!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: September 2007

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Knowledge Management Tools and techniques

The Knowledge Management Specialist Library, a section of the UK National Health Service's National Library for Health, (NLH) provides a useful inventory of the most common knowledge managment tools and techniques (somewhat edited here):
  • After Action Reviews (AARs) — capture lessons learned both during and after an activity or project.

  • Communities of Practice — link people together to develop and share knowledge around specific themes.

  • Conducting a knowledge audit — a systematic process to identify an organization’s knowledge needs, resources and flows, as a basis for understanding where and how better knowledge management can add value.

  • Developing a knowledge management strategy — i.e., developing a formal knowledge management plan that is closely aligned with an organization’s overall strategy and goals.

  • Exit interviews — to capture the knowledge of departing employees.

  • Identifying and sharing best practices — capturing best practices discovered in one part of the organization and sharing them for the benefit of all.

  • Knowledge centres — similar to libraries, but with a mandate not only to connect people with information in documents and databases, but also to connect people with each other.

  • Knowledge harvesting — a tool used to capture the knowledge of experts and make it available to others.

  • Peer assists — enable people to learn from the experiences of others before embarking on an activity or project.

  • Social network analysis — mapping relationships between people, groups and organizations to understand how these relationships either facilitate or impede knowledge flows.

  • Storytelling — to share knowledge in a more meaningful and interesting way than occurs when the knowledge is presented in a dry-sounding report.

  • White pages — an online resource that allows people to find colleagues with specific knowledge and expertise.
You can browse the wealth of health-related information made accessible by the NLH — e.g., evidence-based reviews of health care interventions — by visiting the NLH home page.



Saturday, September 29, 2007

Not Thoroughly Tested, Yet Ready for Prime Time?

A Wall Street Journal article about Arizona State University's experience with installing new enterprise resource planning (ERP) software brought to mind one of the best books I've ever read. That would be The Soul of a New Machine, which earned its author Tracy Kidder the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1982.

Until I read Kidder's book, it had never occurred to me that there might be an acceptable reason for selling and installing equipment that had not been thoroughly tested and perfected. Kidder set me right. He explains,
In theory, it would be possible to test fully a computer like Eagle [which became the Data General MV/8000 super minicomputer], but it would take literally forever to do so. The veterans in the Eclipse Group [Eclipse was the computer line on which the MV/8000 was based] maintained that most computers never get completely debugged. Typically, they said, a machine gets built and sent to market and in its first year out in public a number of small, and sometimes large, defects in its design crop up and get repaired. As the years go by, the number of bugs declines, but although no flaws in a computer's design might appear for years, defects would probably remain in it — ones so small and occurring only under such peculiar circumstances that they might never show up before the machine became obsolete or simply stopped functioning because of dust in its chips. (p. 184)
ASU — or at least the IT people there — have obviously accepted this idea of taking unperfected systems live because they embarked on their ERP project with the firm view that project deadlines would be rigidly adhered to regardless of what flaws might turn up in the software along the way. The plan was that any and all problems would be managed while pursuing the overall goal of completing the installation on time and within budget.

As reporter Ben Worthen describes it, the attitude at ASU was:
Admit from the start that there will be mistakes; then work through the glitches with users' help. Most companies take their time and don't start using a new computer system until they are convinced almost everything works right; then they are caught off guard when mistakes inevitably happen. Often, the delays allow them to expand the project's scope, which adds cost and can further compound problems.
In effect, users act as beta testers, and their feedback helps home in on problems in need of fixing.

The upside for ASU has been a huge savings in cost — installation, and support over the next five years, are projected to cost $30 million, well below the $70 million that was initially anticipated. The conversion to the new system took 18 months, whereas similar institutions have needed as much as four years to do the job.

The downside is the pain employees have experienced when their paychecks were delayed or issued in the wrong amount. Morale in HR has suffered as department employees have been forced to adjust rapidly to the new system and to correct the mistakes it has produced.

Still, the situation seems to be improving. Worthen reports that "The most recent payroll had a 4% error rate, which is bellow the 6% error rate the old system traditionally had."



Friday, September 28, 2007

Training Lifeboat Crews

Lifeboat Launching Simulator
(Source: Virtual Marine Technology)

In May Virtual Marine Technology (VMT) was named a runner-up in the Safety at Sea category of the 2007 Seatrade Awards. Organized by the UK-based Seatrade Communications, Ltd., the Seatrade Awards are aimed at "helping to stimulate and encourage technical innovation in the shipping industry by giving recognition to those companies and individuals that make substantial contributions." The Safety at Sea category covers "significant technical or procedural improvements leading to reduction of risk to human life."

VMT, headquartered in St. John's, Newfoundland, was recognized for its Lifeboat Launching Simulator. The substantial value of the simulator lies in providing unlimited practice on operating a lifeboat in dangerous sea conditions without actually putting trainees at risk. Trainees learn about:
  • Vessel controls

  • Launching and sail away procedures, including pre-launch check of all equipment

  • Radio communications

  • Lowering and release of the lifeboat

  • Lifeboat performance in high seas

  • How to respond to faults and equipment failures

  • How to handle the lifeboat in high-sea states and reduced visibility
The simulator's instructor station enables:
  • Scenario creation

  • Logging and playback of trainee performance

  • Control of environmental conditions — sea state, time of day, and visibility

  • Equipment fault insertion

  • Radio communication with the trainee

  • 3D fly-by view of the simulated environment
The trainee station provides:
  • A physical mockup with actual vessel equipment, including steering wheels, throttles, compass, break release, hook release, battery and ignition

  • Accurate mathematical modeling of vessel motion in 6 degrees of freedom (surge, sway, heave, roll, pitch and yaw)

  • A 270º visual system

  • Modeling of harsh environments, including high sea states (up to Beaufort 10-11) and reduced visibility

  • Detailed 3D models of vessels, landscapes, and launching platforms

  • A surround sound system that projects lifeboat sounds at realistic decibel levels
Key to the simulator's effectiveness is the level of realism it achieves through detailed modeling of vessel and wave motion. Trainees are immersed in an environment that they perceive very much as they would comparable real-world conditions.



