A Past Project and Simulation Exercises – Sans Computers

Writing that Post the other day on Reuse and the invention of the Lesson Map caused me to go to the basement files and search out the Labor Relations Training binder. It was subtitled: Win-Win Labor Relations and one of the key messages for the Supervisors in this Union environment was that Management had indeed signed-off on the Contract and that enforcing it was their job! Not to grumble about it.

Almost 17 years ago we conducted the Pilot Session which was delayed by two weeks because the client just didn’t believe our Pilot-Test date – in the Project Plan – which we met – but no one had booked the room or sent the “command appearance” invitations out to the Pilot-Test Participants.

When we called a week before the date to determine exactly where to ship everything – the internal Client Project Manager panicked and got “on task.”

Developed within 90 days – from the first meeting with the client through the development of a Project Plan and Proposal – and then the contract stuff with Purchasing – we conducted the Analysis Team Meeting and subsequent Project Steering Team Gate Review Meeting (PST GRM) – and then Design Team Meeting and subsequent Project Steering Team Gate Review Meeting (PST GRM) – and developed all of the “Pilot-Test” materials including the Facilitator’s Guide, the Participant’s Guide, the Wall Charts, the handout Simulation Exercise Materials, the Lesson-by-Lesson Evaluation forms, the End-of-Session Evaluation form…and looking through my binder…the Class Awards Ballot. More on that later.

It helps you go really fast when you use templates. Our speed and on-time-delivery took the client group by surprise – which surprised us as this wasn’t the first project we had done with them.

Here is the binder cover. Note the Pilot Materials stamp on both bottom corners. I had gone to this – sloppily putting red stamps on all Pilot-Test materials years earlier – after first getting burned when some of the clients FREAKED when there were any inaccuracies in the professional looking materials from our higher-quality-printers-than-they-themselves-used. If you’ve been burned then you should have learned. I guess that’s Informal Learning.

Notice the graphic on the cover. After the analysis efforts I typically create an “icon” for each course – something meaningful related to the content/performance that’ll help the key things stick better. Redundancy by Design is a phrase I’ve often used.

The icon depicts three Performance Contexts of the Management Role: Managing the Employee – Managing the Environment – and Managing the Work. The first Context could bring out Employee Performance Issues causing the Supervisor to enter the exciting world of Labor Relations. Which I saw as and labeled as a 4-part “process.”

The second two Contexts would be the source for Management Performance Issues. When they “screwed up” (a technical term) and might cause a “Grievance” – or as we said often in the session – maybe because “the sun came up again” and it was simply your turn to go down – because this little skirmish was really caused because of Management-Labor fighting elsewhere.

It sometimes is what it is.

The head of Labor Relations wanted to change all of that. We even invited the Union to send Stewards in to participate (they declined to participate but would only observe) in the Analysis Team and Design Team Meetings and the Pilot-Test as well. But union elections were coming up and that might be seen as “being on the wrong side.” But I was told privately by our visiting representatives that they were very pleased with what they saw transpire every step of the project.

I had asked in the first meeting of the PST for Master Performers for the Analysis and Design Team meetings we’d be running – No Nonsense Business People – credible members of the Target Audience – who didn’t particularly have to love or even like training. They knew off the tops of their heads who those folks were. One PST member, Ron, demanded he be allowed on that Analysis Team – after I had overviewed what we would accomplish in that meeting.

The Labor Relations Process and diagram that I created after the analysis effort was another WBS – Work Breakdown Structure. It organized the job tasks/topics into 4:

  1. Employee Counseling – where you explained what you wanted/needed, what the consequences were for meeting them or not, etc. Setting clear expectations.
  2. Progressive Discipline – from the first Verbal Warning through each step in turn as guided by the Contract and local law – when the employee screwed up (that technical term again) – hoping to turn the situation around – and if not then on to termination.
  3. Grievance – when the Union filed it for whatever reason. Caused when #1 or #2 made someone in the rank and file or their stewards “unhappy.” Sometimes deservedly so – that is Management might have screwed up and they deserved to be taken to task for it. Formally. By the Contract.
  4. Arbitration – the scariest thing ever experienced as a Supervisor by most of the Master Performers on the Analysis and Design Teams. If the Grievance could be worked out it would go, by Contract, to an Arbitrator.

