Reviews and Tests

Usually, a Review is understood to be to look at something again, to find any mistakes and to correct them, or to improve what might already be right. A Test can also be understood to check something again to find any mistakes, and to then accept or reject/rework the thing. Is there any difference between a Test and a Review?

Looking for synonyms for the word ‘Review’, we find – analysis, audit, check, inspect, report, revision, scrutiny, survey, test, and a few others. ‘Test’ is also among these, and it is going to be fun exploring the similarities and differences between the two. By the way, there are many kinds of reviews, as many as 14 different types (See: https://guides.mclibrary.duke.edu/sysreview/types)

Reviews are certainly done as a second (or further) look at something, but the interesting fact about a review is that it cannot be effective unless the reviewer has (prepared) another (relevant) view, and then does a re-view. It is important for the reviewer to have a (independent) view of their own about the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of what they review, before their review can effectively add value.

Ideally the reviewer should have used the same inputs and prepared the same output as the work they are reviewing, and then compared the received output/document with what they themselves arrived at and how. As the reviewer matures in their experience, they may not need to go through the entire process every time, but they still need to have their own view of what and how the output should be made. Unless they have their own view before they look at the submission, they will not be able to hold on to their own (different) view, and in all likelihood, they will get ‘absorbed’ by the submission’s approach for ‘what’ and ‘how’. In the absence of this preparation, most reviews have only one or two of ‘what’ comments, while most comments are about how it appears – the layout, cosmetics, language, etc.

Reviews must examine the decisions made and principles used by the developer, while Tests compare functionality against the requirements. This also explains why Designs need to be reviewed, but Code/Output needs to be tested to verify adherence to design and fulfilment of requirements. Of course, sometimes the code also needs to be reviewed, but that is usually to provide developmental inputs to the developer. Tests focus on the specifications and requirements, but what should Reviews focus on? Let’s look at some phenomena found in reviews.

If you look at the kinds of comments that are reported in a review, you may find that most of the comments relate to what is common for the (that particular) reviewer to look for. For instance, when I did this analysis for my own reviews, I found that I was reporting mainly language (grammar, punctuation) errors in storyboards I reviewed. Also, out of these, 90% used to be about the use of commas. It was evident that ‘language’ was something I was focused on. Similarly, someone else may have their favorite aspect as length of sentences, or voice, or you-name-it.

Another realization that emerged as I saw the reviews done in various projects, was that as a team we ended up spending more project time reviewing and correcting what we were good at, rather than review and correct what we were anyway weaker at. Reviews had a tendency to go into multiple rounds of reviewing and fixing, with new corrections coming up at every iteration. This was not because earlier reviews were not complete, but because ‘lower level’ hygiene issues needed to be resolved first for a focused ‘higher order’ review to be possible.

Generally, I realized that reviews were also not planned for any specific aspects to be focused on by reviewers. Several different reviewers gained a reputation from their own unique strengths and were fed the deliverables for review without any focus(es) defined, assuming they would respond to issues of the kind they were known to be good at avoiding in their own output. In hindsight, this seemed a quality plan ‘taken for granted’, without considering the wastage of overlapping reviews, and the risks of reviews missing out focusing on objectives required by the customer.

Tests, on the other hand, are usually conducted with a Test Plan, with Test Cases and expected Behavior. Compared to a review, a test is more defined, focused, and consistent in its outcome when done by different testers on the same output. Creativity is best reviewed, and execution is best tested.

I finally learned to plan for reviews through multiple iterations, each time focusing on a set of aspects which I found most efficient and effective to review together in the same iteration. The aspects that Reviews should focus on are those that are defined in the Quality Assurance Plan and must match the relative importance among them as needed, expected, and required by the customer. This taught me how to build a development and review plan that assured quality. I called this a Quality Plan, or QPlan, which was published as a paper at the QAI Conference on Quality in 2001.

It is interesting to observe that REVIEW is a backronym…
R.E.V.I.E.W.: Reconsidered Effective Verification of the Integrity and Excellence of Work.
T.E.S.T.: Truth Evaluated through Systematic Trial.

Here, WORK is also a backronym…
W.O.R.K.: When Outcomes Result from Knowledge.