Thursday, September 27, 2007

To participate in steve.museum's tagging research ...

In response to Tuesday's post citing Jennifer Trant's 2006 paper (pdf) on the steve.museum social tagging project, I received an e-mail from Jennifer encouraging participation in the tagging activity that provides the steve researchers with the bulk of the data they analyze.

As Jennifer explains in her paper, the basic issue the researchers are investigating is "the contribution of publicly assigned terms to the on-line accessibility of art collections."

If you want to join the fun, go to http://tagger.steve.museum. You can tag anonymously, but the researchers appreciate having people register because then they can collect demographic information that enriches the analysis.


Labels: ,

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Learning Center at ourmedia.org

A growing array of annotated lists of tools for producing various types of media is available at ourmedia.org/learning-center. The tools are organized into several categories:
  • Video

  • Audio

  • Multimedia

  • Images

  • Text

  • Getting started with personal media (e.g., social networks)

  • Copyright and the law

  • Citizen journalism

  • Directory of open media (media free of some or all copyright restrictions)
Be forewarned that the site, though extremely useful, is not always operational.



Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Developments at Steve.Museum

Shortly before I wrote this post concerning how museums are using social tagging, Jennifer Trant, a leader in the field, presented a paper (pdf) called "Social Classification and Folksonomy in Art Museums: Early Data from the Steve.Museum Tagger Prototype" to the ASIST-CR Social Classification Workshop.1

As her abstract for the paper explains, Trant wanted to share what had been learned up to that point concerning how people actually use tags in categorizing museum objects.
The collections of art museums have been assembled over hundreds of years and described, organized and classified according to traditions of art historical research and discourse. Art museums, in their role as curators and interpreters of the cultural record, have developed standards for the description of works of art ... that emphasize the physical nature of art as artefact, the authorial role of the creator, the temporal and cultural context of creation and ownership, and the scholarly significance of the work over time. Collections managers have recorded conservation, exhibition, loan and publication history, along with significant volumes of internal documentation of acquisition and storage, that support the custody and care of artefacts of significant cultural value. But the systems of documentation and classification that support the professional discourse of art history and the management of museum collections have failed to represent the interests, perspectives or passions of those who visit [use?] museum collections, both on-site and online. As museums move to reflect the breadth of their audiences and the diversity of their perspectives, so must museum documentation change to reflect concerns other than the traditionally art historical and museological.

Social tagging offers a direct way for museums to learn what museum-goers see in works of art, what they judge as significant and where they find or make meaning. Within the steve collaboration(http://www.steve.museum), a group of art museums is collectively exploring the role of social tagging and studying the resulting folksonomy ... Analysis of terms collected in the prototype steve tagger suggests that social tagging of art museum objects can in fact augment museum documentation with unique access points not found in traditional cataloguing. Terms collected through social tagging tools are being compared to museum documentation, to establish the actual contributions made by naïve users to the accessibility of art museum collections and to see if social classification provides a way to bridge the semantic gap between art historians and art museums’ publics.
The Steve Tagger software is currently available for download in Version 1.5.

1 The Steve.Museum website is here


Monday, September 24, 2007

Improving the Quality of Cocoa Production in West Africa

In 2004 the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) began a training program for cocoa farmers in the West and Central African countries of Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia and Nigeria. The aim of the training was to help participating farmers "increase their family incomes by educating them on better growing techniques, crop diversification and other productivity-enhancing steps."

Cocoa Pods
Source: World Cocoa Foundation

The WCF's 18-session Farmer Field Schools "also raise awareness of safe pest management and responsible labor practices," the latter including encouraging parents to send their children to school.

As one gauge of the success of the training, the WCF reports that participants' farm-generated income rose between 15% and 55% following the training. As one particular example, the WCF describes the experience of a cocoa farmer in Ghana named Kwabena Antwi-Boasiako:
Prior to attending the Farmer Field School (FFS) ... Mr. Antwi-Boasiako had never thinned out [his cocoa trees] ... or remove[d] chupons and mistletoes (light pruning). By attending the FFS and participating in field exercises, he saw and learned how crowded trees are thinned out, and mistletoes and chupons are pruned. He used to believe that the more cocoa trees per unit area, the more pods he would harvest. But through the FFS discovery-based learning exercise, he came to appreciate that correct spacing of cocoa trees (8-10ft x 8-10ft.) and regular removal of chupons resulted in increased pod formation and size, while reducing pests and diseases. Mr. Antwi-Boasiako has since put into practice all that he learned, especially by thinning out and reducing the number of trees on his field. He has witnessed increases in yields and income of over 60% within one year after FFS as evidenced from his cocoa sales pass book.
The Farmer Field Schools are a part of a larger WCF initiative, the Sustainable Tree Crops Program (STCP), which
aims to improve the economic and social well being of tree crop farmers and the environmental sustainability of their systems in West and Central Africa. During the Pilot Phase [2003-2006], a first set of technology transfer, marketing, and institutional innovations were introduced and validated in the field. As part of this, 16,320 farmers were directly trained through the participatory Farmer Field School approach and 38,716 farmers indirectly benefited through farmer-to-farmer diffusion of knowledge. Trained farmers realized yields 15% to 40% greater than non-trained ones. Farmers participating in group sales arrangements received 5% to 15% higher prices for their cocoa. Phase II of the program [2007-2011] will build upon the successes of the pilot and address additional production, marketing and policy opportunities identified during the pilot, while strengthening local capacity.
You can view a video (about seven-minutes long) describing STCP's work in Ghana here. (The audio is sometimes hard to decipher.)


