EMI training was just one of the great stories that came out of our learning-organization transformation. Our greatest victory, the story we tell the most and the one that has had the most significant effect on the business, is the invention of QuickLearns. QuickLearns are condensed computer-based training modules that feature streamed video of subject-matter experts performing specific tasks while they talk the audience through the process. Coupled with the video are text blocks outlining the steps ”for learners who prefer to read ”and short quizzes with feedback at the end.
Our team invented QuickLearns to combat a critical problem that came to our attention during one of the many follow-up meetings we conducted with our executive team. While we were delivering the updated presentation to the senior vice president of operations, he asked us if we could help him deal with the loss of tribal knowledge. He wasn't even sure his problem was training related but he had seen the impact Project Oasis was having on business units across the company and thought we could offer some guidance.
His best people, his experts, were employees who possessed critical skills known only to them. They had been with the company for decades and many of them were ready to retire ”if they hadn't done so already. Thanks to the "knowledge is power" mentality of the company and its history of insufficient training processes, every time those subject-matter experts retired , they took that valuable information with them. This senior vice president was losing expertise, and this loss was having a profound impact on his ability to meet performance goals. He was unsure of what to do about it.
At that time we had been exploring an intriguing rapid-development computer-based training process that we believed could solve his problems. We knew that the answer to this issue was to establish a system of training that captured the knowledge of these aging experts. This captured knowledge would then be used to rapidly train other employees within their workgroups.
The problem was, this required custom curriculum design and development, which is costly and time consuming. Justifying high-cost training development for a skill that would be utilized by only one or two people was obviously cost prohibitive. We needed a process that was of high quality, was of low cost, and had a quick turnaround cycle. The rapid-development process met those requirements. It was a way to capture best practices being performed by experts and disseminate them to end users, who could watch and copy tasks as they were performed. The process seemed relatively simple ”videotape the expert on the job and burn the resulting movie to a CD.
Using that model, Chris Butler wrote a business proposal for QuickLearns that included cost parameters dictating one learning module ”which could be at the most twenty minutes long ”that should cost no more than $4,000 to produce. With that formula he predicted an eight-to-one payback on the investment.
After the front-end analysis was completed, we targeted cleanroom gowning techniques for the initial pilot training course. Rockwell Collins's internal video-production department taped the process. PEG produced the module following our cost guidelines and adhering to our instructional design methodology, and we took the finished product ”a seventeen-minute tutorial ”back to the senior vice president of operations. He loved it. He said the course was exactly what he was looking for and while he was still sitting in the meeting, he made a list of fifty other topics of issue to him that QuickLearns could address.
Thrilled, we set out to hire a contractor to take over the business, but we were stopped short by the fact that no vendors were interested in the business. Because our budget was so small and our expectations were so great, everyone we asked to bid on the project said it was an impossible goal or they weren't interested in producing low-end videos . Typically, a video shoot costs thousands of dollars and hours of work for a team of people ”even for small segments of finished product. We expected the process to be completed using one videographer and one subject-matter expert, and we wanted it done in days, not weeks.
We found an independent consultant willing to attempt the task. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to produce the quality we required. He didn't have all the required skill sets to be successful. In hindsight, we recognized that we'd hired someone who couldn't succeed for reasons beyond his control.
We knew from experience that a high-quality product could be created within the parameters we had established, but we realized it would take a very specific set of skills ”instructional-design expertise, professional videography experience, digital editing, and the ability to put non-actors at ease on camera. We agreed that the process would be best served by contracting PEG to do all of them. They invented the process, they proved with the pilot that it was possible to accomplish our goals, and they had the in-house expertise to take on the project.
Using a professional-grade camera, digital video-editing tools, and custom-designed authoring software, PEG began producing QuickLearns for topics that fell into four target areas:
Repetitively taught skills. We built courses focusing on techniques that are taught constantly to new employees or as refresher training and were critical to the business process, such as safety behavior, microscope use, or cleanroom gowning techniques.
Best practices. Anywhere there was one person who had a particular way of doing things that was better or faster than the traditional process, PEG created QuickLearns that recorded their unique process.
Mentoring skills. The old model of training at Rockwell Collins's plants required seasoned employees to mentor rookies on the job until they were up to speed. This was a great way for new employees to learn the job, but it dramatically reduced the productivity of the teams ' best people. Instead, PEG turned those coached skills into QuickLearns, allowing new employees to be "mentored" by a best-practice video instead of by live experts.
Tribal knowledge. Where critical skills or knowledge was held by a few individuals, PEG captured that expertise to disseminate to the team. This was the most important use of QuickLearns at Rockwell Collins, because key experts held the power to shut down product development if they left the company. For example, many of the products Rockwell Collins produces have several elements, each of which is built by an individual team for later assembly. On those teams there is often only one test technician who can test his subset before it can be completed. If that person is sick or quits, the productivity of seven teams is affected because assembly cannot be completed until every part is ready.