Friday, February 27, 2009

Planning Your Career Adventure

There are several factors that contribute to an enjoyable and successful career adventure. Matching your preferences and abilities to the jobs available in this economy is no small feat, but it is a challenge that you may be facing. Finding the perfect job involves exploring several issues, including:

• Your interest in the things that make up the job’s responsibilities and tasks
  • Do you know what the job really entails?
  • Do you like to do the things that someone must do to be successful in this job?
  • Will your interest translate into skills that will make you good at this job?
• The temperament required for success in the job
  • Do you have the stomach for the conflict management skills required?
  • Do you want to manage people and their problems?
  • Are you excited and happy when you come to work?
• Your aptitude for doing the type of work required by the job
  • Can you develop the required skills and knowledge? How long will it take for you to get up to speed and be productive in the job?
  • Are you naturally inclined to making the types of decisions that would make you successful in the job?
  • Do you have inherent abilities that would benefit you in the job?
• Personal goals and limitations
  • Are you willing and able to relocate? To where?
  • Are you willing and able to travel? How often?
  • What is best for your family?
The more accurate and honest the information is that you share with the recruiter or hiring manager the more likely you are to realize the type of career adventure that would truly benefit both the hiring company and you. To aid you in determining what information should be helpful the following websites and books have been collected. You may utilize none, one, or all of these tools. The choice is yours to make. My goal is to help you identify the most accurate information that would truly benefit both you and the company in planning your career adventure.

One of the best texts on job content is the “Occupational Outlook Handbook”, published by the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is not light reading. It would literally take you days to read through all of the job descriptions. Of course, most people simply read the descriptions of the jobs that they think that they want. That leaves them with only half of the answer. The deeper, and more effective question to ask is, “Would I be good at this job?” Do you prefer to do the types of things that are required by the job? Can I turn my interests into real skills and be successful?

The classic text on determining job preferences is “What color is my parachute?” by Richard Nelson "Dick" Bolles. This year's edition has been completely revised and rewritten and is designed to work in conjunction with the book's website. At the heart of Bolles's formula for finding the right job are two questions: What do you want to do? Where do you want to do it?

Capitalizing on the popularity of self-help career reference manuals, several websites have taken the initiative to regurgitate much of the same advice online. Of these the most comprehensive and useful are those put together by colleges for their recent graduates and alumni. At you will find the University of Waterloo’s Career Development Manual. In its second edition it is one of the most-visited career assistance sites on the Internet. It guides the browser through a series of explorations and decisions leading to an overall life and career map.

Clearly, the challenge begins with knowing what your interests are and whether you can translate those interests into career success in a given job. If you have taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® or another profile that measures interest or preferences then you can look up the types of jobs that are usually associated with that type of individual. For example, an INFP in MBTI® terms is “particularly interested in being a counselor, editor, education consultant, English teacher, fine arts teacher, journalist, psychologist, religious educator, social scientist, social worker, teacher, writer, and other occupations that engage their values” according to

Another website that links your preferences directly to the jobs found in the Occupational Outlook Handbook is You take a free 71-item questionnaire and get a brief synopsis of your motivations and top ten career matches. You can even look up five of those matches for free. offers a free tool called MAPP that is comprehensive in its scope and job matching capabilities. MAPP is a fully integrated, computer-aided vocational assessment system that:
• Measures your potential and motivation for given areas of work.
• Describes your temperament, aptitude and vocational interests.
• Formats information in three ways:
  1. Narrative
  2. Numeric
  3. Graphical
I also highly recommend O*NET OnLine. O*NET helps you narrow down the potential careers by searching your primary skills.

Play, Play, Play - one of my first books

A few people have written me emails about my books. Here is the original introduction to one of the most popular books, Play, Play, Play: Games You Never Played Before Because I Just Made Them Up. The original title for this book (when self-published) was Facilitating Success. Companies were just starting to warm up to the use of outdoor experiential activities to help them improve communication and collaboration. I helped the traditional outdoor (ropes course) facilitators move indoors with portable games, which was more interesting to corporate clients.

If you are interested in Play, Play, Play then you can order it online here or through any bookseller.

This book was written from the materials presented at the 1994 Annual Texas Experiential Ropes Association Conference and the 22nd Annual International Association for Experiential Education Conference by the author. It is intended to be used by persons with some previous understanding of experiential education. Please take all necessary emotional and physical safety precautions when facilitating these activities. The facilitator of these activities assumes all risk and liability for any loss or damage which may occur as a result of the use of these activities or their variations.

Playing games and conquering initiatives should always have a purpose (i.e. meet a goal) for your experiential clients. Successful experiential leaders will always have these goals in mind when instructing a group, and the group will always expect to learn while they have fun. Knowing why you are using a particular game or initiative is always the first step in successfully using it.

Always modify the game or story line to be the most relevant and stimulating for your group when presenting the guidelines. Allow the group as much flexibility in interpreting your words as possible while still challenging them to meet their goals. The more enthusiastic you are in your presentation the more fun they have. The name of the game/initiative and the labels for the elements of the game are always more meaningful to the participants when they are specific to the group you are working with. For example, "Put Out the Fire" might be called "Math Mashers" and the balloons represent whole numbers 0 through 9. The first grade student must smash the balloons with a bag that has the sum written on it of the balloons thrown at them by the teacher within 15 seconds. Or a corporate executive may have to stamp on balloon colors representing poor management skills while avoiding good skills in "An Exercise in Efficiency".

