Progress over perfection?

Every year there’s something in our Learning Insights research that chimes with what we’ve been thinking about. This year, I was really interested in the findings about the need to deliver things quicker.

Here’s what grabbed me: “Which is best? You deliver a piece of content that your learners rate 10 out of 10 – but they’re a little frustrated because it arrives a month after they could’ve done with the new skills on the job. Or, you deliver some content before it’s needed – it scores 8 out of 10 but has provided skills or knowledge that have actually made a difference.”

I’m a passionate advocate of ‘fit for purpose’. Too often, ‘quality’ is taken to mean something visually gorgeous, or technically innovative. But simple is good, and often better. Google is an interesting example of this. It’s plain, it’s simple, it’s useful. Yes, we enjoy the occasional Google doodle, but actually, what we are talking about is not what it looks like, but whether we can trust it.

But to misquote Dolly Parton, “It costs a lot of money to look this good” *.

Why is Google so good? Because they’ve spent a lot of time (and money) thinking about what really matters and making it work. The user interface, the look and feel. These are fine tuned to be just what we need.

How does this apply to elearning?

It’s all very well Google spending a lot of time on user interface, but the clear message in L&D is we need to do things faster. Well, I think we can and should have our cake and eat it.

Firstly, is the choice between the 10 out of 10, and the 8 of 10 the right one? What questions were the learners being asked? What criteria were they using to rate the elearning? Were they being asked about how much they ‘liked’ it rather than how much they learned from it? Is this a classic 'happy sheet' issue - asking the wrong question and getting the wrong answer? Are we sure that learners understand the purpose of the elearning - why it matters to them - and are being asked about whether it has met that need?

Secondly, with a proper strategy in place you should be able to turn around elearning efficiently, without it having to be quick and dirty. It's hard to do something quickly from a standing start. Formula 1 racing cars get round that track quickly because they’ve spent all year preparing for it – and that same thinking can apply to what we do.

So, do the preparation. Take time to set up good robust processes, ways of working, ensure you have good people and suppliers in place with clear roles and responsibilities. Set up templates, look and feel, branding, conventions, style guides. Sort out your technology - choose your authoring tool or framework, and ensure your know how to publish content reliably to your LMS. Critically, define what good looks like for elearning - what does 'fit for purpose' mean in your context? How do you define your objectives, and how do you measure effectiveness?

Another sensible time investment is ensuring that L&D teams are properly plugged into the business and can anticipate training needs better, by being involved earlier. Is learning sometimes the bit that gets remembered at the end, rather than considered from the beginning?

Having done all that, you still need to have a good streamlined way of working that gets your content built quickly and well. What slows down a project is not, usually, something technical - it’s people. Are there parts of your process – sign-offs and reviews are a good example - which are not really adding value? Are stakeholders focusing on what really matters? Have you got too many people involved too often? Is the team focussed on what really matters and what’s fit for purpose?

Get these things right and you’ve built some really solid foundations for creating good content, without unnecessary delay. We - you - should be able to have quick - and good.

* she actually says “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap”

Download our latest report, Learning Insights 2017: Progress with purpose

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