One of the central tasks in project management is to make complexity manageable. Transparency, communication and rhythm help to achieve this. And just when a virus seems to drive complexity into immeasurable proportions, these three basic steps are essential.
On the one hand, it may almost be desirable to be able to work from home. On the other hand, there are a number of challenges to be mastered in this setting, especially in project management. What is the point of a project if all project members – whether on the customer or service provider side – can only work together online?
Trust is good – transparency, communication and rhythm are better!
Fundamental trust is certainly a prerequisite for any kind of cooperation, whether online or offline. In online communication, there are other challenges in addition to the technical ones, which are less or not at all relevant in real life:
Different levels of experience of participants: Participants with a lot of online experience meet employees who rarely attend online meetings. Don’t rely on the same level of experience in dealing with technology or online etiquette!
Limited or intensified acoustics: Participants must rely primarily on acoustics that are different online than offline. Noises that are less significant in a meeting room can be quite disturbing, e.g. coughing. Unfortunately, conversations of the participants that you want to hear are often hampered by insufficient technology.
Different expectations of the attendants: What is often annoying in offline meetings can lead to even more misunderstandings and frustration in the protection of the home office.
Meet these special challenges by creating security for collaboration through transparency, communication and rhythm. Regardless of whether you are dealing with classically managed projects or more agile project management, this triad does not mean a restriction in the scope of action, but rather meeting changes with a solid foundation on which to make decisions – even iterative ones.
What does that mean in detail – transparency, communication, rhythm?
Transparency helps in navigating the situation. To begin, break down the complexity. For an online meeting, as simple as it may sound, this means:
Before each online meeting, create an agenda with clear times and responsibilities for each item.
Keep the meeting on time so that the people involved can dial in and contribute according to the agenda. Appoint a time keeper, usually the moderator.
Document resolutions and make them available to all participants in the minutes afterwards.
Document tasks in a “List of Open Points”, agree on target dates and responsible persons in the meeting for each task. Distribute the tasks to the appropriate persons responsible in the follow-up.
Communication helps to understand and involve people in the success of the project. Providing the right information at the right time to the right group of people not only promotes the commitment of those involved, but also avoids expensive adjustments at crucial points and prevents follow-up costs.
Do not skimp on suitable technology to ensure stable acoustics. Take your time to evaluate which software is best suited for you depending on whether you want to invest in a complete collaboration platform such as MS TEAMS or whether slimmer online meeting platforms such as TeamViewer are sufficient.
Establish rules of the game for communication and online etiquette:
The moderator introduces all online participants at the beginning, including those who may be sitting in the room with him/her.
Let the other participants finish speaking in the online meeting. Confusion Talking online is even worse than offline!
Set participants to mute (“mute”) their microphone when they are not speaking.
Make sure everyone turns on their camera during the meeting.
Discuss topics that only concern one person bilaterally, preferably over the phone afterwards.
Optional: set up a WhatsApp group to support social interaction within the team.
Rhythm creates structure and thus security. Man is a creature of habit, as the saying goes. Change means more energy expenditure for our brain! If online meetings become a recurring routine, we perceive them as an anchor in the uncertain project business.
Find a suitable rhythm for discussing the topics. If participants are increasingly absent from meetings, discuss the meeting schedule again. In agile settings, rely on daily calls.
Do not sacrifice the credibility of the platform by badly planned agendas. Rhythm does not mean that everyone always has to come, only that the meeting takes place regularly. Invite only relevant people according to the agenda.
Put topics on resubmission in your “List of Open Points”. A look at project schedules helps to identify these recurring topics.
We wish you much success with our tips for your online meetings! Stay healthy!
If you have questions, we would love to help. We are happy to share our experience!
Many of today’s companies follow a hierarchical organizational model that strictly separates tasks and departments from one another and arranges them in a pyramidal system: purchasing, development, controlling, HR, etc. This organizational design has produced a control mechanism that consists of two directions:The instruction flows top-down and the teams are controlled from bottom to top via reports and tracking.
