ADDIE Living in a Scrum World, Part 1

Posted by Rich Mesch on Dec 6, 2011 2:12:00 AM

by Austin Kirkbride, M.A.

Austin Kirkbride, M.A., is a Project Manager, certified in Scrum and waterfall project management approaches, and an Organizational Change Management specialist with 20 years of domestic and international experience working in the people side of technology and change. This is the first in a series of posts on how Scrum can enhance learning organizations. written in collaboration with the colleagues on her team.
Scrum is an iterative, incremental framework for project management. Originating in the IT
Rugbymatchsmallsoftware development world, the scrum methodology has translated well to other industries as it emphasizes functional deliverables, the flexibility to change and adapt along with emerging business realities, and provides a high level of communication and collaboration across the team.
Some of my more purist Scrum Master colleagues have challenged me that the learning development methodology – ADDIE, or Assess, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate – cannot survive in a Scrum world and that it needs to be eliminated. They argue that ADDIE lives in the old world of waterfall project management, complete with silos and hand-offs that make the methodology an antiquated notion of how training should be developed.
I beg to differ.

One of the more elegant aspects of Scrum is that it is a framework, not a dogma. I’ll admit that ADDIE reeks of waterfall project management and implies that there are hand-offs and linear thinking required to apply the methodology. But with a little open-minded application, I see no reason why ADDIE can’t live in the Scrum world.  Here’s how:

Assess: Learning can’t happen unless we know what the scope of the training needs to be. The Assessment is critical to understanding things like audience, content needs, identifying subject matter experts, and looking at how the training fits into the larger needs of the organization. Assessments can be treated as a Sprint Zero, occurring over a couple of weeks or actually broken down into Sprints if the assessment requires a longer chunk of time. The Sprint Zero is the opportunity for the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and team to identify business requirements and value, needs, scope, etc., so why wouldn’t it be malleable enough to be a time of learning assessment?

Design: Once the scope and assessment of the learning needs is identified, the approach, or design, will begin to evolve. Depending upon the scope of the project, the design can be treated as Sprint Planning (for smaller projects with a minimum of complexity) or the design process can be sprinted, with client design reviews (Sprint Reviews) at the end of the sprints to gain sign-off and buy-in from the client (for larger, more complex projects).

Development: Much like software development, learning development can be planned for, sprinted, and reviewed, whether eLearning or Instructor-led. Developing training  – eLearning or ILT – would align most closely with its parentage in software development, allowing the instructional designers/developers to collect content and iteratively present it to the client until delivery.

Implementation: This is where applying Scrum needs to be an exercise in Scrum framework flexibility. If implementing training means putting the eLearning on the LMS, there is probably no need to sprint the activity – likely it would be a task within the final sprint. But if implementation requires the team to deliver the learning in a classroom, webcast or interactive environment, it would likely make sense to sprint these activities, complete with stories and tasks. As long as the team is producing a product, it continues to Sprint and deliver to the client.

Evaluation: Again, the process of evaluation may be part of a sprint, or might be sprinted separately, depending upon the scope of the evaluation. Most Level I or II evaluation might likely be tasks within a sprint if, for instance, it is a compiling of survey results at the end of a learning event. Larger evaluation approaches, such as following up with large-scale, long-term metrics, may require their own sprint, or possibly even their own project.

Topics: Series, Performance Improvement, Learning Theory, Change Management, Scrum, ADDIE

Attitude is Essential to Learning, Part 2: It's All About My Manager

Posted by Reni Gorman on Sep 11, 2011 4:42:00 AM

by Reni Gorman

Women manager and employeeIn the first part of this series, we talked about the role of the individual in learning. It’s hard to make someone learn if they’re not willing. But what if they are willing but are not encouraged or worse are discouraged by the person who judges their performance: their manager? What is the manager’ attitude toward the new knowledge and skills learned?

