Learning Paths International Blog
How to Get Your Employees Up-to-Speed in Record Time
Comments Off on Reducing Time to Proficiency: Big vs. Small Company?
Category: Instructional Design, Learning Paths

"learn" written on blackboard with apple, books

Reducing time to proficiency is an important and highly effective way to improve results while driving down the cost of training. I’ve done this type of project in companies with more than 500,000 employees and less than 5. Both size companies can benefit greatly, but the projects are different. Large companies have a lot of stuff and a lot of infrastructure. There is often a lot of measurement and historical data to work with. Having enough training is not usually the problem.


These projects are more of a process of getting things in the right order, getting rid of what doesn’t add value and structuring the informal coaching and mentoring. Because there is so much stuff to work with the low hanging fruit is everywhere.


Small companies usually have little or nothing to work with. It’s more of a blank slate. The approach is usually not to start building a lot of training, but rather to look for what might exist in places like colleges, associations or online. This training is then arranged and structured with all the informal on-the-job training and coaching required.


The trick with large companies is to get them to accept a change in focus and approach from curriculums and competencies toward Learning Paths and proficiencies. The trick with small companies is to give them enough support when they lack internal expertise or resources. Keep in mind that these projects are about improvement and not problem solving. This means you can start with a baseline and drive to the next level and then when done drive to a higher level.

Tags: curriculum, design, instruction, learning, learning path, proficiency, training
Comments Off on The Secret to Rapid Instructional Design
Category: Instructional Design

MatchesI’ve been doing instructional design for more than 30 years, I will tell you with certainty that there is no technology or design model that will speed things up faster than avoiding those things that slow it down. When an executive says, we are going to move that new training program to 2nd quarter next year, that’s a lot of wasted time to make up. While there are a lot of things that slow down development, I want to give you my top 3.

1. Starting at the Bottom

Fast development requires the active support and participation of a high level project champion who can write a check if needed and dedicate people’s time to a project. When a designer asks a subject matter expert to participate in an interview, the SME might not get back for three weeks.  If the president merely makes a suggestion if the SME would be willing to participate, that SME is on your doorstep the next day. This is the difference between development in a few weeks versus development sometime this year.

2. Staring at the Blank Page

Blank page development takes forever. There are a lot of decisions that can be made in advance to get things going in the right direction. Just a few include: selecting and using a design model, developing a template for every deliverable in that model, creating style sheets including those for writing styles, creating libraries of activities that can be reused. For example, if you start every instructor-led training session with a unit called Welcome and Introduction, 90% of that unit is the same. Even if you change up how students introduce themselves, this takes less than 20 minutes. There are standard ways to do role plays, case studies, and team presentation. I know about 6 good ways to do role plays.  I can simply drop one in. If it seems like you’re having the same discussions every time you do a project, you’re probably wasting time.

3. Stuffing the Goose

I didn’t make this term up, but I like it. You have to know how much training you can actually do in an hour, a day and a week. When you overstuff training, you end up having to remove it later, or rework it, or retrain it. If someone gives you 100 PowerPoint slides to make into a two hour webinar, what’s the likelihood that’s going to work. I really doesn’t take a lot of experience to know how long things take.  I mean is it reasonable to do three role plays with a debrief in 20 minutes? That’s an hours worth of training if you do it right. So it’s a lot faster not to do three days of classroom training when you only have a day.

Here’s the challenge for most instructional designers, do you think you can convince others that what they are doing is slowing things down to a crawl?


Tags: design, learning, model, repaid, training
Comments Off on Lessons from Travel Agent Training
Category: Instructional Design

JFK-terminal-mapI’ve spent a lot of the last year building training for new travel agents.  Most people when they start a program like this start to think about an outline what they think travel agents need to know.  They need to know geography, their computer system, airlines, hotels, sales, etc.  Then they arrange them in nice neat little boxes like a typical school curriculum.  Usually there are lots and lot of tests.

We decided that this is totally the wrong approach.  What we looked at was what makes a travel agent valuable to the travel agency owner.  What they really value is for a new travel agent to be able to generate more in commissions and fees than they pay to have the travel agent work for them.  We were then able to define the proficiency statements that lead to this outcome.  For example, most leisure agents book a lot of Disney vacations.  So it makes sense to devote a lot of time to teach and practice how to book and sell Disney.  We identified each of the other destinations or types of travel that make up the vast majority of what travel agents handle.