This model has proven itself for decades but is now undergoing a radical change across the board. More and more companies are introducing agile ways of working for a variety of reasons, although most of them initially only see the tip of the iceberg. Agile has become a trend. A trend that everyone believes to understand, but which only a few have fathomed out. And this is exactly where the problem is.
As so often, people only scratch the surface and in fact agile work is often equated with the introduction of dailies, KanBan boards, and sprints. So changing the processes, roles and tools and succumbs often leads to the misconception that agile working concepts have been implemented overnight. The Agile Manifesto already says that this cannot be it: Individuals and interactions OVER processes and tools. Methods and tools are certainly a large part of agilization, but simply using tools and methods does not make you agile per se – and this is the reason why agile work is often already doomed from the beginning or is regarded as “buzzword”.
Tasks are still distributed horizontally and neither the mindset of the employees nor of the hierarchies has changed so far. And this is exactly the point.
But what does agile being mean?
Agile Being does not only result from techniques and methods, but rather from principles and values, such as transparency, high personal responsibility, commitment and trust.
It’s about culture and mindset. It’s about…
the transparency to show open capacities or how far you have got during a sprint – or not.
to take responsibility and the intrinsic motivation to work through topics or to take them up by your own initiative, without the assignment being made beforehand by a hierarchy.
Committing yourself to a task without any ifs and buts.
the trust in your employees on the management side that the way in which the issues are tackled is the right one.
the trust in the team’s collective expertise without delivering a weekly report to the management level.
The courage to be open and to really understand that incremental work is there to make mistakes (early). There is no point in living old practices and role models without adapting them to the new value stream.
A new way of thinking, away from power and positions towards ambitions.
Successful leadership in VUCA world demands new leadership concepts. Decision-making competencies have to be shifted downwards and the stronger separation of professional and social leadership has to be enforced. The manager now acts rather as a coach, defines requirements and framework conditions and thus specifies a clear purpose, towards which the team can orient itself. However, the team itself will develop the way to achieve the goals and they can derive their actions from the purpose.
It is important that the management level also understands that micro management has to be avoided and that they have to set an example of personal change in order to be able to implement sustainable agile transition. All in all, empathy, openness, intuition and the courage to be flexible are the prerequisites necessary to achieve real agile excellence.
All that glitters is not gold – at least if you limit yourself to agile methods and tools. In order to experience real agility, you have to dig deeper and constantly reflect and question yourself and your actions. An agile mindset cannot be established by force, but requires constant awareness of your own values and procedures. Only if this is understood, a self-organized, learning system can be eventually be developed.
Over a hundred players in six groups, a two-day exploratory trip and several destinations: How can we develop further, how can we learn in a playful way and what can we give our customers in the process? On the two-day campus of [bu:st], the so-called Agile Dynamics Game was a game of strong tactics, dice, haggling, but also learning from colleagues and last but not least a lot of laughter.
The [bu:st] Campus took place for the ninth time this year. 137 [bu:st] employees made their way to Bad Aibling at the beginning of July to spend two days in the hotel learning from and with colleagues and finding out how the consulting company can be even more agile and pass this expertise on to its customers.
“For us as an organization, the campus is a highlight of the year. It is a wonderful platform to exchange ideas, reflect and learn from each other across teams. At the same time, it gives us the opportunity to deal intensively with new topics,” is how [bu:st] automotive managing director Bernhard Pollety describes the annual company event.
Before the participants took their seats at the gaming tables, they all first picked up their own workbooks on Agile Dynamics, slipped into the campus shirts and worked out their current challenges and customer projects in small groups, with movable walls and small presentations.
Afterwards the pinboards were set up in circles and the teams split up: Part of the team was informed by the neighbours, the rest answered questions from the curious colleagues on the status of their internal and external projects, the cooperation with the customers but also where challenges still exist.
In a short presentation Bernhard Pollety and Sebastian Zölls, member of the management board, once again highlighted the challenges with the VUCA world and showed how [bu:st] can deal with these requirements: Above all with an agile and intelligent organisation.