Labels: ,

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Jed Christiansen on Prediction Markets

London-based consultant Jed Christiansen has put together the following 2:49 video explaining the ABCs of prediction markets. If you're new to prediction markets, and you don't mind encountering a pitch for Christiansen's firm at the end, the video is worth viewing.



Saturday, September 22, 2007

Eisenhower on Leadership

Dwight Eisenhower with American paratroopers in England
Source: Michigan State University Eisenhower portal

I was reading through a long series of quotations on military leadership collected in a pamphlet (pdf) published by the US Army in 1985 and was struck by how the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower stood out in the midst of a lot of unexceptionable bromides:

"I would say that most leaders are made. A fellow that comes from a long line of ancestors with determination and courage has no doubt inherited some leadership qualities. I have seen many times in combat where somebody who is small and meek was given the opportunity and had leadership you never before realized he had, and he becomes a Medal of Honor winner. There are some qualities you inherit that make you a good leader; but many who have not these qualities develop them, or just seem to come up with them when opportunity knocks."

Eisenhower was not dogmatic on the made vs. born issue:

"I think that there is something to the expression 'born to lead'. But there are many people who have the potential for leadership, just as there are probably many people born with the potential to be great artists that never have the opportunity or the training for the full development of their talents. I think leadership is a product of native ability plus environment. By environment, I mean trainng and the opportunity to exercise leadership."

And, finally:

I would rather persuade a man to go along because once I have persuaded him, he will stick. If I scare him, he will stay just as long as he is scared, and then he is gone."

The fact that Eisenhower stands out in a compilation of remarks on leadership reminds me of how David Gergen cites him as exemplary in an essay on "How Presidents Persuade" (see this earlier post).


Labels: , ,

Friday, September 21, 2007

Martin D. Abeloff, 1942-2007


A week ago today, the medical world lost Martin D. Abeloff, chief oncologist and director of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore. Dr. Abeloff's career and character are memorialized in the obituary published in The JHU Gazette on Monday.



Thursday, September 20, 2007

21st Century Journalism XXIV: Multimedia Reporting

Earlier this week, Nora Paul and Laura Ruel, a judge and the coordinator, respectively, in the Society for Newspaper Design's 2007 Best of Multimedia Design Competition, posted an article summarizing the trends they noted while participating in the judging process.

Especially useful are the examples they offer of the five types of entries that came in:
  • Animated infographics — "informational graphics that explain a sequence of events in an accident, or the steps in a process or show how something works." For example: The New York Times interactive graphic recreating pitcher Cory Lidle's airplane flight that ended in a crash into a Manhattan building.

  • "Infotoys" — graphics that let you customize the data presented. For example: An interactive New York Times graphic that lets you change the assumptions and variables underlying an analysis of whether it is better to rent or buy your living quarters.

  • Narratives — "self-contained packages that follow a single — somewhat linear — narrative thread." An increasingly common format is a set of still photos with an audio overlay. For example: A feature by the Palm Beach Post on train jumping, with audio in both English and Spanish.

  • "You are there" — "packages that give users a [customizable] sense of location and exploration" by incorporating high-level graphics and embedded POV/panoramic images. For example: An animated 3D graphic published by ELPAIS.com showing the make-up of a Formula 1 racing car.

  • BOPs (aka Big Ole Packages) — "large compilations of storytelling materials such as ... text, videos, audio slide shows, animated graphics and interactive applications. These ambitious packages tell complex stories with many layers of information." For example: a class project carried out by students under the guidance of Alberto Cairo, an assistant professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The students' work documents life in the Atacama Desert of Chile.
Anyone, including trainers, can benefit from studying the approaches and techniques used by the creators of the multimedia examples Paul and Ruel highlight. (There are four additional examples in their article in addition to the five cited above.)



Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Best Practices for Your Dashboard

As a follow-up to yesterday's post, here are somewhat edited best practices for designing a business performance dashboard. They come from "Best Practices for Using WebSphere Business Modeler and Monitor" and are well-worth consideration (as are all the best practices covered in the document).

First, keep in mind that you want to end up with a dashboard for which the answers to all of the following questions are in the affirmative:
  • Does the dashboard provide decision makers with relevant performance-related data and facts?

  • Does the information inform the end user as to what actions are required to keep operations on track?

  • Does the information make it clear when no action is required?

  • Does the information make it clear when particular values are good or bad so that the end user knows whether he/she has to be concerned?

  • Does the information help the end user optimize the business or identify a performance issue?
A general question: How does the dashboard help the user to work smarter?

Next is a set of additional guidelines for your dashboard and its use:
  • Executives should not be the first to drive action from what they see on the dashboard. By the time it gets to them, subordinates should already be working the problem.

  • Generally, a dashboard should focus on a single user role. Do not cross roles in the dashboard unless necessary (for example, when the users want to be able to see both a business and an IT view of performance).

  • A portal displaying your dashboard should be task-based. Do not mix a lot of news portlets, stock tickers, instant messages, and so forth, with portlets with business content. Create separate pages for like-content.

  • Watch out for portlets on a page that should be connected (for example, because all show the West Region). If they should be connected by shared information, be sure to identify this.

  • Only show a trend if you can reasonably get trend data and it makes sense in-context. Make sure the trend symbol is understandable.

  • Symbology should be consistent across all of your dashboards.

