Instructional Design

A Map to Learning Outcomes and Business Objectives

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 “A map tells you where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going — in a sense it’s three tenses in one.”― Peter Greenaway, British Film Director

If maps didn’t exist, we would never get where we wanted to go. The same goes for life. Without plans, we’d never achieve our goals. Maps and plans keep us from wandering around in the weeds. At ELM, we create plans for our customers so they can achieve both their learning objectives and business goals—what we call Learning Experience Maps

In this blog, we’ll cover the first few steps in formulating a high-level strategy of your own to get your training where you want it to go–right into the hearts and minds of your learners!

Push for a Map

What’s all this talk about learning outcomes and business goals? In our previous blog, we discussed a shift within the eLearning industry. More and more, L&D professionals are being tasked with achieving both, which can be unfamiliar territory. 

Here’s what’s happening…

When leadership comes to the L&D team with a task, for example, we need training on X, NOW, many teams start scrambling. Under tight deadlines and minuscule budgets, most L&D professionals become order takers. We put our heads down and crank out the training. There’s no time to stop and think about where we want to go and why. Under this kind of pressure, it’s easy to not even think about the goal. Why do we need training on X and what do we hope to achieve as a result? Will training on X get us there?

It’s time to break a bad habit in the L&D industry. L&D professionals need to push back against assumptions before the organization spends time and money developing training that may or may not be successful or even necessary. Ask this question: What is the business objective and why does leadership think that it will be met with this particular learning outcome? 

At one organization, this is exactly what happened—and the result, which we will talk about later, was amazing. Leadership saw that users were not adopting a scoping tool and hypothesized that they either didn’t know how to use it or didn’t know it was available. They asked the L&D team to design an entire how-to training for the tool. The L&D team paused before taking that tall order. Rather than putting their heads down and designing a massive course for the tool, they reached out to ELM for a learning strategy design.

Define Where You Really Are

Before you come up with a new hypothesis, you need a very broad overview of your current problem. Think critically about what’s been done in the past. Maybe some methods have worked, and others not so much, but at this point, it’s time to get real. 

What we find is that most teams approach problems/solutions in one of three ways: overly positive, overly negative, or somewhere in the middle.  You will need to take a candid assessment of your own team and where you fall on the spectrum. 

At ELM, that middle ground is the sweet spot—what we call hopeful validation. Hopeful validation is a realistic assessment, tempered with a positive view of the future. It sounds like this: “We have a problem, but there is a solution and we will find it.”  

In this state of hopeful validation, try this exercise: Stop, Start, Continue. Here’s how it works: Talk about what’s not working and how to Stop doing that; analyze what is working, and how to Continue doing that and; determine what you think you need to Start doing and do it.

Discuss Where You’ve Been

When the learning team that we mentioned reached out to ELM, we tested their leadership’s hypothesis by asking the end users questions in discovery. We found the hypothesis was off the mark. Employees weren’t using the scoping tool because it was missing valuable components, which made their jobs cumbersome by adding extra steps! 

When you are in discovery, you do a deep current state analysis. By intimately getting to know the business, defining your learning culture, and understanding your learners; you can get a clear picture of the real problem.

Start by asking questions of your key performers, who are the learners doing the process. They help you understand the biggest challenges, missteps, and best practices for performance optimization. Then talk to the subject matter experts (SME’s), who own the process. They help you understand the process steps and how to perform them. You need input from both to do proper discovery.

Decide Where You Want to Go

Once ELM knew what the real problem was with end-users and the scoping tool, creating a Learning Experience Map was easy. By fixing the scoping tool and adding a few new components, employees were thrilled with the tool, as it made their jobs easier. The L&D team was happy because user adoption was off the charts. The leadership was pleased because they saved time and money, while still achieving their business objectives. 

While this blog just touches on how to create your own Learning Experience Map, these first few steps will get you headed in the right direction. The point is that you start looking at things from multiple perspectives. 

Learning Experience Mapping is a design-thinking approach to meeting both business objectives and learning outcomes. By taking a pause, challenging assumptions and formulating an educated hypothesis, taking the time to map out where you want to end up will save time, resources and money.