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“They soon lose their taste for plain vanilla.”

Formal education initiates change: in thought, in understanding, in culture, and in behavior.  But with many ways to deliver the formal education, what works the best? How can you ensure maximum results from the investment you make in education for your people?  If the end result is what is important, what gives you the “biggest bang for the buck”? 

In our experience, the most successful delivery of formal education is on-site sessions that have been tailored or customized to the company processes and environment.

“On-site” means that we bring the education to the attendees.  You choose the location and a schedule that minimizes the time your people spend away from the job, as well reducing your  travel expenses.  Unlike courses where you send small groups of people away separately, with on-site education all your people hear the same message at the same time.  Everyone has the opportunity to participate, interact, and discuss the same material, in the same context. 

“Tailored” means that we select content, emphasizing or de-emphasizing material in a way that matches the specific company objectives, issues, problems and opportunities.  During the education, we use examples, terminology, and discussion points around company specific situations.  Although these examples may not show up differently on the printed pages of a course book, it ensures that the concepts are understood by linking to real life examples and opportunities at your company.

“Customization” takes a course to the highest degree of personalization.  We present the same concepts, but in a language more familiar to your people, relating to their day-to-day issues, problems and software.  The materials themselves incorporate specific company terminology and examples.  However, because one of the hallmarks of good education is getting people to mentally step out of their current day-to-day activities, understand the general concepts and apply them to different ways of doing the job in the future, we are careful not to overdo the level of customization. Customized courses are designed to provide maximum impact without diluting new concepts or reinforcing a “we’re unique” syndrome.

Here is our recommended approach to effective, high quality education:

1. Learn and Document Company Issues

Through on-site interviews with your key people and executive managers, we can get a current and detailed picture of: 

  • Company problems and issues
  • Opportunities and objectives
  • Controversies, “hot buttons” and differences of opinion
  • Perceptions based on past experiences and on future goals
  • Business vision
  • Financial and operating problems
  • Current business tactics and strategies
  • Future business tactics and strategies
  • Overall vision and mission for the company

Documenting company issues is key to the tailoring process.  For customized classes, additional interviews may be necessary to develop further detail.  For example, specific business process examples may need to be incorporated in the course material.  Or we may need to gain a greater understanding of the various software tools that you use.  Developing product and resource examples as displayed or handled by your software is addressed at this time.

The interview process normally takes one or two days for each education session that you plan.  More or less time may be required depending on the degree of tailoring and customization desired.  In rare cases, tailoring interviews could be done over the phone in several hours.  In other rare cases, interviews for a highly customized class could take a week or more.  The quality and depth of information gained from the interviews depends on the amount of time spent in the interviewing process. 

Fee: actual time spent at consulting rates. 

 

2. Define Scope and Outline Content

After gaining the necessary information for tailoring or customization, we review our findings and propose an education approach with your key people and executive managers.  Through discussions and brainstorming, we try to gain a consensus on the format of the education program, specifically:  

  • Topics to be covered
  • Amount of time to be spent on each topic
  • Number and type of participatory workshops
  • Brainstorming sessions and examples to be used
  • Issues to be emphasized, issues to be de-emphasized 

 

Through this review process, we ensure that we have a balanced and representative view of the appropriate business issues.  Essentially it’s a check on what we’ve learned and how we plan to use it in the education sessions – and it allows your key people to participate in the development of the education approaches, giving them ownership in the education process.  Content outlines and time allocations can now be developed to guide the detailed tailoring in the next step.  At this time, proposed schedules and attendees for the sessions will be established. 

Normally, the review process can be done in a day or less per education session.

Fee: actual time spent at consulting rates. 

 3. Tailor/Customize

Actual course tailoring and customization is done off-site.  We select class materials from our extensive library of educational materials, and complete the detailed curriculum and page-by-page sequencing, tailoring and customization of class content at this time.   We use the individual expertise of each partner to “design to order” an education session that best serves the needs of your company. 

Where your company needs software specific examples, we co-designed them along with your company “experts”.  They provide the final computer outputs, and we make them into coherent examples in a presentable format. 

Fee:  actual time spent at education rates. 

 

4. Deliver

Here we deliver the education sessions to the agreed upon audience, on the scheduled dates and times, in the location you’ve chosen.  Normally, education sessions are conducted in meeting facilities that you provide, separate from normal work areas to minimize the distractions of phone calls, hallway meetings and people being asked to “step out for a minute.”  Session sizes of 15-40 people are ideal, although larger or smaller groups can be accommodated if the facilities permit it.  . 

We prefer high levels of interaction and participation.  In our experience, setting up the room in a U-shaped pattern is best, although in a small room or with a large group, a traditional (horizontal) set-up makes more sense. 

Typically a session consists of a formal presentation, and as needed, discussion groups, brainstorming sessions, and facilitated workshops.  In the formal presentations, we lead the session using visual aids and supporting materials with attendees following in the course book, page by page, topic by topic.  Discussion groups and brainstorming sessions may be with the entire group.  Or the attendees may be broken into smaller discussion groups to brainstorm a focused topic, “practice” applying the concepts, and identify the problems, obstacles and preferred approaches to that application in your business scenario.  In some cases, typical software outputs will be used. 

Attendees leave each session with action plans and “to do” lists.

Fee: actual time spent at education rates. 

 

5. Train the Trainer

In larger companies it may make sense to develop internal trainers.  To support this process, we can help you choose specific people who have good potential for becoming inside trainers, and we can develop an education program specifically designed to develop their teaching skills.  Besides additional personalization of the course materials, we can develop training sessions on presentation and teaching skills, and on how to present or describe a given topic area along with an instructor’s manual with the teaching material and the documented points, explanations and definitions that need to be presented.  In some cases we co-teach the initial courses with the company trainers.  In many cases, companies use us to monitor, audit, critique and provide input to update materials and improve presentation and teaching skills of the in-house instructors even after our initial involvement is over. 

Fee: actual time spent at education rates. 

 

Summary

The advantage of the Partners For Excellence tailored education approach is that the application of educational concepts to your business reality is actually done in the initial design of the course. We design the material and its delivery to guarantee that people clearly and easily understand the concepts, approaches, tools and techniques and how to apply them to their specific environment.  In our experience, people attending our sessions feel that the content relates better to them, to their problems and to their business issues.  And, again and again, they say that we don’t just present “theoretical concepts and principles” that they have to work hard at figuring out how to apply to their business. 

With our tailored and customized education programs, there’s an easier transition from education to actual implementation, and to the quick, efficient application of the concepts to improved business practices.

 With a little more preparation, the education sessions take about the same time, but get a company ready to move into action that much quicker and with fewer missteps, misunderstandings, concerns and credibility gaps.  Our experience has shown that the resulting implementations have a 20-50% better chance of early success (measurable benefits within three to nine months) and generally take 15-30% less time to achieve the desired results. 

 To discuss how this approach can be matched to your needs (timeframe, budget, resource constraints, geography and other company issues), call us at 1 603 528-0840 or contact one of our Senior Partners.