We also built in a lot of practice in a lot of different ways.  You can’t role play who Disney trip and think you’ve got it mastered.  It’s more like 20 to 50.  Maybe more.  Also the real test is not getting 75% on a multiple choice test.  It’s listening to and observing students to see how they use their skills and knowledge in actual sales situations.  This program is multiple weeks of training and it’s one of the most interesting that I’ve ever worked on.

Tags: instructional design, learning, training, travel
Comments Off on What’s the value of paper and pencil tests?
Category: Instructional Design

Some people do well on a test and poorly on the job while others do poorly on a test and out perform others on the job. It may be that we are testing knowledge and not testing performance. I often think we use multiple choice, true and false, fill in the blanks and matching questions because they are easy to score especially for a large group. These types of question is built into a lot of Elearning.  It often matches up with a series of PowerPoint slides.

Along with this, there is always the question about what is a passing score.  Is it 70%, 80%, 90%?  I’d ask the question a little different way. What percentage of what your testing isn’t important to get right?  When a customer calls with a question and they get someone who got 85% right on the test, what happens?  Is it okay to give the customer a wrong answer 15% of the time.  Hopefully customers will only call about the 85%.

Tags: learning, learning paths, percentages, questions, testing, training
Comments Off on Mastering On-the-Job Training
Category: Instructional Design

I’ve been working this week on building an exercise or demonstration of how to do on-the-job training.  What I came up with, is using the example of how to teach someone to make the perfect fried egg.  There are a number of reasons why I think this example works well. First, there actually is a standard for how to fry an egg.  If you went to any Michelin star restaurant, they all would describe the standard in the same way.  There is a certain way a perfect fried egg looks, tastes and feels.  There is also an absolute safety standard for a fried egg.  You can’t serve raw or partially cooked eggs.

Second, this is something that has a lot of technique and takes practice.  Learning how to properly crack and drop an egg, getting the temperature of the pan right, gas versus electric stoves, etc. are all things that take practice.  For example, if the temperature in the pan isn’t right the egg will burn or cook unevenly.

With this background, you have a lot of choices of how you are going to teach cooking the perfect fried egg.  I don’t think giving out a written description or an SOP is going to be enough.  Let’s test this assumption.  Here are the directions for 1 fried egg sunny side up.

  1. Use an 8″ Tephlon or cast iron pan.
  2. Heat the pan on a medium heat.
  3. Heat 1/3 tsp of butter or oil until it just starts to bubble.
  4. Crack one egg into the center of the pan.
  5. Reduce heat to low.
  6. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the white is fully cooked.
  7. Season to taste.
  8. Remove with a spatula and put on a plate.

Okay, now go try that and see how you’ve done.  I would bet on anyone’s first try, we are going to get a lot of broken yokes, burnt edges, and uncooked whites.  Some will have given up and made their eggs over easy. (flip them over to cook the whites).

What’s missing is being able to see what a perfect egg looks like, watching how it’s done and getting practice with coaching.  It’s even missing a demonstration of what a perfect egg should taste like a feel like.  I’m not sure how many times you need to practice frying an egg to get it right, but I’m sure it’s more than 1.

I’ve assessed a lot of classroom training over the years for things like sales training.  It’s rather common for someone to teach a sales skill and then practice it with one or two role plays.  Then they wonder why no one can use that skill on the job.

How about a nice video.  Now that you’re hungry.  Let’s cook a steak.  After watching Gordon Ramsay show you how, do you think you can duplicate what he’s showing you?

Easy right?

Well I think this can make an interesting demo and get the point across about on-the-job training.



Tags: demo, fried eggs, learning, learning path, on-the-job, training
Comments Off on How to Put Together a Great Workshop in Record Time
Category: Instructional Design

Rapid development of training is becoming more and more important as the speed of business increases.  However, a lot of training seems to take forever to develop.  I’ve worked on a lot of projects over the years that have take six months to a year to develop and launch a single workshop.  I’ll tell you truthfully that is should take even a fraction of that time.

I’m considering writing a book and launching a workshop on this subject.  It would focus on 7 to 10 key ideas and techniques that can significanlty drive down development time and of course cost.  Before I do this, I’d like to see what the training and development community thinks about this.  So here’s my one question survey I’d like everyone to answer:

What do your trainers and instructional designers struggle with most when building and launching a workshop or seminar?

Tags: instructinal design, training, workshop
Comments Off on The Missing Link in Using Phone Scripts
Category: Instructional Design, Quality

Scripts are very popular with sales and customer service.  There is also a tremendous resistance to using scripts.  There is a very long and common list to the reasons people don’t want to use scripts, think they don’t work or think the do more harm than good.