It seems interesting to understand that if work doesn’t lead to any outcome, it is a waste of time. Also, if the work you do is not using your knowledge, then it is someone else’s work you are doing, usually as an assignment. This ties in well with the understanding of ‘karma’ in the Indian perspective.

ReviewTest
Focuses on appropriateness of decisions and principles used in the process.Focuses on the excellence of the product in meeting requirements and specifications.
Focuses on processFocuses on product
When done by different reviewers, can result in diversely valuable insightsWhen done by different testers, will likely result in the same findings
Comparing Reviews with Tests

— O —

Consulting Services & Skills

Like ‘Analysis’, ‘Consulting’ is a term used with widely different connotations in modern business conversations. Like analysis, consulting is also a term that gets you thinking once you start trying to define it. I found it invaluable to spend some time unraveling “Consulting” and figuring out how to be a successful, respected consultant.

Fig. 1. Consulting Services

See also: what-is-consulting-definition

“The purpose of consulting is to help people solve problems and move from their current state to their desired state, which they may not be able to do by themselves as effectively, or as efficiently” – Krishna Deva

This paper discusses introductory answers to four questions:

    1. What does providing Consulting Services mean?
    2. When are Consulting Services required?
    3. What does it take to provide Consulting Services?
    4. Which are the Distinctive Skills for Consultants?

1. What does providing Consulting Services mean?

There are many views on what consultants do and what services they provide. I thought it would be important to begin from the demand side, to understand what providing consulting services means to the customer. After all, that is the raison d’etre for consultants, and it should be the context in which everything else about consulting services gets defined.

In trying to understand what consulting services could mean for the customer, we need to consider the results – the deliverables and the outcomes – that the customer gets. The ‘how’ of consulting is also a component of what consulting services mean, but not from the customer’s point of view. That is more important for the consulting provider to know and be good at. More of the ‘how’ in later sections.

Let’s begin our exploration of consulting services by understanding the expected deliverables and outcomes of providing consulting services.

  1. Deliverables of Consulting

The core of the deliverables from a consultant is usually a Report. The report typically begins with an “Executive Summary”, and contains the “Objectives of the Assignment” for which the consulting was undertaken, the “Facts and Data” that were considered, the established and credible “Bodies of Knowledge” that the consultant used, and the “Recommendations” of the ‘solution’ or ‘answer’ to the customer’s problem, or question.

Report

      1. Executive Summary
      2. Objectives of the Assignment
      3. Facts, Data & Studies
      4. Analysis (with ref to established bodies of knowledge)
      5. Recommendations

The thinking and analyses done by the consultant is inherent in the recommendations, and we can say that the report is a result of the consultant’s thinking. Typically, the detailed analyses and logic applied is not elaborated in the report unless the solution is heavily research oriented, or if it is complex and difficult to comprehend.

I have also seen many reports of consulting assignments where the Consultant was expected to validate and coherently re-present the analysis and solutioning done by the customer. In such cases the Consultant is ‘used’ as a credible third-party offering recommendations on which the insiders want a stamp of external, neutral approval.

In every case, it is an expectation that the recommendations, if followed, will lead to the outcomes desired, and will not create any new or bigger problems than might already be there. If anything, the recommendations are expected to reduce current problems by leveraging on as many synergistic opportunities as possible.

Typically, the Report is not only submitted but also presented by the consultant so that all implications of the contents are grasped completely, and any follow-up questions are addressed responsively and coherently.

The deliverables can be summarized in one line as follows:

“A Report including the Investigation, Learning, Research, Analysis and Experience-based Advice that Solves the Customer’s target problem/opportunity.”

2. Outcomes of Consulting

The primary outcome for the customer has to be their success, once they implement the recommendations. Without this expectation of success being met, the customer would never value the consulting exercise.

Another important outcome of consulting is the reputation it creates for the consultant. For a consultant, their reputation is critical to build up, because their credibility is important for the recommendations to be accepted, as well as for growth in their engagements. For a consultant, the two important elements in their reputation are respect for their caliber, and appreciation for what they are able to bring as outcomes.