Challenge 3: My manager does not encourage me to apply what I have learned on the job. This is by far the worst, deadliest challenge. People must know that they will be enabled and empowered to put what they learned into action on the job. If they feel for any reason that they can’t… maybe because their managers don’t know what they learned and can’t or won’t help them apply it. Sound unbelievable? It happens all the time. For example, if the manager doesn’t believe in the new sales model and doesn’t encourage its use, it is not very likely his or her team will adapt it and give it a try. We, training professionals, take folks out of their jobs, put them in training, throw them back into their jobs and expect them to perform. We forget that people will usually listen to the person that manages them. If their manager isn’t committed to applying the new skills learned, it most likely will not happen.

Solution 3: Make sure the manager is aware of and reinforces the learning. I point out raising awareness because I have seen many situations where managers did not even know what their employees learned when they went to training. In this case, it may not be that they don’t actively support it, but rather that they don’t know. One idea is to supply managers with a one pager summary of what their people learned that includes things like tips on how to help their employees pull through the learning into application on the job. It could include questions to ask employees to reflect on and talk about the learning and coaching opportunities. Once the managers are aware how do we get them to be supportive? Setting clear expectations through executive sponsors, following up with measurement that results in recognition, rewards and even consequences are all critical for success. First managers have to be told it is expected that they use the new sales model—if that is the case. This message has to be delivered to them through their own leadership so they take it seriously—it can’t and shouldn’t come from the training department. Once they know what they are supposed to do, like coach to the new sales model, we have to make sure they know how to do that—here is where more training may come in. Then we have to measure whether or not they are doing it with the understanding that their actions, both positive and negative, have consequences.

Last but not least it is important to remember that you can’t stop at the manager, you must look to see what the manager’s manager is doing—is he or she supporting new behavior on the manager’s behalf. In other words, if the consequences above aren’t really going to be enforced by the manager’s manager, if he or she doesn’t really believe in the new selling model either, they you need to go through the same process with them: make them aware that it is important, show senior support, and back it up with consequences both negative and unfortunately, if needed, negative.

At the end of the day we all have to be held accountable for our actions. When we are at work and sent to training, we are paid to learn and to action that learning. Let’s make it easy for people to do so by removing any barriers to learning and reinforcing the “right” behavior.

Topics: Series, Performance Improvement, Learning Theory, Change Management, Coaching, Organizational Change

Attitude is Essential to Learning, Part 1: It’s All About Me

Posted by Reni Gorman on Aug 30, 2011 5:53:00 AM

by Reni Gorman

As learning professionals we spend so much time designing just the right kind of exciting learning intervention that we sometimes forget to think about other factors that may prevent learning. For example, no matter how great the learning experience is, if people are unmotivated to learn then the reality is that they
won’t. Let’s explore some of the reasons why people might be unmotivated and figure out what we can do to combat it.

businessphoto_flipchartsmChallenge 1: How does this relate to me? Can you recall a time when you were totally uninterested and unmotivated to learn? Maybe in grade school during history class? For me it was college math. I simply was not interested. Why? I did not ever think calculus was something I would use in “real life.”We know from adult learning principles that people learn best when they can see the relevance the content has to their day-to-day jobs, and to their lives. So, one would think the answer is simple: show people how the content is relevant to them, and they will be open to learning it. As important as this concept is, it’s something designers forget to do as they get all caught up in designing the learning.

Solution 1: Point out the WIIFM. It is really important in the beginning of every learning experience to point out why it is important and relevant for the learner to absorb this new information. The “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM) should be present at the start of each learning piece.

What else may prevent you from learning?

Challenge 2: I already know this. For example: “I’ve learned several sales models in the past. This sounds like the same stuff.”  If people think they already know something, their minds are shut and they won’t allow in new ways of thinking—because of course they don’t need new ways of thinking about something they know inside and out.