What’s missing is that few people are ever training on how to read a script and fewer people actually practice them enough to get good at them.  There are people who can read the phone book and make it sound interesting and engaging.  However, most people read the most compelling story ever written and make it sound dull and boring.

Actors are training to read scripts.  There is a real technique to it.  I’ve never seen these techniques as part of training in a call center.  Actors know where to put the inflection, what to stress and where to put pauses.  Great actors can do this with a cold read.

But they don’t stop there.  They rehearse this script over and over until they get it just right.  When was the last time a call center class practice a script 50 times?  Actors do.

What also helps is to actually write scripts they way people actually talk.  When you take English you learn an expository style and not a narrative style.  Writing narration is a technique that comes from script writing for audio, video or theater.  It also requires hearing others read the script to see where they stumble with the language.

We’re considering offer some training from a professional and highly training actor and voice talent to help with writing and implementing scripts.  If you have any interest, let us know.  (learningpaths@gmail.com)

Tags: acting, learning, scripts, training, voice
Comments Off on What Really Makes Training Stick?
Category: Instructional Design, Learning Principles

I was listening to the book Sixkill by Robert Parker.  It’s the final Spencer book.  There was a very useful scene about how to make training stick.  Spencer is teaching his protoge’ Zebulon Sixkill, how to box.  He does a quick demonstration of a new move.  Zebulon says, “That’s a great move, I hope I can remember it.”  Spencer replies, “You don’t try to remember it, you repeat it until it become motor memory.  You won’t have time to think about it when you need it.”

So as you set out to train anything such as making a cold call, leading a team or making a presentation, how many repetitions are needed to eliminate the need to remember.  I don’t think one or two role plays are enough.

Tags: learning, learning paths, Learning Principles, measurement, training
Comments Off on 1000 to 1 Makes a Big Difference
Category: Instructional Design, Learning Principles

A lot of training theories are targeted on training an individual or small group.  That’s often why the conversation comes down to tailoring or customizing the training to the individual.  It’s also why there is a need to have a lot of instructors to keep class size down.

However, the game changes significantly when you need to train large numbers.  It’s not uncommon to train 500, 1000 or even more employees or students, often at the same time…. and there’s never an unlimited budget.

In a school setting the answer is always more and more teachers, more and more classrooms and more and more school buildings.  Even with all the new technology, that’s still the basic formula.  In a business setting, that’s usually cost prohibitive.

So what’s the answer.  I think you need to start by looking at what needs to be trained and determine what part of it doesn’t require individual attention or one-on-one coaching.  You could also look at what part of the training needs to be the same for everyone.  Most content delivery fits this category.  Here’s an example:

I was thinking about teaching history the other day.  I actually have a degree in history.  I can’t think of any lecture by any teacher that I can remember anything about.  I can however, remember the details of the dozens of history channel shows I’ve watched.  There’s something to be said for professional talent and production values.  So instead of having thousands of history lectures delivered every day, (all different) they could be done better and cheaper with programming like the history channel.  Now the teachers could do follow-up discussions and analysis instead or assign and follow-up on projects.

So how would you handle 1000 students without an unlimited budget?

Tags: education, history, learning, schools, steve rosenbaum, training
Comments Off on Ah..If We Could Only Train Customers Instead
Category: Instructional Design, Learning Principles

One of the problems with sales and customer service training is that we can only have control over one side of the conversation.  You can craft the best opening lines, set of questions or answers to objections only to find that customers can react wildly different.  Take something as simple as starting a cold call by asking the customer, “how are you?”

One customer might respond with a friendly, “Thank you for asking.  I’m great how are you!”  While another customer might answer, “Why do you want to know?” or “what are you selling?”  Appearantly one of these customers didn’t go through training.

On the other hand, some customers have been through training and know what you’re trying to do.  Ever hear a customer say, “Nice trial close. Why don’t you answer my question instead?”

One thing that happens a lot is that salespeople learn something new in class and then they try it out with their first customer.  If it goes well, they might try it again.  If it goes badly, they often say, “Well, that doesn’t work, I’m never going to do that again.”

Take a popular model like SPIN selling, really a pretty good question asking model.  Now try it on a customer who doesn’t understand some of the words your using, or isn’t listening or is mad about something else and it doesn’t work well at all.  What do you do when you ask your best closing question and the customer says, “What..oh..I was thinking about something else.  So what are we talking about.”

So in desiging sales training, it’s important to account for a wider range of situations with a lot more practice.  Or..you can just put your customers through training.

Tags: closing, learning, obections, Sales, sales training

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