Make mental notes and observations while watching the challenge participants. You must resist the urge to give hints or solutions to your group. Your role is to find and recognize issues that would be beneficial to the group in processing the game or initiative while keeping the members physically and emotionally safe. Now is the time to formulate your processing questions and observations that will help your students/clients meet their goals.

Processing is the most important element of any experiential exercise. Questions should be open-ended and not leading. Participants should use their own discovery during processing to gain the maximum benefit. Guiding a resistant individual may be best done by other participants. You will probably find processing time most efficient if you have developed appropriate expectations in the group members prior to bringing them into your group.

Frequently successful questions:
What did you notice during the activity?
How did you feel during the activity?
What did you learn?
How can you apply this new knowledge to your life?

Always make time for closure for your group. You may discover that the group feels best about their experience if the closure focused on their strengths, success, or growth.

Feedback: accountability that drives change

Which weightloss program is more effective?
A. You purchase pills or food over the Internet or phone and stick to the diet because you don't want to waste the money that you have spent.
B. Every week you meet with two dozen people who are also trying to lose weight and you must stand on a scale in front of all of them and announce your weight.

The answer depends on how much integrity you have. If you are one of those extremely rare people that never cheats or lies to yourself (most of us forgive ourselves immediately and craft very clever personal excuses), then you might find A. to be more effective. However, most people won't make the kind of wholesale personal changes that are required to both diet and lifestyle without significant external motivation. It might be a doctor's warning, but more often the changes are only made once we have a group of people that we care about holding us accountable. The same can be said about office environments where individual performance results are kept private vs. publicly posted on the bulletin board. You probably already know which technique drives the most performance from employees...

That is one of the two main reasons that feedback is such an integral part of personal and professional development. Someone is there to whom you have given explicit permission to give you feedback on how you are doing. In the example above, there is an entire group of people who you have grown close to because of a shared challenge. In the office it is someone whose advice you value and who you genuinely care about and trust. (The other reason that feedback is so critical is because you may be headed down the wrong path and need to make a course correction. You think that you are exhibiting the new skill correctly, but you are not getting the results that you hoped for.)

Once you have chosen some resources and started learning foundational information and skill, you must apply them. Once you start to apply them, you need someone to observe your behaviors or performance and tell you how you are doing. You must chose someone who is in a position to observe you using the skill that you are trying to improve. Then you must ask them to be your accountability coach. Thirdly, you must share your individual development plan with that person so that s/he knows exactly what you are doing and what you hope to accomplish. Finally, you must schedule regular meetings to solicit and get that feedback.

Your accountability coach's greatest challenge will be to help you accurately evaluate your performance. Delivering the type of developmental feedback that promotes an effective assessment of your paradigms is difficult to master and requires strong communication and assessment skills. One of the most effective tools that your accountability coach can use for exploring assumptions, beliefs, and values was created by Chris Argyris and popularly referenced from Peter Senge’s book, The Fifth Discipline. The concept called ladders of inference helps your coach get past the "what" and understand the "why" behind actions. Often, the ladders of inference concept is used to point out how faulty assumptions are created. However, effective inquiry can lead someone who is effective at giving feedback backwards from what was observed to what your intentions were. The goal of feedback is to help you identify and break down your own assumptions and open up to the facts that were previously filtered out.

Example (think about your opinion of the series of events that led to a recent election):
1. Something happened
2. You selectively noticed certain aspects of the situation
3. You tuned into that subset of the facts because they have meaning to you
4. That meaning was created because you are predisposed to your own assumptions
5. Those assumptions are based on your personal beliefs
6. You take action on that subset of the facts
Thus, your ladder of inference created a self-fulfilling prophecy by reinforcing what you already believed to be true. If you could break out of this cycle by preventing your beliefs from undermining your observations then you could really learn from your experiences!

Look for future posts on other models that can help an accountability coach move beyond the observable symptoms to the root cause of performance.

Assignmentology: learning from experience by design

The goal of a developmental assignment is not merely to gather knowledge or skills; the goal is to extend new knowledge or skills into personal actions that result in improved performance. The most common model for understanding this type of learning application is Kolb’s experiential learning cycle. The cycle refers to the process by which individuals, teams, and organizations attend to and understand their experiences, and consequently modify their behaviors. It can be a powerful guide for managers who wish to fully realize the return on investment for employee developmental assignments. Using this model promotes accelerated results.

The failure of many developmental efforts results from making repeated mistakes or the inability to learn from experience. Left to chance, learning by trial and error can result in performance that is extremely off target. The learning cycle is based on the idea that the more often we reflect on a task, the more often we have the opportunity to modify and refine our actions. The learning cycle contains the following four stages:

1. Experiencing or immersing oneself in the "doing" of a task is the first stage in which the individual, team or organization simply carries out the task assigned. The engaged person is usually not reflecting on the task as this time, but carrying it out with intention.
The manager’s role: Learning initially occurs when a person encounters a new concrete experience and deals with it in terms of observations, feelings, and reactions. The most profound way to promote Stage 1 learning on the job is by providing the learner with exploratory tools (e.g. concrete experiences and manipulative materials). This would look like the manager reviewing the objectives of a training course or the content of a book that the learner attended or read and then assigning work that required effective application of the knowledge and skills contained in the learning material. This should be done with honest reference to why the assignment is being given and what the manager expects from the application of what was learned.

