What is True Success?

What is True Success?

In our lives we are all involved in work, our jobs, as well as our families. That gives us both the professional and personal aspects of our lives. Many of you know I have referenced Tom Morris and his books, in particular True Success, A Philosophy of Excellence and Plato’s Lemonade Stand. They are both very helpful in our lives. I have referenced them many times.

Everyone seems to have some formula for us to follow to achieve success. Some are about market share, or customer service, or parts availability or labor efficiency. However, let me ask a question. These measures, while extremely important, do they make you successful? Is that how you define your success? I don’t think so.

I still remember, as if it were yesterday, when I was looking for my first job after finishing my university career – what was it that I wanted to do? What was my passion? What excited me? I had no clue. I was too young and I had no real-life experiences from which to make the choices necessary. From where I am now, I wonder how it is that we are supposed to be able to answer these questions. My grandchildren are in Gen Z. Recently at a family meal, I asked them both what they wanted to do. My grandson is a Junior in High School. He has many things that he is interested in and cannot make a selection yet. My granddaughter who is a Senior in University has a little more clarity. She is taking Biology with a focus on Genetics. It would seem clear that she has a path she is following. Yet it is clear that nothing could be further from the truth. She doesn’t know yet either. One of the troubles today is that there are so many choices. I always told (and still tell) people, particularly when I was teaching Education at University, that everyone should leave their options open as long as possible. When I was out looking for work the people that influenced my life – my parents, teachers, advisors, and counsellors all told me the same thing. Take your time. Whatever you choose that will be where you will work for the rest of your life. That was 1968. Things have definitely changed.

Today the average number of jobs that an individual will have over the work life for men is 12.5 jobs and women 12.1 jobs. It takes that many before a person can make their own selection of their life’s work. But then we still have the question that needs to be answered. What is success? Is it status in the community? Is it money? Is it your job title? I submit to you it is happiness.

For this particular subject I have to turn to psychology and psychiatry. Those two particular disciplines deal with the human experience in many ways. From the challenges that various groups of people have in learning or reading or concentration to depression and other human issues they have more knowledge than most in what success means.

I am currently reading a book, What Happy People Know, by Dan Baker, PhD, Director of the Life Enhancement Program at Canyon Ranch (This is a pioneering wellness resort which helps people make a lasting transformation that inspires people to find their “well way of life) and Cameron Stauth. The book cites research that has shown that the root of unhappiness – fear – lies in the oldest, reptilian part of our brains, and negative reactions are often dictated by primal instincts. In other words, we are “hard wired” for hard times. Over the past twenty-one months, since March of 2020, we have experienced hard times. This has been a very challenging time. We are all hoping that 2022 will bring us more positivity.

The book is designed to help us, and it has helped me, to understand that in order to be successful – we have to be happy. The authors give you a road map to happiness by breaking down the elements and qualities of Happiness. You get a very detailed description of how each of these qualities can be influences in your life in the book. I am simply listing them here now:

  • Love
  • Optimism
  • Courage
  • Freedom
  • Proactivity
  • Security
  • Health
  • Spirituality
  • Altruism
  • Perspective
  • Humor
  • Purpose

Of this list of a dozen elements, I relate to many. Let me focus on Purpose first. Without a Sense of Purpose, you will flounder. Most of you, by now, understand that our purpose, at Learning Without Scars, is to help people identify their individual potential and then we provide tools to allow them to realize their potential. Many of you will see that purpose as a difficult of not an impossible mission. Obviously, we have a different view on that. One of my fundamental beliefs is that “Everyone wants to do a good job.” This is followed with the fact that “everyone can do more than they think they can.” Put those two facts together and you see the seeds of understanding individual potential.

One of the challenges many of us face is that we get “stuck.” We get stuck in our jobs, in an Industry, a Company, a department. We are stuck and unfulfilled, and bored, and clearly, we are not challenged. But we need the job and don’t want to move, because we don’t think we can replace the job. We are anxious, we are afraid. Whenever I find this situation, I ask the question “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

There is a fresh question for me to consider in the book. “Am I living a life I love?” Perhaps that is a little too theoretical for most of you. But think about that. Isn’t that a terrific question to be asking yourself? Of course, it is. There is an interesting aspect to this question and the work of these authors. They always, every time, provide something that each person has to do. Some action. This is not simply a theoretical exercise. They are trying to create a perspective of success. Of happiness. Nothing is allowed to get in the way. For instance, many of us will use our health or bad habits as a “reason” that we can’t do something. They do not accept that excuse. They give us a perspective to consider with an interesting quotation. “Health is the optimal condition of being that allows for the ultimate engagement in life.” If you smoke or are overweight, they suggest you make the best of that reality. No excuse and no reason for inaction. It seems that there is a trigger when we leave our fear behind and pursue a life we love. I strongly suggest that everyone read this book. I think it could make a difference in your life.

This is the ultimate place to ask that age old question “What If?” Can you improve your life? Your job performance? Your family life? Your relationships? I am by nature an optimist. I know the answer to these questions for my life. Of course, I can. I just need to start. To take some action. To get on the path to success. Care to join me?

The Time is Now.

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What’s Next?

What’s Next?

As 2021 winds down it is time for some reflection and some contemplation. What have we been able to get done in 2021 and what is next for us in 2022?

There has been a lot of confusion this year, wouldn’t you say? Politically, economically, and socially. Perhaps many of us ourselves have been confused. At Learning Without Scars we have been very busy.

  1. We received our IACET Approved provider accreditation.
  2. We revamped our website.
  3. We expanded on the Resources available to our followers.
  4. We introduced Podcasts to our audience.
  5. We added more Contributors to our blogs and podcasts.
  6. We created a Quarterly Newsletter.
  7. We created Audio Learning in multiple languages.
  8. We rounded out our Subject Specific Classes at 108 subjects available.
  9. We rounded out our Job Function Assessments at 18 available.
  10. We made available all of our Job Function Assessments in French and Spanish.
  11. We made our Parts Subject Specific Classes in French.
  12. We create Partnerships with Service Providers, Associations and Consulting Groups.