  • Do not overcrowd the dashboard. Five to nine elements is a good rule of thumb because people, on average, can handle only about seven items at a time. (A group of related elements can be considered a single element.)

  • Limit the use of red and amber (bad and near-bad) results on the screen. The dashboard is supposed to be pro-active, allowing users to head off problems. A dashboard designed so that it often shows red and amber can come across as accommodating reactive behavior.

  • Make sure charts and graphs have clearly understood meaning and units of measure.

  • Make legends available as hyperlinks or flyovers. This helps keep your display uncluttered.

  • Consider providing data annotations for out-of-norm values so that everyone knows that any such values are being addressed.

  • Have colleagues and end users give the dashboard design a stringent review. In light of their feedback, perfect the design before taking the dashboard live.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Defining Your Business Model

A business model can be defined at widely different levels of detail. At one extreme is the high-level definition that answers such questions as:
  • What is your target market?

  • What are your key value propositions to that market?

  • How do you get paid?

  • How do you create and capture value?

  • Who are the key third parties?
The above questions come from Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology, by Henry Chesbrough, executive director of the Center for Open Innovation at the Institute of Management, Innovation & Organization at the University of California-Berkeley.

At the other extreme is the incorporation of precise detail concerning business processes enabled by software like IBM's WebSphere Business Modeler (see graphic below).

Click to enlarge
Source: www.ibm.com

IBM created Business Modeler (current version: 6.0.2) as part of its support of customers' movement toward service-oriented architecture.1 Business Modeler "is designed specifically to ... facilitate faster and more accurate communication between between the business and IT domains" concerning both initial implementation of business processes and changes to existing business processes.

A business analyst2 can use Business Modeler to diagram the flow of a process, along with details for resources, roles, work item definitions, costs, timetables and duration.

The analyst can then analyze how the details interact, looking for bottlenecks, resource problems, inefficiencies, and other possible opportunities for improvement. This analysis can be assisted by what-if simulations in which the analyst varies inputs, constraints and/or resources.

The analyst can also create criteria that will be used to monitor performance of the process once it is implemented in the defined form. These key performance indicators (KPIs) can be included in a dashboard display.

An online demo of Business Modeler is here.

1 "A service-oriented architecture (SOA) lets you build, deploy, and integrate individual business functions and processes independently of the applications and computing platforms on which they run. As a key component of such an architecture, IBM WebSphere Business Modeler helps bridge the gap between business objectives and process implementation." (Source: Product overview)

2 "A Business Analyst typically models business processes for optimization or to re-engineer existing business processes or define new buisness processes. Business analysts typically require no programming experience, because they are focusing on the business processes." (Source: WebSphere Business Modeler V6.0: Overview)


Labels: , ,

Monday, September 17, 2007

21st Century Journalism XXIII: The Reporters' Cookbook

The Reporters' Cookbook "is for reporters to share code, examples, tutorials and other bits of information related to the practice of journalism, especially computer-assisted reporting."

The site is a wiki, meaning it can be edited by anyone who registers. Sections of content include:As with any wiki, the site's content is dynamic. If you want to keep up with changes, you can do so by:
  • Subscribing to the "recent changes" page in your favorite RSS reader. The RSS feed will notify you of all updates and show you what they were.

  • Adding pages that you are particularly interested in, to your personal "watchlist" (one of the wiki tools accessed via the BluWiki Toolbox, which appears at the bottom of each of the Cookbook pages).
For anyone interested in improving in the area of computer-assisted reporting (CAR), the Cookbook is an excellent source of ideas and guidance.


Labels: ,

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Andreessen on Web Platforms

Marc Andreessen has written a helpful post on his blog explaining what he considers the three basic types of Internet platforms. These platforms offer developers varying degrees of ease and economy in getting applications onto the Internet.

First, Andreessen defines "platform" as:
a system that can be programmed and therefore customized by outside developers — users — and in that way, adapted to countless needs and niches that the platform's original developers could not have possibly contemplated, much less had time to accommodate.
Andreessen then offers a detailed review of the three types of Internet platform:

Level 1
Access API (application programming interface) — The developer's code is outside the platform, i.e., "The application calls the web services API over the Internet to access data and services provided by the platform — by the core system — and then the application does its thing, on its own." Examples: eBay, PayPal, Flickr, del.icio.us.

Level 2
Plug-in API — Platforms that "let developers build new functions that can be injected, or 'plug in', to the core system and its user interface." Examples: Firefox browser, Facebook.

Level 3
Runtime environment — The developer's code runs inside the platform. "The platform itself handles everything required to run your application on your behalf. ...the level of technical expertise required of someone to develop on your platform drops by at least 90%, and the level of money they need drops to $0. Which opens up development to a universe of people for whom developing on a Level 2 or Level 1 platform is prohibitively difficult or expensive." Examples: Andreessen's own Ning platform, Salesforce.com, Second Life, Jottit.

Andreessen's entire post is well worth reading if you're interested in being up-to-speed on the nature of applications it is practical for you to develop and/or use on the Internet.



Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Meeting of the Minds on Business Practices

Whenever two groups have to work together, whether it's two units within an organization, or it's a pair of organizations (perhaps recently brought together through merger or acquisition), there are numerous business practices that need to be aligned. Issues like who takes the lead role in various client contacts, and under what circumstances an approved product design can be changed, need to discussed and all interested parties need to reach agreement.

Sara Moulton Reger, an IBM researcher, has devised a process for resolving inconsistencies between two collaborating groups' business practices which can be a starting point for any organization looking to make adjustments in their culture in order to minimize friction over "how things are done here."1

IBM is so pleased with Mouton Reger's process that they've patented it. But they've also seen their way clear to having the process described in a book — Can Two Rights Make a Wrong?: Insights from IBM's Tangible Culture Approach — so I imagine you can safely adopt whatever aspects of the process you believe would be helpful in your organization without being too worried about intruding on IBM's turf.