2. Reflection involves stepping back from task involvement and reviewing what has been done and experienced. The skills of attending, noticing differences, and applying terms help identify subtle events and communicate them clearly to others. One's paradigm (values, attitudes, values, beliefs) influences whether one can differentiate certain events. One's vocabulary is also influential, since without words, it is difficult to verbalize and discuss ones perceptions.
The manager’s role: As the learner observes the Stage 1 experience, the learner adds to or adjusts his or her perceptions based on previous learning. This process compels the learner to reflect on past experiences and to think about the current experience as either fitting into previous patterns or not. The manager should provide feedback to add another perspective. Feedback should cover both what was done and how it was done as observed by the manager. The ideal learning opportunity would come in the form of feedback from the person or team who was the supplier or customer of the Stage 1 experience in addition to the manager’s view. Perception is reality and a balanced reality is better than a self-determined view.

3. Conceptualization involves interpreting the events that have been noticed and understanding the relationships among them. It is at this stage that theory may be particularly helpful as a template for framing and explaining events. One's paradigm again influences the interpretive range a person is willing to entertain.
The manager’s role: If the experience fits a pattern, then the learner can form a generalization and a set of concepts to define the situation. As the learner develops these concepts and generalizations, the learner's thinking includes imagining other discrete concrete experiences that invariably raise new questions. The answers to these questions require further learning experimentation and the accompanying development of new concepts. The most profound way to promote Stage 3 learning on the job is by introducing the learner to key concepts (e.g. subject matter vocabulary and relationship diagrams). The key is to ensure that the learning is framed in the way that the lessons were intended and that faulty personal paradigms are minimized.

4. Planning enables the learner to translate the new understanding into predictions about what is likely to happen next or what actions should be taken to refine the way the task is handled.
The manager’s role: When the learner realizes that the answers constructed in Stage 3 are not necessarily complete, further testing is required. Further testing may also be required when the desired results are achieved so that performance habits are cemented in the learner. The learner proposes new concrete experiments and begins the learning cycle anew. The most effective way to promote Phase 4 learning on the job is by assisting the learner in the formulation of new situations to be tested. Additional assignments should be given that challenge the learner’s ability to apply and use the lessons effectively.

The timing of the learning cycle is particularly important. If one waits until after a task is completed, there is no opportunity to refine it until a similar task arises. For example, if you only had a single sales call with a potentially large account, there would have been no opportunity to modify how you prepared for that meeting after the fact. However, continual reflection leaves the learner spending more time on thinking than getting the task done so these must be balanced. In general, the learning cycle should be used during initial framing of a problem to see whether past experience may offer an approach; during natural breaks in tasking such as the end of meetings or workdays; when progress is noticeably going well or poorly; or when a crisis occurs that disrupts a process. Each of these situations is a viable assignment for the learner to apply their new knowledge or skills.

The logic of the learning cycle is to make many small and incremental improvements, which when done by many people, constitute major improvements over time. For example, if each day after work you reflected on your efforts and identified just one small thing to do differently, by the end of the year you would have 240 improvements in your performance. Consider the implications for an entire team or business unit! When this procedure is implemented as a habit or norm, continual improvement results.

The advantage of the learning cycle is that it enables an individual, team or organization to learn from experience and thereby improve performance. This, however, may not be sufficient when the assumptions and beliefs on which the learning is based is outdated. It is possible for one to complete all the stages of the learning cycle, while still perceiving, interpreting and acting in a biased way. Periodically, one should question the model itself; look for exceptions to the rule; and challenge the dominant paradigm to determine whether it still holds.

ASTD 1998

After reading my prior post on the Red Shirts, a couple of former Red Shirts asked me if I still had copies of the reports that I posted on the listserv while at the ASTD International Conference and Exposition in San Francisco's Moscone Center in 1998. I finally found them on my old computer...

Day One and Two

After an hour delay in the airport in Houston due to weather from the day before in San Francisco (can you believe that weather can affect flights over 24 hours after it is bad?), I arrived in San Francisco with my buddy, Brook Bickford (also from Performa Solutions). My luggage was the first off of the plane since I arrived at the airport ten minutes before the scheduled time for the flight. Brook's was the second luggage off. Thank goodness for bad weather- I have clean underwear on today. At least we did a quality job with the group we facilitated yesterday before running out in a panic like chickens with our heads cut off! That is what was important.

We found a nice van to take us to our hotel in Fisherman's Wharf. This hotel makes our business manager, Cliff, very happy because it was relatively inexpensive. We are planning to tape tonight's performance for Cliff so he can appreciate it just as much as we did last night. Just as we were falling asleep... the music began... You see, San Francisco is two hours earlier than Houston in the time-zone thing. We had been up since 5:30 a.m. on our biological clock, facilitated a high (climbing tower)challenge course group, taken a harried three and a half hour flight, and it was midnight as far as we were concerned. Our personal serenade-dude was just starting to get some decent business at 10:00 p.m. his time. He was not that bad, but not many people were putting coins in his hat. Fortunately, the concert ended within 30 minutes. We think Cliff will like this tape played real loud in his front yard at midnight some day... But hey, the price was relatively good for this street-level corner room!

