Hi, this is Circulating Ideas, the librarian interview podcast, hosted by me, Steve Thomas. My guests today are Lori Reed and Paul Signorelli, the authors of the book Workplace Learning And Leadership available from ALA Editions.
[Paul] Phone’s disconnected, cats are separated, I’m sitting here and I’m not going to fall out of the chair if I behave myself. [laughs]
Well thank you both guys for agreeing to do the interview with me.
Lovely, we’re delighted to be asked.
I mentioned this to Paul last week when we had a, a test Skype call is how you guys feel about the fact that you’ve now trained the galactic empire to be better trainers after your, the encounter with Darth Vader and some storm troopers at ALA.
You want to go for it Lori? [laughs]
[Lori] Well I’ll start and let Paul take over. Yeah, we’re, we’re sitting there at our book signing and it’s the opening of the exhibits and there’s random people everywhere and all of a sudden I see Darth Vader and some storm troopers walk by and I said, “Oh wow, I have to go get a picture for my kids.” Thinking of a picture of me with Darth Vader because my kids are really into Star Wars. And I’m chasing down the exhibit hall after Darth Vader and then Paul comes flying by me because apparently I wasn’t fast enough and Paul had a better idea and I’ll let Paul tell his part of the story.
From my point of view I just figured if I didn’t have the copy of Darth Vader and the stormtrooper be in our book, I was going to kill myself, so I went up to proposed that to them and next thing we knew there we were in the ALA store booth, right in the middle of the exhibit area surrounded by Darth Vader, storm troopers and some other costume people that were fantastic and it was like being in a press conference. I don’t know where all these people came from, but lots of people with cameras flashing, lights and for once in my life I think the two of us felt important, which was lovely.
And the, the guys in the costumes, they didn’t have any trouble, they didn’t mind coming over to see you guys?
Oh they acted as if they were totally delighted when I poured out what Lori and I were doing in 30 seconds or less and said, “Would you be part of this and hold up copies of the book?” Their answer was “Sure.” And we thought, ah, we’ve won!
Yeah and it wasn’t just guys either and it wasn’t just costumes, there was a, an interesting woman who was part of the Empire with, with a collar and a leash and it, that drew quite a crowd as well.
You were, you’re doing a little nerd outreach.
Even among our friends. Yeah.
Right, well they explained to me afterwards via email, I hadn’t seen whatever movie she was in, or her character was in and they said not only was she a character in one of the later Star Wars pictures, but she was actually serving a useful purpose besides just getting people to pay attention because the people in the costumes apparently can’t see any more than a couple of inches as they’re walking. So she’s there making sure that they’re not tripping. As they said in their email she’s the one that keeps them from tripping over the droids, no kidding.
Yeah, that’s like whenever we have costumed characters come into the library, like Clifford or anything like that, you always have to have a person with them leading them along so they don’t trip over chairs and things like that. It’s hard to see in those costumes.
Right, it’s just why they had her on a leash.
You know, when I’m wearing a costume I wish I had a leader like that at all times to make sure I don’t trip over things. [laughs]
They had her on a leash, Lori?
They did have her on a leash, apparently that’s why, because they couldn’t see her.
So just hold onto the leash. Okay, so you guys were there to promote, promoting your book. How did you guys come up with the idea and why did you decide to write this book? Paul, do you want to get started?
Sure. Lori and I were at the American Library Association conference, a Mid-Winter meeting in 2008 and we wandered into the American Library Association bookstore, it was on site. We were looking at how many colleagues had books on topics of interest to them and we’re dreamily saying someday that would be nice to do something like that together. And to make a very long story very short, over that three day weekend of meetings, we ran into three of the five people who are the ALA Editions publishing committee that actually recommend book topics to the acquisitions editor. We had no idea that all three of them were on there and they approached us, each individually and asked us if we were interested in writing something. So, we said yes, we felt we’d have a couple of months to put a pitch together. We no sooner got home than Chris, who, Chris Rhodes who is the wonderful acquisitions editor there had already sent us an email saying, “Oh I understand you’d like to write something, can we talk this week?” So it went very, very fast.
So how long did it take you guys to put the book together?
What do you think Lori, about 20 or 30 years?
Well the pitch, the pitch got put together within a few days. Here we were just dreamily saying wouldn’t it be nice someday to do something and all of a sudden it got real and we had to focus on a topic we thought would be marketable, so that’s how it started. Lori, if you have any additional memories of it why don’t you jump in at this point.
No, I remember we did the article “Are You Following Me?” for American Libraries magazine and, and then someone got the idea that that would be good to stretch out into a book. It was initially supposed to, our plan was 9 months and I think in the end it took about 2 years.
