Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Reimagining the Future Post COVID

Several weeks ago, I participated in an insightful webinar where Josh Bersin described the idea of a 'Back-to-work' Playbook. In his post, Josh describes how companies have responded to COVID-19 in three phases: React, Respond and Return (see exhibit).

Josh describes the React stage as "coming to grips with the new reality". The shutdown of businesses and work was an example of the React stage. The Respond stage is all about "adjusting business practices to the new reality" and the shift from face-to-face learning to online learning is an example of this second stage. The Return stage is about "business transformation" and many businesses are currently in this stage where they are thinking about making big changes to their business operations and processes.

The Safe Work Playbook example from Lear Corporation (detailed in his post) does a fantastic job of putting things into perspective. This back-to-work checklist by Josh Bersin Academy does a good job of supporting the 'Return' phase.

While it is important to focus on 'back-to-work', it is equally important to understand from organizations and people that never left work! Needless to say, all essential services continued to be available and manufacturers continued production. But they had to be the first ones to react, respond and return. Some innovated to on-demand manufacturing and others pivoted very quickly to pandemic-related manufacturing. The 3-D printing industry was one of the early sectors to respond to the needs of increased demand for PPE for nurses and doctors. So, were schools and universities that shifted to emergency remote teaching. And there are learnings to be had from those early innovations.

Now that some countries and companies are beginning to see themselves in the Return stage, it is perhaps time to think about to the next step in this process?

In an article in McKinsey & Company, the writers highlight how industries need to think and act across five horizons. On this path, beyond Return, there is Reimagination and Reform (see exhibit).

"To rebound from the coronavirus pandemic, industries must undertake a journey that begins with resolve and ends with fundamental reform."

In March 2020, Greta Thunberg tweeted this:

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As we move forward, it is time to think about some of the issues and crises that we were suffering through in the days of what we called as normal. As we make our way forward, perhaps the most important thing to remember is that there is no going back. 

In terms of the workplace, we have seen how remote work is suddenly 'normal' after years of it being an exception or a challenge to the norm. In the same light, schools and traditional brick and mortar universities rapidly shifted to distance learning where making this technology leap was their greatest challenge and a potential roadblock for growth just a few months ago.  The 'future of work' as we knew it is here and it is now. This is the time to let go of the shackles of our minds and part with habits, systems and processes that haven't worked. 

We are all defining our new normal as individuals, companies, countries and the world. This is the time when we need to think out of the box and take the leap beyond what we know to what we can imagine or perhaps that what we cannot even imagine. Where is that leap of imagination taking you?



Monday, June 1, 2020

Preparing Instructional Objectives - Robert Mager

Photo by Anne from StockSnap
If you’re not sure where you are going, you’re liable to end up some place else. – Robert F Mager

In May 2020, we lost one of the pioneers in the area of improving human performance: Robert (Bob) Frank Mager (June 10, 1923 - May 23, 2020). To us, in the field of instructional design, he is well-known for developing a framework for preparing #instructional objectives. His work on criterion referenced instruction (CRI) continues to influence my own work related to defining occupational standards, developing competencies, designing assessments and recommending Recognition of Prior Learning models.

"The origins of Instructional Design dated back as early as World War II with the need for creating training programs. Mager had firsthand experience with these training regimes. However, he found that they were not meeting the goals that they were set out to meet. From this phenomenon, Mager went about seeking ways to improve training delivery. These experiences led Mager to publish his work in a book later titled, Preparing Instructional Objectives: A Critical Tool in the Development of Effective Instruction." (Wikipedia)

I always recommend his foundational book to people who are new to the instructional design world. 

Preparing instructional objectives by Robert F. Mager.
(Available in Public Domain, Google-digitized).

If you are an instructional design veteran, what book do you recommend to folks new to the field?

Tuesday, May 5, 2020


It feels surreal to get an opportunity to celebrate something during this pandemic. Yesterday, I officially completed the Certificate in Adult and Continuing Education (CACE) from University of Victoria, BC, Canada. I completed the certificate with an A+ grade and in 4 years to the date! #MaytheFourthBeWithYou

We moved to Canada in 2011 and in many ways had to restart our lives here. When I became a Canadian citizen in 2015, I aspired to add a Canadian credential to my resume. At that time, having the name of a prestigious Canadian University on my resume meant that I belonged (it does take more than that). But more importantly, I wanted to walk-the-talk and demonstrate to my 16-year old daughter that no matter where you come from, your age or your experience, it is important to keep learning and keep striving to be better at what you do. I wanted to model the behaviour that I’d like her to demonstrate. And now, after completing CACE, I feel not only a sense of belonging but a sense of accomplishment and pride that only comes from working hard and chasing a dream.

When I had decided to pursue CACE, people asked me why I felt the need to do add a certification to my portfolio. Their concern came from a good place. I have over 20 years of experience in the field of learning and development so I had covered a lot of ground in my area of expertise. The certificate was intense with four required courses and a minimum of four elective courses. Each credit was roughly 40 hours amounting to 320 hours of learning officially (but I spent way more time than that). This included hundreds of pages of books, at least one assignment every week of each course, reflective course-end papers, participation in discussion forums every second day and peer reviewing other assignments. In normal circumstances, 40+ days spent on self development doesn’t seem like too much but when you combine that with a full-time job, a family to look after and several volunteering positions, good time management skills becomes the make or break issue.

Before enrolling for CACE, I had reviewed many other options including popular industry certifications, diplomas and even a second Masters degree. But CACE felt right because it is a nationally-recognized credential and an award-winning one. I took that at face value when I signed up but now I know each word to be true. Besides, it was offered in a blended format (both online and in-campus) and that meant I could rely on late night readings and weekends to complete the certificate. There was flexibility in the choice of electives and that meant I could learn more about areas of learning and performance that I am most passionate about.

The CACE certificate is geared towards working professionals who want to gain practical insights in the area of workplace learning and I can tell you that there was no shortage of real-life in each course. The program coordinator(s) acted like guiding posts along the journey, always encouraging and always available. The learning environment encouraged co-creation and strong peer connections and I made some fantastic friends along the way who collaborated openly and critiqued honestly. The facilitators were top notch and were co-partners in the learning journey and I’d like to thank them for pushing me to challenge my own beliefs and ideas about adult learning and workplace performance and for sharing theirs.

I was so looking forward to my graduation day in June in all my gear but due to the current COVID-19 situation, that has been postponed. But for now, I can rejoice in these little moments of happiness. I am proud to be a CACE graduate and I hope that my education, experience, and passion for learning will always position me to keep growing and help others in their learning journeys along the way.