Can we use training to motivate?

In my previous post, I showed a flowchart that could help you find the best solution to a performance problem. Thanks to your comments and questions, I’ve improved the chart to make clear two of my opinions:

  • Training is rarely the solution for low motivation
  • When training could help, it’s best to let learners become motivated through experience (decision-making scenarios) rather than preaching at them (presentations)

First, you might want to download the revamped flowchart. Here’s how the motivation bit looks now:

Motivation section of the action mapping flowchart

I’ve added a new loop that sends you back to the main analysis node because low motivation is usually a side effect, not a core problem. It’s often caused by one of the other three problems in the chart.

  • Environment: High pressure, a poorly managed organizational change, user-hostile software, heavy-handed management … these can all lead to low motivation. Training is unlikely to help, unless you can train away the environmental problem, such as by improving managers’ skills.
  • Knowledge: If the employees who do the data-entry drudgery for the TPS reports don’t know the painful results of their screwups, they’ll be less motivated to avoid errors. For example, we could show them that a rejected TPS record can mean that a client doesn’t get the check she needs to buy medication. If this is included in the results of a branching scenario that we’re also using to practice entering TPS records, then I’d be willing to call it training. However, if it’s just a finger-wagging exhortation divorced from any application, it’s not training in my book.
  • Skills: If I don’t have the skill to quickly and painlessly parametize widgets, I will dislike having to parametize widgets. Give me training!

When low motivation can’t be blamed on anything else

I’ve heard several reports of “lazy” workers. “They just don’t want to do it,” the client says. “They don’t care.” [Read more…]

How action mapping can change your design process

Happy action mapping users say that the model helps them create lively elearning. But would it fit into your design workflow?

Action mapping makes stakeholders work together to analyze the performance problem, commit to the same measurable goal, and agree to focus on activities rather than information. This can be a big change to the typical course development workflow.

Without action mapping:

  1. The client says, “I need a course.”
  2. You say, “Okay.”
  3. The client gives you a pile of content, the phone number of a subject matter expert (SME), and a deadline.
  4. You create a detailed storyboard or script, getting information as necessary from the SME. The structure of the information determines the structure of the course.
  5. The client and SME approve the script and you go into production.
  6. The course is made available and your job is done.

action mapping for instructional designUsing action mapping:

  1. The client says, “I need a course.”
  2. You say, “Great. Let’s get together to make sure we all understand what you want the course to accomplish.”
  3. You schedule a two-hour meeting in a space with a whiteboard or in a virtual meeting room where you can share a mind-mapping screen. You include the client, at least one subject matter expert, and possibly others from the table below.
  4. In that meeting, you identify your business goal and how you’ll measure success. You also identify the behaviors needed to reach that goal.
  5. As a group, you analyze why the behaviors aren’t happening, confirm that training will actually solve the problem, and identify how the training will be supported by managers, workplace changes, and other improvements.
  6. After the meeting, you work with the SME and possibly others to brainstorm and prototype practice activities for each behavior needed to reach the goal. Ideally, you test the prototypes on learners.
  7. You get approval for the prototypes from the client.
  8. You work with the SME and possibly others to identify the minimum information necessary to complete each activity and decide how it should be provided.
  9. You create a storyboard or script. The content has already been identified in the action map; you’re just filling in the details and arranging the material. The activities determine the organization of the course.
  10. The client and SME approve the script and you go into production.
  11. Once the material is being used by learners, you or the client begins measuring its impact, and you revise it as necessary.

The above list makes it look like action mapping takes longer, and it will take longer if you’re not doing much analysis now. However, the rest of the process can actually go more quickly than conventional course design. You save time by:

  • Not creating a course when it isn’t necessary or won’t help
  • Addressing only the specific behaviors that need to change
  • Excluding unnecessary information
  • Taking advantage of easily updated job aids
  • Designing activities that test multiple areas of knowledge at once
  • Creating tightly focused materials that don’t waste learners’ time

Who should be included?

The table below lists the four steps of action mapping and identifies who you might consider including at each step. The first two steps can often be covered in one two-hour meeting, if the client and SME are familiar with the learners and the performance problem.

One of the goals in action mapping is to identify what information needs to be memorized (put in the course) and what can be referenced on the job (put in job aids). Often, existing job aids are created and “owned” by someone in a different department. That person might be your SME, or they might be someone else. They need to be included in some of your planning to make sure the job aid can be used as you want, to approve any changes to it, and to offer their ideas about incorporating it into practice activities.

Step Client SME Job aid
Learner Graphics/Flash
1: Set goal Yes Yes Maybe No No
2: Identify behaviors & why they’re not happening Yes Yes Maybe No No
3: Brainstorm practice activities Approve prototypes Help brainstorm or at least approve prototypes Help brainstorm or at least approve use of job aid Provide ideas, feedback on prototypes Help create prototypes
4: Identify necessary info No Yes Approve use of job aid or changes to it Maybe, as tester No
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