Archive for October, 2006

Converting Powerpoints into podcasting


Before… you say… “Oh, the Horror!”

Please wait.

 Yes, it’s been my grail lately to find a way to effectively publish Audio Enabled Powerpoint presentations into podcasts. You’re probably thinking, “What the ____ for?! Aren’t we over-fed with meaningless bullets, and hours upon hours of ridiculously dry project updates? Why are you trying to make podcasting just as tortuous?”

To be fair, I’ve always tried to include as much visual stimulation in presentations in the form of either illustrations, maps or animations.  I would be doing the same for the podcasted presentations… I’m just trying to find a simple and a cheap way of translating these presos to a format that’s easily portable and downloadable.

In my latest efforts… I found the following post:

However, I was disappointed to find out that my version of Powerpoint doesn’t have the movie publishing feature he’s talking about. So it’s back to the drawing board. Maybe the bottom line is… you just can’t do much with Powerpoint other than create traditional presentations and at the most Breeze presentations.

However, I’ve found a few interesting sites that I”m going to add to my list of presentation ‘nutrients.’

More Powerpont Resources: How to make presentations that don’t suck

Training departments’ self-loathing and Supplication

I wish we could grow some _ _ _ _ _!

I have this recurrring nightmare that I’m on a team where everyone else defers to the dominant individual in the group rather than offering forth their own opinions, but then again I also have this dream that I’m escorted into a room with two men from HR dressed in clown outfits who then cheerfully let me know that I’ve been laid off.

However, I work in the training field in a large engineering-based corporation. Both dreams at some point are bound to become reality.  I’ve observed this rather unsettling tendency of training organizations within our company to agree completely with the needs of the customer and give them exactly what they want or feel comfortable with in terms of training interventions. In our case, this often takes the form of printable hand-outs, job aids, powerpoint slides, linear simulations (when the process being trained is not linear).  

In my experience here, proposals to use training solutions  that are slightly new and out of the ordinary are usually rejected, especially if they require a little more resources and more time, thinking and involvement from the organizations and trainees. Their expectation often is that “Training will teach them exactly how to do something,” and not how to work with the tool  or process or effectively make decisions on how to troubleshoot.  The are more interested in having tangible items like a job aid or desktop manual rather than being taught “how to fish on their own.”

More, good training requires detailed information and interviews of subject matter experts on the process.  This requires time that SAP developers, and project members often are not willing to give.  Time is always an issue. If they even decide that they can afford the luxury of even having training, training usually gets the table scraps of time and resources.

And I can only think that they (THEY = the project team, the application developers, the business analysts, the content experts, the stakeholders) believe the following about training:

  • Training is so simple to develop, anyone who can draft up a step action table can develop training
  • Training is an afterthought that happens after we crank out the design, so the time needed to give to training is expendable when it comes to dealing with problems in the design*
  • Training isn’t that important, it’s the application
  • Yet at the same time…. training can be used to mitigate the flaws in the design (!@%$!)

*Which in my opinion is why they should heed the suggestions of the HFE (Human Factors Engineer)

But in all honestly, I feel that we here within haven’t truly put forward a good case for what these folks are missing when it comes to understanding the importance of good training. We tend to bend over backwards to give them what they want because we don’t want to be perceived as difficult, uslessless and therefore targets for downsizing by clowns.

Part of me believes that this is a vicious cycle, and we’re (Training) acting out a self-fulfilling prophesy around our lack of perception around our true value. Maybe it’s me, but instinctively it seems wrong to let others outside of yourself define your value, because that’s the first step to them assessing that you have none.

Earlier this year at a conference, I heard a very brave individual speak up and suggest that perhaps training groups need to take a stand and show their customers what happens when they don’t intervene…sort of like going on strike… but it’s kind of hard to refuse the demands of your patrons when they hold the pursestrings of your existence wound tightly around their hands. 

I’m going to start with coming up with a presentation that illustrates what happens if you skimp on training and point out some historical examples. It’s a start at least.

Elements of knowledge management

A while back I translated an image from Marc Rosenberg’s book “Beyond e-Learning” for my group.   Our group embarked on an assignment to create a working knowledge Management system for our employees. 