When Lori somewhere along the line we, someone suggested that we expand the article. I want to make the point that that really is the heart of this whole collaborative process. At a certain point you can’t really look back at anything in that process and say I wrote this, she wrote that, or she wrote that, I wrote this. It all starts working so collaboratively and so nicely that it’s almost like two minds in one and we were able to do that with some of the tools we used. It’s a kind of observation you make in passing, but I think anybody looking at collaboration needs to understand that at a certain point it is one voice and it got to be a very interesting process.
Yeah, no, when I was reading the book, it was not obvious at all who wrote which one except for any specific parts where you very specifically said one of us did this, one of us did that. But the rest of it, I mean it had a remarkably consistent voice to it.
But I think there’s one point in the book where we make it clear that I was not the one who was pregnant.
Yes [laughs] that was right at the end there, yes. I’m assuming that was not you Paul.
I’m assuming the same the same thing, but I would never swear to it in an open audience like this.
Right now both of you guys are external consultants to libraries, is that correct?
I do about 50% of my work with libraries. Libraries associations like the American Library Association. And the other 50% is a variety of different clients including one I’ve just picked up where I’ll be helping people working in hospices make a transfer from the current system they use to medical record keeping using some really nice, high-tech tools.
You’d mentioned that before and that’s gonna be quite a long project too, is it not?
It is. Yes and the geography couldn’t be crazier. I’m here in California and the client is in Florida, so it’s just a great project. They’re well funded. I’m going to be flying into Florida in two week stretches to be working onsite as we prepare the materials and the pay off of it will come toward the end of the contract where I’m actually probably going to be involved in the classroom delivery of it.
And Lori, can you talk about the work you’re doing now?
Yeah, I just started my consulting practice, so I’m, I’m still defining what I’m going to be doing because I have two very small children I plan to not travel very much, I plan to travel maybe once or twice a month so I’m looking to primarily do online training and consulting from a distance. What I’d like to be doing is helping libraries and other organizations develop their learning goals and strategies and aligning their training to meet their organizational goals and needs and also I would really like to start a train the trainer program. So, I have some long-term, big projects that I’m thinking of, but I’m just really getting starting, so I’m taking it slow. I’m also just taking some time to, to catch my breath and just think about what my long-term goals really are after having one job for eleven years.
And Paul, do you, I guess especially with this upcoming contract, do you do a lot of online training and in person training?
Yes to both counts. As Lori can testify to my defense here, about four years ago I really was a troglodyte on online learning and most things that were up to speed technology. I went and decided to go back and get a Master of Library Information and Science degree and I had a real fast learning curve crash-course in online training. The whole degree I did was mostly online and that’s where I started getting into this social networking tools. I find now I thrive in it, I do a lot with the American Library Association and other clients where I do webinars, or online courses and I love the idea that there is not an either/or kind of thing. The more you do online, the more realize you carry it back to face-to-face and vice versa and if we’re going in a period of time where if you specialize in one to the exclusion of the other, you’re not only hurting yourself, but you’re hurting the learn as you work with.
Yeah and, online communities, especially social media has been a lot to bring people together. I know it’s changed, well changed libraries in general quite a bit. I know it’s changed, from reading your book especially, I had an overall idea of how it changes, changed training, but I learned a lot more about how much it’s changed, especially the learning communities, the ALA learning blog, T is for Training podcast, just connecting with people on social media in general with Twitter, Google Plus, Facebook, anything like that. Can you guys talk about how much, Paul you did a little bit there, but how much technology has changed your job, the way you do training?
It completely changed my job. When I started doing training long, when I started doing training we didn’t have the internet [laughs], so it’s definitely changed things a lot, but even. I’ve been doing training in libraries for about ten years and when I first started we were still training staff on how to use the internet, how to do a Google search and now, I mean, if we tried to do training like that people would laugh at us because it’s just part of the very culture of libraries and society. You almost can’t survive without having basic transliteracy skills. But now it’s more of how to use the tools effectively to do your job and also getting back to soft skills, communication, customer service, it’s almost come full circle in a lot of ways.
So you’re finding you’re not having to teach people how to use Twitter necessarily, but maybe how to use it effectively?