As explained in an IBM Research article by Richard Silberman, the Business Practices Alignment Method (BPA) has four steps:
  1. Reconcile what Moulton Reger calls "right versus right" business practice alternatives. Whenever the two groups have different methods of viably achieving a desired outcome, they need to follow a systematic approach to deciding what method is best in specific circumstances. (IBM provides a template here (xls).) The organization can subsequently monitor how the chosen method actually works out, making adjustments down the road as needed.

  2. Apply the business practices that were established in Step 1 to realistic problem situations to develop outcome narratives. The narratives are structured mini-stories that define the desired outcome along with who should do what, and in what way. (IBM provides a template here (MSWord).)

  3. Identify the gaps between the way the (united) organization wants things done and the current state. Then develop a prioritized action plan to make changes that will help people work in the ways prescribed as best practice.

  4. Evaluate progress towards alignment. Identify areas needing further improvement and take necessary actions until business behavior is aligned.
A key aspect of BPA is that it defines desired business practices with a high degree of clarity. Achieving such specificity and clarity will generally produce markedly better performance than trying to get by with "high level statements that are too vague to put into action."

1 Mike Armano and Sara Moulton Reger are co-inventors of the Business Practices Alignment Method. After the initial work Arman and Moulton Reger did to develop BPA, the latter introduced further refinements, which are reflected in Can Two Rights Make a Wrong?. Note that development of BPA is part of IBM's larger effort to promote advances in what they call "service science, management and engineering," a subject introduced in this earlier post.


Labels: , ,

Friday, September 14, 2007

Laughter is the Best Medicine IX

One of my pet theories (no pun intended) is that anything that invites instant parody is thereby branded with a Scarlet D for Dubious. Hence my affection for this Charles Barsotti cartoon:

Source: www.barsotti.com,
inspired by a certain infamous primer on change
(available "used" for about $1 + s&h)



Thursday, September 13, 2007

Evaluating an Institution's e-Learning Capability

The University Teaching Development Centre of Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, has done excellent work on what they call the E-Learning Maturity Model (eMM). The goal of eMM is to change "organisational conditions so that e-learning is delivered in a sustainable and high quality fashion to as many students as possible."

eMM — now in a second version that builds on learning from version one — gauges the ability of an institution, such as a university, to
ensure that e-learning design, development and deployment is meeting the needs of the students, staff and institution. Capability includes the ability of an institution to sustain e-learning support of teaching as demand grows and staff change.
Evaluation of e-learning capability looks at five process areas:
  • Learning — Processes that directly impact on pedagogical aspects of e-learning (e.g., "Research and information literacy skills development by students is explicitly supported" and "Assessement of students is designed to progressively build their competence").

  • Development — Processes surrounding the creation and maintenance of e-learning resources (e.g., "Teaching staff are provided with design and development support when engaging in e-learning" and "Resources created are designed and managed to maximize reuse").

  • Support — Processes surrounding the oversight and management of e-learning (e.g., "Students have access to a range of library resources and services when engaging in e-learning" and "Teaching staff are provided with technical support in the handling of electronic materials created by students").

  • Evaluation — Processes surrounding the evaluation and quality control of e-learning through its entire life cycle (e.g., both students and teaching staff "are able to provide regular formal and informal feedback on the quality and effectiveness of their e-learning experience" and "Regular formal independent reviews of e-learning aspects of courses are conducted").

  • Organization — Processes associated with institutional planning and management (e.g., "A documented specification and plan ensures the reliability, integrity and validity of information collection, storage and retrieval" and "Pedagogical rationale for e-learning approaches and technologies communicated to students prior to starting courses").
A process assessment workbook is provided here (pdf). A fully worked hypothetical example of an assessment is here.


Labels: ,

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Michael Wesch's Take on Web 2.0

Via BNet.com, here's a video created by Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University, that — in about 4½ minutes — reviews the trajectory that has brought us to the possibilities embodied in the phenomenon known as "Web 2.0" ...

(Note that this video is an updated version of the video embedded in this post from February.)


Labels: , ,

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 11, 2007

Bi west, under a wylde wode-syde,
      In a launde ther I was lente,
Wlanke deor on grounde gunne glyde,
      And lyouns Raumping uppon bente,
Beores, wolves with Mouthes wyde,
      The smale Beestes thei al to-rente.
Ther haukes un-to heore pray thei hyde,
      Of whuche to on I tok good tente —
      A Merlyon a Brid had hente
            And in hire foot heo gan hit bringe;
      Hit couthe not speke, but thus hit mente,
            How Merci passeth alle thinge.

First verse of "Mercy Passes All Things,"
an anonymous poem in the Vernon Ms.
(Bodleian Library, Oxford)

Translation adapted from Margot Robert Adamson (http://dkozubei.com/5000poets.html):

In the west, under a wild wood side,
      In a glade, there I lay.
Proud deer across the ground did glide,
      And lions leaping o'er the field.
Bears, wolves, with mouths wide,
      The small beasts they all tore,
There hawks unto their prey they hied,
      Of which to one I took good note —
      A merlin a bird had seized
            And in his foot he did it bring;
      It could not speak, but thus it meant,
            How mercy passes all things.



Monday, September 10, 2007

Services Science, Management and Engineering

For several years now, IBM has been promoting the idea of developing a discipline of services sciences, management and engineering (SSME) which would
bring together ongoing work in computer science, operations research, industrial engineering, business strategy, management sciences, social and cognitive sciences, and legal sciences to develop the skills required in a services-led economy.
You can get an idea of the substance of SSME by browsing through the course modules IBM has posted here.

