success, by putting up three real-world practitioners - not theoreticians or experts - to share our thinking and the realities of developing compliance training within the context of our own organisations and experience.

What did I learn?

I learned loads!
  1. Beware Don Taylor inviting you onto a 'panel discussion' - it might not be quite what you thought it was going to be!
  2. Competition - albeit friendly - and tight timelines don't half focus the mind, the attention and the effort, both in the preparation of and during sessions.
  3. Bravery will get rewarded.  Matt had timed his presentation to the second and had his slides on auto-advance, leaving himself no room for waffle.
  4. There (is/are?) more than one (way/ways?) to skin a cat (my wife and kids will hate that analogy).
  5. Make it Visual.  Both Craig and Matt had some great ideas and tools for using and enhancing graphics as part of the learning offering - either online or for printed/presented materials.  I really liked the cartooning tools and the use of Infographics as a communication medium.
  6. Keep it Real.  All three of us contextualised our learning propositions based on our organisations and our knowledge of our own audience, their tolerance for innovation and the technologies available to us.  Hence, whilst we all came up with different solutions, we also overlapped on several key concepts and ideas - Campaigns, Branding, Engaging, Visual and Sticky.
What am I going to do with this Learning?

I'm going to walk the talk. I had deliberately not shared my proposal with anyone at work, because I wanted to treat the challenge almost as a 'thought experiment', to try out some ideas that we haven't used before.  We are already running Data Protection training at my company, and I built my challenge proposition based on the work we have already done and what we still have to do. But now that it's been aired in public, I'm going to throw myself under the scrutiny of my stakeholders - the Data Protection Sponsor, Legal Expert, DP Subject Matter Expert and my own team of trainers, to see if they think it has legs.

It needs some work and the application of some of the ideas and inspiration I got from Craig and Matt, and the review and input from all of the above.  It may well not end up as I presented it at conference last Tuesday.  And that's a good thing.

And that's why I'm glad I took part.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Recent Reflection #2 - A Responsibility

What did I do?

We have just held our internal 2013 HR Conference.  Back in January, I volunteered to help with organising this event.  My boss immediately put me in charge (that'll teach me!) and suggested I assemble a planning and co-ordinating team of HR Business Partners from across our various companies.  Four of our HR Directors nominated one of their HRBS each.  In the early days of planning, I held virtual meetings via Webex and Conference Calls with the team, as we put together the basic requirements - dates, times, location, venue, content - and allocated tasks accordingly.

As we got nearer to the dates, we were struggling to find a suitable venue in the Manchester area and, despite the efforts of individuals in the team to investigate suitable sites, we were in danger of not being able to hit the dates already selected and pre-publicised with the HR Leadership team across the business.  Eventually, I called our hotel and conference booking service and passed the task to them.  Within 24 hours, they came back with a proposal which fitted all our requirements and I made the booking.

We were then able to concentrate on the programme and on a couple of visits to Manchester, we firmed up our proposed agenda, which, whilst approved in principle by the senior HR team, was tweaked and changed right up to and including the days of the conference itself.  This led to some frustration on the initially enthusiastic organising team's part, whilst I had to take a more pragmatic view.  I managed to handle a degree of frustration with the team to keep everyone on track to deliver what was required.  Ultimately, the team were great - all admin and preparatory tasks were completed and they ran the check-in and people management tasks faultlessly and with enthusiasm and humour.  I could not have done it without them.

Late in the run-up, I got the full-time assistance of our HR Programme Manager, who quickly pulled the remaining plan together and held us all to account on the tasks required.

As it happened, the arrangements worked and the conference went well. Some 95 HR staff from across the UK, travelled to, stayed at the hotel and attended our 2013 HR Conference in mid-June.  Speakers spoke, key messages were delivered, presentations were displayed, workshops run, discussions had and feedback captured.  We are now in the process of collating the materials for distribution and compiling the post-conference evaluation questionnaire.

What did I learn?

Sometimes a democratic approach isn't always the most effective - sometimes you have to take control and be very directive.  This may not always suit everyone, but management is not a popularity contest.  By the same token, it's important to acknowledge commitment and effort and to say 'thank you'!