The two outcomes from any successful consulting engagement are:

      1. Success for the Customer
      2. Respect and Appreciation for the Consultant

2. When are Consulting Services required?

These are the four situations in which consulting services are sought by customers:

    • When the Customer doesn’t know what the solution is
    • When the Customer doesn’t know what the problem is
    • When the Customer doesn’t know how to implement the solution
    • A combination of the above conditions, in any proportion

It may be natural to jump to the conclusion that consultants provide solutions, but the truth of the matter is that consultants often need to be called upon when the problem itself is not known or identifiable. For instance, a client organization might be suffering dropping productivity for the last two years, and a few initiatives may have been tried out by the management but did not help.

This would be a good point to bring in a consultant with more/diverse experience in resolving productivity issues. The consultant would be able to assess and analyze the realities within and around the organization to put together and propose solution options to the management.

Consultants with implementation experience are also sought out when the solution may have been identified and even detailed out to some extent to give the client confidence that it will work, but they may lack the capacity and capability to manage the execution/implementation. A consultant in this case would be a good temporary addition to their workforce to see through the solution to its effective implementation.

In general, consulting services are called upon in a wide variety of situations. Consultants may be sought out for any of the following types of solutions, and more:

Designing solutions to problems
Identifying the problem(s)
Competition analysis

Formulating strategy
Implementing new technology
Managing functions

And others…

3. What does it take to provide Consulting Services?

Consulting services typically follow the lifecycle outlined below. The sequence of stages/steps may be somewhat iterative depending on the situation and the ease/difficulty in accomplishing each stage, but the stages are all necessary to go through for the consultant.

The lifecycle of consulting can be visualized like the Greek symbol for ‘sigma’ (see Fig. 2 below). Starting at the point where the arrow points, follow the shape clockwise through the stages a, b, c, d, and e. The description of each stage is in the paragraphs that follow the figure.

Fig.2: Sigma of Consulting

a. Understanding the Problem from the Customer’s point of view

Consulting begins by building a good understanding of the ‘problem’ which the customer has articulated. It is important to identify all the opportunities that are being missed, as well as their effect on the ‘pain’ that is being created by those. Typically, the ‘pain’ is voiced by the customer and evident from data points of the outcome(s) not meeting desired goals.

P.R.O.B.L.E.M.: Perceived Risk of an Opportunity not Being Leveraged to Enhance the Meeting of goals. 

Understanding this ‘problem’ wisely is key to consulting.

b. Understanding the ground Realities 

Diving deeper into the causes and data, the next stage after identifying the problem(s) is to understand the realities of the situations in the customer’s organization and environment that have a bearing on the Customer’s pain points. Getting rid of biases and building a rich fabric of evidence and data is critical to correctly understand the reality, and therefore all the possible causes that lead to the effects.

This stage involves investigating all potential factors and functions, meeting various executives to understand their perspectives and experience, as well as to gather and analyze data for all relevant measures.

c. Applying Design Thinking & Problem Solving  

With a factual and unambiguous understanding of the problem and all the factors leading to it, this stage focuses on developing strategies and designing feasible solution options that have optimal impact and cost.

The steps typically follow this structure:

      • Define problem/focus/opportunity
        • Be Creative
        • Be Objective

Here is where lies the first opportunity for innovation. The creativity applied in finding new possibilities and definitions of the problem/focus/opportunity should lead to identifying obvious as well as not so obvious problems.

      • Conduct Causal AnalysisExplore all possible Cause-Effect relationships
      • Research for new/more causes/opportunitiesCritical Thinking

The findings of all research feed back into the earlier two steps above – Defining the problem, or Causal analysis.

      • Map and Correlate alternatives with impact areasDevelop Solution Sets

Going through the above steps helps in logical yet innovative solution sets, which can be compared for their respective benefits as well as costs and complexity.

d. Present Pros and Cons of Feasible Solution Options

The solution sets are presented to the customer stakeholders along with their pros and cons, and a Cost-Benefit Analysis for each solution set. Questions lead to refinement of the most suitable solutions.

e. Finalize the agreed upon Solution(s)

Build the Plan and complete the Consulting Report documentation for submission to the customer as the final deliverable.