The goal of this, and any, training in SSME is to help people
  • think in a disciplined way about how to optimize delivery of business services

  • use suitable tools and processes effectively in arriving at optimized systems and solutions
Along with a course overview, IBM's SSME course consists of seven modules:
  1. Welcome and Introduction to SSME

  2. What are Services?

  3. Service Systems (with a case study)

  4. Considerations for the Management of Services

  5. Productivity and Innovation - the productivity paradox

  6. Introduction to Methods

  7. SSME Challenges, Frameworks and Call for Participation (with two case studies)
For each module, slides summarizing the content are provided. For all the modules except #4, there are also content notes.



Sunday, September 09, 2007

Does Training in the Arts Help You Think?

The short answer: Yes, good art teachers impart important thinking skills. At least that's what Ellen Winner (pdf), a psychology professor at Boston College, and Lois Hetland, a professor of art education at the Massachusetts College of Art found in research they began in 2001 and are now reporting in Studio Thinking: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education (co-authored with Shirley Veenema, and Kimberly M. Sheridan).

Winner and Hetland are carrying out their project (second and third phases are yet to be completed) under the auspices of Project Zero, an educational research group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education whose mission is "to understand and enhance learning, thinking, and creativity in the arts, as well as humanistic and scientific disciplines, at the individual and institutional levels."

In an article Winner and Hetland wrote for the September 2 edition of the Boston Globe, they outline the "studio habits of mind" that they observed high school arts teachers cultivating at the Boston Arts Academy and the Walnut Hill School, where they observed arts classes during the 2001-2002 academic year.

Winner and Hetland say,
Though we both have a long history in arts education, we were startled to find such systematic emphasis on thinking and perception in the art classes we studied. In contrast to the reputation of the arts as mainly about expressive craft, we found that teachers talked about decisions, choices, and understanding far more than they talked about feelings.
These are the eight habits of mind the researchers observed being taught in visual arts classes:
  • Development of artistic craft — skills needed to work with various tools and various arts media, and practices for taking care of tools and materials.

  • Persistence — notably, perseverence through periods of frustration to completion of well-conceived and well-executed work projects.

  • Expression — moving "beyond technical skill to create works rich in emotion, atmosphere, and their own personal voice or vision."

  • Making connections between school work and the world outside — seeing "their projects as part of the larger art world, past and present."

  • Observing — perceiving clearly, without letting preconceived notions impair accuracy.

  • Envisioning — "forming mental images internally and using them to guide actions and solve problems. ... We noticed teachers giving students a great deal of practice in this area. What would that look like if you got rid of this form, changed that line, or altered the background? All were questions we heard repeatedly, prompting students to imagine what was not there."

  • Innovating through exploration — "Teachers encourage students ... to experiment, take risks, and just muck around and see what can be learned." Instead of worrying about mistakes, "let mistakes lead to unexpected discoveries."

  • Reflective self-evaluation — Students "were asked to step back, analyze, judge, and sometimes reconceive their projects entirely." Teachers asked students, "Is it working?" I myself have always thought of this as the fundamental question to consider when you've created something, even if it's something that might not seem particularly artistic, such as a business report. Related questions: "What isn't working? Is this what I intended to do? Can I make this better? What's next?"
Winner and Hetland deem the last four habits of mind particularly valuable as learning tools. Modes of thinking developed in art classes — seeing new patterns, learning from mistakes, envisioning possibilities and solutions to problems — have broad application in other realms, including business. The researchers are now in the process of testing hypotheses about how readily these modes of thinking transfer from the art studio to other types of work (e.g., reading, math, and science).

For a more detailed summary you can see the chapter (pdf) Winner, Hetland, Veenema, Sheridan, and Patricia Palmer published in New Directions in Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts.


Labels: , , ,

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Questions to Promote Organizational Learning

For an upcoming project, I'm reading The Managerial Moment of Truth: The Essential Step in Helping People Improve Performance, by Bruce Bodaken, CEO of Blue Shield of California, and consultant Robert Fritz.

The main point of the book — a point well-taken — is that for people in an organization to perform well, they must be committed to dealing with reality. They must be willing to speak the truth to each other, even when the truth is not very pretty, and they must be willing to work together to explore what is true and to learn from what they discover about how any particular situation has developed.

For the moment, I'd like to call attention to a piece of advice Bodaken and Fritz offer in their final chapter, which consists of a small collection of rules of thumb. One of the rules is that people in an organization should use "managerial moments of truth" (MMOT) to help develop the organization's core competencies.

This MMOT process begins by acknowledging the truth, then analyzing how it got to be that way, creating an action plan for improvement, and establishing a feedback system so that adjustments in the action plan can be made if and when needed.

Of particular interest to me is the checklist of questions Bodaken and Fritz provide for assessing how well learning is occurring at the organizational level. These six questions are:
  • What are we learning?

  • How are we learning?

  • How are we establishing this learning relationship?

  • What generalized principles can we learn and then apply elsewhere?

  • How can we spread this learning to others?

  • How can we be more efficient at identifying learning moments and capitalizing on them?
The idea is to use these questions to identify any steps necessary to broaden, deepen, and accelerate the learning that enables the organization to build desired competencies.



Friday, September 07, 2007

Training in Case Writing in Bhutan

Bhutanese bamboo products
(Source: http://www.bhutan.gov.bt)

Helvetas — the Swiss Association for International Cooperation — provides assistance with execution of Swiss aid programs in Bhutan. Those programs include work in the area of renewable natural resources.

