Training

Are your customers’ expectations changing significantly?

Is your market rapidly shifting?blueline-action

Is your historically successful sales model no longer getting the results you need?

What Do You Do When Your Sales Model No Longer Works?

Your marketplace is changing in fundamental ways. Your customer’s business model has changed. The decision makers have changed. Not surprisingly, the sales model that you and your competitors have relied on for decades is no longer delivering the results you need. You aren’t sure that you even need a sales force anymore. But there are pockets of success in your organization.

Read about how one major pharmaceutical company reached out to Blueline Simulations to help revamp their sales model.

Do You Really Know What Your People are Thinking? Here’s how Blueline Uncovers the Voice of the Business

At Blueline, we have set a high bar for creating cutting-edge interactive classroom and electronic training. Yet oddly, the fastest-growing service in our business is something we refer to as Blueline’s Voice of the Business (VOB) Process.BLUELINESIMS.COM

Maybe it isn’t really odd at all.

It’s a little funny (and a lot scary) that some custom learning developers suggest that they can do a thorough needs analysis in just a few hours.  I guess that might be okay if you are developing a simple training program.

But at Blueline, one of our core convictions is that sustainable change requires an intervention far beyond the training delivery.  Every custom solution we develop aligns to specific, mission-critical business objectives.  And when your goal is to impact the business, you aren’t going to uncover the answer in just a few hours.

About six years ago a long-time client asked if I could interview roughly 50 stakeholders – each of whom had a unique perspective about the problem that needed to be solved and the most effective response. When I pushed back, the client admitted that maybe all 50 wouldn’t have unique perspectives, that in some cases our goal would be to see what if any commonalities they shared. As a practical matter, all 50 needed to be involved if for no other reason than to earn their buy-in.

What I discovered during the interviews was that, in fact, each stakeholder did have a unique point of view, honed by their own special set of experiences.  And, that the interview questions needed to evolve and the discussion morph to get the most out of each interview. I experienced first hand the power that involvement has on buy-in and learned that the best way to get my arms around any problem is to examine it from all angles.

From the client’s perspective, the process was even more eye opening. The process delivered information, mental models, patterns, and insights that were surprising, unsettling, empowering… and even transforming.

That first experience was seminal in creating what is now Blueline’s Voice of the Business  Process offering.  Sure, the process has evolved a bit: for one thing, I’m not the only one conducting interviews. For another, interviews are just one piece of a very comprehensive process designed to allow our team to quickly become expert in a critical aspect of your business. This enables us to build consensus where there are disparate points of view, and to allow us to turn a broad range of inputs into insights.

Every new prospect demands maximum speed and flexibility in our design process.  Thanks to Blueline’s VOB Process, our clients can also expect that we will get it right.

Whether your need is to wrap your arms around a difficult business problem, build consensus where there is disparity, build buy-in, or all of the above, we’re here to help.

Get Alignment Upfront

Training doesn’t happen in a vacuum, the success of a training program depends on more than just a good design. Stakeholder commitment and buy-in is critical. Many a well-designed program rests on the dust heap of organizational training because it turned out a critical stakeholder wasn’t onboard. Ensuring stakeholder buy-in is even more vital when a training program is part of an organizational change effort.

Over the last several years we have refined a process that we refer to as Blueline’s Voice of the Business Process.  We utilize this approach in our data gathering on new projects rather than just onsite meetings with subject matter experts. It has allowed us to not only gain deeper insights into learner needs and content, but also create greater commitment and buy-in across a broad range of stakeholders.

At the core of our Voice of the Business Process, are one-on-one phone interviews with a broad representative sample of all key stakeholder groups. These interviews represent a small time investment of typically 45-60 minutes for the stakeholder. It also allows us to get input from a greater number of people than with a typical on-site data gathering session.

We then analyze these interviews for key themes, needs and insights, and prepare a findings/recommendations report. We’ve found that we typically uncover new needs or areas of concern that dramatically impact the training or communication design.

Recently, we were called in to develop training to “help users embrace” a recently implemented software system. The current assessment was that people didn’t understand the system’s capabilities or how it could make their life easier. This new system affected several different functions and departments and changed how they shared information. We recommended that we start the engagement with our Voice of the Business Process.

Through the process of conducting over 50 interviews, it became clear that “understanding how to use the software” was not the greatest need. People didn’t have a clear understanding of the business process that they were engaged in. Everyone we spoke to was dedicated, hard working, and committed to the organization’s success, but they were each limited by a narrow view of their work.

This along with some other themes uncovered during the Voice of the Business Process led the project leaders and us to conclude that a very different approach than what they had originally imagined was needed. The ultimate solution leveraged a Blueline Blueprint™ to provide a big picture understanding of the business needs and the roles various functions played in the process, along with just-in-time video tutorials on the software functions to provide the needs skills.

While one department sponsored and initially championed the training initiative, the use of the Voice of the Business Process enabled stakeholders across many functions to take ownership for the ultimate solution. In fact, the largest initial rollout of the training was by one of those other departments at their annual off-site meeting. Want to learn how Blueline’s Voice of the Business Process can help us to drive results at your company? Give us a call.