Today is our first day. Brook is in a pre-conference workshop on measuring return on investment. We ate lunch with several people from his workshop and they agreed that they had better get $150.00 worth of training after lunch. They expect to of course, but they are definitely looking at things in a different light already. They asked the waitress at Willow Street Pizza about the value of each item on the menu and ended up giving her feedback on four different levels after our meal, how they liked the pizza, what they learned from the pizza, how they utilized the pizza, and how the pizza will impact their stay in San Francisco overall. I told them that they needed to review Kirkpatrick's Level 4 Evaluation before returning to class. That last piece of feedback was slightly off the mark.

I have been pre-selecting the workshops that I plan to attend. I have been reading my program guide thoroughly. I am on page 66, the Sunrise Sessions (7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.) for Tuesday. Only 140 pages to go! There are a ton of quality listings so the picking is difficult. I am going to have to network pretty hard to find people who attended every other workshop here so I can get a copy of their notes. So far I have met five people and I have two business cards/prospects. Only 6,493 more people to go according to the lady at the information booth. I think I need more of my own business cards...

I have met one lady from Quaker Oats/Gatorade and it seems like a certain sell. She really wants to find out the value and application of experience-based training and development for her company. Now that Peforma has a commission structure these contacts are extremely exciting. During lunch we talked about how many different models there are in my industry and which one I use and who I have worked with before, all of those pressing, pre-qualification questions that potential clients always ask. Then she told me about the companies she has contacted so far. One of them was Performa Solutions. I asked her about that particular company and how well they were received by her. Our sales dude will be happy to hear she likes us so far. I wonder how many other prime prospects I will meet that he has already talked to! So much for commission sales...

I hope everything is going well for you while you slave away at work. I am enjoying this tough assignment, learning in San Francisco. Until I get access to a computer in the Cyber Cafe again, this is Darin, signing off.

Brook and I stayed out too late for the harmonica man last night so no tape for Cliff yet, tonight we will turn in early for Cliff's special surprise...

So.... The conference is progressing nicely. I attended the orientation yesterday and was thoroughly educated and entertained. Eduardo Ramirez from the Sacramento Chapter was a hoot! He modeled the volunteer clothes with perfect runway precision and made the best of a phone ringing in the room during his piece. The icebreaker afterward was also very good. I wish they had someone different for tonight's session unless we get to see something different, but the politically incorrect and brash style of the Maven of Mingle eventually entertained me when I realized she was only joking. The International Reception last night was also a big hit with the Moscone Center turning off the lights several times before they could get the several hundred participants to leave.

Some key learnings from Saturday's opening day:
Susan Roane, the Maven of Mingle, is not shy.
Michele Nieman of Synopsis is going to take off and rule the world of CBT in the next five years with her spunk and determination (and an engaging smile doesn't hurt either).
Most of the American delegation attended the International Reception while I have not met any other Americans when networking since that reception.
There are an estimated 15,000 attendees over the course of the conference. (9,000 more than I heard yesterday)
You have to leave really quick to get lunch before the next workshop because there are so many people doing the same thing.
So far, ASTD has made sure that there was enough room to accommodate everyone.
Abalone is $60.00 a plate at Aliotta's. Don't worry Cliff, I did not order it for dinner last night.

Day two, Sunday the 31st---

The day began with Jim Collins' plenary session on the successful habits of visionary companies. The prime lesson from the last 45 minutes of the session really hit home with me because I seem to be involved in a lot of culture blending/merger and acquisition programs right now: No matter what changes your company is facing, stay true to the core values that brought you into the world and drive your organization.

There was also an annual meeting, but I was networking like a big dog. I can not report the results of that meeting, but my filters would have greatly affected what they want to publish anyway.

I attended a super workshop by Lois Webster and Phillip Hoffman who are both expatriates for their companies, Motorola University, China and General Motors China. It was great at bringing those subtle differences back to the forefront of a trainer's mind when considering the concept of training across cultures. The salient points to consider would include: translations must be done locally with content being confirmed by the home office, surround yourself with trusted advisers/consultants who will make you aware of when you have made a gaff or how you might wish to properly approach a particular subject, and do not offer green hats to your male Chinese employees to wear on a retreat. Their presentation validated for me the level of quality and value that the presenters that have been chosen bring to the ASTD conference.

Tomorrow I shall report on any of tonight's key learning's as we eat in China Town (I am determined to find a restaurant void of Anglos), attend the Networking Session (I am committed to deepening my contacts in Japan, China and South America where they hunger for my industry's programming), and check out the first set of Forums.

Until I find a computer free in the Cyber Cafe,

Day Two and Three

Sunday ended exceptionally well with a super networking event! The two poor speakers were drowned out by a largely inattentive group because we were intent on meeting and greeting our peers, but that was a minor learning moment for the association. The speakers finally gave up and we stopped talking really, really loud to each other. I did discover some interesting things: Earthlink, the Internet Service Provider, has grown from 2 to 1,000 employees in three years. They sent three staff; Tami, Margaret and Kristin; to find the latest technologies to help a Fast Company that is also in a fast-changing technology market. The stories were excellent reminders that training is not always the solution though traditional managers continue to ask for it.

Leaving the Moscone Center is always a treat since the Catbert of my world, Cliff the Penny Pincher, has Brook and I rooming next to Alcatraz. We get to ride the cable cars daily! A week-long pass is only $15.00 which will win Brook and I plenty of bonus points with Cliff. We have been applying our new knowledge to the cable car industry as a result and have the following recommendations to the supervisor of the gripmen and conductors: create an organization and a system that encourages and expects customers to be treated with dignity and respect. I did not take names to protect the innocent, but there are several 'heroes' in the industry that we have met, but there is also an element of evil that made us believe that 'The Boys from Brazil’ might have been based on a true story and that there are survivors. One evil gripman made incessant fun of several tourists from other countries, entertaining only himself in the process. He went so far as to stop the car altogether to yell at someone who failed to understand what he was asking them to do because of a language barrier. This is not purely a training issue, it is an organizational performance issue due to its lack of isolation. He was just an extreme example. We will submit our proposal to the city if we find time tomorrow...