There are more people and resources available to assist within our organisation than were immediately apparent.  Lots of people came up to me during the conference itself to ask why I hadn't asked for their help.  I didn't know that there was experience and resource which I could have called on.  Equally, good people and event management with your chosen venue is essential. The team at our venue were fantastic; they anticipated and reacted to our needs before and during the conference and helped make it the success it was.

Good audio visual support is essential and needs to be slick and unobtrusive.

Flexibility and adaptability before and during an event, thinking on your feet and making snap decisions is part and parcel of this kind of event.  That said, rehearsal of key points and speaker sessions would have prevented some slight hold-ups and resulting impact on timing.

What am I going to do with this learning?

I will organise a 'lessons learned' session with the Programme Manager and Planning Team, to capture their feedback and build into a resource pack/project plan template for anyone running future similar events.  This will also be informed by the feedback we get from the attendees via the online post-conference evaluation survey.

If I am organising any such event again, I will start the planning and get the fundamental arrangements - date, location, venue, speakers - made and booked as early as possible.

Also, now that I know it exists, I will not hesitate to ask for support and resource across the business as early as possible, get it booked and in place at the appropriate time and place.
I will ensure that any and all audio visual provision is of the highest standard and reliability.

Finally, I'm going to be very careful about what I volunteer for in the future!

Friday, 21 June 2013

Recent Reflection #1 - An Opportunity

This is the first of the promised "quick and dirty" blogs arising out of my previous blog Reflection? I don't have time for reflection wherein I undertook to blog more often and more quickly, on three different topics.  This blog captures my quick thoughts on a recent personal management development opportunity at work. 

What did I do?

I recently took over resonsibity for the delivery - and the team leadership - of our Management Development training and, in doing so, amalgamating the MD Training team with my small Learning Technologies team at the same time.

This is as a result of a temporary (18 months) reorganisation of our HR leadership team responsibilities, to enable each of the HR Heads to to focus our efforts on better supporting the organisation's key strategic objectives.


What did I Learn?

By meeting with the MD Team Leader regularly and speaking with each of the team members individually, I have learned that there is a wealth of knowledge, talent and enthusiasm in the combined team. Individually and collectively, they have expressed excitement and/or interest in exploring how we can deliver a relevant and effective learning programme in support of the strategic objectives - by working and training smarter - and in further developing their skills to be able to do so. 


What am I going to do with this learning?

Both teams bring with them a previously agreed set of objectives and a delivery plan, which has to be honoured while we finess the integration into one cohesive team, the upskilling - where necessary - of the individual team members therein and we identify the 'quick win' opportunities to develop and deliver learning that's relevant and accessible to the business.  I will lead the team quickly through this forming/storming period, ensuring that everyone is engaged and empowered to participate and collaborate.  I will carefully manage my own workload and calendar and ensure that I pay attention to my own health and wellbeing during this period as well as monitoring that of the team. By the end of the calendar year, we will be 'normed' and performing.

P.S: On another 'lesson learned' note, I previously updated my social media feeds about my new responsibility in such a way that it could have been interpreted that I had been promoted at someone else's expense, and this led to some awkwardness for another colleague and some guidance for me from my own line manager.  I am pleased to say we have cleared the air around this and I have clarified the temporary nature of the reorganisation. I learned to be more sensitive to the impacts of discussing internal matters externally where there may be ambiguity, and I will self-check more attentively before posting in the future - this blog being part of that process.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Reflection? I don't have time for reflection!

Or do I?  I've been a bit quiet on the social media and blogging front recently, due mainly to work and other professional activities, some of which mean significant change and others, working out of my comfort zone, but with a high profile.  As a result, I've been pretty much 'full on' and haven't found - or made - the time to sit back and reflect on impacts, lessons learned or, indeed, just to 'be' in a quiet place.

So this blog is my statement of intent to do just that - to make the space to reflect on recent activities and to look for the learning, links and opportunities arising from three separate events. I will write several quick blogs - one on each - using a model I like, and a concluding blog which will pull it all together. This is also an opportunity for me to practice something which I previously identified as an area for development - blogging faster and more often.

For consistency, I'll use the model of:

1. What did I do?
2. What did I learn?
3. What am I going to do with that learning?

So I invite you to challenge me if you do not see some quick and dirty blogs over the next couple of weeks, reflecting on a) a management opportunity at work, b) organising and running our internal HR conference in Manchester and c) speaking in the Design Challenge session at this week's Learning and Skills Group Summer Conference at Olympia in London.