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Blog Posts

What Are You Measuring?

Posted by Bill Crose on September 13, 2019 at 11:33am 1 Comment

A lifetime ago, my training department colleagues and I were satisfied with training data. We cranked out the requested ILT programs plus the "flavor of the year" content, we kept a busy training schedule, and made sure the coffee was always the right temperature. When accused of not delivering effective training because the learners didn't perform as they were trained, we took refuge in our management support role and not ultimately responsible or accountable for LEARNING or productivity.…



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Moderator: JoAnn Labbie

Remarkable Speaker: Charles Zino

We continue to hear about data, BIG data, ROI, analytics and measurement. And we may recall what Mark Twain "popularized" about statistics,_damned_lies,_and_statistics.

Where are we with ROI?

What kind of progress are we making with analytics as it relates to learning in the workplace?

What obstacles exist? persist? are mythical?

What would it take for something to be so obviously effective that we no longer take the time or cost to measure it?

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Do you remember the joke about a drunk man crawling around on his hands and knees under a street light late at night looking for his wallet? A passerby asks the man if he is sure this is where he dropped the wallet, to which the drunk replies, “I actually think I dropped it across the street.”

“Then why are you looking over here?” the baffled passerby asks.

“Because the light is better here,” explains the drunk.

Unfortunately, the same can be true for the “key performance indicators” (KPIs) we often rely on to calculate ROI. Instead of matching KPIs to the ultimate desired objectives, many times we find ourselves focusing on “where the light is better” — i.e. what is easiest to quantify.

The effectiveness of educational programs can be viewed multiple ways:

  1. Did the participants improve their knowledge?
  2. Did they retain that knowledge long-term? (What is an acceptable long-term time frame?
  3. Are they able to apply that knowledge specifically or generally?
  4. Did they change their behavior in a positive way short-term?  Long-term?

The first metric is relatively easy to quantify with a simple quiz.  I am very interested in how others approach the latter questions.

Conference Reflection:

At some point, every business relies on front-line people working with their hands, mouths, or both. Even robotics manufacturers rely on people working with their hands and mouths. The results of manufacture and service delivery are routinely measured by production volume, waste, and sales. Similar measures of a garden are harvest volume, waste, & sales. Harvest data alone won't improve the next year's sales or harvest and applying a template for gardeners to "Fit" will surely result in many good gardeners being culled like weeds. Harvest depends on the STEPs leading to harvest including choosing the right seed, soil, and location. Then, germination care, watering, fertilization, insect and disease control, and weeding all at the right time and amount. This suggests data related to gardening STEPs is key to capturing training ROI.

It's the STEP data that the gardener should be measured on as well as the gardener's manager because management is the science and art of getting productivity through others. It's not the sales data that matters most, because without the production, there would be no sales. It's not marketing data that matters because fancy words can't sell okra you didn't produce. (If service is what's being sold, measure cycle time & error reduction.)   

One of my daughters is a pediatric intensive care nurse at Detroit Children's Hospital. She handles the worst medical cases you can imagine in Detroit and she works a rotating day/night shift. Lives depend on her rapid and perfect adherence to processes and STEPs regardless of her emotions, time of day/sleepiness, memory, or any combination. She learned nursing skills at the University of Arizona, Tucson. Many of her peers learned at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. The hospital has its own processes that vary slightly from both universities, which supersedes all others. To adjust to hospital procedures, DCH nurses with long tenure train new nurses. My daughter frequently tells me to hurry up with Pythia because they need it now!  (Pythia will verbally deliver step-by-step directions (SOPs) on demand, in any language, then report the time used to complete each step along with user feedback. It's Augmented Intelligence with some artificial intelligence built in. When a critical step appears to have been missed, a phone & email alert is immediately sent to the supervisor indicating process time, process step, & user name. Similarly, if a worker needs immediate help, they say, "Pythia Help" and an alert is sent to their supervisor.)

Thanks Giri and Patrick for leading discussions on this topic! (Giri; re-iterating I left your table early because I wanted to catch some of Patrick's thoughts before the session ended.)     

Bill - we have experienced how "GPS" technology has evolved quickly - and being from Michigan - you have probably been aware of autonomous vehicles longer than most of us. While "driving" as we know it may eventually be very different - the places we need to reach will still need to be reached - and the work we can accomplish in transit will be much different from what we can safely do in transit now. It will be fascinating to see the impact on "work in transit" from Pythia.

