Within a larger enterprise with thousands or hundreds of thousands of employees, it is very easy for people to be disconnected from one another and not realize the wealth of knowledge, skills and abilities available to them through their colleagues across the business.
Enterprise employees often find that there is significant distance, including geographical, hierarchical and siloed distance, between the person who has the knowledge or skills and the person who needs those knowledge, skills and abilities.
Being able to find the experts within a large enterprise is important to optimizing learning.
Well-conceived social corporate directories enable a person within the enterprise to find other people who can help with questions related to a particular industry, geography, part of the business, job role, skill set, technology, process, specific customer, etc.
Directory information typically includes the simple contact information–name, title, manager, department, location and contact information. But, there are organizations that have taken the directory a step further to enable employees to add information about projects they have worked on, languages they speak, lists of their skills with ratings of their skills, certifications and education, awards, patents, publications, full CVs, hobbies and much more. Typically this is part of a more sophisticated social intranet.
When such a directory is easily searchable, employees within the enterprise have the ability to more successfully learn from others throughout the business in a “pull” model.
Social technology helps to increase transfer of knowledge, skills and behaviors within the enterprise.
Some enterprise organizations have taken steps to reduce the time and virtual distance between subject matter experts and learners through adopting and promoting social platforms, as well as social intranets.
Common features of social intranets include:
- The ability for employees to set up communities of practice and communities of interest.
- The ability set up private and public work spaces.
- Social media capabilities, such as commenting, including people in conversation threads with @name
- Tagging and search of people, content and events
- Ability to share content with specific people
- Ability to “like” comments, content and events
- Modern mobile access to people, content and events
They provide an area for knowledge sharing and approaches to building skills. They provide bonds between people that can help encourage behaviors and inspire others in the group.
Reducing Learning Distance means optimizing the value stream.
Value stream mapping is a lean management method of looking at the entire flow of value from the time a customer makes a request to when the request is satisfied from the perspective of the customer. (See Allan Shalloway’s video of a value stream map for software development, 0-6:40, for an analogous example.)
In many enterprise learning organizations, it’s common for approaches to learning to have significant handoffs. The value delivery cycle to look roughly something like this at a very high level:
- Someone in a business unit sees a need for training of some sort.
- The person locates the person who can officially make a request to the learning organization, perhaps a manager.
- The manager places a request with a learning leader or curriculum manager assigned to that particular part of the business, function or product who then conducts a business analysis.
- When available, the curriculum manager creates the business case.
- The business case waits for approval.
- Once the business case is approved, the request waits to be handed off to an available development team.
- The content manager or team lead responsible for development develops the deeper analysis, which may include recommendations for ILT, VILT, WBT, job aids, OJT or other learning deliverables.
- The requirements then have to be approved by the business or requesting organization.
- Once approved, the team lead hands the work off to one or more instructional designers.
- The instructional designer completes the detailed instructional design.
- The graphic designer works on the design of the overall course.
- The instructional designer hands off to a content developer (or develops the content).
- The graphic designer creates the requested art for the course.
- The programmer programs the course.
- The editor QA’s the course.
- Repeat steps 11-15 for the Beta and Final cycles.
- Eventually someone hands the completed project off to the LMS team for deployment.
- The person who had the need is then able to take the course.
There are far more agile variations of the development process, but this is a general picture of what happens in a large enterprise.
In order to optimizing learning within the organization, it’s important to reduce the learning distance identified by approaches such as value stream mapping.
Reducing Learning Distance helps to reduce the number of handoffs between need and fulfillment.
Every handoff can be expensive not only in terms of general wait time, but also in terms of tacit knowledge lost, costs of delay and costs of lost opportunity. In the book Lean Product and Process Development, Allen Ward describes how handoffs create a separation of knowledge, responsibility, action and feedback. Tom and Mary Poppendieck have extensively written on the topic of handoffs as one of the seven wastes of lean software development, as well. Waste due to handoffs is a concept that many lean and agile organizations–software development teams and beyond–have embraced over the past decade.