Solution 2: Point out differences—things they may not know. If you know you are dealing with this learner mindset, the best thing to do is first acknowledge that you are teaching them YET ANOTHER sales model. Then, point out what is unique and different about this sales model. Doing that will help people start thinking about all the ways this is different from what they already know and that will open them up to learn more.

I remember creating a module on hedge funds for a major financial years ago and the first page said: “Think you know everything there is to know about hedge funds? Think again! Did you know that…” With just one fun fact on the first page of the module that we could bet was new information to them, we captured their curiosity and dispelled their immediate notion that they did not have to go through this because they already knew.

So far, we’ve focused on the individual, and how to overcome their barriers to learning. But what happens next? There’s an even bigger barrier to implementation out there—and we’ll talk about that in the next installment!

Topics: Series, Performance Improvement, Learning Theory, Change Management, Organizational Change, Organizational Learning

Toward a Learning Agile Organization

Posted by Rich Mesch on Aug 22, 2011 7:25:00 AM

At an organizational level, agility is the ability to grow, change, or innovate at or above the speed of one’s own market. Anything less cannot be considered agility.

-Timothy R. Clark & Conrad Gottfredson

WomanCEOsmallWe have all heard of corporate agility. We hear the term “agile” all the time related to today’s corporate environment: agile processes, agile practices, agile leadership.  In our rapidly changing world, agility is one of the most important skills an organization can have if it is to stay competitive. Agility is the ability to move quickly, change rapidly, and respond to crises, threats and opportunities at the point of need. Of course, the ability to be agile relies on the ability of the organization to quickly gain the knowledge they need to do so. Rapid access to knowledge and information drives the learning agile organization, as defined by Clark and Gottfredson  in In Search of Learning Agility. But what does it mean to have Learning Agility? What does a Learning Agile organization look like?

Imagine being able to get the knowledge you need at the moment you need it. That’s not too much of a stretch today, is it? Think Google Docs, SharePoint, the Internet and intranets. If you want information, it’s out there. You simply need to find it; Google it and you end up with millions of pieces of information to sift and search through. But Learning Agility is not just the ability to find information.

Now imagine being able to find the knowledge you need quickly and easily and then being able to actually apply that new knowledge immediately. What would that look like? Just being able to find information does not make it useful, and certainly does not make it learning. Information only becomes learning when we connect it in our cognitive structures and are able to apply it in context. Google “ADDIE” and you find all kinds of information on instructional design. But will that give you the learning you need to be able to create an instructionally sound course for your target audience?

So how can information be structured and delivered so that it quickly becomes learning that is relevant in the current context and can be applied in a threat, crises or opportunity that arises?  Well, now, that’s Learning Agility.

Technology provides us with so many ways to move toward learning agility. Think “blended learning,” but grown up to include access to knowledge in more ways than just online and classroom. Wikis, discussion forums, online courseware, blogs, chats, social networks… the list can go on and on. Technologies provide the forums we need to be able to share knowledge and access learning at the point of need.

Learning agile organizations understand this need, and provide a new model for developing and delivering learning to their employees, using all of the technologies available to them.  They see learning not as a onetime event, or even as ongoing events, but as adaptive, collaborative, ongoing, and part of the daily activities of any employee. Learning Agile organizations use all tools available to share, collaborate, and learn whenever and wherever, all the time. And Learning Agile organizations value the ability to adapt at the point of need.

Is your organization moving toward Learning Agility?

Clark, T. & Gottfredson, C. (2008). In Search of Learning Agility.  TRClark, Inc.

Topics: Performance Improvement, Learning Theory, Learning Agility, Change Management, Organizational Change, Organizational Learning, Agility

Teaching Problem Solving

Posted by Reni Gorman on Mar 14, 2011 10:32:00 AM

by Reni Gorman

multi-colored squares on a puzzle cubeWhat is Problem Solving?