Some of my lessons learned from this project:

  • Don’t focus on establishing a ‘formal’ system because the amorphous-ness of this concept is enough to freak out even the most open minded upper-manager
  • Set measurable and concrete goals for success
  • Determine and map out your group’s business process before you begin
  • Don’t just focus on documenting knowledge – focus also on connecting people within an organization as resources, experts and teachers

The illustration below lists the compenents of a system for “Learning Performance Architecture,” as identified by Rosenberg :

  • Classroom training
  • Online Training
  • Information Repositories
  • Performance Support
  • Communities and Networks
  • Experts and expertise
  • Mentoring and Coaching

I’ve kept this as a visual guide for what good healthy KM in an  should look like.   I also tried to pull examples from my world here at work of each of these elements. This model also illustrates how these elements classify as one of the following categories (Formal Training/Learning; Informal Training Learning; Workplace Learning)

If you look at the sum of the elements identified here,  it seems like a daunting task to accomplish all of this. Also, it seems like a hard sell to organizations who are both hierachical and traditional in nature, but that’s another can of worms that needs to be opened in a future post.


Mentoring and coaching: why bother with the touchy feely?

 Ever work in a group that had this attitude toward training?

  • “I can’t bother training someone new. I don’t have the time.”
  • “This isn’t my responsibility to help someone else learn their job.”
  • “My employees should be able to just learn their work on the job. That’s why I hired them.”

I’ve been asked too look at the possibility of implementing some type of implementation of a coaching/mentoring mini-program for a series of trainings. My first inclination and hunch told me that this type of program goes beyond just providing documentation and a package that can be passed on in an organization. It takes  the following:

  1. The organization has bought into the definition and cultural value of coaching and mentoring
  2. The organization much clearly identify the responsibilities of  both mentors and mentees to all parties, and these parties must understand and agree to these responsibilities.
  3. All particpants (mentors and especially mentees) must identify learning goals or job role mastery of tasks/procedures. Also, they must be held accountable for these goals order to track the success of the mentoring/coaching program.
  4. The organization takes ownership for holding identified mentors and mentees responsible for achieving their goals.

It was just a hunch because I was worried that speaking to the idea of mentoring was only paying lipservice to the idea, and actually accomplishing success with such a package.

After reviewing some resources on the topics of both coaching and mentoring, some of my initial hunches were verified.  A coaching program is more than just providing a buddy packet to a new hire and assigning him or her a buddy.  In order to be even moderately effective, any formal coaching, mentoring or buddy program must have the buy in and support of management and employees within a group.  This means that all or most members of the org must understand and believe in the benefits of coaching. Contrary to the sentiments expressed above, the following attitudes must somehow be engendered in both staff and and management:

  • “It’s our team responsibility to make sure new folks are brought up to speed.”
  • “Faster they get on the job the faster we get to move forward.”
  • “My employees are human, and humans need to learn from other humans.”

In most cases a coaching program is even more effective if management mandates participation.  To provide training to use buddy materials and just leave managers and employees to carry on, will not insure adoption of the program. Management has to send a clear message that when assigned a buddy both the coach and the buddy have expectations for integration success.

More, from understanding my own experience being a peer coach and work or being in a situation where I was being coached,  I learned that it’s important not only to have a personal connection with whomever is coaching you,  you need to have goals for learning skills set up. These goals can be part of your normal employee development plan.

In the world where I work, mentoring and coaching are often seen as ‘soft-skills’ training which is not essential to successful job competency.  I work in the world where “Concrete” is king. If you don’t have a list of measurable ROI for putting efforts into anything, then don’t bother.  I’ve been trying to find ways to creatively show and demonstrate that building these ‘soft’ relationships is key to achieving ‘productivity’ quickly.  However, I’ve come to the conclusion… that if the leader of the group doesn’t ‘buy it,’ then you’re in for an uphill battle all the way through.


The Mentor’s Guide: Facilitating Effective Learning Relationships. Lois J. Zachary (c) 2000. Jossey-Bass

Everyone Needs a Mentor: Fostering Talent in Your Organization.  David Clutterbuck (c) 2004. CIPD Enterprises.

Coaching Basics. Lisa Haneberg. (C) 2006. ASTD.

Improving Employee Performance Through Appraisal and Coaching, Second Edition. Donald L. Kirkpatrick AMACOM (c) 2005


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