4. Which are the Distinctive Skills for Consultants?

Distinctive Consulting Skills

This section calls out the skills and competencies that are critical for the consultant to demonstrate, for any consulting engagement to be effectively executed.

a. Customer orientation
i. Listening – to understand, appreciate the customer’s inputs and context
ii. Emotional Intelligence – to sense and prioritize pain points and opportunities
iii. Communication – specific, clear, relevant and up-front
iv. Retaining the focus on problem/benefit

b. Domain expertise – deep, broad, diverse – know/find out everything that could be relevant to the problem context, spanning all necessary facts, concepts, processes, procedures and principles of the domain and related domains.

c. Teleology – Inferences and conclusions based on teleology, discerning the purpose (effect) of every piece of information (cause) in the knowledge-map.
i. Critical Thinking
ii. Creativity
iii. Decision making

d. Communication skills
i. Language – must be the same as that of the client
ii. Written
iii. Drawn – [ref books by Dan Roam (The Back of the Napkin, Draw to Win, Show and Tell)]
iv. Spoken – [ref Richard Chung (Compelling Communication-Oral Presentations)]
v. Presentation – https://summaries.com/blog/the-pop-up-pitch

e. ICT – Mastery of the Tools of Expression
Creativity has value only once it is expressed. Every creative person tends to be so because they master expression in the medium of their customer. When we are creating value for the customer, we need to master the medium(s) of creation that we (and the customer) choose to communicate in.

  1. Mastery over communication mediums.
    1. Written, Drawn, Spoken, Presented – Word, PowerPoint, diction
    2. Email – Microsoft Outlook (or any other email app of choice)
    3. Video conferencing – Teams, Zoom, Google Meet, etc.
    4. Contemporary with, and ahead of others

f. Soft skills
There are a host of soft skills that are important for a consultant’s success – focus, planning, patience, open-mindedness, etc. which are critical at various times, and a consultant picks the ones they need with experience.

Consulting is an immensely fulfilling engagement if it is done with integrity, sincerity, diligence, and also with curiosity, creativity, and passion. Consultants can be very influential in the trajectory of organizations and individuals. Consulting is one of the most respected professions, and gives you opportunities to study new and challenging situations, traveling and meeting people across the world. It is an engagement of responsibility and potential.

— O —

Ethics in Training & Education

Ethics in training and education carry a very different significance from ethics in say, selling groceries.

The biggest difference lies in the fact that in buying groceries, the customer knows what they are looking for, what they should get, and how to qualify it, whereas in buying training or education they do not know (beforehand) how to qualify or specify what they need or should get.

They usually only have some idea of the outcome they’re looking for, like getting a job, a raise, etc., but have little or no idea about what the training input should be like.

This lays the onus of ethics of training or education on the providers – the institution, the offering, the teachers, the trainers, etc. I share below some ethical values I have seen addressed by many providers. There will certainly be more that I will have missed. Please share those in your comments and feedback.

Ethics of the Training Organization

  • Training Organization will identify the most relevant and effective Training Needs for learners as part of a sustainable society
  • Training Organization will define curriculum that are relevant and efficient in helping learners progress towards their learning objectives and goals
  • Training Organization will make all efforts to keep every promise and commitment made to Trainees – before, during, and after the training.
  • Training Organization will ensure Trainers have the required caliber for the training delivery assigned to them.

Ethics in the Offering

  • The offering (training program/intervention) will be focused on takeaways for every participant that are relevant and effective in helping them move closer to their learning objectives as easily and efficiently as possible.
  • The offering will uphold all applicable Laws of Copyright and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).
  • The offering will focus on meeting every commitment made or implied to the learners.

Ethics of Trainers

  • Trainer will make all efforts to demonstrate relevant, current, ASKBs (Attitudes, Skills, Knowledge, and Behaviors) for helping the trainee in meeting their Learning Objectives and Goals.
  • Trainers will make all necessary efforts to:
    • Appreciate the goals and learning objectives of learners.
    • Appreciate the trust and faith reposed in them by their learners, and never ever misuse it or betray the learner.
    • Identify the Training Needs of learners. Distinguish between learners’ needs, expectations, and requirements, and collate those that will benefit the learners the most in their context, while being socially sustainable.
    • Identify all subject matter that is relevant to meeting the Training Needs – research for the latest developments/implementations/developments in progress at the time.
    • Determine the facts and truth in subject matter. Share only what is unequivocally true with learners.
    • Develop the training strategies most suitable and efficient for learners – Presentations, Reading materials, Audio, Video, Activities, Debriefs, Simulations, etc.
    • Declare and clarify what objectives learners can expect to be met.
    • Use the training strategies to help the learners assimilate the relevant subject matter.
    • Involve every learner, and provide a safe and fair learning and assessment environment.
    • Give learners a sense of closure in meeting their learning objectives.