We did get one extreme adventure last night because we went into Chinatown. We ate at Chung King because there were no other Anglos inside but it was very crowded. If you get the chance, try 'The Ants on the Trees'. It was excellent! I had attended a workshop on China and was able to say thank you in Chinese several times. The waiter was able to say thank you in English as well. Those were the only words we were able to say in each other's indigent languages and he could not speak Spanish so I can't tell you what was in 'The Ants on the Trees', but I can tell you that I have no ill effects 19 hours later. We also wandered aimlessly about after leaving the restaurant before finding the cable car tracks again. When we found them we even got to push the cable car up hill to help get it started. That was pretty cool. Apparently it stopped in the one place where the grip can not reach the cable so we got to be 'official engineers' for almost two minutes. I think I can add it to my business card now. I will certainly be a hero to my nine year old son.

By the way Cliff, the Abalone had Sea Cucumbers in it (an invertebrate that looks like a large intestine) so Brook would not eat it, saving us almost $20.00! (anything to make Cliff happy...)


I missed the Sunrise Sessions and breakfast, but I made it to a program on remote teambuilding. Gerhard Buzek uses portable challenge course events for three days to help virtual teams connect effectively down the road. His model was informative and relied on phone, fax, video and e-mail to continue the collaborative work environment. It was obviously a test case and it proved to have some merit. Cultural differences are clearly the big barrier still in distance teaming and none of these technologies were said to clearly overcome those obstacles. I look forward to other people's attempts and experiences.

I also saw Deltapoint's Rapid Performance Improvement model as it impacted PageNet of Orange County (a huge paging service provider). The results were amazing and Joal Wellman is my hero only because her organization did not make PageNet dependent on their services. They trained people in-house to implement RPI so that future issues could be tackled. The best idea I took away from that presentation actually came out of the Q&A at the end: Deltapoint has an annual conference for the in-house trainers once/year. They share best practices, discuss issues and learn updated information! Cool.

I also attended Geary Rummler's workshop. I am familiar with his Performance Improvement work and had seen it before so this was an update. The best piece was his connection between the material and his anecdotal, real-world applications. I want to check three huge bags when I leave San Francisco just to see how the ticket agent handles the situation! You can check his website in the near future to get the notes, you will have to e-mail him for the anecdotal stories.

I am presently nine minutes late to the meeting of the Red Shirts so I must sign off... Until tomorrow, HA HA HA HA YOU ARE AT WORK AND I AM NOT!!!

Learning and growing,

Day Three and Day Four

Monday Evening...

The Red Shirts met at the top of the Marriott and we were all excited to meet several of the faces behind the text. Scott Simmerman caused quite a stir as did the sleep-deprived Marcia Conner. Scott was actually in the elevator with me on my way up to the meeting and read my nametag first. He thrust out his hand (covering his nametag) and I was appalled. How did this homeless person make it all the way into the elevator? There was no way I was going to give him money as we raced toward the View Lounge!!! I am not sure what my facial expression was, but he put his hand down quickly and I finally realized who he was. Bob Pike was also in attendance though I did not have any quality time with him. Three people who play for a living in one room at the same time. Yes, it was that type of defiant and loud group. For people who are on the computer a lot there were no real shy or introverted personalities. It was like finally being among friends instead of potential clients. Interestingly enough, I got back to my room last night and realized that I think I met the star of Fast Company's article on teaching the company culture through stories. I met the Chief Storyteller himself! He was extremely gregarious as would be expected, but I did not hear any stories. I also can not report on dinner because I was being polite in talking to someone at the end of the meeting and the dinner party left without me. At least Cliff will be happy to hear that I only went to Burger King ($2.99 value meal Cliff).

I spent the rest of my evening going through the 2,345,870,342 pieces of mail that I received in the three weeks prior to ASTD advertising that I should visit the 'best' booth around. I shuffled them numerically so as I walk through the 2,600 exhibits, I can enter all of the contests. The Expo is really quite amazing. I suppose I will miss at least one workshop just walking through half of the Expo. There are more workshops at the Expo (marketing ploys) than there are outside of it. Some look really, really good! There are also great deals on products during ASTD only. I need to ask Cliff Catbert if I can spend a couple of dollars...

So, on to Tuesday's kernels of wisdom:

I attended the Financial Services Forum and found that the 25 people I have already met are in all of the workshops that I am in. This may be stalking behavior, but we may share the same interests. The FSF was excellent. I finally got to meet Thiagi, a fellow game master. He did a forty-five minute workshop on icebreakers to get things rolling. At least 100 non-FSF people attended just for that piece and they got their time's worth. We began with an activity in which Thiagi used the pillars in the middle of the room. Everyone had to have their entire palm against one pillar and know at least eight other people's names around that pillar. The pillar with the most people (and with a randomly-chosen person who could say eight names) wins! Next we wrote on a sheet of paper the one trait that was most important for any icebreaker. We marched around reading each other's sheets and when he said, "Stop!" we partnered with the person who was reading our sheet. We then decided on which trait of our two was the best one and would have moved on to making a foursome if there had been time. It is like cumulative musical chairs or blob tag. He was also incredibly funny. Catch his workshops whenever you can!

