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How I Learned “Done is Better Than Perfect”

“A good plan violently executed right now is far better than a perfect plan executed next week”
- George S. Patton
In my last post I mentioned the popular quote, “Done is Better Than Perfect!” And that it was one of the most important lesson I’ve learned in my career.  Unfortunately, I had to re-learn the lesson a few times before it really stuck and became a part of mindset…and training development workflow. I’ve tried over the last few years to help others learn this lesson but in many cases it’s a lesson best learned the hard way.

For me, the lesson was learned at my first full time job at a semiconductor manufacturing facility in Phoenix.  The factory was in startup mode and was in desperate need of training around several compliance courses required for the factory to be approve for operation.

My manager called me into his office.  He showed me a workbook on the topic of electostatic discharge.  (For those of you that don’t know, ESD can be the death of electronic devices costing tech companies hundreds of thousands, or millions, of dollars in non-functioning product.)  He asked me how long it would take to create a CBT version of this course.  Remember, it wasn’t called eLearning back then. And we had to burn it onto a CD-ROM.

So, I spent the next 20 minutes explaining the ADDIE process, and all that will be required to meet with subject matter experts and workers and how we would need to also go through the Hannifin and Peck media selection process…oh yea, and the weeks of media development and coding time…and I went on and on and on.

He was very polite and then finally interrupted me and asked how long it would take.  After a lot more explaining I finally landed on “a month or two at best.”

Then he said, “what can you have done by next Friday.”

“WHAT?! That’s not possible.” And I started to explain why…then he stopped me again.  And with a very calm demeanor he asked, “if you HAD to have it done next Friday, what would that look like?
Being more than a little annoyed at this point, I spouted off what could be done by then. “Well…I could just recreate each of the pages out of this workbook as pages in Toolbook…TOTALLY static…no interactivity…well, okay maybe a short quiz at the end…”

“That sounds great. Let’s commit to next Friday on that.”

I was still single at the time and so after 4 long days and late nights I had the CBT ready to go on day 5.

It was not perfect…no where NEAR perfect in my mind…but it was DONE! And the business was gaining value from it.  The entire current employee base was compliant by the next Friday and the business could move on to the next phase.  Even after I left the company that CBT was still being used to train new hires on the dangers of electrostatic discharge.

It was a valuable lesson for me despite being constantly pulled towards perfection with every new project after that.

Have you learned this lesson? Did you fight it? I’d love to hear your stories. 

P.S. Apparently Sheryl Sandberg has now made this phrase popular, but I don’t think she’s the first to say it.  And no, I have not read her book.


My Top 5 Training Development Tips

development & training tips

The world of Corporate Training is really not that complicated. But with all of our instructional models and frameworks, we like making it a little more complicated than others believe it to be. There are situations where all the detailed processes of instructional design are required.  But, in my experience, those projects are rare.  The perceptions others have of your work is critical to your success. Here are my top 5 development tips that will increase your perceived value within your company and amongst your team.

Done is Better than Perfect!

There is a good reason why this quote is so popular.  IT’S TRUE! And it’s one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my career.

As a young recent graduate of the Educational Media and Computers Masters program at ASU, I was perfectly prepared to employ everything I had learned at my first full time job. I was ready to implement the ADDIE model in all its glory. Imagine my surprise when my manager asked that my first eLearning course be created in 5 days. It was a project that framed the rest of my eLearning career, and was also my first experience with “the business” and what they expected from the training department.

The business does not care about instructional design, analysis, evaluation, and all the other stuff we like to spend so much time on.  In most cases they just want content that is easily accessed and proof that all employees have “taken the course”. So, get the minimum done and release it.  You can always go back and improve once you start receiving user feedback.

And of course, these days, your tools and systems should be doing most of the heavy lifting around evaluation and analysis anyways. If not, maybe it’s time for a new LMS.

Use the Tools You Have Now!

The computer, and other technologies, that you have are good enough.  Instead of thinking about all the gear you don’t have, figure out how to use everything you have now.

If you have a late model smartphone, then you have a powerful multimedia production studio in the palm of your hand. And that corporate issued laptop may not be the multimedia development power house you’ve been dreaming of, but it does have enough power to create most of the digital content elements you need.  I was developing fully interactive 3D training simulations in 1996 on computers with only a fraction of what today’s computers have.  Don’t make technology your excuse for not producing.

Your company has an LMS with authoring capabilities…or an authoring tool in general.  However, you still need to create media or modify stock media. All eLearning starts with digital media content. Photoshop is pricey, but there are options…some of which are free. Figure out how to get the job done with the tools you have.  And don’t forget to devote time to improving your skills with those tools.


Templates are your Friend. Use them!

Yes, for the perfectionist in all of us templates are the ultimate sin.  Using templates somehow minimizes the instructional design process for us. But having a few ready to go will save you time, and make you look like a hero. Just think of it as working smarter, not harder.

You often don’t have the luxury of time, and templates will help you get courses done faster (see #1). That course may not end up being the one you submit for an award, but “the business” will care and respect your ability to produce…fast.


Leverage Your Subject Matter Experts

Subject Matter Experts are passionate about what they do…that’s why they are SMEs.  And most, not all but most, are happy to share what they know.  Let them.  And get out of their way.  Do not try to make them follow your instructional model. Do not force them to use your template or framework. Leave them alone.  UNLESS, they ask for your help or are struggling getting started.  Then, and only then, offer up some possible templates or other design options.