Yes, Paul. We'll all need something interesting to do while cars drive us where we need to go. Some will work while others, like Troy and those in his camp of self-motivated learners, will learn new skills. Walt Disney said, "There's great fun in learning". Maybe an Adyton distributor will find a profitable channel to deliver learning in transit via Pythia.  

On a related note; I'm hearing from my auto engineer friends, the autonomous challenge is nearly met and we'll begin seeing those vehicles in every city within the next couple of years. They've deliberately managed our expectations and the change involved by gradually offering autonomous technologies individually (auto-braking, auto-parking, etc.) as options. They've had problems with sensors. Specifically, sensing in snow & rain and left turns. (One of my friends was working on a system that puffs air across sensors to keep them clear.) Eventually, all those "options" will come together into fully autonomous vehicles. Some AVs are already tooling around places like Ann Arbor. (One thing I LOVE about Detroit metro is seeing vehicles on the road that won't be in the showrooms for another 2 years. Drive along and notice a car with no badging, usually white, and you'll realize it's a 2020 Ford Mustang!)

The concept and challenge I'm hearing the auto people talk about now is "the last mile". In transportation, it currently refers to what happens when you get off mass transit or an autonomous car pool and still have another mile to go to get to your destination. We're seeing skateboards, scooters, Uber & Lyft filling that need in many cities now. The "last mile" challenge exists in most technologies. It will be an(other) interesting year as Pythia faces its last mile challenge(s) and the next product/system begins its first mile. 

I think about the first mile too - and I wonder about "autonomous only" zones or lanes. Perhaps truck-drivers would primarily be needed for the first and last mile and could also meet trucks along their long-haul trips. Trucks might also benefit from overnight use of less crowded highways.

We have HOV lanes already and I have seen express lanes with barriers to restrict entry and exit. Refitting existing highways would be costly. Yet - as highways are "upgraded" would the costs be offset by savings related to accidents, injury, insurance, police, fuel and delays. Would the increased productivity result in economic gain and increased tax revenue?

Might Uber, Lyft, Amazon, Netflix and Restaurants offer a new array of mobile services?


Detroit never supported mass transit, in fact, the auto companies aggressively killed mass transit around the US in order to sell more cars. However, regional mass transit initiatives now are stalled in Detroit/Michigan due to an uncertain, albeit exciting, transportation technology boom. Hyperloop (personal and auto transporters) are battling with flying cars to render superhighways obsolete. New roads aren't being planned. Hyperloops connecting Detroit with Toledo and Chicago are currently under study. Toronto is about the same distance from Detroit and, being in a more progressive country, I wouldn't be surprised to see a Toronto to Windsor hyperloop before Detroit to Chicago. (Gas is around $1.29 per liter / $5.00 per gallon in Canada with a 30% exchange makes it around $3.34 per gallon.) I can fly from Toronto to Paris for less than $500 or over $1,200 from Detroit to Paris. It takes an hour to drive from home to Detroit airport or 4 hours to Toronto. Throughout the winter, there's always a lake effect risk when traveling to either city, which dramatically slows and can stop all road traffic until the wind changes directions. Add to all this the climate impact of so many vehicles. We'll eventually be forced to make some painful long-term decisions. It's a no-brainer that our interstate freeways will become obsolete. It's that last mile -and first mile as you said that are the issue. 

One camp is saying autonomous cars will lead to far fewer cars and another camp says there will be more. The fewer cars camp explains how cars will operate as a service; people won't need to own 1, 2, or 3 cars. The more cars camp says, people will not car-pool, therefore, the same number of cars will be needed for daily commuting and everyone will still want to get to work at 8:00 & leave at 5:00. Add to that, the cars needed to transport children to extra-curricular activities; kids will have their own cars not because they need them, but because they will be family status symbols.

It's not just roads, cars, & mass transit (trains) heading to obsolescence, it's also office buildings. In a time when employers are begging for workers and prospective employees have the option of taking a job with daily gridlock at Hammond & Peachtree-Dunwoody or working from home or co-working spaces (like We Work), it's going to be increasingly difficult to fill those buildings under construction within that last/first mile around the Dunwoody MARTA station. Lucky for the construction industry, corporate egos still require grand office buildings even if their businesses don't. This can be the only explanation for the tallest building in Detroit; currently under construction.


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