I've been with AT&T since 1980, serving
a variety of functions, from Course Developer, Instructional Technologist,
Quality Assurance Manager, Internal Consultant, Project Manager and
Strategic Planning. I was president of the National Society for Performance
and Instruction (NSPI, recently renamed the International Society for
Performance Improvement, ISPI) from 1990-1991. I am on the Editorial
Board of "Performance Improvement Quarterly." I've spoken at the white
house, plus at over 100 professional and corporate conferences. Over
30 articles/chapters in professional publications. Contributing author
to NSPI's "Handbook of Human Performance Technology" (1992) and ASTD's
"Training and Development Handbook, 4th ed. (1996).
What type of activities do you do
Currently, I am responsible for supporting the strategic planning for
education and training across the enterprise, including planning for
reengineering learning and the accelerated use of learning-technology.
What are the advantages of working
in a corporate setting as opposed to an academic setting?
Actually, there are advantages and disadvantages. First, the advantages.
In a corporate setting you are more likely to have access to resources
necessary to get work done. Even though the days of unlimited resources
are long gone, well presented, business-oriented ideas can get a good
hearing and, if appropriate, be funded at a level necessary to succeed.
Also, in a business setting, you are more likely to see the benefits
(or suffer the consequences) of your work. The business world forces
you to be practical and results oriented. This is a discipline that
all people in our profession need. Finally, in today's modern business,
nothing gets done without teamwork and upper management support. It
gives people in our field opportunities to develop unique interpersonal
and organizational skills that are less likely to be found in other
organizations. On the downside, however, there are several disadvantages
to working in a business setting. First, the short cycle times often
assigned to projects can mean that there is little time to experiment,
to try out new things. In some organizations, managers have such short
time perspectives that it is difficult to develop or implement projects
where the payoff is not almost Immediate. Maintaining long-term sustainable
momentum on projects can be difficult and challenging. This is particularly
troubling in the people development business. While we are usually very
successful in training workers to do today's jobs, I sometimes wonder
if we are doing equally well in the long-term education and development
of these people to meet tomorrow's even more complex and unstable challenges.
What are a couple of projects that
you have worked on that you feel were particularly rewarding?
I have found that the projects that have been most rewarding are those
that let me incorporate new ideas or new thinking into the process.
For example, I was instrumental in the development of new approaches
to electronic performance support (EPSS) in the company. Also, I was
part of a team that implemented new management strategies, i.e., performance
management, into the business mainstream. In my strategic work, I am
able to integrate new paradigms of thinking about learning and performance
into the continual redesign of education and training. I am particularly
gratified that the essence of human performance technology is incorporated
into these and other projects. In each of these cases I have learned
that it is possible to sell people on, and incorporate new ideas on
learning, technology, etc. Into current and future business processes.
The key, I believe, is not to overwhelm the organization with new jargon
or new processes that are of little interest to them. Rather, what seems
to work is to integrate new ideas into existing processes, and/or to
redefine human performance and learning into business terms and business
results. The lesson for us is, I believe, to lay off some of the jargon
and mystery of our field and to be ready to integrate our ideas onto
existing structures rather than overwhelming the business with entirely
new, and in some ways equally bad ways of doing things.
Are there two or three books or articles
that you find especially valuable to you in your work?
This is a difficult question, because while I find may items in the
literature of value to me, I must be very choosy which I expose the
business leadership to. Let's face it, business leaders have little
time for this stuff and so you better be ready with the one or two best
articles you can find for them to read. Normally, I find those pieces
not necessarily in the training literature, but in the business literature,
such as "Business Week," "Information Week," "The Wall Street Journal,"
etc. Interestingly, I've also found some great pieces that I will distribute
in "Training Magazine." Now for me, I'm constantly amazed at the quality
of the articles, especially in theme issues, in "Performance Improvement
Quarterly." As for books, ISPI's "Handbook of Human Performance Technology,"
is a great reference. Gloria Gery's "Electronic Performance Support
Systems," and Geary Rummler and Alan Brache's book, "Improving Human
Performance" are quite good. Hammer and Champy's "Reengineering the
Corporation," Davis and Botkin's "The Monster Under the Bed," Rossett's
"Training Needs Analysis," and Burrus's "Future Trends" have also be
]What sort of an impact does research
in instructional technology and educational psychology have on your work?
What theories do you find most useful to the things you do?
I wish that the research had more influence. Unfortunately, research
information is rarely written or communicated in a way that's useful
to practitioners. It takes far too long for research findings to get
integrated into the course development activities of most businesses.
I believe the problem lies both with the majority of researchers, who
mostly write and communicate with each other, with corporations, that
give short shrift to research, and to the practitioners themselves,
who too often fail to take any professional development time to learn
about the latest in research. This is not to say that the benefits of
research don't reach the business practitioner; they do. It just takes
far too long. I am particularly impressed with the concepts of information
design (as opposed to instructional design, although the two are naturally
related), and how we will design for the information age where knowledge
must be delivered in real-time, and I am also very interested in the
concepts of constructivism. Information design is manifesting itself
in the design of electronic performance support systems and on-line
knowledge networks. Unfortunately, we are designing these things without
enough attention to concepts of information overload, display theory,
search and storage strategies, attention span, etc. This is where research
can help. It would be risky to try to explain constructivism (or congnitivism
for that matter) in a business. But the power of constructivist thinking,
in areas like Action Learning, EPSS, etc. Is very compelling. I like
the work of Roger Schank, who has used constructivism in the development
of goal-based scenarios and other models, and has been able to make
them valuable to business leaders. That may be his most important contribution.
Finally, I am interested in the whole arena of organizational learning,
which I believe is often misunderstood. I don't necessarily believe
that organizational learning is about training at all. To me, its about
culture, leadership, networks and the behaviors that result when knowledge
is shared. Much more work is needed here.
Are there any topics that you feel
will emerge as important areas of research over the next 5 - 10 years?