The First Law: It is easier to overcome momentum than inertia. So? Get started.
The Second Law: Small, attainable milestones create sustainable movement toward the bigger goal. Simply put, a schedule with milestones no more than three to six weeks apart will rapidly and graphically illustrate progress.
The Third Law: Start with supporters of the vision. Simply put, you can spend your time being successful, or you can spend your time trying to convince the naysayers that you will be successful. So? Ignore the laggards.
The Fourth Law: Speed and success create gravity. Simply put, the faster you achieve milestones, the more people and groups will want to participate. Those additions to the project create critical mass, and eventually even the naysayers are drawn into the program.
If your boss or some other executive said, “We’re going to be completely moved to e-learning in 18 months” or something like that, you are probably experiencing the joy of multiple disjointed efforts. The speaker always thinks that the pronouncement will get the entire team on the same train headed toward the stated goal. The reality is that without specific direction, everyone gets in separate rental cars and takes off according to their own maps.
To be successful, partner with the corporate IT and networking team. If you work with IT to address business problems, establish some standard tools that IT will endorse and support and then demonstrate cost or learning effectiveness, you can be successful. The key is bringing the IT and the networking teams a business problem and getting their help to create the technical solution to that problem. The best part of this is that IT will extend its “Net Police” role to include e-learning tools and deployment.
Once these standards are clearly specified and accepted within the company, you get to encourage the experimentation and pilots that other groups want to do. The main thrust changes from compliance to convergence. This way you encourage experimentation and function-specific efforts because bringing in new tools, new processes, new disciplines and new media is the only way to keep pace with the changing technology of the learning industry.
Doing that without discipline or process creates chaos for the learner community and usually creates technical problems (plus the additional costs of duplicated and wasted efforts). Some of the most obvious technical problems include learners who cannot find the content they need, learners who don’t have the right software or hardware and networking folks who find bandwidth constraints that negatively impact the company. Obviously none of that is desirable, but it is common, and incredibly destructive to the goals of an e-learning initiative.
You need people who have developed software products and project managers who solve problems and think differently from successful training professionals. You need managers who think outside their education box.
If you expect to have business impact, you need more business acumen and expertise in the management team and fewer hard-core training professionals. You will need business managers, finance, marketing and sales managers, in addition to IT professionals who want to build a new business and hopefully have a passion around “fixing training.”
In the end, e-learning is about assessment, communication, collaboration and, oh yes, training. Your e-learning initiative will only use training as the solution 15 percent to 25 percent of the time. The rest will be less structured, less formal and just as important to the learners. The team that implements needs to understand and buy in to that reality, that vision, or you won’t achieve the success that you, your team or your organization envision.
Tom Kelly is vice president of the Internet Learning Solutions Group at Cisco Systems Inc. Nader Nanjiani is marketing programs manager of the Internet Learning Solutions Group. Contents of this article will also appear in “The Productivity Pyramid: A Cisco Approach to Internet Learning,” from Cisco Press in 2004. For more information, e-mail Tom and Nader at email@example.com.