Ethics of Learners

  • Learners will engage and interact with the trainer, to enhance their learning experience.
  • Learners will pay attention and attempt to comprehend the experience they receive from the trainer/teacher.
  • Learners will diligently follow instructions of the trainer/teacher regarding their learning.
  • Learners will deploy their learning in endeavors which drive and support the sustainability of society.

If these seem to be too many, try going through them again and identify those which can be deleted as they may be redundant or unimportant.

I would love to hear your feedback and comments.

— O —

Also: “An Industry of Hope, Belief, Trust, Integrity, and Responsibility”

“Ethics at Work”

Driving discipline

Which of the following driving disciplines do you follow, or see being followed?  Add 1 point for every check. (Points are for traffic that drives on the left of the road, else switch right with left)

  1. Traffic on your right always has Right-of-way – in lanes, at a round-about, or at an intersection
  2. At an intersection the one who reaches it first, gets right-of-way to cross it
  3. Always overtake from the right
  4. Don’t overtake a vehicle which is overtaking another vehicle itself, or if there is oncoming traffic
  5. Distance from the vehicle in front of you should be enough to let you see its rear wheels touching the road
  6. When going down an incline, shift down to the same gear you would use when climbing it
  7. Instead of applying the brakes, try shifting to a lower gear and letting the engine do the braking (release the clutch)
  8. Don’t ever switch off the engine to free-roll down an incline
  9. Don’t drive with the clutch pressed halfway while cruising
  10. Maintain your position in you lane and switch lanes carefully watching other traffic
  11. You must not move to your right if a vehicle is overtaking you
  12. Thumb rule for shifting gears – shift gears according to speed should be 16Xgear kms/hr, i.e. upto 16 kms/hr move up from the 1st gear, upto 32 kms/hr imove up from 2nd gear, upto 48 kms/hr move up from 4rd gear, upto 64 kms/hr move up from 4th gear, and upto 80 kms/hr move up from 5th gear (if there is one)
  13. When facing oncoming traffic at night, never look at their headlights, instead keep your eyes to the left verge of the road you are on
  14. Try driving with foresight of what others are going to do/doing on the road, and take proactive measures so they don’t need to change their path

These are lessons gathered over years and generations… If you’d like to add some points, please leave a comment.

If you got a score of:

More than 10Bravo! Way to be…
6-10Great, you must already be a driver blessed by others on the road
3-5Hmm, you must definitely try more of these to get a better drive
Below 3You probably never knew these, but now you do

— O —

Money is Only Worth its Spend

Many years ago I had come across a truism I liked: “The riches of a person are reflected in how they spend their money, while their wealth may be measured by how much they have.”

There are many sayings I’ve heard about ‘the color of money is the same’ regardless of where it comes from, but over the recent years I’ve realized that the ‘quality of money’ can be established too.  I did think of the sources of wealth, some honorable, some dishonorable.  I thought of the names we give to sources of funds, and to heads of expenses.  Nothing seemed to pass all tests until I hit upon a very useful test for the Quality of Money.  The quality of money depends on what it is spent for, what it makes happen, or what causes it funds.

Spend vs Invest

When we speak of spending money in different ways, the question also pops up “Money can also be invested, how is that different from spending money?”.  A simple difference to understand between spending and investing money is to see that money that is spent, is consumed, it doesn’t return in any way except to sustain the status Quo.  In this regard, money is time, and vice versa.  Money invested however, returns manifold, or should return manifold if the investment is accompanied by attention, industry, and doing what it takes to meet the objectives of the investment.  In this way, money that is invested returns bigger, stronger, better over the time that we pay attention, are mindful, and industrious.

The Need and Money

In the bigger picture money gives us time, say by providing sustenance, shelter, and security for another few days/weeks/years, and we make our decisions of how to spend this time.  If we are blessed with fortune and wisdom, we invest this time to return stronger, better, bigger.  Which of our needs do we fulfil first with the money we have, defines a lot about the quality of money we have.

Mapping to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs also gives some great insights into the quality of money that we spend or invest.

