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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Big Question for January - Quality vs. Speed

The Big Question on the LCB for January is:

What are the trade offs between quality learning programs and rapid e-learning and how do you decide?
There's a lot involved in this question and I plan to revisit it several times during the month. I'm hoping to see some contributions that will help thinking.

Let me start with some important words of wisdom that I like to use at meetings:
You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.
Props to the first person to leave a comment that identifies the source of this quote.

Only slightly more seriously, consider the following graph that I often use in presentations to illustrate a point:




Expenditure on training has a limit on the performance gains you can achieve. After a certain point, the cost of the Training exceeds the value of the performance gains. And often there's an minimum level that you can do where anything below that level would cause too many problems. This graph is completely over-simplified to make a point. In reality, there are many different ways we could make our expenditure and each one would have a different cost and effect on performance.

So, the real challenge posed by the Big Question is knowing when its really worth it to spend dollars on what we might consider a higher quality solution than providing something simpler that we know won't be as effective at improving performance.

And this isn't a theoretical question - it's something we face all the time. We are pretty sure that people will learn less from a rapid eLearning piece that's basically just a PowerPoint + Audio as compared to an hours worth of fun, interactive courseware. But, if the cost is significantly higher, is it really worth it? In what cases?

And it's not just an ROI question. Often, there's a lot more to What Clients Really Want than business outcomes that can be quantified into dollars.

In my mind, there's clearly no easy answer to this question. I'll be curious to see some of the ways that people attack this over the next few days.

11 comments:

Rebecca Thomas said...

I feel silly that my first comment here is to identify Miracle Max from the Princess Bride, but I love that scene.

On a less frivolous, yet still fangirlish note, I really enjoy reading this blog. I learn something new with every single post. Thank you!

Tony Karrer said...

Hi Rebecca,

That was a quick response to the question. I thought it might be a little obscure. Good job!

And welcome to commenting on the blog - it wasn't that painful right?

Tony

P.S. I wonder if you somehow will see this comment response?

Rebecca Thomas said...

I have in fact seen the response.

What's funny is that I was headed over to see it when I read your next post.

I've been blogging for nearly three years now, and my biggest problem is not being comfortable enough to go out into the world and comment. I'll write guest or contributing posts. I'll participate in very specific carnivals.

It seems my shyness really hinders my commenting, when I understand that blogging is as much about the conversations it generates as it is about just saying what you want to say.

Karyn said...

Ah. Rebecca beat me to the punch!

I have to pass on this month's big question, since I have yet to get involved in rapid e-learning and, to be honest, and not really sure that I know what it is.

Yikes - what a confession of ignorance!

Tony Karrer said...

Rebecca - that's interesting that you would never have seen my response. It's also interesting that you feel comfortable blogging but not commenting. I don't get that.

Tony Karrer said...

Karyn - the question is not as much about "Rapid eLearning" as it is about speed vs. quality. And I'm psychic, so I know you face that issue on almost every project you do. :)

Dave Lee said...

The comments on this post are being tracked and aggregated as part of Learning Circuits Blog's The Big Question for January. Thanks for participating, Tony

Rebecca Thomas said...

that's interesting that you would never have seen my response.

As I said, I was in the process of coming to see if you had responded and then saw the newer post. The whole situation just resonated with me.

It's also interesting that you feel comfortable blogging but not commenting. I don't get that.

Chalk it up to my innate shyness, but in general I'm awful about comment conversations (wouldn't know to look at this conversation, though).

I think it's that I'm in this mindset that says blogging is writing, and I haven't really progressed from there. Perhaps that's something I should work on this year.

Anonymous said...

Enjoy more quotes from this great film at:
www.imdb.com/title/tt0093779/quotes
...yes, I know it's a bit sad of me (why else would I comment anonymously??) but let's all enjoy some humour!

Steve said...

The questions that occur to me as derivatives of the quality vs. speed question:

Quality in what sense?

Visual, Instructional Systems, Holistic, Accuracy. A program can have great content, a good design, but may completely fall short (suck) in the articulation of concepts with quality visuals, useable navigation and references & vice versa.

I'm a viz snob, so I tend to apply more energy than necessary in that area - but that's a part of a professionally assembled package. If the customer wanted a training systems layman to build their training they would probably do it themselves.

There are many facets of quality and this part of the question (how to measure quality) is one of the ills of the industry. There aren't any industry standard rubrics for quality that I know of. And the evaluation of deliverables tends to be very subjective. Apply the minimum force necessary to compel performance change. In my opinion the answers are often much more simple than we tend to make them (what do we want people to DO? - work backwards from there to build an enabling path supporting progression).

Not to mention that something simple that gets the job done is better than something infinitely more complex that does the job marginally better.

Speed for who?

I know folks that can 'one man / woman band' a dynamite solution with intuition and talent in VERY short order. I also know that these same folks, placed in an environment with a schitzophrenic customer, would fail pretty miserably to deliver on their same schedule. So many factors to speed - Team Air Gaps, Customer Air Gaps, Task Blocks, Talent Deficiencies, Expectations...

In a perfect situation we would be able to apply a formula to each delivery strategy and expect the same results every time, on the same schedule, and for the same cost.

As a former governement guy, I've seen some great solution teams with reasonable rates get edged out by folks who just didn't get it (but had the 8A quals to demand a higher rate). The quality and speed factors have served as an irksome itch for me, as the government customer (I'm now on the commercial side) has demanded what they see as top quality for near cut rates because all the big players Bizdev teams are angling for the work -- leaving the des/dev teams holding the bag at 3AM on the fifth Saturday in a row.

Getting standard metrics around quality (what it is and what it means) and unification of the industry community around how it is rated is critical to resolving confusion at both ends of the service equation.

Tony Karrer said...

Steve, really good points.