Table of Contents:
Training and Development
Tools and Techniques
In this chapter there is a review of the many things we can do to help ensure the development of our organization. There are tools and techniques that can help the teams to grow and therefore the organization to grow. In fact these tools and techniques could be as simple as how we set about doing the work.
No matter what we choose to do, we need to ensure an environment of active learning. Active learning is not a defined process, but varying ways of teaching with the goal of actively engaging the individual in their learning. There are many more things than what we typically think of when we think of how we teach or train:
■ role playing
■ role modeling
■ discussions and debates
■ demonstration videos
■ guided practice
■ solo practice
Active learning puts the onus on learning directly where it belongs, on the student. To get to this point will require more than just a script that goes along
Figure 7.1 There are many ways to help encourage learning or create opportunities for learning.
with a slide deckd to training. An active learning environment encourages practice during the training in a place that allows for experimentation. This participative environment has no resemblance with a type of presentation. Lecturing to people is not the best way to encourage learning. This applies to anything from technical parts of project management and product development to what is often referred to, incorrectly, as the soft skills, those associated with people, motivation, and organization development.
There are a number of ways in which we can train our team members. Our organization may decide it is better to train internally, or externally. We may use direct or distance learning or some hybrid approach that includes elements of both. For events where a more formalized training is deemed required, the focus of the training should be very specific, with questions. No matter the approach we take to training, good on the job training will consist of:
■ demonstration of the method or behavior in pieces
■ guided practice with student and trainer
■ solo practice the student with review by trainer and post analysis
Figure 7.2 Training can take place in a conference room; the content and what happens in the room is much more important.
A good way to fail when applying training to improve an organization’s capabilities is to not have a solid grip on what is important to know. Objectives from any training should be specific and readily demonstratable at the end of the training, that is, the person undergoing the training has new behavior or new skills that they are able to apply. To ensure this, we must ensure that the individual leaves the class with these skills (more on that later).
Direct and Online
When we say direct, we are referring to training that occurs within a classroom or in the environment in which the subject of the training would typically take place. There is a subject matter expert, and there are students in one physical location. Direct has advantages: the instructor can see the faces and gage engagement of those in the training. Direct also has an advantage when there are mechanical or manipulation parts of the training, as in instruction on how things are assembled, with demonstration, guided practice, and then a review of solo practice. Sometimes direct is the only reasonable choice though it may be seen as more costly, [here are times, however, where the direct training can be reinforced with online material for post-training review, or when online training could also work.
With the lower cost and sometimes no cost shareware version of learning management systems such as Moodle  it is not necessarily an expensive proposition to have any internal or external training augmented with distance learning or supplemental material. Our organization may be dispersed and perhaps distance learning approaches are part of developing the competencies of our organization. Whether the material is developed in house or in the classroom, online material can help move what is known within the company to other parts of the company.
It is possible, and perhaps desirable, to bring the training of the organization into the company. The organization may have an internal department that is responsible for the training. In this way the training has a measure of repeatability, and who knows better than our team members, on what our organization needs to know. Every organization is different, the opportunities and risks to which the organization is exposed are different, even when the industries are common. Teaching and training are skills unto themselves, so our organization may wish to develop internal training to meet these needs. Internally developed training makes it possible for the organization to develop training that specifically meets the organization’s specific operations and operating environment.
Internally developed training will require not only expertise on the topic at hand, but also on the topic of what it takes to teach or train. We can solve some of this dilemma perhaps by make the use of any communities of practice that we have in our organization. Coupling this group with that part of our organization that has expertise in teaching and training could be fruitful.
However we proceed, the person training will be important to accomplishing the training. Some guidance is provided by George M. Piskurichd
■ Has-in-depth knowlege of content
■ Exhibits confidence in self and the process being taught
■ Is credible
■ Follows the trainer guide
■ Explains well
■ Understands the basics of how adults learn
■ Develops rapport with the trainee
■ Involves the trainee in the training
■ Can read body knowledge
■ Exhibits proper body language
■ Makes good eye contact
■ Listens well
■ Is receptive to trainee’s ideas
■ Checks for understanding with questions and by repeating trainee comments
■ Asks good questons and waits for answers
■ Is patient
■ Is flexible
■ Has no annoying verbal or non-verbal habits
Rapid Training Development (Team Members Train Team Members)
For in house rapid training development, it is appropriate to have some templated form to ensure the suitability of the training to meet the objectives of the organization. One such example of internal on the job training (OJT) can be found below:
■ Prepare trainee
■ Key learning points
■ Expected results
■ Work standards
■ Sequence of activities
■ Observation of trainee performance
Our interest is to quickly produce sufficient material to impart what is known to people that do not know. The training material need not be highly polished presentation material, in fact, this training can often happen without presentation material, depending upon circumstances.
Having taught businesses through technical schools in the United States, for example Rowan Cabarrus Community College, I have seen that this is a very cost effective solution for some training for the organization. There are times when the local government offers some subsidies for this training as part of the continuous development of the local or state workforce.
A company will be in need of some training for their employees and staff at-large and the community college, in conjunction with local subject matter experts on the topic, will work with the community college to understand the true need of the client, and then set about building training objectives and material to make that happen.