Hopefully you’ve built a relationship with your SMEs and already have a feeling for how to approach them with new ideas. Respect what they do, and let them discover their instructional shortcomings through experience.  Then help them improve.


Master Your LMS

No, you’re not reading this wrong.  And yes, these tips are for anyone developing and delivering training content.  Even if you have an LMS administrator on your team, you should be fully aware of how it works including it’s quirks and shortcomings. How you develop your content will always be influenced by the capabilities of your LMS.  So, don’t just use it. MASTER it! It will save you precious development time, and reduce your LMS related headaches when it’s time to deliver.

 What have you learned, the hard way, in your career?

How Can a Learning Management System Benefit Your Company?

The combination of new hires, current employees, and veteran executives are the driving success of any company. This means that all new information must be seamlessly distributed throughout the various departments of the organization. If there is no process in place to keep individual employees accountable for necessary training about company policies or products they deal with on a daily basis, then you cannot expect employees to perform at their optimum potential. A Learning Management System (LMS) solves this issue with flying colors.

Value of Training & Development

The value of training and development acts as a transitional phase from a new hire to a working, contributing employee as well as keeping current employees up to date.  I have had experience from past employers who had disorganized training in the forms of paper handouts to online PowerPoint presentations to emailed documents.  Not only was the required training in multiple locations, but it also did not hold me accountable. PowerPoints and videos could be skipped and fast forwarded, while answers to quizzes could easily be accessed during the assessment period. As a result, I was unprepared for when the time came to assume my role in the company.  When I first started with Litmos I could immediately see the value in automating all training processes into an all in one solution. 

Benefits of a Learning Management System

A Learning Management System, and more specifically Litmos, can perform robust analytics and reporting to track the progress of individuals. This keeps all employees accountable, while giving the administrator the opportunity to sufficiently monitor his or her “flock.” Stricter parameters including the ability to lock modules to be viewed in order and giving assessments that must be pasted before they proceed will not only force the individual to sit through the entire training session, but it will also lead to a higher chance the individual absorbs more of the pertinent information. Accountability in addition to clearly- defined training processes within a company are instrumental in driving a profitable, successful organization.

Online Learning for Non-Profit Organizations

One of the best ways to help a cause is through education.  However, education efforts can be costly, ineffective or worse, both.  With online learning, you can minimize cost for maximum educational reach.

How can you use online learning to increase your efforts?

  • Offer courses as a give-away for donations or to contributors.
  • Sell courses related to your subject matter as a way to create revenue.
  • Share your knowledge to the world to encourage the public to get involved.
  • Educate workers and volunteers in the most cost effective manner possible.

How can Litmos help your non-profit organization?

  • Import SCORM, PowerPoint presentations, videos and many more types of content. It may be created fresh or repurposed.
  • Allow users to self sign-up for courses for maximum reach.
  • Built in ecommerce features for selling courses.
  • Manage compliance dates.
  • Report and track course progress.
  • It’s scalable whether your training a few people or few thousand people.
  • Manage courses for employees, volunteers, members or contributors and the public using a single system.
  • Supports blended learning for effective online and classroom training.
  • No limit for the number of courses or the amount of storage used.
  • A powerful API for integrating Litmos with other systems.
  • Educate all over the world, not just locally.
  • Flexible user licencing.
  • Not for profit pricing on top of already low pricing.

Contact Litmos today to learn more about setting up your non-profit eLearning.

Brent Schlenker Joins Litmos Team as Chief Learning Strategist

Brent SchlenkerHi eLearning community!  I’m very happy to announce that I have joined the amazing Litmos team as the Chief Learning Strategist. My official start was April 1st, but I didn’t want to announce it then because…well…April 1st is a bad day to announce anything.

I’ve been part of the eLearning community for a very long time…even before we called it eLearning.  Remember, CBT and WBT? (Actually, one of my first speaking gigs was at the WBT Producer conference.) My time in corporate america building training solutions, and training teams, was fun and rewarding.  And my time with The eLearning Guild was without question the highlight of my career to date.   But joining the Litmos team is an experience I know will be a ride to remember. The team has big plans!

I remember when @schnicker (Litmos co-founder) first joined the #lrnchat community and joined us for one of our “LIVE #LRNCHAT” events at Devlearn…09 I think. And then meeting @richchetwynd (Litmos co-founder) when they became a part of the Guild vendor expos. And seeing their Litmos product for the first time gave me hope that the eLearning product community was catching up with newer web technologies and becoming comfortable with SaaS (software as a service).

Fast forward to today, and I’m thrilled to be part of the team, and products, that I’ve admired since those early days. Litmos is now part of CallidusCloud which strengthened the deal for me. Many of you are familiar with what Litmos is as an LMS, and that alone would have been enough for me to get involved.  But what really excites me is what Litmos can, and will, be in the FUTURE! Wayne Gretzky famously stated that his success comes from skating to, not where the puck is, but where it’s going. And where Litmos is going is where I believe the corporate eLearning and training industry is going. Stay tuned for more on that in later posts.

I look forward to seeing everyone soon at the many industry events, and of course, on social media. Cheers!