Now that is a Dozen Items to contend with and it is a list that we take a lot of pride in sharing with you. Ross Atkinson has been a large part of this work and we are most appreciative of having him participating with us in our business. I would like to extend our most sincere thanks to Norma Robbins and Louise Duranleau for their work in providing us the translations and audio tracks for the job function assessments and subject specific classes. And finally, to Caroline Slee-Poulos for her untiring work on working with IACET and completing our accreditation after nearly three years of work. My thanks to all of you.

Yet there are miles to go before we rest.

  1. In 2022 we expect to complete all classes in Spanish, French and English.
  2. We are modifying all subject specific classes to provide multiple quizzes in each class. These quizzes are aimed at improving learning and knowledge retention.
  3. We are working with Industry Associations to provide their members access to all of our learning products.
  4. We are working with Equipment Manufacturers to provide training to their dealership field personnel
  5. We are working with Systems Suppliers to provide training to their sales teams and support personnel.
  6. We will start working with Technical and Vocational Schools to introduce our subject specific classes into their curriculum for mechanical and technical training.
  7. We will be introducing new Products in the Learning area; – new Subject Specific Classes and more Job Function Assessments
  8. We will be adding new Zoom Offerings with panels of subject matter experts providing discussion on specific subjects and specific books that we are discussing.
  9. We will be looking to creating an industry wide Job Certification Program.
  10. We will accelerate our marketing activities with email blasts, e-books and snail mail programs.
  11. We will continue to improve the depth and breadth of our reporting to assist our clients in keeping track of the progress of their employees who are enrolled in LWS products.
  12. We will closely monitor our compliance with IACET requirements and keep them current with our activities.

While we are getting all of that done, we also intend to have thousands of individuals take Job Function Assessments and enroll in Subject Specific Classes.

We would not be in the position we are now, of being the supplier of the most comprehensive list of training products and employee development programs in the industry, were it not for the invaluable assistance we have received from you, our clients. Your suggestions and questions are all taken seriously and without your input and involvement we would never have gotten this far down the road. From our start with Quest Learning Centers in 1994, which provided Classroom Programs and Webinars, to Learning Without Scars, which is focused on Internet Based Learning we have depended heavily on your support.

Our purpose as a business is very simple.

We provide complementary resources to assist each individual to find their potential with blogs, podcasts, audio learning, suggested reading lists, newsletters and job function assessments. Then we give each person a pathway to achieving their potential through the use of Skill Level Pathways. To the thousands of you who have taken assessments and classes with us we say thank you. We know you are making a difference in your lives both personally and professionally through your commitment to excellence. We wish you all the success that you are dreaming about in your life. Your individual happiness is a true sign of a successful life. Thank you as well.

I want to close this blog, our last for the year, with a quotation from our Mascot, “Socrates.”

Socrates Says – Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for.

The Time is Now.

Did you enjoy this blog? Read more great blog posts here.
For our course lists, please click here.

Learning and Teaching Have Changed Forever

Learning and Teaching Have Changed Forever

For some time, the education world has been struggling to maintain itself in the face of the obvious need to make changes. Normally change is an evolution not a revolution. However, the competing interests feel very much comfortable with how things are operating. The Teachers Unions, The School Boards, the State Bureaucrats and the Federal Government were very much into the status quo. BUT. The Students and their Parents, who I believe are the customers of the education business were not.

Then came the Pandemic.

All of a sudden, the students and parents were in the same place at the same time and both parties could see how and what their children were being taught. The parents didn’t like what they heard and saw with the material and the methods with which their children were being taught. They then started to show up in larger numbers and more regularly at Parent Teacher Meetings and School Board meetings. And they made themselves heard. The School Boards didn’t like this one bit, imagine the parents interfering with what the Boards were doing. Their expertise and authority were being challenged by these unruly parents who were demanding answers.

Then the National School Board Association wrote a letter to the government of the United States complaining about these parents and even going so far as to call them terrorists. Imagine calling your customers terrorists? My intent is not to get into the weeds of politics with this introduction. It is simply to provide the background to a subject that I am very passionate about and want to discuss with you. Each person on the planet should be able to receive a good education.

Learning takes on what I believe are four major methods: classroom, webinar, internet-based and self-study.

The classroom will never go away. There is a real benefit to having a person who knows how to teach and has subject matter expertise sharing that knowledge with willing and able interested people. We have learned a lot about classroom learning. The fifty-minute class is changing. The material is being delivered in smaller chunks. Statistics are showing that this has an extremely positive impact on learning and retention.

The webinar is a tool that I am not particularly fond of as a teacher. I cannot see the students. I don’t get the feedback that I am used to in the classroom on each individual’s understanding about what I am talking about in the session. However, when it comes to product knowledge and other very specific learning, they are a terrific tool. I have always liked to have one of the employees conduct this training. The employee doesn’t want to be embarrassed in front of their peers. So, they really learn the material. Each session is done by a different employee and as a result we improve the skills and knowledge of the complete team of customer service employees.

The internet-based learning programs have become a serious and growing concern in a relatively short period of time. You can see that major United States Universities, Harvard and MIT and Georgia Tech to name a few, have their complete curriculum available for online learning. Specialty businesses have arrived from The Khan Academy to Coursera and many others there are learning opportunities online that will be here for the rest of time or until the next major disruption.

Self-Study will always be here as long as there are people who want to learn. Reading is one of my favorite hobbies and pastimes. You can transport yourself to any era and any area on any subject in the world and beyond between the covers of a book. We still have a Reading List on our Consulting Website until the end of this year at www.rjslee.com under the tab Reading List.

Katy Tynan, a principal analyst at Forrester Research recently made the following observations. “Prior to the Pandemic, there was an overemphasis on formal learning as a delivery mechanism. Formal, classroom-delivered training was easy to plan and deliver, but organizations didn’t always see the intended results.” Haven’t most of us felt that way at one time or another about classroom training?