I also liked the case study approach to many of the other workshops. Examples of what other people are really doing is always so helpful. My favorite was First Union's presentation because they shared openly about the mistakes that they made so that others might avoid them also as they turn to computer-based training for rote skills. I even learned about a few things I had not considered that could be applied to what I am doing. The best hints were: have the instructions for how to turn on the computer and start the program on videotape right next to the computer, put a phone next to the computer with the technical help phone number on it, make the work area a model of the area that they are learning about, and TELL THE STUDENTS TO TAKE BREAKS! They will just keep on going and going, losing track of time.

So far I have given away about 120 of the 200 copies of my book on disk. I have been using the signature line about asking me for a copy for the last four weeks. This tells me that I am running into a decent number of people who follow the listservs. We are out there somewhere and we keep finding that we are relatively normal people. But hey, it's still only Tuesday, this could change.

Until someone walks away from their terminal tomorrow,

Day Four and Day Five

I missed my Performance Consultant Competencies workshop in the afternoon because I lost track of time when writing to all of you so there is nothing to report. However, I do have a CD with all of the workshop handouts (except the Forums) so I can read them later. The CD is just one of the many innovations that are making this trip extremely efficient and effective for everyone involved. Of course, before the Expo opened yesterday many workshops were full and had to turn people away. Now the crowd is more evenly distributed. Hopefully ASTD tries to learn from this year's format and finds some way to spread out the crowd during the first few days as well. The time left between sessions in different buildings also causes many people to eat on the fly after standing in line for up to 45 minutes just to get a sandwich for lunch. I have experienced little sleep, missed meals, and sore calves with the frantic pace, but I would not miss the opportunity for the world! (Sorry Cliff, I did find time to eat breakfast today.)

So, on to the Expo! I spent two hours in the Expo yesterday and another hour between sessions today. I got from the 200 row to halfway through the 800 row so far. The rows go up to 2700. I will certainly not have time to see all of the exhibitors before they close tomorrow. This story is being repeated by everyone that wants to see the exhibits. Those who just wanted to get free stuff are finishing the rounds in about 55 minutes. The booths are so crowded that any company with fewer than two representatives has a small line and anyone with only one space has several people waiting in the aisles blocking traffic. If you plan on having a decent booth in Atlanta for ASTD '99 I highly recommend three knowledgeable staff at all times (trainers and the like, not sales people, because of the informed audience and level of questioning) and at least two spaces. There is little time for people to use the interactive video pieces so have several computers if you have a sample for consumers to try. Use outrageous colors/cartoons and give away something cool, if it is food, make it bananas or something tangible and nutritious since no one has time to eat. Also have enough handouts, running out too soon limits your efficacy reallllll quick.

The evening was my first Meet-To-Eat. The principle is to have people sign up for a meal at a local restaurant and all go together. Next year I hope they go ahead and have cabs lined up too. We had sixteen people headed to a restaurant and one cab was ready. We found a limo and had them call for enough vehicle space to move the lot of us to The Stinking Rose, a vampire-free restaurant. The food was really good if you like garlic (hence the vampire theme), and I love garlic. It was okay to have garlic breath amongst our crowd who turned out to be outrageously fun and loud. 'The Stinking Rose Gang' included several of the same people that I am finding myself surrounded by over and over: Mean Jean the Fly Fishing Queen of Orvis, Lora Wasson of, and the three Earthlink women. Of course Brook and I were there, but we also met Bruce and Bruce, Karen Shaffer Penny of Comsat, and Kathleen Stanley of Small's Tuxedos. I suspect they will all subscribe to the TRDEV-L now that they fear what I might say about them. Needless to say, they can really put away the Ben and Jerry's! I will post a picture of everyone on my website later to help tie this whole story together... One of the coolest things was the initiative we faced in reaching the restaurant. Brook and I both facilitate experiential learning so we each rode in separate vehicles. We challenged the group and they were able to get six trainers in one Lincoln (plus one driver) and ten trainers in one limo (plus one driver). Just like any team building activity that is worth any money at all, we experienced each other in an intimate way and will be forever changed because of it. If anyone's spouse reads this, the change may be more detrimental than beneficial. I still think we could have all fit into one new VW bug.


After the six hours of sleep that is becoming the norm, I rushed out and hit the cable car. Today's lessons come from three very informative and well-planned workshops.

Sheila Paxton can kick your butt. That is just a fact, I am sorry if it offends you, but she is one dynamo that I will never tangle with. She also did one of the coolest things in her workshop to encourage participation: when someone took the risk to acknowledge the issue they were thinking about, Sheila had them come to the front of the room, speak into the mike, beat their soul... and then she gave this lady a big pile of videos and a 3 inch binder of material! There were several volunteers after that though only the first person got 'Sheila in a Box'. The poignant lessons that will forever change how I do my performance improvement and training interventions: I will add an informational piece to the coaching manuals that I already use so that people can list resources that will help them maintain their action plans/commitments AND I will add a pre-learning piece to my work for the participants to research the vocabulary and articles surrounding the type of training or commitment that they are going to seek prior to the workshop/training session. Make them take some prior ownership in their learning! Duh! Why didn't I think of that before? I can't wait to read her PhD dissertation on self directed learning. Ask her for it in about one year at .

