Managers and Makers – A New Adventure in Instructional Design…

something new

So today represents an exciting milestone in my career. I have handed in my notice as an e-learning Manager and am embarking upon a new career as a freelance Instructional Designer. What’s the reason for this change? I miss getting my hands dirty and designing eLearning.

Those of you who have read my blog posts before will know that I work for a large telecommunications company and have been in charge of delivering online product and system training to our global network of customers via a state-of-the-art LMS. The project has snowballed over the last 3 years and whilst it’s been a truly exciting journey, it has taken some introspective thinking to realise that I can no longer manage both the direction of the elearning strategy for the company whilst getting involved with my main passion – designing content. And I have to admit, for a while I really thought I could do this. My theory was to delegate enough of the administration tasks out to others which would allow me time to continue developing content. But managing elearning – which includes scoping new courses, managing Instructional Designers and SME’s, planning content roadmaps, LMS administration, reporting and product development is a full-time job in itself (actually having listed all of that, it’s probably at least a 2-person job!)

Where did I go wrong?

So why hasn’t this foolproof plan worked? I spent some time thinking about this, and it led me to a fascinating essay I read a while ago that really resonated called Managers Schedule, Makers Schedule by Paul Graham. The essence of the essay (and I’m paraphrasing here) is that due to he nature of the work involved, ‘Managers’ work in increments of 1 hour slots. Whereas ‘Makers’ require at least 3 or 4 hours to get into a state of flow (learn more about flow here) and create something meaningful. And just to clarify, I’m using the example of a Manager as an eLearning Manager with the Maker being the Instructional Designer.

How the Manager works:

So, assuming a manager is working a normal 8-hour day of 9 to 5, then they are essentially equipped to have 8 x 1-hour meetings within a day. The meeting may not actually be a meeting, it may be an hour spent sending and replying to emails. Or writing a report. But you get the jist. The Manager can happily jump from task to task without any noticeable impact on productivity. This is essentially how I’ve been working for the past 18 months. The nature of managing eLearning requires, for example, someone who can react quickly to business needs, quickly make changes requested by an SME or reprioritising courses based on customer demands.

How the Maker works:

Now the concept being a Maker is that they can only work in 4-hour chunks. The idea being that if we take our 4-hour morning (9am-1pm), and there is a meeting scheduled for 11am, it is very difficult for a Maker (in our case an Instructional Designer) to really get stuck into their work within the 2 hours before the meeting. And then once the meeting is over, there is not enough time to start another piece of work before lunch. So that is essentially a whole morning ruined. If you throw in another meeting in the afternoon, we have essentially written off a whole day due to 2 x 30 minute meetings – which may seem insignificant on the surface, but when put into practise, can have a huge impact on output.

So working on Manager schedule hasn’t given me the time to design level and quailty of content that I have in me – and my reason for this change has come from the realization that I will probably never be able to work in the Makers schedule whilst assuming a Manager’s position in a dynamic corporate environment. Having a clear diary to really spend some time developing courses without any distraction is such an exciting prospect.

I plan to blog regularly about progress in my latest venture, so be sure to check back to the Litmos eLearning blog to find out how I get on!