Deconstructing the Classroom Simulation

A True Confession

The other day I was sitting in a meeting listening to a presentation. Here are the things I confess to having done during that time (I had my laptop open under the auspices of note-taking):

  • Googled something the meeting leader said to better understand it
  • Emailed my son some help with an algebra problem
  • Read the headlines of the New York Times, Huffington Post and Wall Street Journal
  • Bought a swimsuit (it probably won’t fit)
  • Added a client event to my calendar and invited others to attend
  • Rescheduled that event when the client declined
  • Took notes on the presentation

I got to thinking – so what does this have to do with classroom simulations? Turns out — everything. Every day it seems our capacity and urge to multi-task grows. To keep pace with the dynamic business environment we operate in, we need to deal with many things at once, problem-solve and complete tasks simultaneously. Simulations are uniquely able to replicate and leverage this phenomenon in a training environment. It can move a classroom training experience from teaching x + y = z to ensuring an understanding of a(xy)+ b2 = z.

How do Simulations Work?

When I think about how simulations work to accomplish this higher order outcome, I come up with three main mechanisms. Effective simulations I’ve created or experienced feature:

  1. Non-sequential learning
  2. Realistic, complex situations
  3. Demonstration of cause and effect

Simulations don’t have a linear, topic-followed-by-topic agenda that transfers knowledge via a “age on the stage.” A simulation might offer a scenario, deliver some learning content on a few topics, provide access to resources (live, written, online or otherwise), then require participants to play roles, work together and use the information combined with their experience to solve a problem. Data may be missing and clues may be provided that don’t get used until later. Decisions may be required that change the course of the learning. Teams might outperform other teams. People might get frustrated and things might go wrong. Kind of like the real world.

When I’m creating a simulation, I like to sift through a lot of stories. The team and I listen to the client tell us what business problems happen when people don’t have the insights the simulation is supposed to deliver. We dig around for drama, intrigue, heartache, achievement and fiscal pain, and then we build them into the simulation. The learning experience has to feel real, or participants won’t care as much.

Simulations are a great way to leverage the experience of some participants to enhance the learning of others. When teams debate decisions and consider multiple courses of action they practice cause and effect thinking that is critical to successful business outcomes. By trusting in the ability (and desire) of humans to process more than one thing at a time, we have found that we can cover more content in a shorter amount of time than with a linear training approach. Senior level employees tend to engage and respond more positively to simulations than to traditional training experiences. One thing is certain; participants usually don’t have the time or desire to buy a bathing suit during a simulation.

Simulation Develops Results Focused Leaders at Fortune 300 Company (Part 2)

In my last post, I described the need for a simulation that could serve as a capstone event for our Leadership Development program at Alltel, and how I came to decide to use Blueline Simulations’ Executive Challenge™. Together, we conducted roughly 15 sessions over a two-year period. Each delivery built on the one before as we refined the simulation in ways that made it feel as if it had been designed just for Alltel. The work we did on debriefs and adverse events to help “customize” the experience made it that much more relevant to my audience.

Attendees were placed in teams of eight and were tasked with growing a virtual business by investing in and producing product lines, responding to market demands, and balancing time, capital, and human resources. Throughout the simulation, teams evaluated the sustainability of a business and the long-term implications of short-term decisions, acknowledged personal management styles and leadership blind spots, balanced personal and organizational objectives, solved complex business problems collaboratively, defined a clear strategic vision as a team, and implemented this vision in the face of adverse events.

The simulation began after normal work hours on day 1, as teams were presented with the simulation scenario, had a practice session on the technology, and discussed their company strategies for the next day over dinner. Day 2 lasted a full day and consisted of participants managing their companies over 6-8 virtual quarters. During debriefs, teams examined how closely their decisions reflected the Core Values of Alltel, as well as the soundness of their business strategies.

Teams prepared presentations at the end of the simulation experience and delivered them to a Board of Directors composed of Alltel executives. The board chose a winner based on strategy, financial performance, team effectiveness, ability to handle adverse events, adherence to the program competencies, sustainability, and overall quality of the presentation.

Participants found their simulation experience invaluable.  They experienced the challenges of being a results focused leader, while using behavior and relationship skills in their interactions with their fellow team members. Participants rated the experience highly, remarking on “how the pressure, the competitiveness, the unexpected turn of events really tested their ability to work collaboratively to make good decisions and to execute against them.”

As for me, I had chosen the perfect partner and solution to bring all the work of leadership assessments, coaching and training together in an innovative, engaging and practical way that was useful and memorable to my Directors and Vice Presidents. To this day I continue to get comments from former Alltel Associates about the leadership program, and inevitably they always mention the chance to run their own companies, amidst market pressures and unanticipated events, that was Alltel’s Executive Challenge!

I am excited to now have the opportunity to represent this solution, plus the other equally powerful solutions Blueline offers as part of our Leadership Innovation Series. As Director of Leadership Innovations, I look forward to working with our clients to provide the same kind of business results and organizational impact that I witnessed first-hand in my use of these solutions at Alltel.