Whenever a living creature has a goal but doesn’t know how to accomplish it, they engage in problem solving. (Holyoak & Morrison, 2005) Problem solving is considered the most complex of all intellectual functions, as a higher-order cognitive process that requires activation and control of more routine or fundamental skills in order to solve the problem at hand. (Goldstein & Levin, 1987) There are a number of methods for problem solving, including:

Difference reduction, in which we keep reducing the distance between the current state and the goal step by step;

Means-end analysis, where we work backwards from end goal and set sub goals; and

Analogy strategy, where we find similar problems we have solved with pervious strategies and try those same strategies on the new problem.

This is just a basic list; there are many other problem-solving methodolgies. So, how can we set up our learners to succeed?

Conditions under which Learners might Demonstrate Good Problem Solving

Gestalt psychologists have outlined a number of features that make problem solving more difficult, they are as follows: (Holyoak & Morrison, 2005)

Groupingwhen all elements needed to solve the problem are not grouped, but rather scattered. Problem-solving becomes easier if all elements to solve a problem are grouped.

Distraction, think of distracters used when testing learners, the more there are the harder it is to solve the problem.

Functional fixedness, when solving the problem requires that something be used for something other than what it was made for. Using a bunch of pieces of cloth to tie together to form a rope latter is not as intuitive as if rope was just lying around.

Set effect, if we always use a certain method to solve a problem and suddenly that does not work, we have to unlearn the previously learned solution and it is harder than starting from scratch without the set effect.

Based on the list above, if we offer learners a problem where:

  • All the elements needed to solve the problem are grouped,
  • There are no distractions
  • All objects used to solve the problem are used the way they were intended, and
  • The learners will not be reminded of previously experienced, typical problem solving strategies because the problem is so unique

We will have created a condition where the learners will most likely demonstrate good problem solving. However, this approach may not be appropriate for everyone. This approach may only be appropriate for teaching beginners; perhaps advanced learners need just the opposite to challenge them.

Conditions under which Learners might have Difficulty with Problem Solving
In order to challenge more experienced learners, we can do just the opposite: make the conditions under which learners solve the problem more difficult. We can make sure all the elements needed to solve the problem are scattered and not grouped, there are several distractions, all objects used to solve the problem are used in a different way from the way they were intended or are used every day, and we can design the problem so it superficially looks like a very easy problem that would invoke memories of previous strategies, when in fact it is not and will need new strategies.

Setting up a problem in this manner would surely stretch the knowledge and skills of any good problem solver. The goal, of course, is making them a great problem solver.


Goldstein F. C., & Levin H. S. (1987). Disorders of reasoning and problem-solving ability. In M. Meier, A. Benton, & L. Diller (Eds.), Neuropsychological rehabilitation. London: Taylor & Francis Group. Retrieved July 7, 2008 from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Holyoak, K.J. & Morrison, R.G. (2005). The Cambridge Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning. New York: Cambridge University Press

Topics: Performance Improvement, Learning Theory, Change Management, Coaching, Leadership, Organizational Learning

The Leadership Litmus Test

Posted by Rich Mesch on Mar 30, 2010 3:59:00 AM

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”    --John Quincy Adams

People who know me, know I’m addicted to quotes. When I read this quote, it struck me as being so parallel to a recent article I read on leadership titled “Recession as a Litmus Test”. Take a look!

The article discusses that during times of recession (or difficult times in general), there are four distinguishing aspects of leadership. Those four aspects are as follows:

1 - Disciplined Thinking (Dream more)

Help others to see through the noisy clutter of confusion during times of uncertainty. Focus on the known, such as the core business requirements, and keep an eye on the big picture.

2 - A Bias for Action (Do more)

Don’t just wait around for someone to tell you the new vision or the next steps to take.  Start creating it….one step at a time. You may need to take a step back once in awhile, but three steps forward and one step back is better than no steps forward at all.

3 - Timely and Transparent Communication (Inspire others)

Be open, be honest, be realistic. Find the right balance between realism and optimism, but always communicate.