Right, right, so I’m getting ready to start doing a lot of sessions this fall for different organizations on now you have these tools, here’s what you do with them to create your own personal learning network, a PLN. And then as far as actual classroom training, the last year of my job in Charlotte, I did very little classroom based training because the resources we had were so limited everyone really preferred online training so I developed a lot of webinars and self-paced training. But then the other thing that I found myself moving towards was creating guided learning that people could do in groups on the job. So, it might be creating a checklist, or, or some kind of little job aid that reviews something so rather than pull people out for a four hour class on something they needed to learn in circulation, I’d give them a checklist with links of where to go on the library’s intranet to review these things. So it was more of guiding people through self-paced learning.
You brought up another subject that I wanted to ask you guys about and I know you know about it, especially from Charlotte, of budget problems [laughs]. How do you, and you did talk about this in the book quite a bit, can you talk about how you justify to stakeholders, people who are controlling the purse strings that might see training as a superfluous thing, how do you justify training programs and training administrators?
I’ll jump in on this one because we were pretty successful in the years that I was at San Francisco Public as, in a combined position of running the volunteer program and being director of training. I never felt a serious threat to the training budget in any of those seven years that I was in charge of training there. Every city librarian I worked under had a firm commitment to training, every finance director I worked with had a firm commitment to training and every resources director in San Francisco public had a firm commitment to training. So each year when we had to go up against the city county bureaucracy to justify what we were doing, they would get me early in the process and say, “So, what can we tell them to justify what we’re doing,” and each year we’d look back over what we accomplished in as concrete a term as we could and we would show how our training offerings matched up with what people needed in the workplace to be better employees and to better serve the organization as well as the clients we served.
Each year, of course, we get a little bit more creative and I think my favorite was one year when I looked at in relative terms what a small percentage of that library budget was actually going to training. That’s when I started thinking, okay, if you took a dollar bill and ripped it up into little pieces, what piece of that dollar bill would that be? And I think we figured out that if you ripped the dollar a hundred ways, just imagine that, and you took one of those hundred pieces and ripped that a hundred ways, about 85 of those little pieces off that second rip would be it. Which means you’d probably be sneezing on a bit of sand. Except for this bit of sand, look at what you’re getting in an organization. It makes a big point that I think many of my colleagues are not in total agreement over. Because I work around corporate as well as library training these days, I really have come to understand that whole value of looking for some justifiable return on investment and that gets dicey. I have great respect for colleagues who will just look at me, laugh and say, “You cannot establish return on investment in a non-profit or a library setting.” And my answer to them is I think you can if you justify what you’re doing and what kind of return you want. You may not be saying we’re going to make a million dollars off this training, but you can show the positive impact it had. It takes work and that’s why I think a lot of people don’t do it. It takes work and I think the work is well worth it. And it goes back to what Pete Bromberg said, that we quoted, where it starts at the top, that’s why I wanted to make that point that if those top administrators at San Francisco were in favor of the program, that was a huge part of winning that particular budget battle at the city county level every year.
Which goes back to what Jack Wagner said about if, it’s a sign of the health of your program if the director attends training.
Yes. I had a fabulous experience earlier this year on a one day, kind of an one hour gig where I was brought into a local community college to do something with a group of about 20 or 25 people. And I walked in early to get everything set up and one of the first people to show up was the Chancellor. As the employees walked into that room, they kept looking and her and saying, “Well what are you doing here?” And I thought wrong question, be happy she’s here, it shows the commitment from her point of view as to what we’re accomplishing today and that was probably the best thing to happen in the whole session. Just having her there to say we’re really serious about this topic we’re discussing. I love it when that happens and it doesn’t happen often enough.
Learning communities. How important is that to the job of a trainer? To be able to talk to your colleagues and how does social media really work with that to help you connect? Especially now that people maybe can’t go to physical conferences quite as much due to budget concerns. To help keep you in touch.
I would say it’s huge because so many people in the field are one person departments where nobody that the, at their library does what they do and being able to connect with other trainers through organizations like the Learning Round Table, the ALA Learning Blog, Twitter, Facebook, you, you can’t even place a value on that. In fact, that’s how Paul and I met, was actually through our own personal blogs and that’s actually how I met Maurice, Maurice Coleman from T is for Training, Peter Bromberg, I met all of these people from my personal blog because they read something and then felt so strongly about it they wanted to contact me and having them as a resource, when you’re faced with a challenge, when you have a situation and you’re not sure what to do or you need advice on something, you just, you can’t even put a price on that. So, it’s been wonderful, the benefits that social networking has provided.
There are a lot of librarians who when they’re in library school don’t intend, say, “Hey, I’m going to be a trainer when I get into a library job.” And then they fall into the job later and I have to assume these kinds of learning communities are of vital importance to these people. People who can’t maybe take those master trainer projects, or can’t take trainer, of train the trainer projects, having these blogs, having these podcasts and social networks has to be essential to them.
