Valuable lessons in programme design

Being an advocate of innovation in learning design and facilitation, and doing it, is quite the challenge to live up to. While at the same time advocating in the benefits of co-creation and collaboration, is also not without its challenges.

I’m in the middle of our programme for senior management development and have taken some valuable lessons which were a bit hard knock, but you know, it’s all good and definitely worth sharing.

Sometimes things need to be better than good enough

I’m a fan of iterative work. I don’t believe it’s possible to always produce a great solution, and that great solutions only develop once something is out there and it’s live. If you’re spending all your time prototyping and building, then when is it ever ready to be road tested? Even when it is ready, you’ll always receive valuable feedback on how to improve it. So, the logic follows that when it’s good enough to be road tested, get it out there.

Except, there are plenty of good reasons for making sure something is better than good enough. Prime being that you want to be able to show the thought and design into why something happened. I was betting heavily on receiving input from others to help create something of joint value. The input has never ceased to come along, and what I’ve learned is that unless people are used to that as a way of working, it’s hard to just expect it to happen, even with guidance and nudges.

Self-direction in a programme has its limits

I’m a big advocate of people owning their learning. Give people the chance to take control of their learning and treat them like adults. Which is a fine principle, but I forget people have day jobs to get on with, so when it comes to this self-directed destiny of stuff, some clear support and advice doesn’t go amiss.

Actually, it’s one of the most fascinating insights I’ve taken is that when people have clear parameters in how to undertake their own learning, they’re fine. But give people open reign, and it’s almost too much freedom. Cos you know, humans.

Peer based dialogue trumps content every time

We’ve designed some damn good content into the programme. From topics ranging from emotional intelligence, to coaching, to neuroscience, to strategic decision making to wellbeing and health and more. We’ve created projects for groups to be part of to be part of cross-departmental initiatives to be able to effect change across the organisation.

And what’s the repeated message of what people find valuable? The time to talk with peers and hear what’s going on in other parts of the business. Sure the content is interesting and all, but at this level, it’s really valuable to also just talk. Who’d a thunk it?

External consultants are really valuable

I’m not averse to working with external consultants. I have a level of arrogance which tells me that I could facilitate and deliver learning sessions on most topics. I also have enough self-awareness to recognise that I can’t be jack of all trades and I need to be careful about where I spend my energy in the delivery of the programme.

I’m working with a number of people who have real depth of experience and knowledge in their respective fields of interest. What I’m finding really valuable is the one on one discussions I’m having with them in the design of the sessions they’re facilitating. There’s a lot of value in creating clarity of thought and considered plans for facilitation which are bearing their fruit and proving their worth.

Where possible I’m trying to bring facilitators together too so that there’s opportunity to do that talking thing between people and sharing thoughts and insights into the delivery of the programme.

I haven’t touched social technologies

I’m almost ashamed to admit this. But, you know… I have no excuse. There are plentiful opportunities to use social technologies in a number of ways and I’ve just not gone there. I got too focused on other aspects of programme design and didn’t factor in any use of social technologies.

Executive involvement is always a winner

There are two modules in the programme where I’ve specifically sought the involvement of executive members of the organisation due to their insight and their knowledge of the business. I actually really enjoy working like this, because it’s not just asking them to deliver a presentation, but it’s getting to work with our leaders in a way which allows them to be these ‘real’ people to others. Presentations can be well rehearsed and you can put on a facade when delivering. But facilitating and imparting knowledge and insights requires a different skill set.

I’ve followed all the standard things in developing and designing a programme like this. The above learnings have been surprising for me in some respects, and reinforce some beliefs too. Often in the world of L&D we talk of well designed programmes as if they always work out just as planned. I’m not shy to show my working out.


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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

One thought on “Valuable lessons in programme design”

  1. Great to hear what you have learned through this project and how it is progressing. I’m also a big fan of iterative development, but agree that going beyond ‘good enough’ to great can be beneficial, but the important thing is remembering that even though it is great, it can still be improved through subsequent iterations. 🙂

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