Tracy Malcolm, a global future of work leading at the consulting firm Willis Towers Watson goes further. “Organizations are starting to pursue learning in new forms, and certainly at a new pace, where it’s much more frequent learning opportunities. The formal training itself is certainly bite-sized, so that it can be consumed more quickly. And the pace of learning increased.” At the same time, we are now flooded with a massive amount of student debt. The largest single debt in the country.

There are many voices starting to sound similar alarms.

When we started with Management Training at Quest, Learning Centers, we did the same thing as most other teaching or training business did. Our classes spanned two days in locations that were easily accessible to our client base. Sixteen hours of training. We built the classes to cover sales, operations, assets and leadership. Four hours for each of those areas and two subjects in each four-hour time block. The students would come in from their dealerships the day before and spend two nights in hotels and pay for their room and board as well as the tuition cost of the classes. We got very good response and also very good reviews of the content and the way we taught. We built eight such programs.

We started to notice a problem with our teaching, or more appropriately the learning and retention of our content that the students experienced. They would get back to the company and be caught up instantly in the old routines to the point that they were not able to implement any of what they had learned. We had too many people working in the business and too few people working on the business.

Our sponsors and clients were noticing similar things and wanted to approach the teaching from a different perspective. Thus, the webinar was born.

The webinar did not require people to travel or stay in hotels or eat meals in restaurants. It was cheaper. It also was shorter. The webinars that I conducted typically ran between forty-five minutes and an hour. The vehicle for teaching and by extension learning was changed. It is shortened, which leads to measurably more learning and better retention. Further, the employee was not taken away for two days at a time. But the teacher didn’t have the same tools to evaluate the learning of each student. We changed the delivery methods on our webinars and using a computer driven projector that I could operate remotely and turn off the slide presentation and walk in front of the camera and talk to the audience directly. They could see me and my antics. I was transitioning to Hawaii at the time so I started to wear Hawaiian Aloha Shirts. Many people have commented on those shirts in that they were annoyed when I wore the same shirt more than once.

We moved away from webinars in 2015 and converted all of our learning programs to the internet starting in 2016. It has been a much larger job that I had anticipated. With our two-day programs and the structures that we used, we had three separate programs; What it Looks Like When it is Right, Reaching Market Potential, and Performance Excellence. So, we had six discrete classes for each of the four disciplines. Twenty-four classes for parts, and service and product support selling and marketing.

The first order of business was to research and select a “Learning Management Software.” This was not easy nor were we very sophisticated or knowledgeable about what we wanted and needed. Needless to say, we are on our second LMS. We make mistakes like everyone else.

Then we had to determine how we wanted to build the classes. That is our wheelhouse. Caroline has a Master Degree in Education and I taught people how to teach at McGill University in Montreal. We built our classes to start with optional reading material, then a mandatory pretest to gauge the knowledge of the student before they start the class. The subject specific material we created covered in the range of 125 to 160 slides each one of them with audio tracks. We then embedded film clips to highlight key points and material. Further we added quizzes to break up the learning. We put about ten quizzes into each of the programs. Caroline then put all of this material, the slides, the audio tracks, the film clips and the quizzes into the form of a video. That allows the students to stop and start or go back and forth to review the material. We wanted the students to learn, to understand the material and become more knowledgeable as people both personally and professionally. Then we added a final assessment. This was a twenty-question assessment of the knowledge and skills of the students on that specific subject class. They had to obtain a score of 80% on this assessment in order to pass the class and earn their certificate. However, before the students can get their certificate, they have to provide us an evaluation of the class through a survey. Finally, they can print their certificate which will also show them how many CEU’s, Continuing Education Units.

We now have one hundred and eight subject specific classes, and we will continue to add classes as they are requested. Each class is reviewed monthly for adjustment based on the surveys and the assessments results. For instance, if a majority of the students get the same wrong answer to the same question, we review that section of the class to ensure that it is not our teaching that is at fault. If it is the material that is causing the problem, we make adjustments.

Another interesting aspect of our work is the feedback that we receive constantly about what our customers want and need. They tell us what they want. And we listen. Do we ever listen.

When we built the classroom material, we used voice recognition software and I dictated to the computer. It was like I was teaching in a classroom. In the nineties the voice recognition software was not at all at the same level as what it is today. I would talk to the computer and go away. Thirty minutes talking forty minutes doing something else while the computer continued to convert my voice to a word document. Once I had the classes built, I invited people for whom I had a lot of respect and asked them for their time in a classroom with me to see what I had created. I wanted their objective evaluation of what I had done. From that platform, my background and experience in the business and in teaching, complimented with the experience and knowledge of the very generous people who helped put the final touches on our work and created Quest, Learning Centers. I will never forget what those people did to help me. You know who you are and I thank you sincerely.

Over the years our twenty group facilitation businesses first with Insight, M&R, Institute in partnership with Malcolm Phares who started the “Twenty Group” concept when he was VP of Dealer Development for PACCAR, and now with The Capital Goods Sages, in partnership with Dale Hanna of Foresight Intelligence has provided invaluable discussions and debates with experienced executives on their dealerships. This provided learning opportunities for me that was also invaluable.

Since 1980 our consulting business has afforded me the opportunity to work with hundreds if not over a thousand dealerships around the world. I have been provided an opportunity in my business life that few others have been given. As I have said to many people over the years. “If you play two rounds of golf everyday for six months and you don’t get pretty good at it, well someone is trying to tell you something. I have learned something from each consulting engagement and each of the twenty group meetings and from a large number of very skilled people in our classes.

Over the past fifty-two years we have had over twenty-five thousand students either in a classroom or a webinar or an internet-based class. I have learned a lot from the interaction with all of these people.