Examples of money spent or invested at various levels of Needs

Level of Need Spend Invest
Need for Self actualizationPracticing all what we are able to do, what we truly know.In Self – mind, body, soul
Need for recognition– Fees paid to enter competitions– Self improvement
– Excelling at meeting useful objectives
Need to belong– Socio-Cultural alignment (lifestyle)
– Fees for club membership
– Attending social events
– Build relationships Networking
Security needs– Maintain a house to live in– Educational qualifications
– Monetary savings and investments (stocks, banks)
– Agriculture
Biological needs– Food Shelter from natural elements

We can review the Quality of our Money, and what we are likely to achieve with it, by appropriately mapping our expenses to the needs, and classifying them as spend or investment.  This review of what we are likely to achieve with the time and money that we expend, can give us insights into how we should change, if required, our spending and investing strategies.

It is important to note that Time is a significant factor that affects the quality of money.  At different times, different needs become virtuous. The amounts of spend and investment at the various levels of needs will also change with time for each of us, across different phases of our lives – from child, to adolescent, to adult, with a family, through professional phases, etc.

What is the Quality of Your Money today?

— O —

The Resilience of Good

In these tough times, we see so much struggle around us. Our loved ones are struggling, our friends, our colleagues, many are struggling with what the pandemic is bringing about outside as well as within us. And we are struggling with them.

We get to hear of the shocking, the unforeseen, the unexpected, and the magnitude of the calamity reveals itself in new dimensions every day. The sheer deluge of information is often disturbing and unsettling, raising new and deeper questions as we read about happenings around us.

In this deluge we also hear of people’s response to the struggles they are facing.  So many of those responses build hope in the future of mankind, but we read about many more people who are callous, mismanaged, self-serving, or shortsighted at best, in their behavior.  It is very easy for us to lose sight of the goodness of our fellow humans in this deluge of negativity.  It doesn’t mean however, that the good isn’t there.

Good has always been less seen, less heard of, less spoken of, in the clamor for attention by the common Bad.  It has long been known, and we need to understand too, that Good loses to Bad because it isn’t loud enough, or juicy enough, or because Good doesn’t push itself ahead like Bad does.  This is the truth of this age of Kal-Yug.  It is also the reason why we need to pray for Good to emerge, for Good to be stronger, to be more prevalent, and to win over the world. 

We need to be discerning in the attention we pay, and in the winds of change we blow with every action of ours.  We have the power to cause Good, and to encourage goodness all around us.  Our power lies in our resilience, and how well we recognize, protect, and encourage Good!

May Good be with you 🙏

Want to Grow? Change the words you use…

Take more responsibility, be more responsible, how to use language which helps you take responsibility, even makes you take responsibility rather than give it away at every turn?

Hindi is my mother tongue, but there was something my Father used to say which struck me in a flash of insight years later!  Our language itself points us to give away responsibility and to not take it.  If what we say is also what we hear, every time we use such phrases or statements, we are telling ourselves that we weren’t responsible.

For example, take what happens when we misplace something.  In Hindi we say “cheez kho gayi, mil nahi rahi hai”.  Now note very carefully what we have done by framing our words like this.  The fact that the thing (‘cheez’) has been misplaced is expressed as if the fault was its own that it is not being found (‘mil nahi rahi hai’).

This needs more thought from us to figure out why we as a people of one language, or some other people, of another language, speak and behave differently.  One more responsible than another.  And I go back to one of my earliest writings Career Self-Reliance, where I had realized that growth happens when we take more responsibility, not when more responsibility is given to us.

Our Customers are Different! The Edge of Knowledge

We often talk about how selling in the Learning & Knowledge industry is different from selling in other industries.

It is not only because our offerings are different, it actually begins with how our customers are different.

The purpose of the L&K industry is to enhance the ability of people to perform more and bigger tasks so that they can make their own industry grow!

We must realize that the customer in this industry (Learning & Knowledge) is usually different from customers of other industries, in several ways.

1.  The first and most significant difference is in the customer’s ability to spec what they want. Because the need being addressed by them has resulted from a lack of knowledge or skill in the first place, the customer themselves do not have the ability to solve the problem by specifying the solution.  Else they would have solved the problem anyway.