Agility for [bu:st] is not equal to Scrum and is not intended to replace existing agility. Instead, methods from all systems – classic and agile – should be integrated intelligently, dynamically and flexibly. The Agile Dynamics Model, which [bu:st] developed in collaboration with five4sucess, reflects exactly this, as demonstrated by Zölls and Pollety.
Agile Dynamics concentrates on five memes that can be transferred to companies as management methods and tools:
In the red, directive, meme, it burns in the figurative sense at all corners and ends; the entire organization is in the “fire brigade mode”. Here, work is carried out in task force mode and the team is led in an authoritarian manner. [bu:st] can provide operational support here.
In the blue regulative meme, there is a pyramidal hierarchy. Thinking happens at the top, being executed at the bottom. For [bu:st] this means not only operational support but also organisational development and improvement of tools, processes and structures.
The innovative orange meme describes companies that strive for improvement, innovation and profit in their projects. For [bu:st], this means giving customers time for innovation and productivity and introducing lean principles, for example.
In the green, collective, meme, the organization is seen as a community or as a large family: The opinion and well-being of each individual is important, the hierarchies are flat. [bu:st] specialists can act and advise as Scrum Masters or agile coaches.
An organisation that knows and understands all memes can react yellow, flexible and dynamic to the VUCA world. The yellow, integrative, meme stands for open thinking and flexibility. Conflicts are seen as an opportunity, change is part of the organisation. [bu:st] analyses in which cultural pattern the customer finds himself and combines the suitable method from all memes individually, Zölls and Pollety describe the fifth meme. (More information about Agile Dynamics can be found here)
According to the theory, the [bu:st]-employees were allowed to test the memes and the thoughts of Agile Dynamics on their own bodies – in the form of a game. “In the Agile Dynamics Game®, the aim is to learn how VUCA can be regarded as an opportunity through playful experiences, through success and failure,” was how Zölls described the goal of the game. The board game was developed by five4success and played for the first time in a large round.
Mal in großer Runde gespielt.
Without knowing exactly what will happen in the next few hours, the players took their seats at smaller tables in teams of four to five players. Several groups of players each formed a “game table”, which was accompanied by game leaders and employees of the non-profit organization Viva con Agua. In dice rounds, the clans first determined a leader. The clans then had to perform various tasks – partly against, partly with the other clans. The clans were tacted, haggled, bartered, traded, formed alliances and tricked.
The game developers describe the idea behind the game as follows: “To recognize obstacles and blockades in complex working environments in good time and to create stability and performance co-creatively through simple interventions”.
After two eventful and exciting days, exactly that was achieved: communication, collaboration, learning – in other words, playing to recognize. “At first everyone thinks of the competition – but if we set ourselves goals together, we’d better get there,” was how one player described her experience. “The emotions are boiling up, the game is sweeping people away,” observed another player.
“With the Agile Dynamics Game® this year we had an extraordinary opportunity to experience the increasing complexity in today’s VUCA world and to explore possible answers in a playful way in the sense of Agile Dynamics”, Pollety sums up the campus with satisfaction.
In this article we would like to introduce you to parts of the [bu:st] process management method eyeLean. The method has emerged from experience and has proven to help our client to view their situation from a new perspective and to lead the project to success.
That’s what the agile [bu: st] process management eyeLean stands for
When we decided to transform our approach into a written method, two things were quite modern: the term “lean” and the prefix “i”. With a little bit of self-irony we therefore internally named our method “iLean”. When our method was visually fixed, the picture of two loops, which have similarities with the pupil and the iris of an eye, resulted. From this moment on we decided to name the [bu:st] process management eyeLean. The sound remained the same, the spelling changed.
“The only person who behaves reasonable is my tailor. He takes a new measure each time he meets me, while everyone else always sets the old standards, hoping they still fit.”
George Bernard Shaw, Irish dramatist
Every customer is unique. His demands on agile process management are as well.