Yeah and not a library on that, by saying that when I got into training years ago, I went through some formal train the trainer stuff, but it was, it really wasn’t until I joined my local ASTD group, American Society for Training and Development that I really learned and honed my skills. But when you think about it, it’s the same kind of social network, it’s just face-to-face. Well back then it was just face-to-face versus now you have that same type of community but it’s just exponential because you’re adding in people from all over the world and all different types of libraries and organizations. So these learning networks have always existed, they were harder to come across, you had to make an effort to go face-to-face to these groups. The internet now just makes it a lot easier and brings them to you.
And are either of you guys on Google Plus yet?
I’m on Google Plus.
I’m not, Lori have you joined it yet?
A little. I mean I’ve experimented with it a little, I just don’t. Right now I’m reevaluating lots of different social media tools to, to see what works for me and what is a waste of time. Like right now FourSquare is not doing anything for me and so I’m dropping it because I really need to manage my time better and the, the best tool for me right now is Twitter and Facebook.
Google Plus for me seems like it is a really good intersection of Facebook and Twitter, but then it’s sort of like Facebook and Twitter are already…
…fill spaces in my life so what is, I mean it is a good mixture of the two, but do I need another one? [laughs]
Right, so if I see more and more of my network moving to Google Plus and abandoning Twitter and Facebook, then I may follow along. But, right now I’m gonna be where my friends are and most of them aren’t on Google Plus.
Yeah, the only person that I’ve really seen dive right into Google Plus is Sarah Houghton-Jan and she’s even taught a class on it, I guess, to the public already on it, which seems, it’s incredible she’s on top of the curve like that so much to already be teaching classes on something that’s still in private beta, I think [laughs].
Yeah, that’s Sarah.
And you know mentioning Sarah is beautiful because Sarah’s article a couple of years ago for Ariadne magazine about avoiding burnout and trying to manage your time more effectively is something that really guides me on this whole issue. As Lori can tell you jokingly, she’s always prodding me to jump into this stuff faster than I’m willing to do it. Sarah makes a great point of start with the stuff that makes sense for you and build from there. I’m not one of those people who feels like I have to try every new thing that comes along . But as Lori said, it’s where your community is. If the community is there, I need to be there. If it’s just another distraction, then I can’t effectively work to the benefit of my client and work with my colleagues and work for myself in the new tools that are coming along, I’m going to let those hang a little bit in the background while I put efforts into things that are much more effective for me and the people I work with.
Right, like I use Twitter for professional purposes in general and then Facebook is generally just so my parents can see pictures of my kids and other just personal stuff and then Google Plus I don’t, like you said, I guess I agree with you Lori that if people move over there, I’ll go over there with them, but I’m not going to be the one to really jump in I don’t think first [laughs], so. I post something there once in awhile just to do it, but I’m not, I’m not seeing the place in my life yet.
I’ll definitely add that, you know, since I’ve gone, in the past month from working full-time to working for myself full-time, the way you spend your time when you’re self-employed has to be much different and so when you aren’t employed full-time, it’s easier to find time during the day to do Twitter, Facebook, all of these different things, but when you’re self-employed you have to be looking at the economics of it and balancing that out between billable hours and what’s going to generate clients or revenue. So, it’s definitely, there’s a different mindset.
So, we talked about, or just Sarah briefly. Are there other people in the training world, library training world specifically, that you guys really are inspired by? People that you talk to in the book, or outside that you didn’t get to talk to for the book?
I would say anybody in the book is somebody that we both really, really were impressed by and were influenced by. We, we had a lot of names of people that we were considering for it and the deal was it had to be somebody that both of us thought was going to add substantially to the book because we didn’t have endless amounts of time to do the interviews. So you can look through those people in the book like Peter Bromberg, we briefly mention Pat Carteret who passed away earlier this year. I did a lot with Sandra Smith out of Denver, Pat Wagner’s just a real gem, out of Denver also. And people in that book. Oh, Jay Turner, of course, who just, he’s one of the brightest people I know in terms of virtual world stuff in training and he just moved from Gwinnett Public to a state position there. Lori, what’s the name of the agency he’s with?
The Georgia Public Library Service.
