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Clearview® Performance Systems brings you ... ® ... a Culture of Results & Engagement®

Here's the next in our series of weekly managerial TIPS (Techniques, Insights, and Practical Solutions)
to help you better engage your team in the activities that lead to higher performance.

CORE Bites Issue #74
(May 12, 2020)

Ready for a Break (from this craziness) with a 'Bug' of a Different Kind?

On September 9, 1947, the much-anticipated Mark II Aiken Computer was being tested at Harvard University for use in the war effort during the latter part of World War II. It was built with over 765,000 electromechanical components, including switches, relays, rotating shafts, and clutches. Manual data entry was done with 60 sets of 24 switches. It could store a total of 72 23-digit numbers. To give you some context, this early computer could do 3 additions or subtractions in one second (!); a multiplication in 6 seconds (!); and a division in 15.3 seconds (!).

At approximately 3:45 pm, the program abruptly failed and all testing stopped. Upon investigation, a moth (yes, I said "moth") was found trapped between the relay contacts at Relay #70, Panel F. Remember, the system was largely mechanical so anything stopping a relay from closing would also stop any calculations. While the term "debugging" was already in use, the testing staff clearly appreciated this humor moment—finding the first real case of a computer "bug"—and, as proof, taped the moth to the log book. [Photo courtesy of the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center. Historical Center Photograph #NH 96566-KN.]

I'm using this historical metaphor because approximately seven weeks ago (depending on where you reside) we were severely impacted by a debilitating—and sometimes deadly—"bug" and our workplace "programs" quickly ground to a halt. Immediately, all focus turned to keeping our employees safe. This was absolutely the right thing to do as we prepared to fight a new enemy.

But what's becoming obvious—as I discuss go-forward business strategy with various leaders—is that one of the biggest casualties of this business-as-usual disruption has been workplace learning and employee development. When the coronavirus hit, all our circuit breakers were tripped and everything stopped—we literally hit the pause button on workplace learning.

This week's CORE Bites is a compelling (and, I hope, persuasive) reminder that we can't afford to put our capacity building, competency acquisition, 70:20:10 breadth/depth learning, mentoring programs, and other employee continuous learning processes on hold. Our organizations simply will not survive without continuous retooling and reskilling—especially in consideration of what we've been through in the recent past, and how these events will shape the future ahead of us. Learning is a key strategy to unleash employees' growth potential.

High Value Activity (HVA) Action Steps

We're still operating with many physical restrictions in place, so it's time to get creative with our learning processes. This week (starting today), look for ways to regain learning momentum. Make it obvious; make it purposeful; make it impactful. The stronger learning capabilities that emerge will have a very positive—and very demonstrable—long-term impact on your team. The HVAs listed below are just a few ideas to stimulate your creativity:

  • Learning Response Team: It's very likely that your organization has a Crisis Response Team set up to deal with COVID-19. Using a similar model, set up a cross-functional Learning Response Team (LRT) comprised of employees with a broad range of diverse skills from all relevant stakeholder groups. Direct the LRT to conduct an in-depth review of learning needs (including a gap-analysis heat map) and set priorities for topical programs (such as learning remote-working skills and using remote technology) as well as breadth/depth learning designed to retain and grow existing bench strength.
  • Blur the Lines Between Teacher and Learner: Workplace learning (even if the 'workplace' is at home) can become a lot more collaborative and a lot less one-dimensional (e.g., traditional teacher-learner). Technology provides the ability for a shared learning process capitalizing on the reality that every employee is likely to have unique skills and/or experiences they can offer. These learning nuggets can be delivered in many forms including W3 (What Works & Why) operational tips, short, personal device-recorded instructional videos or virtual mentoring. This type of learning is decentralized and can be deployed very quickly based on topical needs or organizational and external trends. [Hint: Compile a matrix chart listing employees and cross-referencing pertinent skills and experiences that can be quickly deployed.]
  • Stop Learning 'Alone-Together' and Start Learning as a Team: Physical distancing has your employees hungry for connection. And learning is a tremendous (and effective) way to connect people. The most impactful learning experiences are typically the result of intense interactions with groups of people working on a common challenge or problem—almost nothing done in an organization is accomplished alone. Why not create a list of your team's greatest challenges right now and let team-learning determine the best solutions? Encourage Shoshin, 'healthy' debate, practical discussions, and non-judgmental ideation as a learning framework for your team discussions.
  • No More Theory: The challenges and problems your employees confront today are not theoretical; they are very real. Consequently you need learning that reflects the realities that your teams and individual employees are facing. The best way to accomplish this is to match a specific learning goal to the needs of the specific groups of learners—and then determine the best learning approach to accomplish the goal. Identify practical learning needs by listening actively, showing empathy, and addressing the personal and practical needs of each person.
  • Virtual Lunch & Learns: In-person Lunch & Learn programs were a common way to offer short, deep-dive learning to your employees. Now, these same employees are mandated to stay at home so creating a virtual Lunch & Learn version will not only help in their learning but these sessions will also create a positive connection to the team and to the organization. This type of micro-learning allows an employee to learn on the fly, from wherever he/she is, at a pace commensurate with the need.
  • Engage Your Innovators: People don't resist change; they resist being changed. So the best way for your organization to embrace change is to engage your learning-agile and forward-thinking innovators and let them loose on new ways to develop, curate, and deliver results. The psychology is simple here—no one resists their own ideas—once the team "owns" a new innovative solution to an existing problem or challenge they become the advocates/champions for the desired change.

I'd love to hear how these HVAs work for you!

Neil Dempster, PhD, MBA
RESULTant™ and Behavioral Engineer

Quote of the Week

"Learning can emerge as spontaneous order at the edge of chaos."

— Sugata Mitra —