Part of our self-image as a premium consultant is to look at each customer individually and to deliver solutions that are not blindly applied to a seemingly familiar pattern. Rather, it is about understanding the customer and his challenges and adapting our standards to the specific situation. How many times have you been promised such a service? How often did you feel misunderstood after many years of investing time and money in a supposed to be appropriate solution? Would you spend so much money on a poorly tailored garment? So why are you doing it in the consultation?
Due to numerous positive feedback from our customers, we decided to open the gates and to give you an insight into our approach. We want to show you what sets us apart from other process management experts, and we are happy to share our knowledge with you to give you food for thought for your own project.
The [bu:st] process management method does not lay a template on a supposed pattern
In order for us to have the same understanding, one thing first: In our view, a method is not a rigid pattern that should be carried out blindly without reflecting on the situation. Rather, it is something structuring that helps us to do things in a meaningful order. This ensures that the work results complement each other to save valuable time and energy. There is no unnecessary sorting and structuring.
For us as process management experts, it is important to point out the difference between knowledge and understanding. It often seems that established knowledge and understanding of the topic are confused. Understanding does not mean finding information to accomplish a task. Rather, understanding is the art of seeing things in a new context, of abstracting them and adapting them flexibly to the circumstances.
First make yourself clear about the situation, then involve others
To build understanding, in the first loop we get a picture of the project and the company situation. Then we will discuss the topics with the customer in the second loop. Through this systematic separation, we build on an uninfluenced understanding, which is later compared with the customer´s vision. This gives us the opportunity to check whether we really understood the situation, the “language” and the challenges of the client and his project.
In the interest of the customer, the project conditions are always in focus. So we can match our results from the first loop with the image of the customer and show him a different perspective at the same time. By doing so, we help our customers to break out of their pattern and to successfully start the project.
That’s how you learn the difference between knowledge and understanding
A mechanism in our brain means that things that are understood cannot be forgotten. Once you really understand the meaning behind a method, it does not matter in which context you apply it. So it is not necessary to memorize individual steps in order to be able to work according to a certain method, since these steps are subconsciously derived once you have understood the method.
Although we individually adapt all of the steps to the situation, the strategy behind remains the same. Take the project schedule as an example. If you search the internet for the names of each phase of the project, you will find a variety of terms for the same phases, all of which claim to be the right ones. But once you understand how a project works, it does not matter if they are called “initialization” or “preparation” in the schedule. Once you understand what is important in the starting phase, you can overcome challenges and solve problems.
The inner loop of the [bu: st] process management method
Our agile process management method is based on running through two loops (one inner and one outer). Characteristic of the inner loop is that all steps are directed inwards, which means that this loop is initially only run by us as consultants. The customer will be involved at a later date. This allows the [bu:st] process management experts to get a realistic picture of the current situation and to create a possible target image.
Step 1: Create personal Gemba
The first step of our method begins with the personal Gemba. According to the Japanese word for “place of action”, this is about getting an idea of the production site and to get in contact with the industry, the company, the product and all other possible influencing factors (depending on access and access possibilities). We first assess the situation from a neutral perspective before exchanging ideas with the customer. The goal is to acquire the best possible prior knowledge.
Step 2: Explore the process map
In order to get a feeling for the customer’s processes, we familiarize ourselves with the existing process landscape and the organizational structure and compare them with our first own ideas. Here it is necessary to allow free thinking and to play with various possibilities. This is the only way to ensure that our input matches the given process structures and that the entire situation is optimized.
Step 3: Develop understanding for the future vision
This is the last step of the inner loop. At this point, we have already gathered a lot of information and, if possible, analyzed and evaluated without the influence of the customer. Now it is time to put this information on one side of the desk and the assignment to the opposite side. By comparing these data, a suitable picture of the future is created and put in the right focus. Are there any contradictions or concurrent information that stands in the way of success?