Thanks. So the book obviously has a lot of them, but then right behind them are dozens and dozens of colleagues that both of us work with. Some overlap, some our own individual networks. One that I would mention who’s a great influence on me is a colleague on the American Society for Training and Development’s National Chapter, we’re called the National Advisors for Chapters and that’s Christy Ward who again is out of Denver. It’s like something’s going on in Denver that’s magic. Christy has a volunteer committee, all of use on that committee are serving three year terms, having served as Chapter president at the local area, now we’re advisers and I love the way Christy works. She has a, a really dynamic practice going, she manages to hold the 15 of us on that committee together in a very passionate and effective way and the projects we do affect trainers all across the country to ASTD chapters. Those are the kind of people I admire, those are the kind of people I emulate, the ones who have a combination of volunteer and professional paid gigs going and they give back to the professional lot and they’re the ground-breakers. I love that.
One, one thing I found surprising reading in your book was the whole, was about after training the retaining the info, that it’s generally considered that there’s a 15% success rate and 85% failure rate as to really implementing what they learn in training and you guys talk about ways that you can try to make that, make learning stick a little bit better. How do you, can you guys talk about how you do evaluations afterwards? Especially as an external consultant.
My own experience is clients don’t give enough time to that. When I was in a library training position, we certainly did not give enough time to it. I think at least for the library world, people are just starting to catch on to the fact that corporate training has a lot of great models to follow. The thing we talked about in the book was a couple of the key players out there in corporate training land. Robert Brinkerhoff is one of the people who documented the fact that you do training and six months afterwards 85% of the people who went to the training are back to doing it the old way because the workplace didn’t support it. And I think bringing that kind of message to libraries is an important message. Bringing it to any training organization is important. We need to be doing what Kirkpatrick and others say are the follow-up things rather than just was the room nice? Did the instructor smell nice? Did they tell funny jokes? Was there a, was there patter? Was the toy they brought into the room entertaining? We need to be asking what did you do when you got back? Were you supported in your workplace by your managers and supervisors? Did you have an impact? Did you apply stuff? And ultimately, so what? What did it to to the whole library and its clients that you got that training? I think that’s a huge question and it’s not that hard to deal with. The starting point is ask the question folks, you gotta be asking that question and act on it.
I did especially like that you said, or somebody in the book you quoted somebody in the book saying that you can, you know it’s a successful training when the director is part of the training.
That’s Pat Wagner and she was the one who explicitly said it early on in the interview process and put that right smack dab in the middle of our radar. It was brilliant that she said that and I’m glad we proceeded.
Once Pat had said that during one of our first, I think it was the very first interview we did, I started asking friends and colleagues if their directors attend training and it’s a mixed bag of whether they do or not and then you always have libraries where there’s some excuse of the director’s too busy, or the director’s got to be out doing politics and there’s a library nearby, Richland County Public Library, which is in Columbia, South Carolina and their director, Melanie Huggins, attends lots of trainings and not only that, when she first started as director of that library, she put together their staff day. So instead of having their trainer do it, she actually put it together and was the keynote speaker, which I thought was amazing and it, it just sounds like a really fun organization for the director to be that involved. But, that’s how you know that an organization is really supportive of learning training and that they’re going to support you and the follow-up of what you do is, do the directors and the other administrative folks actually, not only attend, but participate in training? Because you can also have a director attend and then 30 minutes in the director leaves which we understand that everybody’s busy, but it’s really different when you have the director there and participating.
Right, I mean, shows more of a commitment.
I’ll say in my own experience that it’s so rare that I, three examples come to mind as the only three I’ve seen in the last few years. One was a non-library client where I was doing something with a community college. One hour session, walked in, the chancellor was there and the first reaction from all the learners was, “Wow, what’s she doing here.” And I thought to myself that means this is going to be effective and it was really an effective session just because she showed up and she participated. Second is a colleague that I met at the American Library Conference about a month ago in New Orleans, but she is a director who has been around for at least a couple of decades and really has a long term commitment to that organization. She routinely is part of what she does and you can tell from the way that organization functions. And finally, one close to the heart, Luis Herrera who is a city librarian for San Francisco Public. Extraordinary how much of a presence he was with the limited amount of time he had in the training program. When he first was hired, he put himself through the new employee training session along with the other employees. He participated, he gave a very positive critique, we talked about a few things that he thought was missing and we had those in by the next time. And just by spending that one day at a new staff orientation, long term he affected the orientation for everybody that came through from then on. When he hit the ground, as long as I was in there, and I assume that continued. Luis was also very active in watching for opportunities that other people would have let drop. We had a one-day session on leadership in the library, info people actually put it on. The instructor was somebody that a lot of library people have heard of now because she was just selected as President-elect for ALA and it’s Maureen Sullivan. Maureen came in, did a one day session on leadership and when it was over she contacted me and said, “Extraordinary things happen, if we just let that class go you’re going to miss an opportunity. How can we make things stick?” I put her in touch with Luis, and again, long story made short, a year or so later as a result of their conversation and the commitment both from Maureen and Luis, they started a leadership academy that is about to go into its third group at San Francisco Public. To me, that’s extraordinary leadership, it’s fantastic.