The course we were replacing was 3 days of having the Contract read to you – from a learner’s perspective. And most classes had to deal with multiple Contracts. But not applicable to every learner. Boring! And…not applicable!

They all hated it for years. I had promised in the first client meeting that ours would be very different with 50-60% of the time in hands-on exercises – I had already seen the potential for another Simulation Exercise. I’d already designed and developed a couple of dozen by 1990 for many clients and many situations. That’s one of the reasons I labeled the design chuck an “Instructional Activity” – even for the “Info” chunks when developing the Lesson Map using the Analysis data.

Oh – and these were not Computer Simulations. This was 1990 remember!

I had also said in response to the client’s worry that we somehow might expand from 3 days to more – that I couldn’t guess that just yet. He reiterated that worry several times in the first 2 PST GRM.

We had said that we’d make it two days IF that was feasible – and we wouldn’t know until the design efforts were completed – after the analysis efforts. And it would be either 2 days or 3 days or 4 days. But that I couldn’t guarantee a course length at this point and wouldn’t until we knew what we were really getting into.

Unless he wanted to set a constraint, a design criteria, of maximum length. He said no.

Analysis
When we told the Analysis Team in our formal Analysis Team Meeting Kick-Off to our 3 day Analysis Team Meeting that only “a subset” of them would be asked to participate in the future Design Team Meeting most were happy with the chance that they’d be able to miss that 3 day event.

But once we finished the Analysis effort and I was wrapping up the meeting they ALL became agitated at the possibility of being left out. They had too much skin-in-the-game as they say. They demanded that they all be allowed to participate in the following Design Team Meeting!!!

And after hearing about the Project Steering Team Gate Review Meeting where that team would review the analysis data for any changes prior to our use of that data in the Design efforts – they insisted that they weren’t going to let the PST mess with their analysis data either – and they demanded to be invited to the PST GRM!!!

You know you’re on the right track when you have a bunch of hard *** Master Performers taking ownership of the data in a project. I had told them that I owned the process and they owned the data. And they took it to heart. Maybe the fact that I tend to tell them that their names will be all over the Analysis report – no Master Performer I ever met would allow anyone to mess with their reputation. And I had them where I wanted them.

So we went to the Analysis Phase Gate Review Meeting and the head of LR asked about how long the course would be and that it better not come back 5 days long! We said that would be one of our “design criteria” and that the Design Team would surely make sure we didn’t pack 2 or 3 days of content into a 5 day package.

Design
After the 3 day Design Team Meeting we went back to the PST for another Gate Review Meeting. And just as they had done for the prior meeting with the PST all of the members attended this one too so that the PST wouldn’t mess with their design.

When the head of LR saw that our design called for 4 days (really 3.5 days) he flipped out. He had wanted it to be “less than” the former course – not more.

He was reading me the riot act when Ron stood up and said something quite loudly – something akin to “Russ – you and I hired into this organization within days of each other back 27 years ago. I’m here to tell you that this is already going to be the best training program you or I have ever taken in this company – and you are not going to change one thing about this design. Then he sat down.

Russ was in a bit of a shock at that moment. I was OK with everything – Russ was doing what many managers consider to be their jobs: push back and ask for more – or less – situationally depending. He went from (pretend) anger with me to being very pleased because the other members of the Design Team started chirping up and praising their design. How it was going to be so cool and such. With “zero reading of the Contract” and with these “simulation exercises” -go ahead Guy, explain those to them.

Russ sat down which was my cue to continue. I could tell by his expression that my next issue with him was this thing about “No Reading of the Contract” – because in reality how could that be!?!

So I started with that – that the exercise would require the Participants to look things up in the Contracts after we overviewed their organizational structure. There was even going to be a Jeopardy-type game to reinforce the demystification of “where’s that content hiding” – that was up front in the design.

And then we’d do 4 rounds each of 4 Simulation Exercises. there is an old graphic in the 1998 newsletter article – and the story of that particular Simulation Exercise – but I have a better one below.

Simulation Exercises – One type of “APPO” Instructional Activity on a Lesson Map
One of the rules I created for myself a long time ago about exercises is that everyone should have a turn at doing – and then formally observing and tracking others while they are doing so that they could give feedback (besides the Facilitator who would also give feedback) – and informally observing others while playing other roles in the Performance Context.

