My First Curriculum Architecture Design – 1982 Exxon USA Exploration

As a consultant – as I’d already done one for new supervisors in manufacturing as an employee at Motorola.

The internal team had been meeting for 9 months – with no solution. This was 1982. I was at Motorola’s Training & Education Center working on several projects with Geary Rummler focused on Manufacturing. My other corporate clients were the Materials and Purchasing functions – across the Enterprise.

My wife asked me to spend a weekend helping her, and Ray Svenson, with a project they were doing for Exxon USA Exploration.

I ended up spending two weekends in a row that summer going through all of the analysis data to structure a Curriculum Architecture Design – a Blueprint for Development of Geologists and Geophysicists – which needed to be accelerated – as the 10 years cycle of development of the past and current state – were going to be totally unacceptable in the very near term future – as the expectation were that the average years of experience of those leading oil exploration was going to drop from almost 30 to closer to 5 due to coming retirements – as projected by HR.

A 10 year development cycle – using an apprentice model that involved more Informal Learning than not – wasn’t going to cut it. They needed to capture the Knowledge for future sharing – before it retired.

Recall that gas prices has climbed in the mid-1970s with the advent of OPEC – and there was a rush on – with the big oil firms and the wildcatter firms – to find and pump hydrocarbons from the earth into your tank.

One option that had been rejected was to hire back those who had left – jumped ship – to join the wildcatters. Knowledge had already escaped the corporate sphere when that had happened. Rejecting that approach – rewarding those who had jumped ship previously – left one option: develop your own.

The difficulty of the team of management and star performers that had been meeting unsuccessfully for 9 months, going back into 1981, in getting this done, was that they were attempting to address this Critical Business Issue by dealing with Topics. Not Tasks and the enabling Knowledge & Skills for conducting the performance – the work – of Exploration.

They had been arguing for 9 months about which Topics to cover – when and how. That was a futile, but an all too prevalent approach in Training.

As one of them said to me in the Design Team meeting that I facilitated months after my Architecture had been approved and I had left Motorola to join Ray and my wife in November of 1982, in an attempt to design a couple of example “Structured OJT Modules” for SMEs/ Star Performers/ Supervisors to deliver,

“Guy, it’s very different exploring for oil in the sands of west Texas, than it is in the desert, or the Rockies, or off-shore, or in the tundra of Alaska.”

Which was only partially true. As the Architecture Design had shown – the path through the Structured OJT Modules for the new Geologists and Geophysicists working in those different contexts, included both unique and shared Modules.

Just as I had learned – in serving Manufacturing, Materials and Purchasing at Motorola, and enabled by computers and MRP (Materials Requirements Planning) – was the huge life cycle cost advantages of sharing parts and components and subassemblies in products, and and complete products within complex systems. Duh.

When I do assessments of my clients’ inventories of Content – which is one of four types of Analysis that I conduct – what I consistently find – are Topics – not Tasks – oriented training. Every Title or almost every Title is about a Topic – and seldom about a Task-set.

It’s the Education Model where we don’t know what future job you’ll have which leaves us to covering Topics. Corporate Training is different – or could be. But Topics have the kind of Face Validity that causes reviewers to exclaim, “but of course.”

I’ve done over 125 projects myself in the past 30 years (plus other types of ISD work including ISD Process redesign, staff development, some delivery of things I designed/developed that the client insisted I deploy) – and Topic-based Content is the most prevalent kind of Content that I have found and continue to find.

No wonder the Training won’t transfer back to the job for Results – for the Tasks are hardly ever covered in a Topic-oriented Curriculum.

My Analysis methods start with the Outputs and their key measures – and then the Tasks required to produce those Outputs – and then to understand the Roles/Responsibilities for Task Performance – and then to understand the Typical Gaps and Probable Causes on non-Master Performers – and then, and only then – do we get around to systematically deriving those Knowledge/Skills (Topics) that enable the Tasks.

The single biggest thing to do to improve Training Transfer and ROI Results – not RoE  – which BTW in the world of Finance is not Return on Expectations but rather has been Return on Equity for 90 some years – is to:

Focus on Performance – and then Enable That.

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Note: My 1st CAD effort was as an employee of MTEC – Motorola’s Training & Education Center for Manufacturing Supervisors across 5 business sectors.

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5 comments on “My First Curriculum Architecture Design – 1982 Exxon USA Exploration

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