Helvetas' work in Bhutan came to may attention because one of the organization's activities, the Participatory Forest Management Project (PFMP), includes training Bhutanese in case writing, seen as "[c]rucial for measuring and assessing the project impact." The training aims to strengthen the students' analytical and writing skills, while at the same time providing decision-makers with practical, reliable information.

An example of what the training produced in 2007 — its second year — is "Bamboo: The Golden Opportunity for Wamanang," (pdf) by Karma Dorji and Tenzin. The abstract for the case explains:
This paper highlights the group formation process and steps undertaken for the development of the management plan for bamboo (Borinda grossa) and the group bylaws to support the rural livelihood of the Wamanang community in the multiple and buffer zones of the Bumdelling Wildlife Sanctuary. The main purpose of this paper is to show the positive impact of the management plan for bamboo on community development and the generation of income both at community and household levels. Based on sustainable harvesting amounts defined through a participatory inventory of the resource, annually the group can earn up to about Nu. 540,000 from the sale of bamboo culms. At the household level, farmers can earn about Nu. 200 per day by producing and selling mats and baskets. This is almost double the income they would generate through daily wages from labour contribution to government work. However, there is even much more potential if new technologies for product development and diversification are introduced. Therefore, the authors believe that Borinda grossa has good potential to meet farming subsistence needs and income generation needs, without compromising the resource’s sustainability. (links added)
Helvetas report that the authors of the case studies have gained confidence about their ability to critically analyze data, to develop logical arguments, and to report their findings and recommendations clearly. You can form your own opinion of the quality of the work the training produced by having a look at the case write-ups. (Note that the Bhutanese students did receive editorial assistance from native English speakers.)


Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Jeffrey Pfeffer is Back from Korea

In a column in the August issue of Business 2.0, Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford's Graduate School of Business, reports on what he learned during a recent trip to Korea.1

In the aftermath of a financial crisis in 1997, Korea experienced serious unemployment. Those workers who were employed often put in 50 and 60 hours on-the-job a week.

The Korea Labor Institute (KLI), a government-sponsored research body, began a series of projects aimed at helping combat the unemployment while also promoting employee welfare. In March 2004, KLI established a research and consulting organization called the New Paradigm Center (NPC), with a view to
introducing a 'new paradigm' in the national economy, which will contribute to creating sustainable jobs and increasing business competitiveness, by introducing [a] lifelong learning system and strengthening industrial safety.
It is NPC that Pfeffer offers as a model for government intervention to support businesses' adjustment to trends in the global economy.

NPC has "a mandate to study, consult on, and promote people-centered management practices, primarily in small and medium-size enterprises." The steps NPC encourages companies to take include "investing in employee training, team building, reducing work hours, increasing organizational trust, raising the level of employee satisfaction and engagement, and improving communication so employees understand their company's goals and precisely what is expected of them."

Pfeffer reports good results from NPC's work, which now has involved about 170 companies:
  • Sales are up an average of 7%.

  • Profits are up an average of 26%.

  • Quality of products and services is up an average of about 60%.

  • There have been marked improvements in on-the-job safety.
NPC strongly encourages companies to devote substantial time and money to learning. Pfeffer reports that "NPC's client companies ... more than doubled the number of hours spent on training and invested nearly 50 percent more in learning and education."

Pfeffer's concluding thought is that the US could learn something from Korea when it comes to helping companies be more effective in how they use their human resources and in the processes and practices they adopt as they seek to strengthen their market positions. (For an example of what Korean companies are learning from their US counterparts, see this earlier post.)

1 Note that The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action, co-authored by Jeffrey Pfeffer with Robert I. Sutton, is one of Streamline's suggested readings.


Labels: , ,

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

What the Fed Has Been Up To

With all the attention being paid to the what the Federal Reserve can and should do as tens of thousands of subprime mortgage borrowers are threatened with foreclosure, it makes sense to take advantage of the explanatory material being made available on the Web.

An excellent example is the Q&A posted August 15 at Vox by Stephen Cecchetti, a professor of global finance at Brandeis' International Business School, and formerly Executive VP and director of research at the New York Fed. (After clicking on the Q&A link, you may have to scroll down to get to Prof. Cecchetti's text.)

Prof. Cecchetti added a follow-up post on August 27. (Again, you may have to scroll down.)

You can listen to an August 10 NPR interview with Prof. Cecchetti concerning the problems in the US mortgage market here (mp3).

Learning the fundamentals of what the Fed has been doing to try to support a return to normal functioning of the credit markets will give you a grounding of knowledge on which to build as you hear and read about market developments in coming months.


Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Learning How to Raise Intercultural Consciousness

At the 2001 Salzburg Seminar on International Leadership, Michael Hoppe, a Senior Program and Research Associate at the Center for Cultural Leadership, presented a paper detailing how the findings from the field of adult development can be used as a guide in preparing employees for assignments that involve working with colleagues from other cultures.

(click to enlarge)

Hoppe adopts Robert Kegan's adult development model:1
[P14] Kegan proposes five levels of consciousness that describe our evolving ways of knowing (See Table 1 [in above graphic] for an overview). They are differentiated by degree of complexity of thought and degree of openness to self and others. The model’s major premise sees us develop along these lines as we actively interact with the mental and emotional demands of our lives, whether at home, at school, at work, or in our communities. Thus, the levels are ... seen as ... a reflection of our learning as we engage with our surroundings. It is for this latter characteristic that Kegan’s model seems to be particularly relevant to the global leadership discussion.

