Learning development is like constructing a building. This fun analogy has been particularly helpful for my team.
The executives of your organization establish the location of your structure. They do this by creating the strategic and financial plans for the next few years, which sets the direction and tone of your curriculum. They let you know where you are headed and what’s most important.
Through this, you also uncover the type of structure you should build. Is it a small structure that only impacts a few employees or a complex large enough for the entire organization? Is the large complex a mansion that has a different wing for each business area, meaning your instruction will be specific to each team? Or is it an apartment complex where everyone gets the same general message?
Once we know what we’re building and where it’s going, I work with my leaders within the learning organization to start drafting the blueprints. This is where you determine the plan, what needs to be done, who’s responsible for doing it, and when will it be done. This is also where you ensure careful alignment with the directions set from your executives. Create measurable goals that demonstrate your structure is helping the organization grow.
Next, the leaders of the team build the structure. They put up the wood or metal frame. The goal here is creating a system in which their teams can be successful. The team observes the beginnings of the structure and can begin to see where their own specific talents fit into the construction. The leaders have communicated the blueprints, kicked off the project, and set the foundation.
From there, the team goes in and builds the walls, lays the carpet, paints, and decorates. This is developing the courses, job aids, infographics, and all of the other pieces that turn the structure into artwork. This is where you get to see the creativity, team work, and ingenuity of your group.
Is the mansion welcoming and so inviting that the user is compelled to explore all of the details of the course? Can each business area see the portions that were created specifically for them and all of the special touches put in to ensure the content would match their needs?
The apartment complex may have been general information for all, but did it bring everyone together? Did you incorporate a courtyard in your complex where employees could gather to discuss the learning? Does the course align with the values of your organization?
As you build your structures over time, you start to see patterns in your work. Some projects have one main structure for all, but also smaller buildings that represent certain skill sets. Like tract homes, they were all built using the same design, but the content inside is different. You might have a home for communication skills, collaboration, or critical thinking.
Looking back at your different neighborhoods reveal all of the design tricks used at the time. The templates, color schemes, navigation prompts, and knowledge checks. Eventually, you’ll know which blueprints and structures worked best for each situation. You will be able to take the framework used in one project and scale it for another. How you decorated one home could be slightly modified for another. This creates process efficiencies, especially when building programs under shorter deadlines.
This analogy has created a common language for my team. It helps us know what stage of the process we are in. When I hear my developers are laying the carpet, I know they’re putting the finishing touches on the project and it should be ready for a showcase soon. When the team hears me say their leadership team is working on the blueprints of something big then they know our executives have probably communicated an important change and we’re in the process of translating that message into a plan. It also helps us articulate our work to clients. Construction is a process that most people can understand and can apply to learning development, which is something that may not be as familiar.