This is not a book about agile, but these approaches to the work have gained momentum over the years, having started out as the method of software development, but that is not the only place this approach applies. Agile focuses on the work rather than processes and seeks to set an environment that is conducive to turning the collection of individuals into, not only a team, but a self-directed, self-organizing team. The agile manifesto describes the priorities below:
■ Individuals and interaction over processes and tools
■ Working software (product) over comprehensive documentation
■ Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
■ Responding to change over following a plan:
Agile has a different approach to management as well. Rather than top down control of the work, the organization conducts business in ways to facilitate learning as well as the development of the team into a self-directed work unit.
In agile there is significant focus on team developing and learning along the way; there is recognition that the team does not know everything, and there needs to be time for team learning along the way. There will be time allocated along the way for improving the way the group works as well.
Not sharing failures means those failures will come back to haunt other team members, as they must learn about this failure by actually failing again. An agile saying is fail fast and fail often. This agile saying is used to encourage reacting to failure in a different way. Specifically, there should be no fear of failure, do not cover up the failure, but broadcast the failure so all can learn. However, taken to the extreme we may have a negative impact on the corporate culture.
Fail fast in the context of agile and from experience is to devise experiments in the work from which we can learn. These experiments should be of short duration so we can quickly learn and adjust. For example we have an idea for a specific design approach that we are not certain will work, we devise a quick experiment and identify specific measurements that will allow prediction of the success or failure of the approach.
The fail often portion of the saying is that we should be constantly learning, pushing the envelope and as such we run the risk of a string of failures, as we fail often and learn. To be clear, the goal is not to fail for the sake of failure. The work environment should be such that it is okay for failure to exsit and that fear of failure should not stop us from trying new things and learning. All of these require an environment wherein failure is not a disaster for the person’s work and career, and the team members are constantly exploring to find better ways to accomplish the work. However, a more cavalier interpretation of the saying may lead to some unintended consequences.
When leaders do not fully understand or appreciate a term, the result can have the opposite effect of what they wish to achieve. Worse, when we muddy the waters with language such as “fail fast, fail often” with what we intend, it can cause irreparable damage, particularly to organizational culture.
Daily Stand Up
Those familiar with the agile or scrum approach to working know that in these approaches the team comes together every day to discuss the objectives and actions to be accomplished or believed to be accomplished that day. However, this strategy need not be limited to project management work. In fact, I know of a manager of a large department that employed agile techniques in the context of the line organization. This manager saw a significant improvement in throughput as well as improvement in morale. Agile standup brings the team together every day to talk about those things upon which the team members are working. In these meetings progress on work objectives are constantly discussed, as well as those things that are impediments to their respective work objectives.
Figure 7.3 We share information and perspectives in the daily stand up scrum meeting.
These discussions reveal the problems or things not going according to the plan to the entirety of the team members. This allows the other team members to ask questions about the difficulty in the attempt to better understand the nature of this difficulty. Understanding the nature of the difficulty can raise ideas of how to meet the challenges from the rest of the team. There may be other team members that have the knowledge of the domain or specific problem attributes or possible solutions that can help, and this open discussion with the team encourages this exchange, mental model proposals, as well as uncovering underlying assumptions that may be exacerbating or inhibiting resolution.
Pairwise Learning (Spike)
Also, with scrum comes the approach to learning about things that the team does not know, both technically and functionally. This approach is called the spike. There are times when the work is beyond what the team may know. This is especially true when it comes to product development work. This lack of knowledge can take on a variety of causes; the difficult part is to recognize what is not known, and then find ways to understand and learn about what is not known. The starting point is to recognize that we do not know what is necessary to know to proceed. Thus, the first hurdle is to not delude ourselves regarding what we know or do not know.
Sometimes the reason for that disparity of what we know and what we need to know is because the team is missing some domain experience or knowledge, for example, some technology or process that up until this point upon which we have little or no experience. When this happens, we need not put at risk all the depending work or activities or objectives by attempting to proceed without learning. The next step is to identify specifically what should be learned. What is it we need to know, and to what degree? It is recognized that it is not possible to articulate this perfectly, because we do not know much about this, but there should be some guidance to those that will do the exploration. This framework for the exploration should be developed by the team members. This multiple perspective will help ensure that the exploration is successful, that is, bring back to the rest of the team answers to questions that have been raised.
The spike can be focused on technical uncertainty, or on the product from a feature or functional content of the product that the team has questions. Therefore, the talent that will be required to explore and understand the solution will vary. The decision on the scope of the exploration as well as who will be part of the exploration will originate from the team.
A defined objective or set of work results are accomplished at the end of the sprint. After this work has been completed, if this is a product, there will be a demonstration of the product to the customer. This provides an opportunity to learn about the customer’s needs for the product. Thus, this only applies to product development work. The retrospective is just like it sounds: we consider what we have just done to see if there is something better we can do. Is there a process change? Is there a team arrangement alteration? The team looks over their shoulder at the work that has just been completed to see how things can be made better, and what is discussed, or the focus is not dictated from a manager or an executive, but within the team.