The “new normal” can be much better

The “new normal” can be much better

The “new normal” can be much better if we choose. Why go back to the same-old, same-old?

As we emerge from the 2020 pandemic and all the measures to contain it, your workforce will be returning to a “new normal”. What’s that? None of us really knows the details, but aside from being a cool phrase, it means being smarter and doing things differently with a great deal of awareness about disease transmission. Keeping our distance, wearing masks when ill, avoiding crowded venues, and patiently waiting for vaccines, will be a part of it, but what else will characterize the “new normal”?

We’ve seen that isolation and lockdowns have had a big and positive impact on pollution. We’ve seen that working at home can work for many more than previously thought. We’ve cut down on commuting and the incredible loss of our time that creates. In maintenance and reliability, we will still need to get close to the equipment and work with teams simply because one person just isn’t enough for much of what we do. We can do somethings differently, so why not think differently too and look for more ways to improve asset performance. Reliable equipment and systems will require fewer repairs and fewer opportunities to come into close contact. Reliability will become yet one more way to reduce disease.

As a leader, you can “get back to normal,” avoid rocking the boat, help to steady it on the old course, perhaps just relax until you retire, or you can be a true leader and rock that boat. Why not get back to work with greater efficiency and more effective programs?

In addition to all the measures to protect ourselves from infections, be they risks or not, what else will define a “new normal”? Throughout this pandemic, businesses shed all the extras – travel, consultants (ouch), training (ouch), all easy targets. Workers were laid off or sent home to work there. Some may not return. For certain though, we are all working in new ways, often making mistakes as we try, fail, try again. Knowledge comes from reading the instructions, experience comes from trying it out and making mistakes. Both are forms of learning.

In our consulting, we provide a great deal of training and now that has to change.

Unlike consultant firms that want to maximize billable hours, we actually want our clients to achieve higher performance. That’s what they hire us for and that’s what we’ve consistently delivered. Our typical client transformation engagement is shorter and consequently less expensive than it might be with other firms. Our secret sauce is training, not billable hours expended by juniors who do it for you. We use seasoned professionals who have been there and done that, who have good communication skills and “bedside manner”. We teach, mentor, coach, and advise. Our clients gain ownership over their problems/challenges and solutions. We help them along that learning process and it can get remarkable results. We have several case studies describing how training has helped. None of those client engagements were particularly expensive and they all demonstrate the power of learning.

During our time in isolation, we’ve been modifying our training, designed for classroom delivery with live instructors and audiences, converting it to new formats for online delivery. Our first few courses are now available worldwide on our e-learning Academy. As the author of some of that training, it is very underwhelming. It looks like any other web-page until you click on the course names – there’s a lot there behind the scenes. I prefer face-to-face experiences, as many of us probably do, but that simply isn’t going to be a big part of the “new normal”. Is online learning any better though?

It is cheaper and more convenient in several ways. There are no travel and living costs for students or instructors to attend. That’s a big saving. Training budgets can now go further. With pre-recorded training, there’s the flexibility of taking the training at any time and managing that time to fit your schedule. With a live virtual classroom, you lose some of the timing flexibility while regaining some of the personal interaction. It no longer matters what time zone you are in, so long as you understand the language used for instruction and downloadable course materials.

It is shorter and longer at the same time.

In converting course materials I realized that what used to require 2 days, now takes about one. There are no classroom discussions to moderate and far fewer group exercises. The lecture content remains much the same, albeit delivered via recording or in a live virtual classroom. The lessons must also be shorter. Sitting at a monitor for training can be boring and is far more tiring than I had thought it would be. What used to be 8 or so, 2 to 3-hour sessions is now a dozen or so, 30 to 40-minute lessons. The duration of the overall course, however, is probably much longer. By dividing it into smaller pieces there are more breaks and the ability to delay the next lesson for days if you should choose to do so. So, there is less time for lecture portions and more time for the course duration.

If found it necessary to alter the course materials and delivery speech to be more concise, precise, and rely less on Socratic methods.

I discovered a lot of new tools too. Quizzes are easily administered online, so they became a part of the new curriculum. I choose to word them in a way to really get the students thinking, not just answering. They are there to help the students, not to “test” them and turn them into losers.

Industrial training on-site or at a hotel conference room is always kept to short durations and highly concentrated. The online experience doesn’t have such constraints. Assignments are something you can’t do very well in an industrial setting. I discovered that online, it is fairly easy to create assignments that truly drive home the learning. They become part of the requirements for a course certificate, so the student really has little choice but to do them (and pass) if they want the certificates that their employers will love to see.

Throughout this exercise of putting our training online, we’ve had to completely rethink delivery and content. The pandemic more or less pushed us there, but we have become fans. From our perspective, although we will miss the classroom experience and interactions, we can now focus on delivering more courses of superior quality to an even larger audience.

There are several courses online right now. Several others are being prepared now and will be online soon too. We work closely with Conscious Reliability and are also offering their live-online training (some of it in English, Spanish and Portuguese) through our Academy.

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