This leads to a paradoxical situation.  Where business and management gurus tell us to meet the customer’s requirements, in this case the requirements need to be developed by us, the professionals, to address the needs of our customers.  At best our customers can give us their needs, their preferences, their expectations, and their constraints.  This actually is the highest domain of selling – diagnostic, consultative selling.

2.  The second difference in customers of the learning & knowledge industry is that they also do not know whether the solution we are proposing is going to solve their problem or not.  This challenge emerges because of the unpredictability of human behavior, and the managers’ inability to predict accurately what the result of better trained staff will be, beyond the hope that they will perform better.

3.  The third difference is that customer delight is rarely achieved by the same level of delivery again.  The level of delivery – in terms of content, presentation, insights, creative and critical thoughts presented – needs to keep progressing for our customers to remain consistently delighted.  This is where our industry fails when quality improvement models advocating consistency are implemented, like ISO 9001.  The models are mistakenly interpreted by us to lead towards consistency of delivery, while actually to succeed, we need consistency of customer delight, which is rarely achieved by the same product delivered again.

 

4.  A fourth difference is that our services are ‘invisible’ to the untrained eye.  It can often be presumed that it is just communication that we build, and how hard is that for someone good with language.  In reality, language is only the medium of the art of instruction.  The art of instruction involves a keen appreciation of the context and motivation of the learners, and then to address their needs and wants with and experience that satisfies them, that brings ‘content’ to the ‘discontent’.  These two necessities require the Instructional Designer to not only be sensitive to the personalities and environment of the learners, but also to the concepts and practices of the domain they will benefit from.  This leads to the art of leading from learning, much beyond the mashing of words to ‘build’ learning material that reads right.

These Perspectives  highlight the need to consult and collaborate with customers, on the identification of the design inputs for the solution as well as on the benefits of the solution once it is implemented.  The professionals servicing the needs have to be experts, with knowledge to add to what the situation demands.

This is the primary reason why selling in the Learning & Knowledge industry is always consultative.  The business that is there to be had without consultancy is low value, competitive, effort-based and routine.  If we consider the Learning & Knowledge industry to involve Creativity, the business that is there to be had without ‘selling’ also will not require very ‘creative’ contribution from the suppliers, and will be far lower in value.

It is only fair to accept that every professional in the industry cannot be an expert at everything to begin with.  But that’s the key – to selling, and to delivering knowledge or skills.  So how do the professionals address this gap?  By making sure they are the fastest learners, they learn faster than the speed at which the situation changes.  They may not be experts to begin with, but with a reasonable and structured approach to learning, they can assimilate expertise faster than anyone else, and then simplify and deliver it to the customer scenario while there is still value to solving the ‘problem’ they want to address.  By the end of a project, the professionals certainly become the experts at the topic, and they take the least time to become such solutioning experts.

This makes it amply evident that the most fundamental skill to hone for professionals in the knowledge industry, is learning.  To learn how to learn is what we become the best at, and this gives us the edge of knowing more, the edge of knowledge.

— O —

What Are We Afraid Of?

For many of us, most often, fear is the key.  Our actions are driven by fear, just as much as our lack of action might be.  What are we afraid of?

Wikipedia says –Fear is a distressing negative sensation induced by a perceived threat. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger. In short, fear is the ability to recognize danger leading to an urge to confront it or flee from it (also known as the fight-or-flight response) but in extreme cases of fear (terror) a freeze or paralysis response is possible.  Some psychologists such as John B. Watson,Robert Plutchik, and Paul Ekman have suggested that fear belongs to a small set of basic or innate emotions. This set also includes such emotions as joysadness, and anger

It is interesting to note that fear is a feeling, and therefore something we can control (can we?).  Fear is also based on perception and awareness, again something we can control.  But Wikipedia adds:

It is worth noting that fear almost always relates to future events, such as worsening of a situation, or continuation of a situation that is unacceptable. Fear can also be an instant reaction to something presently happening. All people have an instinctual response to potential danger. This emotion is described as fear and it is pre-programmed into all people.[2] Fear, whatever its source, can become a controlling factor in a person’s life.[3]Fear can channel one’s energies away from areas of perceived threats and into directions that seem safe.[4]

It seems fear is an “instinctual response”.  How do we control it then?  Well, the first step is to recognize it when it happens.  It is for us to understand it better, and identify which heuristics are leading to it in our mind.  Our first responsibility to ourselves is to think!