4 - The Ability to Inspire Followership (Become more)

After someone speaks to you, do they feel as if they can move forward or do they feel “stuck”? Use the three items above to help inspire others. Lead by example.

Now, picture yourself in this situation. Due to a recent reorganization, you now are leading a blended team of individuals from two very different organizational cultures (maybe it was a merger, maybe it was a global reorganization effort, whatever the case may be). You need to begin laying out your strategy, supporting projects, plans and processes for your newly-defined team. But where do you begin?

Timeline and Transparent Communication – Acknowledge and recognize the differences in cultures. Discuss as a new team how you begin to for the new culture and expectations within your team.

Disciplined Thinking – Think about what you know and how to “anchor” your team on the known vs. worry and complain over the unknown.  Sure, as a new organization, not everything will be clearly defined. However, some things must be known. For example, the organization must have a business strategy and long-term goals. You can always use this information and collect data on the competitive marketplace or industry environment

A Bias for Action – Act! Based on the facts that you know now, start creating your strategy, begin planning projects that support those known goals. Start your research!

Inspire Followership – Examine your team and others that you have an influence on. After each interaction, think about the impact you had on them. If the impact was not as positive as it could have been, consider what you can do differently the next time you interact with your team.

Distinguish yourself from all other leaders by implementing these tactics on a regular basis. Take these steps and you’ll pass the leadership litmus test.

Topics: Performance Improvement, Change Management, Organizational Change, Leadership

Relationship Building Tips

Posted by Rich Mesch on Jan 21, 2010 6:30:00 AM

In his book Relationship Economics, David Nour urges us to think strategically about our business relationships. A significant component of that strategy, he says, is for us to know our purpose. As a Performance Consultant, our purpose is to serve our clients as a Strategic Business Partner. But how do we do that if our clients keep labeling us as simply a Learning Support Provider? Here are some ideas.

According to Dana Gaines Robinson, we can become a Strategic Business Partner to our clients by:
    • Gaining Access
    • Building Credibility
    • Fostering Trust
In order to Gain Access to new clients, we can:
    • Develop visibility by offering to serve on corporate initiatives where we will interact with these individuals
    • Ask an existing client or colleague who regards us favorably to provide an introduction to the new client
    • Offer to share our research with this new client in an area that he/she may be interested in—research that has business value
In order to Build Credibility with clients, we can:
    • Demonstrate that we possess knowledge of their business—and more importantly, skills in helping to make their business more successful by developing their employees. We can do so by sharing what we know about the client’s business priorities and describing to the client how partnering with us will help him/her satisfy those priorities. We can sell clients on the value of our skill set and services.
    • Be a good listener. Ask probing questions about projects currently underway or new projects the client envisions in the future. Listen; then, discuss our unique skill set with the client as we offer to assist with new or existing projects. We may also want to share examples of our work with the client.
In order to Foster Trust with clients, we can:
    • Seek clarity and confirmation on the client’s expectations of us, and—at the same time—share our expectations of the client. We can voice our assumptions and have the client voice his or her assumptions as well. We can do so honestly, openly, and frankly.
    • Meet or exceed the client’s expectations. In doing so, we’ll build credibility and foster trust.
    • Get to know the client personally, as well as professionally. Work is one dimension of the client’s life. What matters to the client outside of work? We can take an interest in all facets of the client’s life.
These are just some tactical tips for executing on the strategy to become a Strategic Business Partner to new and existing clients.
Growing Individual Contributors into Effective Leaders

Topics: Series, Performance Improvement, Change Management, Organizational Change

Tips for Navigating the Uncertainty of Organizational Change

Posted by Rich Mesch on Jan 5, 2010 12:17:00 AM

“They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” – Andy Warhol

Organizational change can make people feel uneasy and vulnerable. You may worry about the security of your job role, your new co-workers, or your revised job responsibilities. 

