Working effectively with subject matter experts Towards Maturity Exchange with Norman Lamont

by | Feb 1, 2013 | Articles

Norman Lamont shares ideas on how to work effectively with subject matter experts in our first report from Learning Technologies 2013 eXchanges.

Ever been faced with the challenge of a subject matter expert that wants you to include every last scrap of detail in a course you are developing?  A not uncommon challenge but one that can be difficult to recover from.  Earlier I had the pleasure of hearing first hand how one learning professional has found an approach that is working well in his organisation.

Norman Lamont, accountable for Learning Technologies Innovations at Lloyds Bank, explained the challenge.  “A source of constant frustration was seeing page turning eLearning that didn’t achieve what the subject matter experts wanted or what the business needed.”

Subject matter experts in the main can’t be expected, and don’t care to, understand good learning development practice nor the impact on cognitive load.  This led Norman to seek out a method of supporting a development process that focused everyone involved on achieving a business goal.  For Norman, Cathy Moore’s Action Mapping Method delivered on all counts.

The premise is to start the process with the business measure you are seeking to change, this is the measure that will confirm your impact post intervention.  The model then drills into the activities that are carried out on job to support the business measure.  Finally this leads to what is the minimum information required for the individual to successfully complete the task or activity.

Sounds simple!  In Norman’s case it provided the catalyst to help the subject matter experts understand the need  think differently about contributing to learning.  In the transfer of 30+ courses from face to face learning, the model delivered the majority with role contextualised solutions which dealt with real business dilemmas and problems.

Key to Normans strategy of implementation was showcasing what good looked like, every subject matter expert was invited to an action mapping session where they witnessed the process in action.  Norman provided examles via a template that demonstrated what good and bad looked like and continued to support the group as they stated to use the  methodology.

The initiative created an environment of subject matter experts who then came to meetings expecting learning to be scenario or case study driven.  A couple of words of caution; the model will not prevent that late senior manager intervention sending things off track, but can if engaging the senior managers early enough, provide the same refocus opportunity that worked with the subject matter experts.

Also consider if using the model with a hand off to external suppliers how you ensure they truly understand the concept of what the action mapping drives in terms of learning development outcomes.  As Norman explained, if you are expecting a discussion based exercise the last thing you want to receive is a series of self check questions that don’t reflect the real world role.  Adding the methodology to your corporate toolkit and mandating it’s use can help make sure everyone ‘gets it’.

Norman has clearly come a long way with the process and as a result has seen his approach evolve and grow, once the action mapping is complete he now starts the process of development with the performance support tool and then centres the learning around how to use the performance support real time on job.

About Normal Lamont

Norman Lamont entered the world of digital learning in 1987. After launching computer-based-training in Britania Building Society and Scottish Widows, he joined the learning technologies team of lloyds banking group where he is now a Learning Technology Innovation Manager. Follow Norman on twitter @normanlamont

Norman took part in the Learning Technologies eXchange run by Towards Maturity and our partner Training Journal. Catch up with other #LT13UK eXchange sessions here.

Photograph courtesy of freedigitalphoto.net

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