In the LR course the four roles of each team that they each play a turn at was: Employee, Supervisor, Steward, and the official “Observer/Tracker/Feedbacker.” After one “round” they’d all switch hats so to speak and do another “situation” – taken I should add – right from the Performance Model gap analysis data. 4 rounds. Everyone gets “skin in the game.”

The 4 Simulation Exercises (each with 4 rounds) would follow the 4 parts of the LR Process: Employee Counseling – Progressive Discipline – Grievance – Arbitration.

16 exercises in all. Drill-and-Practice! And then some more. And then some more again.

Learning while doing. Learning while observing/tracking in preparation for providing feedback – we gave them the criteria and what to look for. Learning while Role Playing the “other Roles” with legitimate and/or real issues and concerns.

Simulation Exercise Designs
The next graphic is from a different project done in 2003. Teams of executive managers would play three of the roles and a bunch of quickly trained HR folks would become the Facilitators to keep things moving and keep their eye on the clock.

Fun? Only sometimes. I don’t do these to make the training/learning FUN. I do these to get as close to high-fidelity as possible given the constraints of deployment and time.

Engaging? Of course. This was so real with real “fodder” in each situation dealt with that during the Pilot Test if anyone from the “Target Audience side” would complain – someone from the “Management Spies side” would set them straight immediately. My role was to not let it become such a long “war story” that we’d get too far off schedule.

But it is one of the reasons I asked for – way back in the first PST GRM when reviewing the Project Plan – for Pilot Test Participants evenly divided between Target Audience Reps – typical learners so we could measure learning effectiveness – and Management Representatives (a.k.a. Management Spies – a term which conveys their role much more effectively) – who could evaluate whether or not what got learned was accurate, complete and appropriate.

It was (as always) a huge success and we all celebrated post-Pilot at the final GRM where we reviewed my teams’ Revision Recommendations based on both the Evaluation data and our acceptance or rejection of the same along with our rationale for either position. Whatever the PST agreed to became the Revision Specifications that fed the final phase of an MCD effort: Phase 6: Revision & Release.

The final length turned out to be 3 days after taking out all the end-of-lesson evaluations and a little other trimming.

We Still Have Fun While Being Serious In Simulating Performance
One thing that I tend to do for Pilot Test participants – who are typically from out of town – besides getting them each Commemorative T-Shirts with that icon thing on them – and both the name of the course and the date of the Pilot-Test session – is to hold an “awards banquet” the night before the last day.

Usually pizza and beer at some local pizza joint. Everyone gets a chance for a little fun and we announce the winners of the Class Awards Ballot – and just because I am originally from Chicago we don’t allow people to “vote early and vote often” as the local saying goes.

Here is the ballot from that LR Pilot-Test.

Best Actor in a Role Play, Best Actress, etc. With enough categories so that everyone might win one.

And “Write-In” categories for the Participants to come up with to have some fun with on their own. Because by the time we reach this stage we have worn them out. Many times I’ve been told how they are looking forward to getting back on the job so that they can get some rest.

See the third item? Best Group Consensus Forger.

When asked about that – as we expected – we would never clarify if we meant it to be “forge a consensus” or “forgery of a consensus.” What would you like it to be?” we’d answer their question with our own question. Just for fun.

Other Rationale for the Awards Banquet
In an earlier project addressing Product Managers, that was delivered by me 31 times including 6 times in The Netherlands, we routinely held the “Awards Banquet” at local pizza joints on the 7th night of the 8 day session. So that the Participants could meet face-to-face with local skeptical managers (I mean my gosh – 8 days!!! What are you doing in ALL THAT TIME???) to talk about what was really being taught/learned. Formally.

Over 6 years of delivery and with many attempts to shorten the 8-day course it remained 8 days until I turned it over to other delivery people at the company – and they thought the 8 days too much work for the Facilitators and they willingly shortened it.

It died completely within 2 years as it was then all awareness/knowledge creating – and very little skills building.


This LR project was the first formal MCD effort using the analysis data in a team approach to design for T&D/ Learning/ Knowledge Management type Instruction/Information. That necessitated the development of the Lesson Map. And the Event Map. And the Instructional Activity Spec. I’m big into Maps and Specs in the PACT Processes.

Using teams of Master Performers and Customers/Stakeholders in the PACT Process is what makes it performance-based, accelerated, and customer/stakeholder-driven.

Call “it” what you wish, T&D/ Learning/ Knowledge Management.

Just make sure it “protects and improves the enterprise.”

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