That’s great. I wanted to ask you Paul about, Lori you can chime in too if you have some thoughts but I know this is primarily a Paul thing, the idea of the library as the fourth place. Could you talk about the concept of, well what the first three places are? And then how the library fits in as a fourth, or any learning center fits in as a fourth place?
Yes. It comes from the Ray Oldenburg book, The Great Good Place, where he defines the first place in our lives as home, the second place in our lives as being our workplace and the third, the great good place is where we meet outside of work and home and we have exposure to people we normally wouldn’t encounter. It’s generally social, like a cafe, a bar, the kind of place where people just bop in and out and you see people, you always drop in knowing you’re going to see somebody you know. A few of use were on Maurice’s T is for Training show last August and it was one of those magic moments where the third place created itself online. We were talking about the Computer In Libraries conference and what we might propose as a program. My waggish answer was let’s stop talking about computers in libraries and talk about the people using computers in libraries. And at that moment somebody we’d never heard of before popped into the call and like sharks on fish, we were all over them finding out what he liked about libraries. It came down to him loving the sense that libraries provide places of learning. And so one of us said well that sounds like the Oldenburg third place where people bop in and out and it’s very social. And he said no, no, it’s more than just a social setting. It’s really about the learning and that’s when those of us on the call start suggesting maybe it’s time to expand Oldenburg’s thing to a fourth place and the term we all came up with is social learning centers. Which just describes that idea that learning in our culture goes on at all times, it’s never ending. We just have to be ready for the idea that it’s never ending, so if libraries can play their natural role of providing learning experiences that meet their users needs, I think we’re onto one of the great good places and great good things that are going to keep libraries going, rather than being the continual talk of oh when are they going to disappear. I don’t think they’re going to disappear and I think social learning centers, that aspect of it, as a fourth place is an important role that we are already playing and need to identify and grow with.
Yeah it’s gotten to the point where it’s, you get sick of reading those stories of oh libraries are dead, libraries are dead, libraries are dead. Within libraries I think we’re doing a lot to, we recognize that maybe the old model of library is going the way of the dodo, but we are adapting, we are changing and our core mission of being learners, being teachers, that’s, that’s still there, it’s just adapted to a new, a new source. It’s just the people who thought of us as just the warehouses of books that think that we’re going away I think. And that’s not what’s next.
We haven’t said explicitly, our bad on this call, we haven’t said explicitly that the whole idea behind the book Workplace Learning And Leadership is if you are working in any kind of workplace learning and performance role and, in plain language, if you’re a trainer in a library, you need to be a leader. It’s not enough to sit there and have somebody somewhere else in your organization say we want you to train on these topics over the next year. You need to be at the table helping to set that agenda because we, whether we’re in libraries like Lori and I have been, or whether we’re the external consultants still very much with a passion for libraries, when you are at the table helping you to define things, you’re bringing your knowledge and your experience with the learners themselves at a level that many other people in your organization won’t have them. So workplace learning and leadership is really about the manifesto of we need to be out there actively promoting what we’re doing, be at the table helping to shape the agenda and constantly listening as much as we speak.
Yeah, you talk in the book quite a bit about there’s a difference between managing and facilitating change, that what you really want to do is facilitate change cause if you’re managing change you’re, it feels more like you’re imposing it on people, but if you facilitate it, you’re being a good leader because you’re taking everybody else into account and you’re not just imposing your will on everyone else, you’re really moving the organization forward I think, in a more positive way.
Yes, and that idea itself is hard for a lot of the interviewees upfront. I think it was Peter Bromberg who just had some of the most wonderful waggish sense of humor. Lori was doing the interview with Peter and said so, do you see a difference between change management and change facilitation and I think Peter’s answer upfront was, “Well not really, if I took five minutes to think about it I might see it, but then that would be five minutes of my life I would never get back.” They continued the interview and within a couple of minutes he came back with, “You know it’s been five minutes and now I’m ready to talk about it.” And that was the approach a lot of people had, they really hadn’t even started to think through whether there was a difference between management facilitation and training and if there was, what we were doing and whether we needed to spend more time on it.
Yeah it’s funny, that was my first reaction when I was reading the book, I was like well that’s just semantics, but then as I was reading and as I just kept thinking, I was, well it’s really not.