One of those kind-of-technical-you-got-to-really-want-to-learn-this-stuff-to-keep-up-with-the-presentation workshops was actually put together in an effective format by Phil Landsberg and Joe Willmore. The subject matter was on putting Royal Dutch/Shell's Scenario Planning model into a Deming and Performance Improvement program in order to use Strategic Planning in deciding what actions to take or to be prepared for as certain events/signs emerge. Have I lost you yet? Email Joe for copies of the handouts that were eaten up in the feeding frenzy that immediately preceded the end of the workshop at . I did not get one so I have to ask as well. It was really neat, but this is not the place to discuss such matters, my wrists are killing me as I stand here typing!

I am saving the creme de la creme for last: the marriage of experiential learning and cyberspace. Yes, it is beginning. Finally, after years of my own search for code heads and ex-gamers to help me put my talents in creating experiential metaphors for work and facilitating learning through activities, someone has gotten a grant to create a soft-skills training platform on the computer. It is not ready yet, but the results thus far seem promising for high-context societies that speak English and need diversity-valuation training. The military has supplied the Franklin Institute with a grant to develop a program that will teach adults through a virtual environment. The Consortium for Advanced Education and Training Technologies (CADETT), which includes Univ. of Pennsylvania and HRDQ among others, has created Cadett Interactive Multi-user Business Learning Environment (CIMBLE). CIMBLE allows for a multi-user 3-D environment controlled by a mouse and including actual voices of the distant participants (up to 6 plus one facilitator). You can manipulate objects in the environment by point-and-click, see avatar representations (like 3-D cartoon characters) of the other participants, view real time video, enter text as needed from the keyboard, and complete a project in about four hours if you use good team skills. There is still no accounting for tactile stimulus or actual participant faces on the avatars so that you can read expressions such as sarcasm (thus no application for low-context cultures such as the Chinese that use a lot of expression and subtle inflection to convey meaning) and the team always succeeds which tells me that the ownership of success belongs entirely to the facilitator, but overall this is a quantum leap in technology merging with training. The consortium also started from scratch so this is not a Doom-ripoff or multi-player game based on someone's existing code or engine. It will also become available to the public I suspect because of the government financing. If nothing else it will spur copycats. The project still has a year left so don't get hungry yet. However, if you are extremely interested in investing in a competing project, I can be bought to advise and play with the next generation of training.... Does this mean all trainers will soon be designers only? No way, the real heart of training has to start with real interaction, not a simulation in a virtual world. Star Trek is still a few hundred years away for the general consumption of the public.

Well, I must find some rest before the big Exploratorium Cosmic Bash tonight! Catch you tomorrow,


Day Four and Day Five

Wednesday Night

I hit the Moscone Center at 8:20 pm with my room mate Brook only to find that the buses left between 7:30 and 8:00 ONLY. Three other lost souls were also standing there. Then to disprove the theory of natural consequences a limo pulled up and offered the five of us a ride to the Exploratorium for $5.00 each! This was my first time in a limo. We got to catch the end of the NBA Finals Game One on the way to the Social Event. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA... This is directed at all of those poor souls that fought for space on the crowded buses to get there on time.

The food was excellent, the drinks were plentiful, the karaoke was unbearable (which is just what karaoke is supposed to be) and the 'real' band had some serious staying power. They did not even take a break that I noticed from 8:40 pm to 11:00 pm! And they were awesome. People were dancing, carrying on, laughing incessantly. Even the reclusive souls like myself found tons of mind-expanding toys to play with in the museum. Everyone left with a new friend or two, but that is another story... and not mine to tell.

True to form, the final day came hard and fast with little time to sleep once again.

DAY FIVE, the end

Man, did 7:00 a.m. come early. I think I got six and a half hours of sleep one night, but that was on accident. This was the most jam-packed conference I have ever been to and I have been to dozens over the past five years. I don't know how this was pulled off with so few mistakes, but I commend those who made it possible! It was extremely difficult to make the early workshops and I found myself more interested in visiting and learning from more of the Expo vendors. I only made it to row 1200 out of 2700 overall and that was my biggest disappointment of the entire event. I erred on the side of attending the maximum amount of workshops and neglected the Expo. The Expo was itself an event of epic proportions with tons to learn if one took the time to ask. The booths with real trainers and facilitators were exceptional (at least in the first 11 rows). Everyone was extremely willing to discuss best practices and to share their products. Of course, those with the best products will get calls from me in the future as partnership opportunities arise, but everyone was helpful and informative. There are far too many people to list here but some of the key ideas I heard:

* Have everyone stand when they are done with a task to keep their blood flowing (Bob Pike).

* Many companies are narrowing their practice to helping the client only with one very, very specific issue, facilitating the client through to its resolution. This helps prove ROI, but no one I met promises results or full refund. I also did not find anyone with a program or video/book/game on dealing with women who hate men, most blatantly denied that it was an issue. I did hear that someone had it, but they must have been on row 1300 or later...

* Human Performance Technology seemed to be the keyword that attracted in-house trainers to potential outsource consultants and trainers (a non-scientific and informal survey done after overhearing some sales conversations). The trend toward solving problems, not training to instill knowledge and skills is growing and you had better be prepared for it.

* People are willing to ask for up to $3500.00 for individual activities that are available for free if you dare to ask on the listserv... of course, you have to buy your own Legos or cards or dice, etc.