What should these examples show you and what can you learn from them? Get away from your daily routine by imagining that you are the consultant yourself and that you are in your company for the first time. What would you pay attention to, what questions would you ask? How does everything work on you? If you were to rebuild your business or project from scratch, how would you structure it? Would you have a solution that does not fit with your processes? Through these thought experiments, you create a mental model that you can work with. If you now ask all these questions and answer them for yourself, then in the first loop only one question remains: What is your picture of the future?
The outer loop of the [bu: st] process management method
After familiarizing ourselves with the realities, the outer loop is about involving the people in the project and sharing your experiences. Equal cooperation and an open, exploratory dialogue are the keys to successfully completing the following three steps.
Step 1: Know the process history
The best solution for one customer is not necessarily the best solution for another customer. So instead of imposing ready-made process reference models on your customers and fundamentally changing their processes, it is worthwhile taking a look at the old processes together. To do this, let’s first discuss the history of the current process world: which processes have existed in the past and why are they no longer available? Which attempts have failed? And why? Answers to these questions not only help the consultant to avoid past mistakes, it also helps those involved to reflect on the past. Through this approach, all participants are actively involved in the change process and the acceptance of changes increases.
Step 2: Create lean principles and analyze wastes
A mere check on the lean principles is not effective here. The [bu:st] process management experts are guided by their understanding and are able to abstract the classical methods of wasting. We create a table that contains the classic wastage types and write down in an extra column, what it means to the environment when we adjust them.
This table will be printed out for the next Gemba and filled in with the process participants. However, this conversation is not primarily about querying each type of waste, but rather about identifying the “pain” of all those involved. Our overall picture is complemented by the collection of all the wastes that appear in the process.
Step 3: Create a comprehensive Gemba
This step is different from the first Gemba in an important point: Now it is no longer about the image that we have made of the current situation as an external consultant, but about the actual commissioning and the framework that has been agreed with the client. Here we focus on the points that are relevant to reach the goal and need to be changed. This not only means being there, but also overseeing the operational activity related to the assignment.
In practice, unfortunately, we repeatedly observe that this step is completely misconceived by companies. Often there is a so-called “Gemba Walk”, which actually serves to look at the situation on the ground. In fact, the focus is only on printed slides on a pin board, while standing with the back to the production. The actual goal of the “walk” is missed.
Practical tip: Turn around and stand with your back to the pin board. This allows consultants and management to concentrate on the essentials.
On a sheet of paper and a pencil, all anomalies should be noted and sketched. In brief and informal talks, further information is collected. A difference to the first (personal) Gemba is that the findings can be shown to customer on site. Depending on the prevailing corporate culture, this can be astoundingly eye-opening.
Avoid the mistakes of the past and reflect on why generally successful measures have not worked this time. When is the right time to try again? Do not rely on reports or numbers – the truth is out there, not what’s on a slide. And that’s exactly what needs to be communicated to those involved. Break down existing structures and look at what’s really going on in the project.
[bu:st] is your professional consulting for agile process management methods in Munich
The [bu:st] process management method is primarily designed to launch a customer project in a given situation. An already performed step does not mean that this step does not have to be repeated. Of course it is necessary to go through certain steps regularly or several times. We prefer to reduce the number of steps, but to carry them out in a demand-oriented cycle. The [bu:st] process management method eyeLean helps to sharpen the blurry vision and getting the best out of our customer.
In agile product development, the product owner (PO) is one of the three key figures in the scrum team. He is responsible for the delivery of the product, ensures smooth process management with his methods and is supported in the development team by the scrum master. In contrast to the scrum master, the PO often stands in the background – also because of the supposed similarity to the role of the project leader. The project manager is responsible for achieving the project goals, while the product owner represents the interests of the customer as well as their requirements and expectations for the product.
[bu:st] defines: The 4 core elements of product success
The product owner is therefore responsible for stakeholder management and coordinates with the customer at regular intervals whether the product meets his expectations. This creates the basis of the product backlog that can be adapted continuously. In addition, the PO is the link between scrum team and internal interfaces, locating the agile working model and taking care of the communication. At [bu:st], the PO is also responsible for adhering to the agile roadmap to ensure a high product quality.
