No matter what new, cool tool, technology or approach organizations are buzzing about, success still comes down to how well the change they represent is implemented. Today time, budget and resources are all constrained, so successful implementation — getting to results quicker and sustaining them — is more critical than ever. As a result, implementation is becoming a core organizational competency, of the same importance as analysis, design, development and evaluation.
During the last 50 years, fueled by innovations in computers and microchips, several new learning technologies have been introduced that were initially hyped as revolutions in learning: computer-assisted instruction (1960s), interactive video disc (1970s), computer-based training, interactive multimedia (1980s), Web-based training, synchronous and asynchronous e-learning (1990s), and learning 2.0 (2000-plus).
Today, two of the most prominent learning technologies that can drive learning efficiency, effectiveness and impact are social media and mobile devices. Humans have the natural ability to communicate and are biologically programmed to be social, so these technologies represent some of the most powerful tools yet created because they take advantage of these traits. Now that learning is more social, its potential impact is greater. It has often been said, “Two minds are better than one.” What will be possible with hundreds or thousands of minds?
At the same time, there are powerful technologies that can be carried in hand, and connected to a worldwide wireless infrastructure providing 360/24/7/365 access to digitized versions of the world’s information and knowledge. This is creating a shift to work anywhere, which is driving acceptance and increased use of mobile learning and support.
It’s About Changing Faster
An organization’s success, if not survival, depends on its ability to ensure the right people have the right skills and are doing the right jobs with the right attitudes right now. Many organizations are changing their business priorities from cost reduction and efficiency to innovation and impact. Learning leaders’ focus is also changing from developing and deploying efficient learning programs to creating and implementing integrated learning and performance solutions to produce immediate and measurable business results.
This change in focus from programs to integrated solutions puts a greater emphasis on immediate on-the-job performance through the rapid transfer of skills and knowledge as well as the development of attitudes and behaviors. It is no longer good enough to just create a stand-alone course or program and hand it off to the business. Increasingly, learning leaders are being called upon to partner with organizations to plan for, design, develop and then implement solutions that ensure business results are achieved. The key to successfully implementing any technology-enabled solution is mastering what many experts call “people issues.”
People are at the center of any type of organizational change, but not all change is the same, and therefore different models must be considered to ensure change initiatives are successful.
When it comes to large-scale organizational change, John Kotter’s eight-step model, described in his book, Leading Change, is one of the most widely used. But even Kotter understood this was not the end-all of change management. He wrote, “Many interesting questions were left unanswered, especially about how people more specifically achieved what was described in the book.” Kotter’s eight-step model does offer a framework to orient change management activities for large-scale change.
However, implementing operational business solutions, supported by technology-enabled learning and support programs and tools, is not truly large-scale organizational change. When it comes to implementing these types of solutions, organizations have come to rely on some version of one of the two industry standard instructional design and performance improvement methodologies: ADDIE (analysis, design, development, implement, evaluate) or HPT (human performance technology).
In the ADDIE model, implementation typically refers to the effective and efficient delivery of instruction, in whatever modality. Practitioners generally focus their activities on project management and logistics rather than change. In the HPT model, implementation includes aspects of change including activities to increase use of new behaviors, technology, standards, values and how to produce the desired results. However, too often organizations find they lose momentum around implementation, as these activities are difficult and time-consuming.
Given the type of change a technology-enabled learning solution represents, a systems-based approach to implementation that draws on principles of change management and communications, consumer marketing and psychology, and organizational dynamics can be effective. An accessible, scalable and flexible tool that defines a clear path to follow with defined activities, timetables and resources can be used to plan, monitor progress, make adjustments, evaluate results and ensure adoption.
This type of systems-based approach, called the I3 Change Implementation Model, addresses the three aspects of change implementation — awareness, engagement and commitment — by leveraging what we know about human mental processes and behaviors (Figure 1). When confronted with the type of change a new technology-enabled learning solution represents, the No. 1 question on a person’s mind is often “What’s in it for me?” The process each person uses to answer that question is different, however. Some people first seek to understand the “what, why, how, who and when” while others just want to get in and try it out, and get answers to those questions later. But, regardless of which approach is used, all people need to have reinforcements to ensure new skills, knowledge, attitudes and behaviors become internalized.
Information and awareness activities provide audiences and stakeholders with answers to the what, why, how, who and when questions around a particular technology-enabled learning solution. They also provide the answers to the “What’s in it for me?” question. It’s important to use various tools and activities to communicate the features and benefits as well as the solution’s value for each individual as well as the organization as a whole. The goal is to make sure the messages that need to be heard are heard, and are heard in ways they will be recognized, recalled and remembered. Examples of specific activities include: newsletters and presentations, emails and webcasts, websites and documents, town hall-style meetings and briefings.
For this type of new learning solution to be successful, there likely will need to be a change in attitudes and behaviors as well as skills and knowledge. For this to happen, solely receiving information or even marketing communication tokens such as pens or T-shirts is not enough. The goal is to ensure at least the key influencers or early adopters in each of the stakeholder groups have some form of direct experience with the solution; they need to become involved and engaged. These early adopters were first defined by Everett Rogers in his book Diffusion of Innovations and then later popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point. These early adopters represent the 20 percent of each stakeholder group who will then drive the change throughout the entire group. It’s important to provide these individuals a first-person experience of the solution. Examples of activities include: videos and online demos, department meetings and briefings, lunchroom fairs and hallway expos.
The long-term success of any technology-enabled learning solution depends on how soon it becomes fully integrated into stakeholders’ work life and the organizational culture. It is important to ensure the solution becomes an element of the new normal, an integral part of the ongoing organizational processes and systems it is targeted to impact and not something tangential. Examples of activities include: integration with the performance management process, linkage to key business targets, and integration with organizational processes.
“When all is said and done, success is defined by how easy the solution is to use, and the quality of the implementation,” said Tamar Elkeles, chief learning officer of Qualcomm. To ensure the quality of this type of change implementation it’s important all stakeholders are truly ready, willing and able. Here are seven tips for learning leaders:
Ready: Systems and Structures:
1. Technology-enabled learning solutions require support from IT. Regardless of the development team’s technical competence, a strong relationship between the two is vital.
2. User interface and system design are critical. Thanks to the prevalence of smartphones and social media, not only does a solution need to be easy to use technically, it needs to make sense operationally to increase the chance of adoption.
3. Address organizational issues such as work process, management systems and role definition to ensure a solution won’t be rejected outright. Look for ways to integrate the new learning solution into the organization to avoid work interruptions.
Willing: Hearts and Minds:
4. Front-line managers bring organizational policies to life and will make or break the implementation because they are responsible for delivering business results through their people, so they have the most significant stake in a solution’s success.
5. With organization-sponsored and personal social media tools readily available, look for ways to highlight successes and address mistakes and mishaps. Closely monitoring social media sites during the implementation can be a real-time gauge of attitudes and highlight areas that need immediate attention.
Able: Heads and Hands:
6. No matter how easy to use the solution is, some learning is required. There needs to be a system in place to ensure all stakeholders learn how to use the specific solution within their work processes to get work done more efficiently, more effectively, or both.
7. Whenever possible, use the same technologies that drive the learning solution to provide just-enough and just-in-time learning and support.
Learning solutions, no matter how brilliantly conceived, designed and developed, or how social or mobile or technology-rich, do not implement themselves. Successful implementation requires people to change — workers, managers and executives — one at a time.
Lance Dublin is CEO and chief solution architect for Dublin Consulting. He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.
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