“She works on learning and technology
in a way that is creative, concrete and quirky”

Consulting with executives to turn technology investments into results

Technology is not the answer. Not automatically.

But many executives thought it would be so, that it was a matter of selection and investment. Now, many look back on prior enthusiasms for technology-based learning with tales to tell of dashed hopes. With hindsight, they know that nothing is automatic, not even mobile learning, and that success does not come easily.

No longer do executives see technology as learning fairy dust. They know it’s a minefield out there.

Those of us who believe in technology for learning and support must contribute by helping executives find those mines and do something about each and every one of them.

Here is a checklist to coach leaders as they consider their organizational readiness to benefit from technology.  Can they offer a strong affirmative to these statements? Really and truly?

Honest consideration will remove any fairy dust still lodged in the corners of their eyes.

  1. We are clear about what we want our people to know and do.
  2. We have provided good reasons for our people to be enthusiastic about going in these directions.
  3. We are prepared to show commitment going forward.
  4. We provide ways for them to talk to each other and to experts as they move in these directions.
  5. We have analyzed how they feel about this initiative and are responding to concerns and questions.
  6. We will help them to explore their resources and grow comfortable with a more independent and connnected way of learning.
  7. We have looked into their confidence about moving in these directions and are poised to boost or maintain that confidence.
  8. They have access to the necessary technology.
  9. We have thought hard about where and how they will access these programs and anticipated and mitigated glitches.
  10. Their managers know what we are doing and why.
  11. Their managers are keen on this direction.
  12. Their managers know enough to talk about this with them.
  13. When our people go in these directions, we will recognize their efforts.
  14.  We help them by providing what is necessary to be successful, from learning programs, to information on demand and human support too.
  15. We will track how they are doing and help them do better with the outcomes and with the means for getting to those outcomes.
  16. We are making conscious decisions about what they must know by heart and what can be referenced at the moment of need.
  17. We constantly ask ourselves about the value of what we are delivering, both the ends and the means, remaining humble about these ideas and technologies.

Few executives will honestly consider this list and yes, “Yes, sure, we’re good-to-go.”  It might be concerns about the first line managers. Perhaps it is fuzziness in the rationale for the program or even tweaks not yet made in performance reviews to reflect the new priorities. Whatever it is, however many red flags there are, we must work with them to create alignment and fertility.

In the classroom, we rely on instructors to step up and make fixes when a program is off target. An instructor adds an example to make it relevant. Another reminds the employee of all that he already knows. Yet another teacher acknowledges that the software has not been rolled out and sets up online coaching sessions to refresh and maintain skills– or contacts first line supervisors to prepare them for the altered ways their people will now approach this task. Think about the savvy instructor who recognizes that the instructor guide, as now written, ignores a new competitor. She adjusts to make the program timely– and useful.

When we move to technology and expect employees to reach for and appreciate assets in the workflow, their efforts must return high value resources. What they find must matter to them, boost their fluency, answer a key question, connect them to a meaty conversation, or point to a valuable policy, community or person.

The resource must make a case for itself with the individual and a home for itself in the culture.

These are good times for technology for learning and performance. But not automatically. Expectations are high, grow ever higher, and link us not just to learning, but to what really matters. It’s all about graduation rates, sales, safety, retention, a second language, matching services to needs, and superior service. These reality checks, these conversations, this focus on execution and alignment, this is what we sought when we dubbed ourselves learning and performance professionals, not just trainers.


That’s 17 statements. What would YOU add?



  1. I love this checklist. It’s a great reminder to consider alignment with other performance factors and that technology isn’t a solution unto itself. Great stuff! Thanks!

  2. Great list of considerations here, Allison. Having had to work with execs on learning technology implementation, I appreciate the value of these questions. As an educator, I wonder where Bates’ SECTIONS framework could be adapted to part of this purpose?

  3. Sean McCarty says:

    As I was reading over the list I was thinking two things:
    1. This is a sound, sensible list, and…
    2. Exactly what the statement immediately following the list summed up: few executives (as well as just about any employee under the gun of daily pressures) will fully consider all the important factors before jumping in. All that glitters might be gold, so why not?

    A great reminder about the pitfalls of putting the cart before the horse. I also like that the list doesn’t just stop at analysis either, it covers the importance of buy-in. There is a lot to be said for the age old practice of consensus-building. How many times have we seen great technologies fail simply because people failed to market or implement them correctly.

  4. Marguerite Foxon says:

    It’s a pretty complete list – I’m not sure how many execs or managers I know would take the exercise seriously and ponder each of these questions, sadly. The one question perhaps I might suggest is an opener to the tune of “Do you believe that training makes a difference to your people’s productivity?” I think execs have a lot of reasons for supporting training/learning initiatives, especially those that use technology for delivery, but not always because they think it makes all that much difference. Thanks for sharing this. M

    • Nicole Dalton says:

      Hi Marguerite!

      I think you have a great idea. I think sometimes we do get buy in from the ELT, however, during actual implementation…we lose our support with the mid or lower level management who are in the trenches day to day. These folks will often say, “No way” to training due to budget or time or both. In my opinion, we need to get buy in from all levels of leadership and also make it acceptable and expected to attend training.

  5. Thank, Allison, for this list. I think #15 is especially important. I work mostly in K12 education and I think the target outcome for using technology is often badly defined. Often the target outcome appears to be related to the teacher’s ease and comfort in using the technology. It seems to me (as an instructional designer) that the emphasis should instead be on the STUDENT learning outcomes that are impacted by the technology-delivered instruction. This isn’t to say that fluent use of the technology isn’t important, but rather that is it necessary, but not sufficient. Do you have any thoughts on this?

  6. Great list of questions Allison. I think I’d add the second half of each statement, the “so what” portion. If we are able to identify the consequence to NOT answering the question in the affirmative, that’s of huge value. My fear with executives and technology is that they’ve spent a lot of money on the solution already and cannot afford to have it fail, so will rationalize all no’s and think they can provide good training (among other things) to address short-comings elsewhere, or just minimize the importance of it.

    They need to feel it in their gut, not think about it in their head.

    My $.02.


  7. Nicole Dalton says:

    This is a great list. HOWEVER…one of the main complaints I have heard from learners is, “I do not have the time to complete the training and when I do take time to complete it…I feel guilty, rushed, etc. ” A lot of people complete the items on their own time (giving more reasons for OLL!), but I wonder if they still feel the same way?

    I would add something that addresses this.


  8. Jeff Loube says:

    Up thread the use of SECTIONS was suggested as a framework for selecting technology. You can check out this model at http://wiki.ubc.ca/File:SECTIONS_Framework.pdf

    Sections is Student, Ease of Use, cost, teaching and learning,interactivity, novelty and speed. It is the son (or daughter) of Bates ACTIONS model – the difference being that Student and Ease of Use have replaced Access. (In ACTIONS the ease of use resides under the ‘I’.

    the only caution is that before running off with great complex analyses, one needs to keep two things in mind – ACCESS and Cost are the two greatest discriminators, and culture and expectations can demolish a considered analysis and is a huge influence on media selection. Down select to the acceptable media before you get too serious.

    I have used the ACTIONS model as a tool for analysis, and to frame discussions with clients about technology needs, and to help them get their head around the issues. A very useful tool.

    See more at http://www.tonybates.ca/


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