As your organization transitions to its new changed state, you are likely being asked to change as well. That’s difficult given these two key reasons why:
    • No one can paint you a crystal clear picture of the future, and—more importantly—what that future means for you, personally.
    • No one is placing a roadmap in your hands and saying, “Here’s exactly what you need to do to get there.”

In the absence of a final destination and a roadmap for getting there, you can still move forward. Here are some suggestions for doing so:

Focus on the elements that you can control.

It’s natural to feel stuck, frustrated, and overwhelmed. When these feelings arise, acknowledge them and make a conscious decision to control your reaction. Look upon organizational changes as opportunities to position yourself as a key contributor to the change. Identify new processes to create, new people to meet, and new strategies to implement. In essence, take account of what is while optimistically considering what could be in the future.

Plan for success.

Once you’ve identified opportunities to enact change, it’s time to plan for taking action. Ask yourself: How, specifically, would you introduce yourself to new colleagues—or reposition yourself to existing colleagues if the scope of your job has changed? What are the necessary steps in the process for helping your internal clients achieve their business goals? How might you educate your internal clients on this process? In short, put together a game plan for action that outlines the steps you can take in the near-term and long-term to ensure your success.

Put your plan into action.

It may appear to make sense to wait until the organization has evolved into its final changed state in order to put your plan into action. If you do this, though, you lose valuable time to build relationships, shape people’s perceptions of your talents, and demonstrate your skill set. Think about it this way…significant bonds are created when you’re in the trenches with people working together to address a challenge. Don’t lose time. Begin to implement your action plan amidst the change. If you do, you will impress others by showing them that you’re committed to building the roadmap with them and travelling together to the final destination.

Topics: Series, Performance Improvement, Change Management, Organizational Change

Transformative Learning, Part 4: Organizational Change

Posted by Rich Mesch on Dec 14, 2009 3:20:00 AM

by Dawn Francis, Ed.D.

One of my last blog entries prompted a reader to ask how my research on transformative learning can apply to organizational transformation. She specifically wondered how it can apply to organizational transformation that occurs through the merger and acquisition of companies. What a great question! When two organizations become one through a merger or acquisition, this creates an intense change in culture. The way you used to work…well, it’s different now. The people you used to work with…well, they’re different now. The assumptions governing your performance on the job…well, you’ll need to change them now. It’s hard to fathom a more disorienting dilemma. Suddenly, you have to unlearn old behaviors, and relearn new behaviors. That’s a recipe for transformative learning, to be sure.

How do you survive cultural change and transform your perspective on the change in the process? Here are a few key tips:

    • First Things First: Reflect – Changing the way you perform on the job is never easy. Gain strength and clarity by examining your own beliefs and assumptions about the organizational transformation. Ask yourself why you might be resisting change. Consider the opportunities inherent in the change—both for yourself and your team.
    • Dialogue with Others: Listen to others’ reasons for resistance. Share your own concerns. Collectively consider the possibilities for personal and professional growth that lie ahead throughout the change process. Create a shared vision of the future that’s in alignment with the strategy being set by leaders within the organization.
    • Gain New Skills and Knowledge: New ways of work often require different skills and knowledge. Take account of the revised business goals for your organization. Work with your manager to determine how your performance needs to align with these goals. Proactively identify gaps in your skills and knowledge that will likely inhibit your ability to perform according to these new expectations. Secure the skills and knowledge necessary to change your behavior. In turn, you’ll feel more invested in the change and more empowered to change.
    • Build Competence and Take Action: As you apply your new behaviors on the job, request the support you need to perform to expectations. This support might be in the form of performance support tools, coaching/mentoring, and process improvements. Ask for feedback and engage in continuous learning.

As these tips illustrate, your survival through personal and organizational transformation depends on your willingness to embrace new perspectives, your desire to gain new skills and knowledge, and your ability exhibit new behaviors.

Topics: Series, Performance Improvement, Transformative Learning, Change Management, Organizational Change, Organizational Learning