A Harder Look at ISD
In your recent article, "A Hard Look at isd" (February), you quote Gayeski asking, "Who could argue that instructional program development should not follow the analyze, design, develop and evaluate sequence?"
My answer is: just about every sales manager, field services supervisor, finance manager, and general manager I've run into throughout the 70s, 80s, 90s, and into 2000. As a recently retired director of e-learning systems at at&t, Lucent and Avaya, I can recall few instances where the systematic approach was anything other than derided by the groups we served. The only exceptions were target groups who were in such trouble they were grasping at any possible solution or, oddly, outside customer groups.
You also quote Gustafson as stating that students of isd are not taught anything about efficiency or preparation for the real world. Certainly that's true, and adding "isd & Political Reality," as well as "Dealing with Difficult People," courses to the graduate-level curriculum would help. Many corporate leaders speak glowingly of their sales process, customer-care process or service process. They often view training, however, as a somewhat-needed evil cost center (that they'd rather outsource) for which process is not needed or desired.
I don't think anyone knows if isd really works or not. Although being taught and evangelized for years, has it really ever been used to any significant cross-organizational, cross-cultural extent? Colleagues of mine from many walks of life answered "no" to that question many times over the years. Even at the old at&t, the many volumes of the infamous "Training Development Standards" really were just dust-gathering binders. If a tool is not used, we can't know if it works.
—Dave Stevens, Centennial, CO
Thanks to Rosenberg for his wonderful insight and intelligent statements. I've been in the educational arena (military, corporate, business and education) for more than 20 years, earning a master's, bachelor's and two associate's degrees while using the isd model with splendid success. I'm so thankful to Mr. Rosenberg for categorizing me as an unseasoned professional with minimal understanding of the learning environment. From my perspective, the isd model works across the full spectrum of learning applications, from systems organization to program design to instructional course planning right down to single learning sessions, events or activities. For my part, I fully appreciate the integration of the "art and science" of designing learning systems. isd simply makes the process manageable. Thanks for allowing me to express my opinions.
Training/Preventive Maintenance Coordinator, Facilities Services Department/Volusia County School Board,
Daytona Beach, FL
Respect For All
Just a quick note to register strong agreement with your column, "I'm Not OK, You're Not OK" (Apropos, February). Your suggestion to bring everyone up to a level of civility is refreshing. I have been in organizations in the past that had a slew of policies all related to one or two individual's obnoxious behavior. Wouldn't it have been better had we all held those people accountable in a more direct way?
I'm lucky now to be working here at Platte Canyon Multimedia Software, which is a terrific small company where the rule of the land is respect for all. Your column was a breath of fresh air.
Chief Operating Officer,
Platte Canyon Multimedia Software,
Colorado Springs, CO
I just finished reading your column, "I'm Not OK, You're Not OK," last night (loved it) and felt compelled to shoot you a note.
Your particular piece obviously explores a theme common to every manager (and employee) in every organization, everywhere. You pose the question: "Can you name a 'difficult' co-worker on whom any kind of corporate intervention, other than a pink slip, has made any material difference to your own well-being?" While some readers may view your choice of words as slightly harsh, I believe your point is well made. For my part, I have a sincere and academic interest in the answer.
So, my corny thought is: Wouldn't it be interesting to explore the various views of your readers as to what they have tried successfully and perhaps not so successfully, in dealing with these porcupine personalities and solicit their real-world views and stories?
Let me offer you but a couple of examples:
Fred Kiel, founding director, krw International: "One senior partner had an ego big enough to blot out the sun. During meetings, he would delight in picking his peers apart, making them look stupid. The current managing partner wanted to find out why he was acting in such a self-destructive way. So we interviewed dozens of his peers, juniors, support staff, as well as his wife, other family members and childhood friends. It turned out that he was small for his age in high school. He found then that the best way to compete was through intellectual achievement. He was arrested emotionally. He was a 14-year-old still using high-school tactics. We spent two solid days with him revealing the truth that we learned about him. After that he was able to talk about his fears that were driving these competitive behaviors. He became much more humble."
Ewa Piwowar, director of privatization for Powszechny Bank Kredytowy S.A., Warsaw, Poland: "I have a difficult professional on my team. He constantly complains that he isn't paid enough. Not only is he divisive, but I put up with it because he is brilliant. But I also give him magazine articles about "energy vampires." That's our term for difficult people, whose behavior sucks energy out of everybody else. I think he guesses what I am trying to do, and then things change for a short time. But his personality is so strong that his ego comes back. So I give him yet another vampire article."
Now, my colleague, David Maister and I have authored a new book, First Among Equals, that deals with how you go about leading, managing and coaching professional talent. Within the text are a number of chapters that discuss how to tackle the prima donnas, deal with the 800-pound gorillas and handle the behavioral oddities. You are welcome to visit firstamongequals.com for some background on the text and excerpts.
In Support of Stand-Up
I fully support your January editorial (Editor's Notebook) and agree that distance/e-learning cannot replace effective stand-up instruction and human interaction. Many companies that rush to the idea of saving money via computerized training in the end wonder why participants do not get the full benefit/knowledge.