* There are a ton of new personality inventories again. I am not going to go into the arguments for or against, but I was tremendously impressed with The Big Five by CentACS out of Charlotte, NC. They had great information and a great printout for the respondents that took the test.

* Louis Allen had their model of training areas broken down into the most pieces of the circle models that I found (20 on the outside, 5 on the inside). The circle was the most-used model of a company's methods or systems in rows 200 through 1200.

* The best handouts (another informal survey to help me determine what to do if Performa Solutions has a booth next year) were articles by company principals that taught the reader a skill or idea.

* The best 'goodies' were T-shirts. Those were few and far between so I only got one, but I gave a few out to really good leads.

* The most heavily-attended booths were full of games, toys and fun.

* Most AMA members get to use their new intranet-based training software as a benefit of membership. That was really cool.

* Several of the people who mailed me a 'get yours free at ASTD' post card were not present. I will not use them for sure!

I hope these tips serve to educate those who might have a booth in the future.

The closing remarks were fairly well attended with many people leaving late Wednesday or early Thursday to report back to their jobs ASAP. I was fortunate in that I was allowed to stay (at my own expense) until Saturday. I hung out with my old college room mate and his bride for the remainder of my week, which would probably not interest you except for the Comemanga. Brook and I did finally get to see some of San Francisco before he left late Thursday night, and we visited Alcatraz with our buddies from Space Camp, Christy and Tracy. See? Contacts do last beyond the conference! If you are interested I will attach the one last piece of non-conference adventures to another posting, but for now suffice it to say- never go to a town like San Francisco for a great conference without allowing some time on the front end or back end to see the town. ASTD '98 was an unwavering success, no doubt about it. The time was solidly filled with quality programming and attractions. There could have been five more days and I still would not have seen or done it all. Leave time to enjoy the host city because you must take the time to maximize your investment in ASTD. It is well worth it!

The previous two postings lack the typical wit associated with most of my writings due to exhaustion. If this takes away from the essence of the posting for you, too bad. I don't care about anything but sleep right now.

good night,

Planning for Talent Management in Your Organization

Organizations should acknowledge that their greatest assets are the people (human capital) that make them work. Whether these are the stakeholders, employees, customers, suppliers, or partners, the business does not exist without their active participation. Creating a successful business involves capitalizing on your people. To take it a step further, successful human capital management can be defined as effectively sourcing, attracting, selecting, onboarding, training, developing, assigning, steering, promoting, and retaining people in your organization.

The primary problem with doing this effectively lies in the disconnected solutions currently being deployed by most organizations. The human resources department hires recruiters or headhunters to add to the human capital pool. The training department identifies knowledge and/or skills gaps and sets up one-time classes to fix the employees. Supervisors, Managers, and Directors manage the performance of individuals through assignments and feedback. Human Resources then posts vacancies that ambitious employees apply for (even though the boss’ buddy may get the promotion). Of course, nowhere have we mentioned the critical competencies needed by the organization for employees at different levels. Hopefully, those just happen to be present in the people who move up the organization.

The solution begins with an accurately defined vision, strategic initiatives, and organizational values. If an organization knows where it wants to go, the other pieces more easily fall into place. From the goals, the executive team can derive the major tasks and the critical competencies (i.e. knowledge, skills, aptitude, experiences, personality traits, abilities, and attitude) of the leaders required to achieve those tasks. The leaders then cascade the same process down through their organizations. This creates a road map for management to identify up and coming stars and for employees to identify areas for development that could present them with lateral move or promotion opportunities inside the organization. This also creates measurable performance metrics and facilitates the creation of hiring qualifications. Finally, it unifies the language of the organization so that, for example, the definition of "active listening" is consistent during hiring, training, and performance appraisal documentation.

The other side of the solution involves the organization's culture. The culture must be quantified as accurately as possible. The necessary organizational values to realize the vision must be drawn up and cross-referenced to the current situation. From this document a list of attitudes, beliefs and behaviors can be extrapolated that define the type of person that is most likely to ensure the success of the organization. Of course, an organization's culture matures and cycles occur, so significant diversity should be promoted when these attributes are applied to selection. This process must be repeated over time to keep up with changes.

If the organization is young or reinventing itself this process can be implemented without too much resistance. If the company is established or extremely stable this process should be introduced as part of a change initiative. In either situation this process must be thoughtfully planned and organized. Driving and restraining forces must be identified. Action plans must be devised and implemented to tackle each restraining force and to reinforce each driving force. These plans must include:

· Methods for creating a need in the eyes of the current employees

· Methods for communicating the objective to current employees

· Methods for securing commitment from current employees

· Process steps that create necessary change through elimination of anticipated restraining forces and how the elimination steps will be specifically implemented

· Process steps that create necessary change through modification of existing restraining forces and how those steps will be specifically implemented

· Process steps that create necessary change through reinforcement of existing beneficial driving forces and how those steps will be specifically implemented

· Process steps that create necessary change through creation of missing beneficial driving forces and how those steps will be specifically implemented

· Observable milestones to measure the levels of success that describe what will occur along the way

· Timelines that target deadlines for each milestone

· The format for reporting milestones and to whom

· Resources required to implement each process step (people with their roles and responsibilities, capital, tools)

· Contingency planning meetings to evaluate progress and make course corrections if the organization is dysfunctional (moving against the changes) or nonfunctional (moving away from the changes)

· Next steps meeting after the process steps have been implemented

· Create incentive by planning how success will be celebrated and rewarded