I believe it’s an approach. It’s a style that you take and I’m not saying one is better than the other. There certainly are times when change management is what you have to engage in. There has to be somebody in the organization that has a vision and is helping to push that through. But, the facilitation process is the human side of it, saying to people we’re not just shoving it down your throat, we really want you to feel comfortable with this, what can we do to help you?
I’m not a trainer in my organization so a lot of this was new to me, besides what I’ve learned. I do listen to T is for Training and I, there was some other things that I, there were some trainers that I’m friends with on Twitter, mostly people who are part of T is for Training like Maurice and Bobbi Newman and you guys. So I’m new to everything. Can you just talk about, I know this is a very basic concept in training, but the ADDIE versus ARDDIE method of planning training. Can you just talk a little bit about that?
Lori, you want to jump on it? Or you want me to do that one?
[laughs] I’ll start. It’s old school training that there’s a procedure you follow. First, you do some analysis of what it is that you’re going to do for the training. Then you design, see that’s, I don’t even remember the order, I think it’s analysis, design, develop, implement and evaluate. Is that right Paul? Or do I have it incorrect.
Yeah, that’s not exactly it, that’s absolutely the sense of it.
Okay. So, but basically you can’t develop training before you’ve done some analysis and to me that’s really the heart of it because so often we do get asked to do training and training’s not the solution. The best example I have of you using ADDIE is the analysis part of this. And there was a branch library that called me in to do customer service training and we had done customer service training for the entire library and why did we need it just at this one particular library where I knew they have great customer service? So, I went and talked to the staff and worked with them to find out what was going on. And so it turned out what the problem was is that a lot of patrons were coming in upset because they had lost books and the patrons were angry. So, what was being relayed to me was there’s a lot of angry patrons at this branch, we need to do customer service training. Well it turned out it wasn’t customer service that was the problem, it was that books were getting lost that was the problem. And so when I went out and worked with them for a while, what I found was they had remodeled and made their circulation desk half the size that it had been before because they had implemented self checkout. So, people at the desk were checking in and checking out the same volume of materials in half the space and the books were getting mixed up. And so it wasn’t a problem of customer service at all, it was a problem of the size of the circulation desk. And so what I suggested was that they try to move check in back away from the desk, behind the scenes and eventually what they had to do was extend the desk a few more feet and remodel it again, but if I would have gone through and done customer service training, it would have never solved the problem because that wasn’t what the problem was at all. And so to me that gets at the heart of ADDIE, is that you have to do some analysis first to do, to determine what the issue is that you’re trying to fix because you don’t want to, in this economy you can’t do training just for training’s sake. There has to be a purpose behind it, it has to be there to solve some type of problem or support some type of goal and so the analysis phase is very key to that. And then, of course, you design the training and develop it, pilot that training for other people before you present it. Then you implement it and then go back and evaluate. Once you evaluate, the training, then you can see if anything needs to be adjusted, or not. I would say that the majority of times, when a manager comes to someone and says that training is needed, most of the time it’s not training that’s needed, it’s some other solution and that’s where your problem solving skills and leadership skills come into play as a trainer is being able to say to that manager, well training is not the issue here, this is a behavior issue, or this is logistics, or something else, but that’s part of being a professional trainer, is determining when is training needed and when is something else needed
There’s a wonderful thing that ASTD itself was promoting not too long ago, that the ADDIE model with its analysis, design and everything else needed to be expanded a bit into an ARDDIE model which would include some research. What they’re talking about there is evidence based research and again quoting from our own book because this is I think is explicitly as we can say it, the suggestion that evidence based research should be an integral part of the planning process, the learning opportunities is news to many current practitioners, but we need to be concentrating on that. I think ADDIE and ARDDIE as models are really good and I think what Char Booth recently did in her ALA Editions book Reflective Teaching Effective Learning, it’s a book on instructional literacy for library educators, it’s on the same target. She’s got her own model which is understand, structure, engage and reflect. It has the wonderful acronym USER because you focus on the user. I love that this is not meant to be academic stuff. This is meant to be useable and produce results that are positive for everybody involved.
And in the book you guys sort of jokingly suggest that you need another model that you couldn’t even pronounce what it is because you’re adding an F in the middle there somewhere, or. [laughs]
[laughs] Exactly [laughs]
So it’s sort of as you add pieces, maybe even the usefulness of an acronym drops away.
Yeah that’s one thing. And the other thing is we shouldn’t just get wrapped into thinking that once we establish a model like this that we have to do everything. There are times when it’s so clear to you that the need, as Lori said, is not in training, that you don’t have to go out and do a full blown ADDIE start to finish to design something, you just need to say is this what we’re really shooting for? Or do we have a better solution here that’s more effective and less time-consuming and less resource intensive?