[P15] The levels of primary interest here are levels three through five, since they concern themselves with adult years. In particular, levels three and four capture most of the adults that Kegan and others found in their studies, even though level five appears to describe the embodiment of a global leader. Yet, ... each level carries with it some unique assets and potential liabilities in an international arena.
Hoppe offers examples of the developmental activities "that could help develop the capacities Kegan's model calls for before people are given major international responsibilities." The activities (here, slightly edited) are divided into four areas of leadership capacity:

Exploring assumptions, disembedding oneself from one's own culture, going against the grain

Training activities:
Cross-cultural simulations
Diversity/cultural training
Keeping a journal

On-the-job activities
Working with foreign nationals
Short-term expatriate assignments
Functional rotation

Off-the-job activities
Interdisciplinary studies
Semester abroad
Learning a new skill

Relationship-building, learning from others, diversity

Training activities
Outward Bound
How to give and receive feedback
How to engage in dialogue, the art of questioning

On-the-job activities
Establishing peer networks
Mentoring (mentor or mentee)
Worksite change partnerships

Off-the-job activities
Intercultural studies
Tutoring non-native speakers
Volunteering at a nursing home or hospice

Systems thinking, dialectical thinking, spanning boundaries

Training activities
Case studies
Organizational learning
Exercises in creative thinking

On-the-job activities
Headquarters apprenticeship
Start-up assignments
Strategic planning taskforce

Off-the-job activities
Political science studies
Volunteering in community governance/on boards
Public speaking club

Collaborating, networking, negotiating

Training activities
Experiential exercises
Process consultation and facilitation
Negotiation techniques

On-the-job activities
Seeking fix-it assignments
Joining cross-functional product team
Joining company sports team

Off-the-job activities
Getting trained as a mediator
Holding office in a professional association
Volunteering for the United Way

Hoppe acknowledges that the examples of developmental activities listed above "have a U.S. flavor." Leadership development activities for someone from outside the U.S. should "be chosen to reflect the resources and opportunities of the organization or society" in which the particular indiividual lives.

1 Robert Kegan, In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life (Harvard University Press, 1994).


Labels: , , ,

Monday, September 03, 2007

Labor Day 2007

The clip below is actually just a still photo of the great Irish folk musician, Luke Kelly, with Kelly's rendition of the ballad "Joe Hill" playing behind it.

For a fair-minded account of Joe Hill's life, to the extent that his life is known, you can go to the web pages prepared by the Salt Lake City public TV station KUED to accompany their documentary, "Joe Hill," produced to mark Labor Day 2000.



Sunday, September 02, 2007

Steve Rubel on the Decentralized Web

So many of the prognostications I read concerning where the growing versatility and customer usage of the Web are taking us turn out to be unpersuasive speculation, that when I come upon something that fits my own experience and that has an air of practicality, I take note.

Such was an column Steve Rubel, a senior VP at the PR firm Edelman, published at AdAge Digital on August 20. In his column, Rubel recommends "three simple steps marketers should consider to thrive in a web that is increasingly becoming decentralized."
  • Think web services, not websites — Instead of concentrating all their efforts at attracting prospects and customers to their websites, companies need to devote increasing energy to embedding themselves on platforms that accommodate third parties' mini-applications, such as widgets.

  • Connect people — Increasingly, people are congregating at sites that help them meet a common goal, such as being entertained or obtaining information about a particular topic. In Rubel's view, "To thrive, brands need to identify these motivations and participate in these new microcontent platforms in a way that helps consumers meet their goals."

  • Make everything portable — I.e., "make everything on your website embeddable [on other sites]. Traffic is becoming something that happens elsewhere, not just on your site."
When I read Rubel's list, my immediate thought was that this is the sort of compactly presented intelligence on new media trends that should be circulated and discussed at any organization which is trying to maintain a respected, high-profile presence on the web.


Labels: ,

Saturday, September 01, 2007

21st Century Journalism XXII: Mark Nalder

Last night Mark Nalder of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer was the hero of an episode of the PBS series Exposé. His vigor and expertise as an interviewer were quite an inspiration.

Anyone wanting to learn his techniques can attend one of his "Loosening Lips" workshops and/or study the handout he freely shares with all and sundry. Below is a sampling of Nalder's interviewing advice, but if you're interested in this particular skill, do read the entire handout. It's less than four pages long.

The Set Up
  • INNER INTERVIEWING — As a warm-up (maybe during your morning shower), imagine a successful interview. Reporters who don't believe they will get the interview or the information usually fail. As far as I'm concerned, no one should ever refuse to talk to me. It works.

  • PAY ATTENTION TO DETAIL — Inventory the room thoroughly and in an organized fashion. Look at the walls, read the top of the desk and study the lapel pin. You'll get clues and details for your story. Make notes on what you see.
Reluctant People
  • IT'S NO BIG DEAL — Respond to the "I can't comment" by saying "You don't have to worry. Heck, you are just one of several people I've talked with. It's no big deal. Here's what I understand about the situation. Let's talk about this part a little bit . . . . (and then start talking about the information you want to confirm)." Notice that I avoid a debate over the reasons they don't want to talk with me. You'll lose that debate 9 times out of 10. Keep the conversation rolling.

  • ANONYMITY — Don't accept information "on background" without a fight. Even if it means going back to them several times, try to convince people to go on the record. (Absolutely "off-the-record" information is useless, since you can't use it under any circumstance. Avoid it. It's a waste of time.)
Getting all the Goods
  • HOW AND WHY — When a person says something important, ask the key question: "How do you know that?" It sheds light on credibility, extracts more detail and is a door opener to other sources. Also, ask people why they do what they do, rather than just asking what they do.

  • BE THE DIRECTOR — A great interview feels like a conversation but moves relentlessly toward the information you need. Keep control, but do so gently.
On their webpage for the Nalder episode, Exposé features one of the all-time great pull quotes. Nadler says, "You get inside my notebook when I'm talking to you. Once you're inside my notebook there really isn't a way out, other than to tell the entire story." His readers are in good hands.