Yet even with that background and experience we are in a constant state of looking to get better at what we do and how we do it. We offer blogs, podcasts, newsletters and audio learning on a complimentary basis as a means of transferring knowledge to interested people. We have a group of people as Contributors helping us. These people are an invaluable help to us. They are Thought Leaders who are challenging the status quo and the world in which we live as well as experienced executives and influencers. We are grateful to each of them for everything that they do for all the employees in the Product Support world.

One of the changes that we see being beneficial is to have training going on continuously for everyone. We advocate that each employee in the Product Support world who leads people or touches customers have one skill assessment tied to their job each year and take at least three classes each year to improve their skills and knowledge. “You need to have regular reinforcement of what you’ve been learning” so says Wayne Vascio, Professor of Management at the University of Colorado. He continues “You use it or you lose it.” “Simply doing it one-off or learning a skill one time and then not being able to practice and use it on the job, is a recipe for skill decay.”

Another thing Caroline is taking us to is the fact that passive learning is not sufficient anymore. She gets that from her continuous learning for her teaching job and her education. I am excited about it. She caused us to put the quizzes into all of our classes. She is pushing to have optional Zoom meetings with people who have taken the same class with either Caroline or me leading the meeting. We talk about the subject specific class that they took and provoke discussions in a group setting. We are exploring having chat rooms for people who have taken classes with us where they can reach out to others in the Product Support World. Even going so far as Gamification of the Learning Experience.

One of the other things that has become painfully clear. There is an expression “those that cannot do, they teach.” This has never been a good idea. Over the course of my career at two different CAT dealers I was a Parts Manager, a Service Manager, I established the first Product Support Selling function, I designed buildings and dealer facilities, I was a Data processing Manager. I have walked the walk I don’t just talk the talk. The teacher has to know what the employees do in their jobs. What are the challenges and the obstacles to the job? This is not an abstract experience. We are even exploring, in some cases, having the employees training each other. This is invaluable in other ways as well. Everyone finds out who the best is at a particular subject or task.

Over the course of our fifty-two years in the industry, and the wonderful training I have received myself and the people from whom I have been able to learn from I am very humble and extremely grateful.

We will continue to keep you posted as we continue to change and adapt to the new realities in education and learning.

The Time is Now.

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Thoughts on Our Resources

Thoughts on our Resources

I don’t know if you have noticed but we have been quite busy over the past few months. I wanted to bring it to your attention and provide you with some suggestions going forward.

As you know at Learning Without Scars, we have three purposes and main goals.

  1. To transfer wisdom and knowledge from Thought Leaders and Experienced Executives and others through our Blogs, Podcasts, Newsletters and Audio Learning. You should register for the Blogs and Subscribe to the Newsletters. The Podcasts and Audio Learning segments are separate issues.
  2. To provide objective evaluations of the knowledge and skills of the employees in Product Support Job Functions with our Job Specific Skills Assessments. These assessments provide a score and allow us to customize specific learning paths based on the employee scores.
  3. To provide Subject Specific Classes tied to Departments and specific Job Functions. These classes can be assigned to employees based on their scores from the Job Function Skill Assessments. The Education Community classifies knowledge levels in four categories; Developing, Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced. We have determined eight classes for each developmental level for each Job Function.

I would like to direct you to “The Resources” tab on the home page @ www.learningwithoutscars.com.

You will see a dropdown that lists off everything under that tab. Go first to Contributors. We have been able to engage a series of highly skilled and talented people who share their knowledge, experience and wisdom with us. These skills and that knowledge and wisdom comes to you free of charge. But there is a caveat to that. Reading through a blog you will find that there are suggestions and ideas for you to consider. This is not reading the Sunday Paper and moving on. This might require you to make changes ton something in your operations. We hope so as our Contributors have “been there done that.” As you scroll down through the Contributors you have a brief biography of the individual and a picture to see not just their work. Then you will see the most recent three Blog posts and Podcasts.

Then if you go back up to the Resources tab and slide down to Blogs you will see our Socrates Says Blog series. There are some 900 different blog posts there for you to read through. We are creating better search criteria for you so that you will be able to find more easily what you are looking for in the blogs. While you are there, PLEASE take a moment and subscribe to the blog. All you have to do is provide us your email address then you will receive the blogs when they are posted automatically. We typically post blogs on Tuesday. Normally we have two blogs each Tuesday. If it becomes too much for you simply unsubscribe.

Next are Podcasts. Go back to the Resources tab on the Banner line at the top of the screen and slide down to Podcasts. We are very pleased we just had our 1000th download of one of our Podcasts. Not bad in only three or four months. We are really pleased that so many skilled people have agreed to spend time with me talking about various subjects of interest to the Product Support world. We cover HR issues with two very talented people, Sonya Law from Australia and Bruce Baker from Canada. We cover Technology with four very talented people in Dan Slusarchuk from Oklahoma, Dale Hanna from Arizona, Ross Atkinson from Canada and Alex Schuessler from New York. We cover dealer operations with Steve Day from Alabama and Brad Stimmel from North Caroline, and Ryszard Chciuk from Poland. Ed Gordon and Ed Wallace two men who were once College professors weigh in on Workplace Development and the Skilled Workforce as well as Relationship Management and Selling. There are more. Our Podcasts started out running between 40 and 50 minutes. We covered a lot of content. About ix weeks ago we surveyed our viewership and the results indicated that the audience wanted shorter Podcasts. We now offer 10-to-20-minute Podcasts. I hope you enjoy them.

