An Old Coaching Framework Comes Good in a New World

In my current role as an instructional designer on a transformation project, the business has undergone radical change in the recent months. In the past, teams completed processes they had been doing for years and were subject matter experts in their own areas. When something didn’t work, they created their own ‘fix-it’ approach that may have worked well in their own team but they didn’t understand or consider the impact downstream. As a result, there was a lot of duplication, re-work but also redundant processes simply because that’s how they used to do them. Enter an organisational restructure and the teams have now been thrown into an uncertain future where analysis has shown where improvements can be made in the processes. The organisation has reduced the teams, streamlined the processes and want the team members cross specialised to learn all the processes of their team.

What this means is that currently there are a lot of subject matter experts on the ground around on the various processes. They are usually the ones that others go to for advice, guidance and support around a process. The problem is that their coaching styles vary dramatically – some are good at communicating and instructing others on the job, others just don’t want to let go or share what they know and others are just plain bad at it simply because they never received any training.

So my role in this transformation project is to quickly cross-specialise people into their new roles – but the caveat is that there is no budget and that there is no facilitator-led training (as this learning solution has been removed due to the cutbacks of the learning and development department).

So that got me thinking about using workplace subject matter experts as trainers. Putting the responsibility of cross-specialisation out of L&D and into the Subject Matter Experts.

Many years ago when I was in the Royal Australian Navy, one of the subjects in our instructional design and development course was the ‘Job Instruction’ model. I recall that we had to teach a skill, process or procedure using this model which effectively teaches a learner to pick up the skill quickly and conscientiously.

At first, the trainer does the whole task in silence; they then chunk it down and explain each key point and the reason why they do it; they repeat the skill. They then get the learner in the role of the trainer, who explains it back to them. The learner is then given time to practice and followed up on. It was a great model and one in which made an immediate impact on me because of the ease at which the new skill was picked up on.

I recall that my trainer did his session on ‘How to Change a Car Tyre”. To this day, I’m thankful that he did this because he showed me how to do the process on one of my car tyres. I then followed suit by changing the second car tyre. He then had me practice on the third car tyre and assessed me on the fourth tyre. And then for good measure, when I went home that weekend and told me father about learning how to change the tyre, he told me to go outside and rotate all my tyres for good measure! So changing a car tyre is now ingrained in my memory.

This instructional skillset started out during World War II when many people had to be trained in necessary skills ready for the war effort in minimum time – it aligns perfectly to the situation I’m in now at this organisation.

I developed a short course on ‘Effective Coaching for Workplace Performance” where we teach the 5P’s of On-the-Job Coaching to workplace subject matter experts. The 5P’s are:

  1. Plan
  2. Present
  3. Perform
  4. Practice
  5. Prove

I will facilitate the first workshop to the first group in the transformation project and use the performance support tool and documentation for reference material only.

One of aside matters here is that the organisation considers the online performance support tool as the training. “Don’t worry about training – they’ll look up how to do it online”. This is dangerous. The performance support tool provides the ‘how’ to do a process but not the ‘why’ and so this coaching workshop was one way to get context back into learning and acknowledge the workplace coaches for their knowledge and expertise. Besides, if they all instruct at a consistent level, there will be no need for duplication or rework because they’ll be able to present the information in a manner that the learner picks up the skill instantly.

I will provide another blog post in a couple of weeks to let you know how it goes but it just goes to show that despite the instructional design principles being old – there are certain basics that you just need to have in your kitbag because they’re tried, tested and proven.

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About Activate Learning Solutions

Helen Blunden is the founder of Activate Learning Solutions and Third Place. She has over 20 years of experience within learning and development across private, public and not-for-profit organisations. With a specialty in performance consulting and networked learning, Helen believes that workplace learning is integral to business success. She has a passion for enabling people to learn beyond the classroom and believes in the power of networks and communities to drive collaboration and meaning within the organisation. From facilitator-led instruction, online and blended, Helen deploys social and informal learning such as enterprise social networking, collaboration tools and emerging technologies that have been proven successful and embedded workplace change.
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