However, the product success and the return on investment (ROI) depend on many other PO skills and factors. We at [buːst] have identified the most important four core elements and discussed them in more detail below.
# 1: Keep an eye on the product vision
In the development process it can happen that the product vision gets out of focus. That is why it is important to keep an eye on the original objective and the product benefits. This can help to prevent ambiguity and to increase development efficiency. By taking into account the minimum viable product, the definition of deliverable increments sharpens the goal, leads to transparency and adaptability in order to save valuable development time and to protect the budget.
# 2: An agile mindset and hands-on mentality
In order to clarify the role model function of the PO, the [bu:st] scrum masters proactively request the PO´s agreement and commitment regarding the agile framework. This will set the course for successful product development and it will anchor and sharpen the team spirit. For [bu:st] it is especially important that the PO has a strong hands-on mentality and is always available to the scrum team.
# 3: The balance of compromise and assertiveness
The third core element is the balance between the mutual conveyance of interests, the capacity for finding a consensus and the assertiveness in the stakeholder environment. This makes decisions faster and the product development process gets more efficient. In addition, the communication and cooperation capability of the PO strengthens and promotes the cooperation of all stakeholders, which also increases the product’s success.
# 4: A comprehensive systematic thinking and result orientation
The product owner has a strong awareness of networking and interactions within the organization and uses this to avoid friction. In addition, the agile coaches of [bu:st] ensure that agility is integrated into company processes and interfaces, as this is the only way to visualize communication and escalation routes in a result-oriented way.
Curious about more? Our [bu:st] experts for supplier and automotive project management in Munich will be happy to provide further insights into agile product development. Feel free to contact us!
At the beginning of April 2019 we invited together with our partner Celemi to the 1st Rethink Work & Learning Conference. Approximately 70 participants accepted this invitation – mostly decision-makers from large and medium-sized companies from all sectors in Germany.
Bernhard Pollety, CEO [bu:st] automotive, opened the conference with a short opener on the topic. “Today, networks are at the centre with the defining ideal of cooperation. If you make use of the possibilities offered by networks, a completely different way of working and learning is possible these days”. This makes New Work & Continuous Learning a game changer that makes it possible to interpret VUCA in a completely different way.
In her lecture “Rethinking Transformation” Karin Maria Schertler dealt with the question of why. She decides on motivation. The why is what connects each one of us with his job, his profession, his vocation. She also quoted the philosopher and founder of the “New Work” movement Frithjof H. Bergmann: “Do we know what we really, really want? In which world do we – really – want to live?” Transformation requires strong personalities and “also hurts,” says Schertler. Ultimately, transformation requires a reversal of one’s own thinking.
Dr. Deborah Schnabel gave us the opportunity to participate in her refreshing lecture “With Startup Spirit to Educational Innovations” in numerous creative, entrepreneurial and agile approaches to learning. The focus was on the “Creative learning space”, which enables innovative learning tailored to the individual. Creative problem-solving skills, a spirit of innovation, team skills, diversity competence and a digital mindset will be the key to success in the working world of tomorrow.
In his contribution “Serious Boardgame or 3D Learning? An inspiring pilot.” Francisco Ramon Pelzing deals with the question of how 3D simulations can be used to organize business games in virtual spaces. With vivid practical examples it became very clear why 3D Learning is on the way to the “Next Big Thing”. It offers social opportunities and teamwork, it enables learning through practice, it simulates reality and promotes experience without the effects of mistakes and it supports employees in agile working methods. By the way, Pelzing says, “it’s fun too!
In his keynote speech, Norbert Leifeld presented the “Balanced Learning Model (BLM)”, in which four aspects are of importance. Relevance of the learning content, in line with the employee’s level of development, geared to his or her learning goals with actively supported transfer of theory into practice – from knowledge to ability. These aspects must be balanced and geared to improving performance. The model tested at [bu:st] in practice visualizes the factors that are decisive not only for training effective managers in our training program, but also for developing people into leaders.