Continuing on this path, go to Resources again and slide down to Newsletters. We started producing a Newsletter July 1st, 2021. They run quarterly so our second Newsletter went out October 1st 2021. We are currently putting the next Newsletter together which will be published and released January 1st 2022. We are becoming better at developing the Newsletter and have modified how we bring them to you so that you can maximize the benefit they provide you. Today we provide the Newsletter in several pieces to allow you more flexibility in how you use it. You receive the Newsletter in your email if you SUBSCRIBE to it (please take a moment and do that for us). The Newsletter is split into six pieces. We start by highlighting an individual from history who has had an overly large impact on humanity. This includes several significant quotations from that individual. Then we provide a short position paper on where we stand with Learning Without Scars. Then we move into the meat of the Newsletter. We have four sections that are highlighted for you; Parts, Service, Selling and Marketing, and Business. Then we close with a reading list of books that I have been reading in my work to stay current with what is going on in our Industry in Business and other fast-moving areas like technology or Cyber Security or Artificial Intelligence. Each of the four section you can obtain in a pdf format by clicking on the statement near the end of that section. These pdfs are intended for you to share with your teams to allow them to read them and then have a discussion on what the subject matter means to your operation. Ideally each of those employees will obtain their own subscription.

Finally, we are in a Beta test with a Company in the UAE that has developed an AI tool to convert word documents to audio tracks in multiple languages. We currently have 50 audio tracks up in US and UK English with another ten or so coming shortly. This is a beneficial tool for people to get an idea of the content of learning before taking classes and assessments. We are hopeful but very optimistic this will work for us and can be expanded.

So, there you have a more detailed explanation of our Resources. There is a lot of material there for you to consider. Everything in our Resources is something that is in place in dealerships and businesses worldwide. None of this is “pie in the sky” it is all in place in business today.

And don’t forget our big news.

Effective November 1, 2021, Learning Without Scars became fully accredited as a provider of continuing education through the International Accreditors of Continuing Education and Training (IACET). This accreditation sets us apart in our field: we are the first and only education provider in our industry to hold outside accreditation. From this point forward, all students will receive CEUs when they take a course through Learning Without Scars. Now we begin the critical work of collaborating with technical schools and professional associations to develop ongoing programs for all students.

We are pleased and proud to welcome you to Learning Without Scars: an IACET accredited education provider.

The Time is Now.

Did you enjoy this blog? Read more great blog posts here.
For our course lists, please click here.

Keeping Up-to-Date and Current in a Learning Business

Keeping Up-To- Date and Current in a Learning Business

I read this article recently and wanted to share it with all of you. It presents some interesting perspectives on employee development and learning. I hope you enjoy it.

To adapt to technology disruptions and meet the modern-day learners’ demands, many organizations are looking at modernizing their existing learning material.

But modernization is not only about repackaging an ‘old wine in a new bottle’, but it should ideally be looked at as a transformational strategy to deliver business results by creating new and unique experiences for the learners. In fact, it should be embraced as an opportunity:

  • For business leaders to align strategic objectives
  • For L&D heads to transition from a culture of training to a culture of learning
  • For HR as an ongoing upskilling initiative
  • For people leaders to provide learning in the flow of work

Having said the above, modernization comes with its fair share of challenges. In order to arrive at a robust and proven modernization framework that can be successfully implemented, it is absolutely essential to spend efforts on understanding the key factors that are driving the need for modernization. Here are a couple of factors that could be considered while designing a modernization strategy:

Technology disruptions

There are multiple technology disruptions that are happening all around us. Technology in itself has undergone numerous transformational processes impacting the way learning is delivered, perceived, and consumed. While organizations need to leverage technology to meet the need of the hour; the modernization strategy has to factor in this reality by future-proofing the content for new technological disruptions.

Skill Gaps

The Covid 19 pandemic has suddenly accelerated the need for new workforce skills. According to a new McKinsey Global Survey on future workforce needs, nearly nine in ten executives and managers say their organizations either face skill gaps already or expect gaps to develop within the next five years. Owing to the new generation of learners and needs of modern-day workplace, new skill areas are popping up regularly. Closing on the skills gap and enabling employee growth should be one of the strategic themes of the modernization initiative.

The Modern-day Learner

The profile, preference and habits of learners keep on changing because society, workplace, and technology continue to evolve. While the modernization initiative should account for the needs of the modern-day learner, it should not be limited just to millennials and Gen Z. It should be more holistic, starting right from the baby boomers.

Maintenance

As content owners, one of the key things is to ensure that we are able to maintain content that we are developing. For instance, a pharma company has to ensure that the content is updated as per latest FDA regulations. The other aspect of maintenance is the variety of technology infrastructure that is being used to deliver content. Today you might have a SCORM LMS in place and you design and develop content for it, but tomorrow, if an xAPI compliant LMS comes into picture, the requirement would be to pass data into the Learning Record Store (LRS) of the LMS. The modernization strategy should account for such technology changes and make content available in a format which could be easily transitioned.

Have you come across any other factors which might be driving the need for content modernization? You can write to us at info@harbingerlearning.com and we would be happy to have a conversation.

The author of this article, Rahul, is a digital learning enthusiast and is passionate about helping organizations and leaders solve challenges around learner engagement and student outcomes through intervention of learning technologies. In a career span of over 15 years in the digital learning space, he has helped a host of global organizations and educational institutions in implementing new initiatives around their digital learning strategy.

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Cyber Security Incident Response Planning

Cyber Security Incident Response Planning

Learning Without Scars is pleased to introduce our new guest writer, Danny Slusarchuk. His first post for our blog is on Cyber Security Incident Response Planning. Danny Slusarchuk enjoys spending time with his family and being a productive member of the community. He serves on the Oklahoma Venture Forum (immediate past Chairman) and Oklahoma Innovative Technology Alliance boards. He leads the Oklahoma National Guard Defensive Cyberspace Operations Element. Danny founded Standards IT in 2012 and continues to be a managing partner at the headquarters in downtown Edmond. He has been recognized as 20 Edmond Business Leaders under 40 and was a recent Edmond’s Young Professional of the Year award recipient. Danny spoke most recently at the FBI’s Information Warfare Summit and has for 4 years running. This year he spoke at SECCON as well. He was a guest speaker for the Youth Leadership Edmond conference, 45th Field Artillery Brigade Honorable Order of Saint Barbara Dining Out. He was the keynote for Oklahoma Officer Candidate School Class 63.

Cyber Security Incident Response Planning

Let’s understand the why.

