The Lean Start Up Approach to L&D

L&D Lean Start Up

In our Agile software development organisation, new updates to software are released and integrated into products every three weeks. This means that the pace of change, and the need for short, sharp pieces of learning is critical, especially for the contact centre staff, who are the customer facing staff relaying information to clients. The pace of change, makes it difficult to predict call volumes in the contact centre, which poses challenges for a number of reasons:

• Cancellation of training due to call volumes
• Technical training is prioritised over communication skills training
• Inability to schedule staff off calls for longer than a couple of hours
• Constantly changing needs and skill development requirements of employees
• Design and development timeframes for delivering on training development projects mean that the identified learning objectives are inaccurate soon after the project has been scoped and development has begun.

Within my first weeks in my new role I realised that the traditional ADDIE L&D methodology was not conducive to designing and delivering value-add learning to the contact centre teams. And yet, there was so much work to do. Having worked for the prior 10 years in a large global organisation, the need for process, procedure and policy was something I needed to let go of. The relationship I had with ADDIE was too controlling. It was time for something new.

About six months ago, the CEO of our organisation brought a HBR article to our attention on the approach taken by on-line and tech start-ups in product development (The Lean Start Up). This article got me thinking… could I too approach my training development and design as a ‘product’ for stakeholders and internal clients? From this day, the acronym MVP (Minimum Viable Product) became a part of my vernacular and I ditched ADDIE to a ‘test-and-learn’ approach.

Achieving Timely & Accurate Outcomes Using Lean Start-Up

There are essentially four phases of activity within the methodology I have adopted; 1) the Idea, 2) formulating the Hypothesis, 3) creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), and 4) Delivering on the Product. At various stages of the model, you will need to decide to Persevere, Pivot or Perish. Below I have outlined the critical steps within each of the phases.

It is important to note that this model assumes that a training needs analysis has been conducted, or that a skill gap has been identified. No training can be designed without understanding the gaps. This analysis will form the basis for ideas on potential training activities that could potentially close these gaps.

L&D Lean Start Up
L&D Lean Start Up

So let’s start at the top with the TNA, and then enter the model from there:

1) Identify the learning gap through a TNA or other performance data. Understand the current challenges faced by the targeted audience.

2) Research ideas for activities and how they could potentially close the skill gap.
3) Document two-to-three ideas for activities and/or workshop design.

4) Create a hypothesis for how the activity/design will close the identified skills gap/s.
5) Pitch your ideas with stakeholders and people in your client group. Gain feedback in conversation only. Gain feedback from all levels – from senior leaders, managers, team leaders and front line. Seek input and contribution.
6) Review your concept. Based on Stakeholder and client feedback, assess the viability of persevering. If the feedback has validated your ideas or concepts, then persevere to Step 7. If the feedback has been indifferent, or negative, perish the idea and return to step 2. If, however you feel that your idea could be repositioned for a stronger learning outcome, then return to step 4 to pivot; tweak your concept and take your amended ideas back to stakeholders and clients.

7) Design a high-level one-hour concept workshop. Dedicate no longer than an hour to create an agenda to outline the structure and objectives behind each step. This should require minimal investment on your time and resources.
8) Run the high-level concept training session with stakeholders, managers/team leaders, subject matter experts and/or members of your target audience. Invite feedback and seek contribution and input. Did the concept float or crash? Decide: Persevere (continue to step 9), Pivot (return to step 4 and tweak) or Perish (return to step 2)?

Delivered Product
9) Design and develop the training. As a result of my concept workshops, I by now have a clear understanding of how my idea will impact the required learning outcomes. I also have a clear understanding of how the design of the training will flow, and how the learning objectives of the training design will transfer to the live environment.

10) Stakeholder agreement and sign-off. This is potentially the only ‘formal’ meeting with Stakeholders to review the content of the training and to gain agreement to the design and learning objectives of training.

The Benefits

There are multiple benefits to adopting this approach:
• Consultation and involvement
• Fluid and flexible
• Increased collaboration between L&D and the Business
• Buy-In and commitment from stakeholders and clients
• Increased business ownership and drive to deliver
• Improved stakeholder and client relationships
• Accurate alignment of activities to learning outcomes
• Speed of design and delivery.

Adopting Start-Up methodology in L&D design has enabled me to go to my clients with an idea or concept, and up front gain feedback on what will work for that business and what will not. It allows for content development that incorporates all ideas and input.

Given the amount of consultation involved, I have a clear understanding of what the challenges of the audience are, and what activities will translate into meaningful learning outcomes. The main point at which I would decide to perish is at the point at which I discuss my ideas at a conceptual level. Ideally, once I run my concept session and gain feedback, I persevere with integrating the ideas and concepts into the design of a workshop that effectively addresses the learning needs. At worst, I may need to pivot, revise and run any differences by my stakeholders or re-run a concept session.

Stakeholders and client groups are involved in the development from end-to-end. This involvement has increased the level of buy-in and commitment to the success of the roll-out strategy. It has further assisted to embed the 70-20-10 model of learning. Client groups are clear on the learning outcomes delivered in the sessions (they have helped in the design), and coach to these once learners return to their roles.

Finally, the concept session allows for all feedback and suggestions to be quickly integrated into the final workshop design and development. It has helped me gather input from multiple levels to understand the challenges of the business function and the roles. When leaving a concept session, I have been able to design a detailed draft the workshop or training design within the same day as running the ‘MVP’.

In conclusion

The pace at which organisations need to change to remain competitive in their respective markets, has forced me to review different approaches to adding more value to my clients, more often.

So I have put my seven-year relationship with ADDIE on hold. With a change in role, a new environment and culture, things just didn’t look promising between the two of us.

Mr Start-Up and I, we’re are in the early stages of a new relationship now. There is a lot to learn about each other, but things are looking promising. Where to from here? I am unsure, and I am definitely looking forward to exploring the potential and where it will lead!