Fusion dining: Brinkerhoff, Maslow and software development!

Posted by Steve Lay

A friend of mine recently attended a session at the The Agile Testing & BDD eXchange 2012 in London and, as a result, brought an interesting fusion of ideas to my attention.

I went online to watch Gojko Adzic and Dan North talking about Impact Mapping, a strategic planning technique, and I was intrigued to hear them discuss Brinkerhoff’s work on improving the effectiveness of training programmes.

Long-time readers of this blog may be familiar with Brinkerhoff’s work already. John Kleeman wrote a two-part post about Brinkerhoff’s Success Case Method back in 2010. For Gojko though, it seems that Brinkerhoff’s earlier work, “The Learning Alliance: Systems Thinking in Human Resource Development” has been the key influence. It is this work that first defines the Impact Mapping approach. There is a nice summary of the concept in this synopsis of Brinkerhoff and Apking’s work High Impact Learning.

Gojko Adzic is someone who applies these ideas to the world of software development, a field that is very close to my heart! At Questionmark we use agile software development techniques through our adoption of the scrum process. This means we use tools like user stories, sprints and the product backlog to help us develop our products and services. In the talk about Impact Mapping, Gojko Adzic makes a charming analogy between software development and Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. You can read about it in detail on Wikipedia but for me, Douglas Adams summarised the idea perfectly:

“The history of every major galactic civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry, and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why, and Where phases. For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question “How can we eat?” the second by “Why do we eat?” and the third by “Where shall we have lunch?”

To continue this analogy, Gojko’s argument runs something like this: of course we need to become proficient at finding food but there comes a time when continually asking people if they are still hungry is missing the point, and we should be asking whether or not they enjoyed their meal. Put another way, businesses also have a hierarchy of needs and once we move beyond basic proficiency in our business processes we need to move up to measuring the impact at higher levels.

While Gojko Adzic and Dan North have some suggestions for how to do this in the world of software development it did bring me back to Brinkerhoff’s work and how this advice can be applied more generally, for example, by adopting techniques like the Success Case Method for identifying high impact training programmes.

Using the Success Case Method with Questionmark Perception, part 2

john_smallPosted by John Kleeman

In a previous blog post, I explained the Brinkerhoff Success Case Method (SCM), which is a way of conducting training evaluation by finding examples of success or failure. You then do to the people who have experienced success or failure, and use these to identify the potential of a new training program. It’s particularly effective to identify early on whether a new initiative is successful and what its potential is.

A key step in the SCM is that you need to identify the participants who’ve been successful, usually via a survey. Questionmark Perception provides a great way of sending such a survey that participants can respond to quickly and easily which identifies how successful they’ve been in applying the training course in their jobs.

For example, following a training program to train someone in a new tool, you might name some possible business applications of the tool, and then ask a 4-point Likert scale question on each application, perhaps:

Have you used the training to get some specific benefit

  • Yes and had clear and concrete positive results
  • Yes but no clear results yet
  • To some extent but don’t expect any results
  • Have not applied the training in this area at all

Participants who give the first choice on a few different applications are candidates for success interviews, and candidates who answer the last two choices are candidates for failure interviews. The main purpose of the survey is to identify success and failure candidates for interview, but a secondary purpose can be to look at the overall results and see how successful overall the program has been as rated by participants.

This is an example of a Perception assessment to ask questions like this.

Pretend you are a respondent who answers it, and you’ll see whether you are a candidate for an interview. You can take it more than once by clicking on Next Assessment at the end of one attempt. Such an assessment could be delivered inside a wiki or blog posting like this, or pushed to respondents via an email link or other system.

In comparison to other methods of evaluation, the Success Case Method is very quick and inexpensive to do, and seems an interesting way of evaluating training.  And Questionmark seems a great way of delivering SCM surveys.

I’d welcome feedback from anyone who tries the Success Case Method with Questionmark software.

Using the Success Case Method with Questionmark Perception

john_smallPosted by John Kleeman

I’ve been reading recently about the Success Case Method for training evaluation, and would recommend  Robert Brinkerhoff’s book, The Success Case Method, as an intriguing read.

Success Case MethodThe Success Case Method (SCM) is a way of identifying how successful a training program or other initiative for change is. Using the SCM you identify particularly successful participants in the training program, and interview them to determine why they were successful and write these up as stories to illustrate where the program can be successful. By highlighting the experience of the most successful participants, and writing up their story in a way that others can connect with, the SCM allows people to see what success means for the training program and identify what needs to be improved for others to get the success. Sometimes you also interview people who represent failures who did not get any success out of the training program, to understand qualitatively why.

By doing a qualitative interview, you can dig into the real reasons for something. And also by focusing on what is the very best, the most successful that the training program can be, you can identify what can work. And you can do a SCM very quickly – as it says on the cover of the book “Find out quickly what’s working and what’s not”.  The SCM also seems a practical way of doing “level 3” like assessments, in terms of seeing how behavior is impacted. And because it’s easy to do and need not be comprehensive to be useful, it is quick and inexpensive.

The five steps in the method are

  1. Plan a Success Case study
  2. Create an “impact model” which defines what success should look like, i.e. what improvements you are looking for
  3. Design and implement a survey to participants to search for best and worst cases
  4. Interview and document the success stories
  5. Communicate findings and recommendations

The Brinkerhoff Success Case Method looks a very interesting and cost-effective way of identifying success factors for a training initiative.

I’ll follow up this post with some ways to use Questionmark Perception to do a Success Case Study.

Hear from John and other Questionmark managers at the Questionmark Users Conference March 14- 17 in Miami. Online registration ends tomorrow, March 9th. Check out the full conference schedule and plan to be in Miami for this important learning event.