Your business is shut down for the foreseeable future and you don’t have the slightest idea how you are going to get back to the way you were operating yesterday. Your customers, employees, and even competitors know you have been hacked.  Someone in another country is extorting you for ten Bitcoin to maybe restore your precious data on their good word. To top it all off, your customers have brought a class action lawsuit against your negligent handling of their data.

Do not let that scenario play out solely on the bad actors’ terms.  It is possible to do everything right and still get hacked.  A living incident response policy and procedure accompanied by routine tabletop exercises and vulnerability assessments can be the difference between surviving and shutting your business down.

The Sans institution provided great cyber security training.  The incident response considerations in this post draw from their Global Certified Incident Handler curriculum.

Your plan should have input from all departments that require systems and data to operate.  I recommend you nest it with your cyber liability insurance policy and have it legally approved.

Now, if you were to pull out as much of the lingo as possible and boil it down to bullets here is how I would state it:

  • Identify the event (Intrusion Detection Software, Security Operations Center Notification, Individual Report, Litigation Notice) (each an “Event”)
  • Execute initial alert roster of Event and establish event timeline using “Event” document for record
  • Determine exposure (add additional resources if necessary and conclude as an IT Governance Council that the Event is contained and did not elevate to an “Incident”)
  • If Breach, exfiltration of data, or other harm is suspected to be probable elevate the Event to an Incident
  • Contact “Incident Response Legal Team” and “Cyber Forensics Team” (both appointed by the IT Governance Council)
  • Use IT Governance Council, Legal Team, and Cyber Forensics Team as Incident Response Council and establish Cyber Forensics Team as Incident Response Manager of the Council
  • Add additional technical resources, if needed, to manage the technical aspect of the Cyber Forensics effort and cyber defense
  • Track all time, keep running estimates of time and hardware required to maintain operations during the Incident Response
  • Add Crisis Public Relations Firm to the Council for internal and external talking points and press releases, if needed
  • Use cyber forensic evidence in court or to settle lawsuit and to submit claims to the insurance carrier
  • Notify customers and any injured parties, if necessary, pursuant to regulatory requirements
  • File incident with the FBI Cyber Crimes Complaint center, if appropriate
  • Complete “Incident Response” document(s) for record
  • Add technical controls to Cyber Security Risk Mitigation Matrix
  • Conduct an after-incident review with key personnel and distribute the IR for Record documentation

That was high level steps, and each has significance.  Overall, the concept is to prepare, identify, contain, eradicate, recover, and realized lessons learned.  The steps also include adding one-time resources like forensics and crisis public relations.

In future posts I will explore specific sections covered in greater detail that will help educate the reasoning behind the order and specific terminology.  Cyber liability insurance is only good if it pays out when you need it for example.  Yes, there are some gotchas in choosing your protection.

References: https://www.sans.org/cyber-security-courses/hacker-techniques-incident-handling/

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Why Lean Manufacturing Doesn’t Work Today

Why “Lean Manufacturing Doesn’t Work Today”

Guest writer Bruce Baker shares with us the reasons why lean manufacturing doesn’t work today: the reasons are not exactly what you might think…

Whether you own a bookkeeping business, cabinet-making business or legal practice, all businesses are made up of routines, which rely on consistent, one-at-a-time processes. Everything we do that keeps society “together” relies on repeatable activities. Whether it’s brushing our teeth, getting dressed or eating breakfast, all rely on repeatable processes.

For those who are not aware of the practice of Lean, allow me to provide you with a brief history and definition. Lean is the concept of efficient manufacturing/operations that grew out of the Toyota Production System in the middle of the 20th century. It is based on the philosophy of defining value from the customer’s viewpoint and continually improving how value is delivered by eliminating every use of wasteful resources, or that does not contribute to the value goal. In short, taking things one step at a time is the make or break of business and general success in life.

Many have heard before… “take it down a notch…one thing at a time”. Several months ago, I wrote a short article called “Your Interpretation of Time,” where I stressed the importance of how reactive we have become as a society, including business. Our interpretation of time today is drastically shorter, and the general consequences of failure, impressively higher and more extreme than before. This inevitably leads to reactive, narrow, and short-term decision-making. Albert Einstein once said, “When you are courting a nice girl, an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder, a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.”

My bold statement of “…Lean doesn’t work today” is not that the practice and methodology are ineffective; on the contrary. Lean is applicable in every industry and every business and mentioned in the beginning of this article, in your personal life. The practice and adoption of Lean are fantastic when a business and its people adopt this “way of business life.”

A challenge we are all presented with is that if we adopt Lean as a practice, we need to accept that our reactional, short-term, and high-crisis manner of thinking will always stop us from adopting practices like Lean.

Building and growing a business is never easy emotionally, but requires a strict set of routines and processes, and each process must be executed effectively. This can only happen if each process performs effectively in an individual manner parallel to its fellow processes. This requirement is not limited to the business world but the very nature of our world, yet we insist on a short-term, high-crisis manner of thinking.

As I write this article, I sit in a Lean manufacturing training session with Quantum Lean. Lynn (the Lean instructor) mentioned that adopting Lean “takes time” and that “people do not like to change”. Although I completely agree with Lynn, people resist change primarily because they fear the unknown. Statements like “I don’t see the reason to change,” “I don’t have time to wait for them”, “I have so many problems to deal with, I don’t know where to start” or finally, “Oh, I’ll add this to my list of problems I have to solve…I don’t have time to deal with little issues like this now!”

In conclusion, if you have or are anticipating implementing Lean in your business, remember this. It all starts with the leader of the business. If the leader does not make this mind shift, the rest of the team will not make the shift either. Lean is not another tool or method. It is a change in the state of mind and subsequently changing the business’s culture from fighting fires to experiencing the inherent joy of work and life in general.

As a wise mentor of mine once said, “one step at a time, grasshopper….”

