Category Archives: Learning


Getting Serious About Continuous Improvement

Just read a couple of papers on learning and development evaluation:  a  2010 article from McKinsey that started only 8% of organizations actually evaluate the value of their learning and development programmes and  the recent CIPD  2012 learning reviews that indicated theta evaluation was the number 1 priority for learning  and development professionals in the UK.  I must admit I got a ere are 3 main reasons why this is a hot topic issue for me.
Firstly it has been a source of exasperation for many years that the data that L&D collect is usually low level and not particularly influential for key stakeholders. Smiley sheets (heavily dependent on feeding the trainees well) never has and never will  cut the mustard by itself. Why do we use it so much well there is a benefit to collecting some initial  reaction and learning feedback but if we are honest we do it because it is easy and our stakeholders are not asking for anything else at the moment.

Coming to my second point 2 and what is worse is that all too often there has been little thought on designing in evaluation at the front end. This can have a huge positive effect on the overall design. Questions like how will we encourage and measure learning application? are great questions to consider at the design stage. Come to that, understanding what impact you hope the initiative to have before you design it is pretty useful too.

My last point is about continuous improvement and evidence based change. If you evaluate effective a programme you empower yourself to improve it. We have a working rule of thumb that the minimum improvement you should expect in year2 of a programme is a 20 % improvement.

The reality is that even with the most successful programmes the potential upside on improvement is often significantly larger  than that.  Designing in evaluation allows your programmes to evolve and improve over time isn’t  that better than throwing away the programme every 3 or 4 years and starting again or maintaining it as a “sacred cow” that has less impact each year?

Evaluation is a practical and systematic way of adopting and executing a solutions orientation.  If we are not doing that we are simply scattering seeds in a field ( paid for by someone else)  and and hoping some of them will grow. You might perhaps call that a “Spray and pray strategy”

Why not give us a call to set a complimentary coffee and white board session with one of our Leadership consultants. You set the agenda (and supply the coffee) and we’ll bring some good collegial discussion and an idea or two why not contact us right now?

Back to leadership by design home
Back to leadership by design home


Staying Cool Under Pressure

Welcome just thought we would whet your appetite with an excerpt from a new article Graham co-wrote with Ruth Donde from the Neuroleadership Group for Employment Today .

We wrote it with leaders in mind for a couple of reasons. Firstly resilience is a critical trait for leaders  and secondly leaders are well positioned to support others in fostering their own resilience.

It is entitled “Staying Cool Under Pressure “

Consider the common descriptions of doing business today: massive change, unpredictability, uncertainty, volatile, chaotic, adversity, disasters, disruption, restructure, reorganising. Does ‘business as usual’ exist anymore? In the UK, the estimated annual cost to business of stress-related mental health problems is a staggering $56 billion. In the US, this is estimated at more than US$300 billion per year.

Expose two or three people to a similar situation and it is likely they will ascribe different positive or negative meanings to the
situation. A “motivating challenge” for one might be a “source of anxiety” for another. So a big component of our feelings of stress
and anxiety lie within us, not outside us. It all comes down to the meaning we add to events. These individualised differences in thinking styles have been highlighted as key in influencing our resilience and reactions to pressure.

Key learning for many leaders our brains are different and people create different meanings to their experience. This means we have to check in more with others rather assuming they “get it. “
In his recent book Your Brain at Work, David Rock summarised breakthrough findings emerging from neuroscience about how we
experience the world moment to moment. It turns out that we have two distinct ways of experiencing the world. There is a ‘narrative’
circuitry and a ‘direct experience’ circuitry For most people, the narrative circuit is active far more of the time. This is our default network—when we are not actively doing something our mind wanders to what has happened in the past and what we need to do in the future. We ruminate, daydream and plan.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the narrative circuitry unless it becomes skewed towards the negative. In this case, we can be persistently undermining and disempowering ourselves with negative self-talk leading to
feelings of sensitivity and anxiety. This is the classic example of how our thinking affects our mood, and unfortunately the
impact doesn’t stop there.

When people feel threatened or anxious, then the limbic system of the brain is triggered in an intense way. A strong negative limbic
response is also known as ‘amygdala hijack’, or the fight/flight threat response. In this response, our motor functioning increases. This
means that anything that requires strength or speed (like running or defending ourselves) we can do better under a threat response.
That’s the good news.

The bad news is that when we experience a threat response, the following happens:
• Our field of view reduces;
• Our cognitive capacity drops as resources are pumped away
from the pre-frontal cortex (PFC) and into the motor function;
• We have significantly fewer insights; and
• We err on the side of pessimism and are more likely to treat
other people as threats.
So you can see that a strong negative limbic response is good for  physical tasks and not good for thinking.

Leadership insight: When people are under pressure they find it hard to think straight leaders need to try and influence peoples emotional state in order to have influence with them

So whats the answer I hear you ask?

Check out Employment Today for the full article of course

Alternatively you can find a full link to the article on our resources page.

learning survey

2012 UK Learning Trends Survey

Just in case you missed it, the 6 monthly UK Learning Trends Survey from GoodPractice was released a month or two ago.This survey of 250 Learning and Development professionals  provides a  UK sector learning and development pulse check.

I always wonder how survey results would vary if it included stakeholders outside learning and development. Nevertheless it tells us something about the mood and perceived priorities in the UK and we might be able to make come connections with the New Zealand economy.

Key survey findings included

A continued focus on Leadership Development

When considering the most critical areas of L&D focus for the next six months, leadership development remains the most important area of focus at 45%. Although leadership development continues to be ranked above all other issues, the gap between it and the next most critical issues (namely management performance, performance management and talent management) has closed. For example, the development of middle and senior management, talent management and performance management initiatives have all seen a renewed focus. These three areas are ranked equal second in terms of importance at 35%.

Check out our free 22 page E Book Leadership Strategy Demystified here

Organisational efficiency should still be your primary driver

Maintaining organisational efficiency remains the primary driver for L&D, ranked above all other issues at 67%. This emphasis on efficiency demonstrates a more commercial, results-driven approach to learning provision. Given the challenging economic conditions, the pressure on L&D to provide value and be cost-effective is now central to its very existence. This focus on organisational efficiency demonstrates a move towards a more commercial, results-driven approach to learning provision.
Don’t ignore social media

The latest Learning Trends survey highlights the expanding role played by social media across the L&D landscape. 56% of learning managers predict an increase in the use of social media tools in their L&D solutions in the coming six months – an increase of 10% from the previous survey. As interest in, and demand for, social media to support learning gathers pace, L&D’s role should be about encouraging the use of relevant social media tools to ensure they have a positive impact on the overall learning experience.

A greater emphasis on informal learning

In the survey, 57% of learning managers highlighted increased budget support for informal learning – an increase of 10% on the previous survey. More organisations are beginning to identify and harness the benefits of informal learning. As traditional, face-to-face learning delivery comes under pressure from financial and efficiency perspectives, informal learning has become more prevalent. It is unclear in the survey if this a deliberate strategic choice and or a symptom of cost constraints.
Overall the survey was upbeat about the emerging role of L+D in the next year which is a good thing. In a nutshell I think the survey tells us what we already know , make sure your activities  are strongly anchored in the business strategy, deliver a blended range of effective and efficient learning practices and opportunities and recognise the reality that most people learn most whilst being challenged on the job.
You can access a free copy right here

Not sure what you might need to develop your leaders business impact or how to unlock a teams potential  ? Well we are happy to offer you a free no obligation white board and coffee session to help you get clearer on your questions and possible solutions. Click here to contact us