West Bloomfield, MI
Dear Mr. Zemke—I just read that Polaroid, which is in bankruptcy, voided severance payments and health benefits to retirees while top managers gave themselves retention bonuses. Then I read your column on "trust" in the January issue of Training. I've admired you for so long, and I hope this article will be widely circulated. I know I'm sending it to all our clients.
Our firm has focused for 15 years on what makes a listener remember some things and not others, and how companies can use communication as a strategic tool. I developed the "Influence Model," and we publish a monthly Bimbo memo. Named for the young woman who announced, "I am not a bimbo," the monthly Bimbo awards reinforce our teaching never to repeat negative words even to deny them. Our readers pick Bimbo of the Year (split last year between Osama bin Laden, "We are not out to destroy the human race," and Rep. Gary Condit, "I did not stonewall.")
It's a monthly e-mail with two quotes to reinforce the idea, and it's always funny. You have such a wonderful sense of humor in your writings, but I have hesitated to write to you to see if you would like to receive it.
Thanks for the great column on trust.
Lacking a Solution
Your Unconventional Wisdom column (September 2001) emphasizes why I never sought a career in journalism. As an educator, I focus 20 percent of my time identifying a problem, 10 percent of my time identifying a solution and 70 percent covering implementation, follow-up and evaluation strategies.
"Red Badge of Employment" makes the same Cassandra Clarion call of most hand-wringers but lacks a workable solution to the problem. Why not focus on companies that successfully buck the trend? List the top 50 companies that emphasize a 40-hour workweek and still maintain high productivity and profitability. I realize that such a list would be wildly unpopular with top management who consider golf outings and fly fishing trips to be "working" when they're done with clients. But for the rest of us worker bees, we'd love to know which companies pay well based on results, not time served.
American Red Cross,
In an otherwise thought-provoking issue on leadership, Jeff Barbian's column about his grandfather (Apropos, August 2001), seems very odd and ill-advised. For one thing, I can't quite figure out why he wrote it. Is it just to share the observation that an 88-year-old has difficulty grasping, let alone embracing, today's technocentric and heavily connected world? Anyone who has spent time with elders will know about this. Older people in any time period frequently opt out of whatever is currently happening—not necessarily because they can't absorb it, but because to them it simply isn't relevant.
There's also a sadly patronizing tone to the piece. I would be quite ashamed to write about my own grandfather in this way. I've come to appreciate that he was pretty wise in spite of his handicap of being born several decades earlier than I was.
I suggest that Barbian switch roles here and rather than try to teach his grandfather anything new, see if he can learn something from him instead. Someday Jeff himself might find napping and feeding birds appealing and will perhaps take time to reflect back on treasured bits of wisdom imparted by his ol' grandpa.
Consolidated Electrical Distributors,
Westlake Village, CA
I thoroughly enjoyed your "Here Come The Millenials" article (July 2001). For the first time in my training career (more than 11 years), I was able to see, at a glance and without sifting through pages of verbiage, the key differences between each generation of employees.
As I see it, the greatest challenge in the workplace is helping each generation not only recognize these differences but how to value them as well. This article caused me to think how I can begin helping our employees bridge the generational gap. Kudos to you all for an excellent article.
— Kelley Robertson
Manager, Retail Training,
Corporate Employee Skills Development,
Sony of Canada,
My name is Joan Pickard, and I am the director of training and development at St. John's University in New York. I enjoyed Ron Zemke's article on the new generation gap, "Here Come the Millennials," and was wondering if it can be found online and/or how much it would cost for reprints? Are reprints available online? Please advise.
Director of Training and Development,
St. John's University,
EDITOR'S NOTE: To order reprints, call 717-399-1900, ext. 100; or e-mail your requests to email@example.com.
Throughout the past two decades, I have found Training magazine to be an invaluable resource. Among the many fine writers who are featured in Training, Ron Zemke is tops.
The age of information has ushered in a massive amount of information, some important knowledge, but very little wisdom. Zemke's writings fill a void that exists today in the area of professional literature.
This very tardy thank-you note was motivated by a Zemke article in the June 2001 issue of Training. After reading "Learning as Conversation" (Unconventional Wisdom), I said to myself, "It's time to say thank you to one of the great thinkers in our profession."
—Barry L. Reece,
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University,
Knowing Me, Knowing You
Incomplete information can harm a trainer and a company. For instance, your "Getting to Know You" article (June 2001) discusses tests trainers might suggest for hiring decisions. However, some tests mentioned are designed solely for training or team-building sessions. They are neither validated nor defensible for testing applicants. Further, those training or team-building "tests" can be "faked out" so they yield a pleasant, but inaccurate, picture of the person who completed them.
Second, the article omits a crucial detail on pre-employment testing: It proves vital to test applicants' mental abilities, not only personality. After all, a company that hires a person whose personality "fits" the job but is too dumb to do the job will waste tons of money.
Fortunately, carefully validated pre-employment tests quickly can be customized for most jobs in a company. Then, a company can benefit by hiring applicants who score similar to its highly productive employees.
The Mercer Group,