Like a kind of Nordstern, the BLM helps to check the effectiveness of training courses or why individual qualification measures have not brought the desired success to employees. The focus on performance is very honest and may seem controversial, but the interaction with the search for personal purpose is a matter of opinion.
And finally Sabine Kluge took us into the working world of tomorrow and developed together with the audience the four key qualifications for a complex working world: entrepreneurship, making decisions, networking and filtering & focusing. The employee’s path and individual development can only be achieved through self-reflection, learning in a team and a shared vision.
In addition to the keynotes, the conference topics had the opportunity to participate in Celemi business games. There were four different simulation games to choose from. Claudia Schmitz used Celemi Decision Base to strengthen the decision-making authority in the VUCA world. Five teams invested their budgets in new markets and product development to win customers in a highly competitive market.
Diane Van den Berge focused on entrepreneurship: “Through Celemi Apples & Oranges, employees understand financial flows and their role in them. Only then will employees be able to make good business decisions.
How do we attract the right employees and retain them for the long term? Celemi Tango, moderated by Tore Byström, dealt with this question. The simulation game simulates a project-based and knowledge-intensive company, where participants align strategic HR management with an overall corporate strategy.
Henrik Olofsson presented the latest simulation game – Celemi Agile. In the digital training, participants are guided in groups through the dilemma of a project, where they choose between alternative actions. Direct feedback shows how agile the group was. Through discussions in the group, the digital simulation becomes interactive.
In conclusion: an all-round successful event!
– „Great event – great organization!“ – „Please invite me to your next event again.“ – „You have a really nice office – very inspiring working environment. I would like to do a workshop here.“ – „This keynote just made me think a lot..“ – „I found this event highly engaging and inspiring. The event concept was smart, combining interesting speeches with interactive business simulations in a beautiful coworking atmosphere. I’d love to join again next time“
If you want to be an employer in the War for Talents, you need the right Learning Ecosystem to offer attractive and efficient – in short, better – qualification opportunities in your company in a world of digital natives. At the same time, a growing customer base and rapid technical and social developments are constantly placing new demands on the knowledge of employees. With the Balanced Learning Model, we have developed a model with which you and your team can master exactly these challenges. The result is improved learning processes and sustainable training success. We asked our expert Nicola Prinz about this topic.
Why a new learning model? What prompted you to look for a new basis for better qualification opportunities?
The effects of qualification and training were not sustainable enough for our taste, and this coupled with empty training courses made the alarm bells ring. All aspects of the model have always been present in the organization. Basically, we are not telling anything new here, only the compact visualization is new. We just weren’t sufficiently aware of the aspects, their interaction and their great significance. If you like, the Balanced Learning Model, BLM for short, is an argumentation aid, a cultural pattern that merges into the shared knowledge of the organization. The entire learning ecosystem is geared to this.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” To what extent is this quote the impetus for this new model?
The quote appeared in the course of our research for innovative teaching methods. We interpreted “[…] involve me and I learn” in two ways: On the one hand, there are methods that involve the participant even more actively. Involvement can also mean the creation of emotional involvement, which leads to greater and above all sustainable learning success. On the other hand, it is about creating relevance of learning content for the participant. To balance supply and demand and to send participants to training courses at the right time. Neuroscience has long been aware of the importance of relevance or emotional involvement for memory formation in the brain.
What are the market challenges in the area of qualification and training?
Thematically, the dynamics of the market on the customer side are very large, from our service provider’s point of view speaking. Many of our customers face great challenges in re-qualifying their employees, e.g. in the direction of eMobility. For example, how do you retrain the staff of an entire plant that previously only built diesel engines? It is certainly good to train trainers well for this, but these changes must have a deeper impact and be firmly anchored in processes and organizational structures. This calls for genuine change management, and in the area of qualification, the Balanced Learning Model can help to communicate and consolidate these changes.