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Building a New Skilled Talent Decade

Building a New Skilled Talent Decade

Edward E. Gordon, the founder and president of Imperial Consulting Corporation in Chicago, has consulted with leaders in business, education, government, and non-profits for over 50 years. As a writer, researcher, speaker, and consultant he has helped shape policy and programs that advance talent development and regional economic growth. This week, he shares with us the history and the present needs involved in building a new skilled talent decade.

Gordon is the author or co-author of 20 books. His book, Future Jobs: Solving the Employment and Skills Crisis, is the culmination of his work as a visionary who applies a multi-disciplinary approach to today’s complex workforce needs and economic development issues. It won a 2015 Independent Publishers Award. An updated paperback edition was published in 2018.

Recently I spoke at a forum on my White Paper, “Job Shock: Moving Beyond the COVID-19 Employment Meltdown to a New Skilled Talent Decade,” at the Cliff Dwellers Club in Chicago. My presentation and responses to it can be viewed on YouTube at https://youtu.be/gnLBrOiMSYA. In my remarks, I pointed out that history was now repeating itself as workplace technology change is again shifting education and skills requirements.

PAST LABOR HISTORY

During the first decades of the 20th century, a titanic shift in the U.S. economy destabilized society. An industrial revolution triggered by spread of electricity and the growth of factories and offices required workers with at least a basic education in reading and mathematics. Many violently opposed the expansion of public education. Who needs a universal school system? Why educate children, women, and immigrants? You will only cause anarchy by giving them dangerous ideas! Anyway, these people are not trainable. We need them for cheap labor in our factories or on our farms!

As this debate raged across America, more people were persuaded that the expansion of education would benefit society. Starting at the regional and state levels, enlightened community leaders spearheaded the expansion of compulsory tax-supported primary and secondary education. By 1918, all of the then 48 states mandated this standard of public schooling backed by tough truancy laws. The United States was the first nation to attempt to provide a general education to all its citizens. It was a major contributor to the rise of the United States as a world power.

A NEW SKILLED JOB ERA

Another major industrial revolution began in the 1970s as computers and information technology began to be adopted in workplaces. By the beginning of the 21st century, personal computers, smartphones and the internet were everywhere. Automaton has eliminated many low-skill jobs and increased the demand for workers with higher math and reading skills and specialized career training. The seminal 1983 report, “A Nation at Risk,” raised the first red flag that the U.S. education-to-employment system had become obsolete and warned that America needed to provide more students and workers with enhanced education and training for higher-skilled/higher-wage jobs.

However, continuing national testing by the U.S. Department of Education commonly known as the Nation’s Report Card reports low levels of proficiency in math and reading particularly at the 12th-grade-level. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused learning loses of up to a year particularly among lower-income students.

These deficiencies in our education-to employment system plus the 130 million American adults who the Barbara Bush foundation reported read at the 8th-grade level or less is building into a severe shortage of skilled labor. Surveys of employers are consistently reporting difficulties in finding qualified people to fill open positions. A September National Federation of Independent Business survey found that 51 percent of owners had job openings they could not fill, the third consecutive month in which record highs for unfilled jobs had been reached. Moreover, 62 percent of small employers seeking to hire had few or no qualified applicants. In July and August, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported over 10 million job openings. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta projected that the high number of unfilled jobs is costing U.S. businesses to lose $738 billion in revenue annually.

CAN WE DO IT AGAIN?

As the COVID-19 epidemic has severely disrupted schooling at all levels and caused labor market turmoil, there is the potential for forming broad coalitions to reform our nation’s education-to-employment pipeline. Parents and students are more aware of the importance of good educational preparation for the future, and many businesses are fighting for their very survival.

At present although the number of vacant jobs is high, there are millions of Americans who are unemployed or underemployed who do not precisely match the skills or experience companies are seeking for their open jobs and who therefore are excluded for consideration for them. A September Harvard/Accenture report estimates that there are over 27 million Americans whom they term “hidden workers.”

Our “Job Shock” research clearly shows that Regional Talent Innovation Networks (RETAINs) as public-private partnership hubs can effectively prepare more people for the higher-skilled/higher-wage jobs that are vacant across the United States. Their success hinges upon mobilizing a diversity of partners to engage in meaningful collaboration to close skills-jobs gaps. Cross sector coordination is key. The current barriers between businesses and educational institutions need to be broken down to allow the development of up-to-date career preparation options.

America has a long history of community civic engagement. Enlightened local leaders have periodically stepped forward to bolster our republic during times of crisis. Community engagement is again essential to move the United States forward into a new skilled talent decade.

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Quality of Communication Channel

Quality of Communication Channel

In tonight’s blog post, guest writer Ryszard Chciuk walks us through the information our customers need and want to know. The quality of the communication channel directly impacts your customer’s purchases, especially as they move through the research phase before buying.

Ron Slee reminded us (see From Paper to Glass) what he had talked perhaps for decades about the three questions that a customer asks when they need to purchase parts from a dealer:

  1. Have you got it?
  2. How much is it?
  3. How long do I have to wait to get it?

These are the same questions customers have when they want to purchase something else or they are looking for any information regarding their equipment.

So, what does your customer do when:

  • they are going to replace their old machine with the new one?
  • they want to get rid of their old equipment?
  • they think about additional attachment to their old machine?
  • they are looking for spare parts?
  • their machine is down in the middle of nowhere?
  • they are looking for the spec sheet of the older machine model?
  • they miss somewhere an Operators’ Manual?
  • they have to estimate the total quantity of fuel for their new project?
  • they immediately need any other kind of information related to his fleet?

Your customer is doing the research.

Mets Kramer in Candid Conversation with Ron Slee (The Digital Dealership) said:

  • … of the 85% of all the research the customer does is now done digitally, online, prior to making a phone call.

Seven years ago Acquity Group, part of Accenture Interactive made a survey of 500 procurement officers (B2B) with annual purchasing budgets in excess of $100,000. What did they find?