Our problem might be in how we think about responsibility.  Almost always, people relate responsibility with a burden, with the liability or the blame we carry about something.  This thinking itself is the result of our perception and awareness, and therefore has the same opportunities of correcting our perception by increasing awareness.  We must distinguish between ‘responsibility’ and ‘accountability’ in our mind.

Responsibility is what we carry before something is done, and Accountability is what we have after we have done it.  It is responsibility we need to do something, to begin doing something,… and accountability for having done it.

Doing a SWOT?

Whenever I’ve done the SWOT, for whatever it might be, I realized the points I would put down got a little confused as I went ahead to complete the SWOT.  Perspective would change even as I thought through the points.  Opportunities and Threats would become confused about who or what I had to focus on.

I realized if we had a framework which guided our thinking with constant questions, it would do so much for the quality of the SWOT, its completeness, consistency of perspective, and relevance.  Here I share a framework for doing the SWOT for an Individual, as well as another for an Organization/Team.

Happy SWOTing!!

1.  SWOT for an Individual

SWOT for:  ________________________________________________

S-trength

Trend

W-eakness

Trend
C

A

S

K

B

<enter here what current Competencies, Attitudes, Skills, Knowledge, and Behaviors, are helping you to achieve what is needed>

+/-/=

<enter here whether trend is ‘+ve’,     ‘-ve’, or ‘flat’>

C

A

S

K

B

<enter here what current Competencies, Attitudes, Skills, Knowledge, and Behaviors, are preventing you from achieving what is needed>

 +/-/=

<enter here whether trend is ‘+ve’,     ‘-ve’, or ‘flat’>

O-pportunity

Need

T-hreat

Need
C

A

S

K

B

<enter here what current Competencies, Attitudes, Skills, Knowledge, and Behaviors, are you working on which will help you to achieve what you expect will be needed.  Look at trends in S and W, as well as any new C-A-S-K-A-Bs you realize that you are working on.>

<enter here for which need a point is an opp-ortunity> C

A

S

K

B

<Look at downward trends in S and W to identify which Competencies, Attitudes, Skills, Knowledge, and Behaviors, might prevent you from achieving what will be needed>

<enter here for which need a point is a threat>

2.  SWOT for an Organization/Team

SWOT for: ______________________________________

S-trength

Trend

W-eakness

Trend
  • Market/Customer – needs, behavior, trends
  • Competencies – includes reservoirs of Knowledge, Skill, Attitude
  • Processes – includes policies, methods, standards, best practices
  • Capacity – includes people, funds, resources, infrastructure
  • Vision – includes values, motives, and beliefs

<enter under each heading what current facts are helping the organization to achieve what is needed>

<enter here whether trend is ‘+ve’,     ‘-ve’, or ‘flat’>
  • Market/Customer – needs, behavior, trends
  • Competencies – includes reservoirs of Knowledge, Skill, Attitude
  • Processes – includes policies, methods, standards, best practices
  • Capacity – includes people, funds, resources, infrastructure
  • Vision – includes values, motives, and beliefs

<enter under each heading what  current facts are preventing the organization from achieving what is needed>

<enter here whether trend is ‘+ve’,     ‘-ve’, or ‘flat’>

O-pportunity

Need

T-hreat

Need
  • Market/Customer – needs, behavior, trends
  • Competencies – includes reservoirs of Knowledge, Skill, Attitude
  • Processes – includes policies, methods, standards, best practices
  • Capacity – includes people, funds, resources, infrastructure
  • Vision – includes values, motives, and beliefs

<enter under each heading what current initiatives are you working on which will help the organization to achieve what you expect will be needed.  Look at trends in Strengths above and Weaknesses, as well as any new Competencies, Processes, Capacity, etc.that you realize the organization is working on.>

<enter here for which need a point is an opp-ortunity>
  • Market/Customer – needs, behavior, trends
  • Competencies – includes reservoirs of Knowledge, Skill, Attitude
  • Processes – includes policies, methods, standards, best practices
  • Capacity – includes people, funds, resources, infrastructure
  • Vision – includes values, motives, and beliefs

<Look at downward trends in Strengths and Weaknesses to identify which of the above (bulleted) attributes might prevent the organization in the future from achieving what will be needed.>

<enter here for which need a point is a threat>

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