Conditions are made more difficult by increasingly flexible working hours and locations. Introducing asynchronous learning in a company, e.g. with a learning app, involves a great deal of effort. Not so much on the IT side, but rather for content generation and updating. If you also want to enhance the content with media, e.g. videos, four hours for a two-minute video is nothing…
If you move away from the Customer Market and towards the Employee Market, the discussions have been revolving around millenials, Generation Z, etc. for years now. As a company I can do a lot to respond to young employees in the area of sustainable qualification, with a learning app to stick to the example. However, we believe that the focus on individualism, which is particularly attributed to this generation, must have limits. This is also reflected in the BLM, because performance must still be the focus. In order to achieve very good performance, I have to have team-oriented, customer-oriented employees who – if the situation requires it – can sometimes put their needs on the back burner. This means that employee qualification must be structured according to the situation by the manager; different in times of crisis than in times when there is room for improvement. Onboarding is much more influenced by direct instructions – not least to avoid excessive demands – than by the training of a manager who is already aware of his own responsibility for continuous learning.
How can the basic logic of the BLM be described? To what extent does it promote sustainable learning success?
The focus is on performance, because even if it sometimes sounds “unromantic” to the employee, it is about earning money. The employee also wants to be performant. For sustained training success, the learning content must be relevant to everyday work, otherwise it will be forgotten again. The employee’s level of development must be such that he or she can place learning content in a larger context and this must correspond to the learning objectives defined for him or her by his or her manager. By the way, overloading with learning goals or contents also plays a major role here, especially in onboarding. Translating theory into practice – from knowledge to ability – is nothing new, but in reality it is often neglected because training and the actual qualification processes have drifted apart. Especially for us as a service provider, the gap between learning and application is due to our business model. As a project management service provider, we have to provide our customers with top performance, which is why an on-the-job training environment is flat.
Besides the theory – are there already practical examples and successes?
Now that we have introduced this model internally, we can immediately see the success of the system. We talk more to each other, our employees independently question whether learning content is relevant to them in order to go into training at the right time. Some qualification contents fly out, new ones are added, project and internal product development communicate more closely and at shorter notice in order to create a relevant, coherent training landscape.
But we also receive very positive feedback for the idea and implementation of the Balance Learning Model in customer projects.
How do I motivate employees to open up to these new ideas?
In a nutshell – with your personal opportunity costing. Don’t sit around in trainings that won’t do you any good – maybe only at this point in time – because you’ll forget what you’ve learned anyway. Learn an argumentation pattern with the BLM that will also help you in your personal development towards your leader.
Were there any resistances? How do you encounter them?
At employee level, the topic was received with open arms and perceived as an appreciation. They benefit directly from it. Because better qualification opportunities for employees mean both professional and personal, sustainable development.
On the other hand, new learning measures also mean effort that has to be justified at decision-maker level. When it comes to education, a business case is always difficult to present, but ultimately it concerns our most expensive asset, our employees and their training. However, the good conceptual, procedural foundation of the BLM quickly convinced the decision-makers.
How can [bu:st] support qualification and training processes?
Our Unique Selling Point is the combination of project management, process design and competence around qualification and training, methodically and processually. We accompany the introduction of new methods or even a model such as the BLM in the change process and ensure sustainable anchoring in the process landscape. This also applies to effective communication processes so that the topic reaches people’s minds. As always, the first step is to listen in order to develop the best solution together with the customer using the [bu:st] method.
An example of this: In order to anchor relevant knowledge sustainably, we have created a [bu:st] learning app as a supplementary exercise environment. The trainers use the app as part of the repetition strategy to ensure that this is not just a one-off “hype”, but that the platform is used permanently. Employees are given the task of playing through lessons before or after training sessions. In onboarding, courses are still strongly prescribed, after which the personal responsibility of the employee must increase – again depending on the situation. We see this as an element of a learning process support.
In summary, we stand for designing new learning according to the situation and anchoring it in operative processes in the long term – with the Balanced Learning Model as a guiding star.
Nicola, thank you so much for the interview.
Learning & Development
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