  • Only 12 percent of buyers want to meet in person with a sales representative when determining a purchasing decision and 16 percent want to discuss their purchasing options with a sales representative over the phone.

In the 2014 Acquity Group State of B2B Procurement study they also stated:

  • Thirty percent of B2B buyers report they research at least 90 percent of products online before purchasing.

I am afraid a majority of dealerships are not able to interact with their modern customers in a new way. As a born realist, I think nobody in the construction industry is ready for that, despite everybody is having at his disposal proper technology.

Your existing and, even more important, potential customers changed their search behavior, within the last several years, but you have not noticed that. If you are going to neglect that fact, your company goes into dire straits. Be aware that:

  • 80% of B2B Buyers Have Switched from Suppliers That are Unable to Align Their Services with Buyer Expectations (from the Accenture report for 2019).

Your company, like most dealerships, from time to time is running sales campaigns. Usually, it is done with the use of an electronic channel. Are you aware, it has no advantages over the 20th-century traditional campaign (with the use of a phone or snail mail)? It is because you present your offer on your static website and it contains extremely exciting form “Please contact us for the price or additional information”. How many times a year do you receive back that form filled in?

You fail because you stubbornly stick to so-called Billboard Marketing. If you want to change that, please read about Digital Marketing. Mets Kramer presented there his view on today’s marketing. Mets differentiates Billboard Marketing from the more 21st-century alike Engagement Marketing.

In fact, it does not matter whether the campaign is run with help of any e-mail platform (newsletters), Google, Facebook, or others. A successful campaign brings your potential customer to your dealership, to have a look at your yard, warehouse, service vans, and workshop. This is the way you can easily initiate customer’s thinking about starting or strengthening friendly relations with your staff. The physical presence of a customer on your street is not necessary. In the 21st century, your website is the main place where this can happen. Does it? Be aware that:

  • 83% of buyers use supplier websites for online research (from the Accenture report for 2014).
  • only 37 percent of B2B buyers who research a supplier’s website feel it’s the most helpful tool for research (from the Accenture report for 2014).

Of course, your IT provider can change static pages into dynamic ones, they can use new software for generating modern layouts with nicer pictures or even short videos, etc. Everything looks wonderful, but it is only face lifting. The question is if you provide your customers with the information they are online looking for.

Mets Kramer, in the series of articles about Digital Dealership (search for “digital dealership” on the blog), reminded me of my dreams about a “digital” after-sales department. I began to think about it at the end of the 20th century and it never became real. In the next article, I am going to present to you some obstacles which I had to struggle with. It’s a pity, I’m certain that after a quarter of the century later, your road is cobbled with similar or the same problems.

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From Paper to Glass

From Paper to Glass

In a recent Podcast with Alex Schuessler, we were talking about technology and the changes that have taken place in the marketplace within our Industry. I have long used the example of the Steam Engine being replaced by the Electric Engine of how we resist changes. Yes, the tool was changed – the engine – but the methods and procedures did not change for a generation. Changing the tool was traumatic enough for the leadership of the day. They couldn’t handle that much change in their lives.

Fast forward to the current situation and the area of technology. The Large Computers arrived in larger businesses sold by consultants for the most part. Thus, a new tool was introduced to the market. We wrote everything on our usual forms and sent the “paper” documents to what was then called “Data Processing.” The information on the paper was punched onto cards. These cards were then processed through readers and then passed on to the computer for processing. The computer was then used to print a report of what was punched into the cards and processed that was sent back to the originator or the document in the first place. This was a lot of extra work. It was justified in the speed with which it could be processed once it was corrected.

The computers changed and the need for punched cards was eliminated when we had the arrival of “Computer Terminals.” This is the beginning of what Alex dubbed the “Paper to Glass” transition. It is a beautiful description of what has happened in dealer business systems, we have taken the older processes and procedures and methods of writing things on a piece of paper and instead of writing them down we have typed the information into a computer screen, from writing on a piece of paper to typing on a screen of glass. Rather a good precise description. This is exactly the same as changing the Steam Engine to an Electric Engine.

Typically, a generation is described as twenty years. With the dates of the 1960’s as the starting point for computers to the 2020’s we are talking about taking three generations to adapt and adjust or methods compared to one generation in the 1800’s. How smart do we appear to be now?

I have talked for years, perhaps decades about the three questions that a customer asks when they need to purchase parts from a dealer. Have you got it? How much is it? How long do I have to wait to get it? I believe that is very straight forward. These are the same questions I have when I want to purchase something. BUT. The first question someone asks when a customer calls into a dealer to order parts or walks into the business is never one of those three questions listed above. No, the first question we ask is “Who are you?” We need to know that because the first thing we have to enter on the glass is the customer number. It is very similar to writing the customer number of the order parts sales order form. Does that sound like progress? Or have we simply gone from paper to glass? Can’t we do better than that?

If we look at the service department, we have similar issues. We need to conduct an inspection, either with telematics and sensors or a physical inspection, to determine what is wrong. Then create a quotation, which in most cases is an estimate. Then determine the time line for the repair, establish a schedule, assign the work and complete the work to fix the problem. Of course, it is more complicated than simply finding what part is required to compete a repair but that sounds like a paper to glass transition to me. What about standard times and flat rate pricing? What about understanding objectively the technical skills of each technician and assigning someone to complete the job who has those skills?

I can go on and on in this vein.

Today we have a smaller number of DMS providers in the industry; CDK, DIS, EBS, e-emphasis, Infor, JD Edwards, Oracle, SAP, XAPT and others. (I am sure I missed a few) Each of them is based on the Paper to Glass process.

The real dilemma in all of this to me is that when you change your DMS it is not the cost of the hardware or even of the software that is the real expense. No, it is the retraining of all of your employees in the new methods that are being introduced. Then you go through the curtain on never wanting to go through that change again. It was so painful.

So, Alex called this “Paper to Glass” and he is in the Technology aspect of the industry. I think he is on to something very important and we will talk about this more as time passes.

The Time is Now.

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