Action mapping to improve L&D performance for the business

At the Learning Technologies conference leading instructional design consultant Cathy Moore spoke with a small group at the Learning eXchange. Jo Cook captures her comments

The Learning eXchange is an established tradition at the Learning Technologies, whereby conference speakers spend time on the exhibition floor at the Towards Maturity stand, discussing their content with a small group of interested people.

Cathy Moore spoke at the conference this year about Action Mapping, a process that she champions in order to help people with her mission of saving the world from boring training.

The Learning eXchange discussion started with Moore stating that in a lot of cases, “culture says throw training at the problem, but they haven’t defined the training; L&D have not been included in the strategy and are groping in the dark. People on my courses are saying ‘I can’t ask consultancy questions of my client’. I wish that leaders in L&D would step forward and say ‘we aren’t the course factory’.”

One of the Learning eXchange attendees asked “What if the course is well established, with lots of knowledge and leads to certification with a knowledge based assessment?” Moore responded, saying “you can look at the assessment and reverse engineer.

With this question, what real world behaviour is this addressing? If people do not want to let go of the knowledge test? Well… The test needs to go to a happier place! What behaviour is supported by this? If nothing, then get rid of it.”

The conversation turned to software tools recommended for Moore’s process of action mapping, which is about working with the subject matter experts and stakeholders in the business to understand the behaviours that are needed and why they are not currently present, before looking at a solution that may include training.

With regards software for helping to map out the information Moore said, “I’ve given up on everything else and I’m using Mind Manager now. It has its drawbacks, it’s not so good with children with more than one parent. Another good one for the geekier people is Compendium.

It’s interesting because you have multiple layers or courses addressing the same performance issues. You can’t send a client a compendium map and get them to understand it though.”

Catherine Dartnall, Director of GenLearn, said within the group “what appeals to me about Action Mapping is the visual element is to show the client.” Moore furthered the discussion saying “Here’s the map, it’s better than a 28 page document. The action maps are best done with the person writing the cheque and the subject matter expert. And very importantly, answering the question of why aren’t they doing it now?”

The question of tips for robust scenarios came up, which Moore is well versed in as part of her instructional design background. Moore suggested “make sure training will solve the problem. Use scenarios when there is enough of a grey area for making decisions, such as dealing with people and ambiguity and you need to make a good decision.

The best scenario is when you don’t know what the answer is and you have to go to the subject matter expert yourself. If you just follow a procedure or a tick sheet, you don’t need a scenario, if you have to make independent judgement, that’s when a scenario works.

Other tips include when people speak put it in quote to show not tell, provide a little back story as people don’t complain about reading when the text is interesting.” Moore also recommended that if you are an external designer that you need to get really involved in the project and speak to the learners and, if possible, go to their place of work.

A question from the group was what to do when struggling to change mindset to focus on the business goal, which is a key part of Action Mapping to ensure that the training or other intervention is going to make an impact on the business.

Moore said “get to know your business goals, Google something that people ask you, like leadership return on investment, they are probably measuring something like employee turnover, staff happiness etc. 

Don’t ask, measure. You could say that it will improve a lot of things in the organisation, what could be better? You need them to get something they already measure and get that number to you.

The thing is to get the L&D person brave enough to have the conversation, such as ‘I want to do the best job possible to get rid of you pain, I need to understand what the problem is’ as a statement. If you are narrowing down a goal it might be better leaders:  what do they need to do?

You might notice a pattern and might see that it is measurable. There can be challenges, are measures a fear of failure? Businesses might not want to commit to goals. So make them smaller and related to the training. You can also use before and after surveys to measure reactions.”

In the group Darryl Howes, Managing Director at DDNS Consulting, brought up the subject of freelancers developing their brand. Moore said that “writing clearly and concisely is a skill (and I did a course). Practice boiling it down to the most succinct message and look up readability scores.” Howes recommended a Future Learn MOOC Introduction to Journalism from the University of Strathclyde.

Moore continued with regards brand to “focus on more business or marketing writing, not L&D. If you want to do performance consultancy work, position yourself as doing the fun performance consultancy stuff, not ‘look at these courses’. So many portfolios are ‘look at these slick things I made.’

There’s nothing about strategies or solutions or reasons behind why it was developed. I learned in marketing to attract good customer and repel the bad customer. If you want to charge a lot, have a site that looks like you charge a lot, a good website is worth the investment.”

With regards writing Moore recommended “jump in and do it. Set up a blog. Don’t promote it if you’re nervous. As people find your blog they will agree with you.”

Moore continued that brand and authenticity was important with regards the marketing of services and finding the good customer as some customer may think that the freelancer’s brand was not a good fit for their work. Moore finished by saying, “People who write more simply are considered more credible.”

You can be involved in the conversation with a Learning Technologies conference speaker at next year’s event, it is a free space to book and nearer the time you can reference the Towards Maturity website to find out more information.



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