L&D: Story About Stories

Long Story Short

IMO not everything should be taught/ learned via a Story.

The preponderance of posts and articles about the use and how to regarding Stories in Learning seems overkill-in-the-extreme to me. Perhaps I am just too impatient. I know other learners/Performers are as well. 

There is a time and a place for stories. I see them advantageous as an advanced organizer for something important and complex that is to follow. But not for everything. Not for relatively simple things. 

As a greybeard I recall during the 1980s the call at Conferences and in Articles to end war stories, because too many instructors in ILT deliveries told too many. And they weren’t always helpful to the learners.

I always saw them as a way for those Instructors to establish their credibility with their captive audience, so I always designed them into the beginning, or shortly thereafter for ILT events. Me, the rebel.

Long Story Longer

Back in 1986, in one of my 75 Curriculum Architecture Design efforts, one for Product Managers at AT&T Network Systems, I spec’d out a 100 page (+/- 25%), year-in-the-life story of 3 new PMs, to help explain to new hires the complexity of their possible role assignments, and product families, and the 5 life cycle stages, and Product Team members from other organizations that did not report to you as they came from organizations with varied agendas, etc., etc., etc.

The PM Novel is one of the blue box in the 1000 Series – 2nd row.


Lots of stuff to get your head around when coming onboard. Lots.

My client was initially skeptical about the Novel – currently a gap on the Curriculum Path/Menu.

However – the Project Steering Team that I asked for, from the 4 and then 5 SBUs being served, were intrigued. Very intrigued. They were each high level Product Managers themselves. Their job was to keep us on the straight and narrow path of serving the business’ priority needs for this critical Target Audience.

They knew that on boarding folks into their quick moving, complex world was tough. And too many washed out as they and the job were just not meant for each other. And I, the analyst and designer knew that too. They signed off on it.

I had been confided in, many times during my analysis interviews, by folks who had been in the job for years, that they were afraid that they didn’t really know what the job was and if they were doing it well, or poorly, wholly or partially. That bothered me. For my client. And for the learners/Performers in place and those to come.


Here is the Preface to The PM Novel



An Advanced Organizer in Advance of the Job Offer

The client, responding to the PST, began shipping out The PM Novel by the dozens to the SBUs for use as a recruiting tool. Or shall we say, as a scare-them-off tool. The job was one where only those with a high level of “ambiguity tolerance” need apply.

It was indeed best to warn/scare-off those with a low tolerance for ambiguity.

It was only fair … as in … forewarned is forearmed.

The hope was that candidates would self-select OUT.

Yet the job title of fledgling PMs was Product Planner and they would be expected to plan, in detail, future product features, activities and schedules across many support organizations, including all costs, sales volumes, revenues and Net RONA, so that business decisions could be made annually, quarterly, monthly and/or any time the real world intervened to disrupt said plans,

All so that Business Decisions could be made, higher up. 

Such as decisions to continue or kill the Product.

Changing tires on the moving truck – so to speak.

The Simulation Exercise

In the Keystone course of the Curriculum, an 8 day ILT session that management hated and participants loved, was a 5 round simulation game, that was also referred to, in The PM Novel.

This event was the last blue box of the 1000 Series on the Path/Curriculum (above).


The sooner the new learners/Performers knew that their training would include how to plan, with the team, in a complex situation, where you and a partner would lead 5 Product Team meetings, and participate in 20 more as other team members, as the simulation’s 5 products made their way through the life cycle dealing with typical issues, unique to each life cycle phase, the sooner they, even with their self-determined ambiguity tolerance, could begin to relax.


The Video Advanced Organizer

This video – the first item in the T&D Path, was the 1st Advanced Organizer – and it too references the PM Novel.

One Riot – One Ranger

My client said that phrase often, with Ranger meaning as in the Texas Rangers.

If the whole town somewhere in western Texas had completely gone to hell, you didn’t send a small army. You sent one Ranger.

Just as in the life of a Product Manager. They had to be able to handle a lot.

One Path – One Story

One story for one third of the Curriculum, the first third of the T&D Path (or more appropriately: Menu). That’s when it was most critical.

That’s when the ROI or RONA made this a very wise investment, in the Product Line of Instruction for the Product Line Planners and Mangers living in a complex, high stakes, high pressure, fast changing world of work.

Did I mention that the Target Audience, 1100 in total after the hiring spree of the 4 then 5 SBUs, managed 500,000 products?

Everything it took to build, operate and maintain a telephony system. You, me, we called it a telephone network. And that’s only gotten more, not less, complicated, and moves much faster, over time. Decades now.

Not a story for each of the Events of this modular curriculum, whether it was 5 pages/15 minutes, or 8 days in length. And everything in-between.

That would have been overkill-in-the-extreme.

That’s My Long Story About Stories

… and I’m sticking to it.

And Even More

Here is a link to a 60 page PDF of the 3rd draft of The PM Novel: 1987 The PM Novel Draft 3

Here is a Past Post about the project: https://eppic.biz/2012/10/19/case-study-a-set-of-formal-informal-social-learning-for-a-critical-target-audience/

And another Past Post: https://eppic.biz/2011/10/29/an-on-boarding-story/

And another: https://eppic.biz/2011/03/29/a-design-driven-by-authentic-analysis-of-performance/

And the last: https://eppic.biz/2013/11/25/a-quick-quality-moment-from-my-past/


2 comments on “L&D: Story About Stories

  1. Pingback: T&D: Stories Embellish Performance Based Training But Doesn’t Replace It | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

  2. Pingback: L&D: Stories Are Great – But Avoid Story Burn Out | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

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