Right, so the ADDIE and the ARDDIE and all that is, is a good model to follow, but you don’t want to be too strict and rigid being stuck I guess.
Thank you. It’s a framework, it’s not a command performance.
And I wanted to talk to you guys a little bit about, I know a lot of training has moved online, sometimes it’s synchronous, sometimes it’s asynchronous. Do you all feel still that there’s value to be had from face-to-face learning in addition to online training?
Absolutely. There are, frankly, people who are more comfortable seeing an instructor right there where they’re close enough to touch that instructor as opposed to doing an online course. I think part of it is people’s experience. I think the best of online learning is as effective as the best of face-to-face. I think sometimes we get into this artificial argument comparing the worst e-learning experience with the best face to face and saying well see, that can’t be as good. But I think both have their places and I don’t have a preference at this point. It depends on what the client needs, it depends on the set up of the learners and I actually, frankly, like things where it’s not an either/or option. You do some face-to-face, you do some online. I just had a great experience with an a-synchronous course that I did for ALA Editions, mostly online, mostly a-synchronous, but we built in some live interaction, it was fabulous.
Yeah, I’ll jump in and add that I don’t think it has to be one or the other. It can be a combination of both, what they call blended learning which is the best of everything combined to meet the needs of the learners in the organization. It’s definitely not about what the instructor needs or prefers, it’s what the learners and the organization need. Some organizations just do not have the infrastructure in place for online learning. One of the challenges I had with the libraries I worked with was to do webinars, no-one had a quiet place to go because every workroom, or at the desk, it was too busy or too noisy and so we could only do webinars in the morning before the library opened. There’s some libraries that don’t have the bandwidth needed to do webinars. So, really it depends on the learners, the infrastructure that’s in place and what their experience is.
And what I wanted to follow up with, sort of matches what Lori was talking about there of having a comfortable learning environment where sometimes you just, there’s just no place to go to do these things. How important do you think it is of setting up good learning environment?
Well, I think it’s huge because if you don’t have a comfortable learning environment, it goes to Maslov’s hierarchy of needs, if your basic needs aren’t met, you’re not gonna achieve the higher levels of thinking that are needed to learn. So, looking at Maslov’s hierarchy, your basic needs are food, water, shelter, feeling a sense of belonging, a sense of community, things like that. If you don’t have that, your brain isn’t going to have the capacity to learn because you’re going to be thinking about the fact that you’re hungry or you’re thirsty. Which is why a lot of times when you go to training, they provide snacks and water. Because the learners have to be comfortable. I think you also have to establish a good rapport with the learners. I think one of the worst situations or worst case scenarios is when you have the trainer who’s a diva at the front of the class, who’s waiting for everybody to come in and doesn’t speak to anybody, who’s ignoring all of these people that come in. That person is missing a golden opportunity to connect with these learners, make them comfortable, learn a little bit about them, why they’re there so that when the class starts, that rapport is already there, that trainer has already gained their trust and you’ve made that connection and you really have a good learning environment. When you, when you’re unapproachable like that it makes people nervous and it’s just not a good environment for learning.
Completely agree with everything Lori just said about the need for it, how it meets the different needs of the learners and the important role that the instructor plays in setting a good tone. Go a step further, some reading I’ve been doing lately about how we learn, physiologically, how the brain works. There’s amazing stuff out there that, that we’re not paying enough attention to as trainers and teachers and learners. The idea that the environment physiologically can have an impact on people. One of the great books I just came across, I think called The Brain That Changes Itself, and I’m sorry if I’m going to butcher the author’s name, I’ve never heard it pronounced, but I believe it’s Norman Doidge, it’s D-O-I-D-G-E. Doidge talks about the need for simulated environment and he talks about how the brain rewires itself based on what’s going on around us and Bruce Wexler, another writer I, who just did a book a few years ago, Brain and Culture, again talks about the environment. If you have a stodgy, uninspiring environment, we slow down and that isn’t going to be conducive to learning. So, there’s a lot going on. It’s what Lori talked about at the personal level, it’s what some of these other writers are talking about in brain physiology, the actual stimulation that encourages learning, encourages the ability of the brain to adapt into new situations. And that’s really what it’s all about. Training is about change. If we are not creating the kind of environment that inspires change, we’re sort of wasting everybody’s time.
Okay. Thanks a lot Paul. You guys have written an excellent book. I recommend everybody go out and get it. Good luck in your future efforts.
Thanks a million. Really appreciate all the time you put into this.
All right, thanks for talking to me guys.
Right, take care Lori, see you soon.