Tony Karrer's eLearning Blog on e-Learning Trends eLearning 2.0 Personal Learning Informal Learning eLearning Design Authoring Tools Rapid e-Learning Tools Blended e-Learning e-Learning Tools Learning Management Systems (LMS) e-Learning ROI and Metrics

Monday, June 23, 2008

Quick Wins

Just saw a post by Mark Oehlert - Danger of Quick Wins. I had to post because, I think that Mark missed the mark (sorry couldn't resist). Here's the gist of his thinking:

As I become more and more convinced that implementing next-gen/Web 2.0 is soooo much less about technology than about culture (Duh Mark, I know)...

I think the idea of 'quick wins' can be not only distracting but wasteful. I think that often 'quick wins' are used to cover up the lack of an over-arching strategy against which actions can be measured and be found either to support an long-range plan or not to support it or to support it in some measure. That strategy is the long pole in the tent - it is the metric that we can measure our actions against.

So 'quick wins' are fine as long as they take place within the context of a long-range plan and are executed in such a manner as to continue progress toward that vision.

I agree with Mark that there are fairly sizable organizational culture aspects to enterprise adoption of enterprise 2.0 / web 2.0 / eLearning 2.0. And I think it's easy to underestimate that impact. I think Mark missed the bigger barriers of Changing Knowledge Worker Attitudes and the work literacy gap.

But what forced me to write this post is that I couldn't disagree more about whether to do Quick Wins. His suggestion to hold up on implementing quick wins until we can figure out all the big picture strategy, OD, etc. answers is bad advice.

My suggested strategy is almost completely opposite. I think you should go ahead and:

  • implement a small Wiki that has performance support materials that goes along with your eLearning on that new software application
  • at first have it only editable by the authors
  • then open it up to edit the FAQ and Common Issue pages by your help desk
  • and then open up editing to end-users
  • and to more pages.
How does this fit into the grand strategy? You don't know? Who cares? It's the right thing to do! I'd argue that it's a good quick-win.

And, when you look at adoption patterns - a lot of what makes adoption of Web 2.0 tools likely is that they are easy to adopt and have immediate value for the individual and work group. They are designed for quick wins.

Mark - there's a reason that Andrew McAfee talks about these things being emergent (Enterprise 2.0: The Dawn of Emergent Collaboration) - quick-wins are going to be how this is adopted.


Mark said...


I get it...a little inarticulate on my side, maybe venting a bit so let me explain.

I understand how 2.0 gets adopted. I understand how culture works-the whole anthropology degree thing really helped with that. I am all for subversion and covert ops like wikis and blogs adopted at a grass roots level.

I guess the big diff hear is that I wrote this post from the standpoint of talking to C-suite folks. The dynamic I am running into here is that they have heard of 2.0, don't want to be percieved as being behind the curve and want to go out and do "some 2.0 stuff" so we get what - quick wins. Then we can go tell the big boss that "yeah, we do 2.0" Then because we implemented a wiki that no one can really edit and a blog that doesn't have comments turned on; we get zippy for buy-in from the people in the organization that would really find it useful and then when you go back to the big boys for support - they say "but we did that and no one came - come back in 12 months." So what I am tired of and advising against is the facade of a quick win as some sort of salve or veneer of progress which allows tough questions to go unanswered UNLESS it is backed by strategy or UNLESS it is backed by a grass roots efforts to implement it.

Hope that clears up my opposition - and believe me I've shared more than my share of MacAfee and Hinchcliffe and HBR articles and the part in Jobs' latest keynote which actually featured a picture of my base in it and Downes and Levine, etc. etc. I just still think there is a whole class at the top - probably across a lot of organizations - that still regard this as a fad that can be brushed off or "done" with some "quick wins" - that is what is ticking me off.

Tony Karrer said...

Hi Mark,

Okay, I hear your frustration on that. And there is definitely a danger around giving E2.0 a bad name because "they tried that and no one used it" ... There can be a lot of reasons why it didn't work the way someone thought (culture, hard to use tools, org barriers, lack of skills).

And I hear you that there are probably a lot of folks running around thinking - we installed SharePoint or the Wiki software - aren't we done?

So, isn't it a definition of what we are looking for in our Quick Win rather than railing against all Quick Wins. Or maybe you are actually just opposed to Quick Losses?

An acceptable Quick Win approach is not only providing access to a tool, it is also ...

Or am I missing it?

Mark said...

No Tony, You're on the right track and I did want to say, I'm venting at something besides you. :-)

I'm going to think on this more but I think I'm having issues not with the definition but with the use of QW's. Right - kind of like a QW is not good or bad in and of itself...its how it is deployed and how the meaning on that QW is when a guy says "I'll call you" ...the sentence isn't bad but maybe the intent is. ;-)


Anonymous said...

Tony, excellent post. My sentiments exactly. I like the way Richard Dennison said it in his blog post “It’s All About People Being People”…
"...remember: proceed until apprehended!"
But at the same time, Mark's feedback addresses a thorny issue that all "un-empowered" innovators run into. How do we help the folks at the top taste the brilliant new dish when we can't even convince them to come into the restaurant? Is there a "take-out" option for this stuff, or maybe a way for us to throw a party and cater in the 2.0 stuff for them to try out?

Anonymous said...

I can see valid points on both sides of this argument. But...

Can anyone tell me where QUALITY comes into play with these collaborative enterprise 2.0 technologies? Or does anyone even care about that anymore?

Tony Karrer said...

Eric - those are great questions. And frankly, I'm not sure I have answers.

Anon - this is absolutely being discussed and disputed. With revenge of the experts being pitted against the wisdom of crowds. I personally look at it in each case and consider what quality issues we are really talking about. Is it contributions by end-users that may be wrong? Do you have people monitoring? Maybe that gives us a great opportunity to intercept information that otherwise is being transmitted today in channels that aren't monitored. To me, it's often better to have it visible and discussed.

But maybe I'm not understanding your quality concerns.

Anonymous said...

I can see the wisdom in looking at it on a case by case basis. Invariably, quality will mean very different things to different elearning providers. Also, different needs will necessitate different solutions.

My quality concerns: Is it instructionally sound? What about the user experience? Above all, what are the learning outcomes? At what point do lowered standards become the standard?

Anonymous said...

I'm often in the 'instructionally sound' camp -- but I also think that many, many things passed off as instruction are, in Joe Harless's immortal terminology, sheep dip. And not the malt whisky kind.

"Quick win" is a good phrase (the preferred jargon at GE was "low-hanging fruit," but we're not that agricultural any more). And while I often wrestle with what you have to say, Tony, I'm not hearing you saying "quality doesn't matter."

In fact, the approach you described elsewhere -- build a small whatever (wiki, blog, what have you); have some ardent folks with a stake in the outcome clear the land, erect a few buildings, get some cognitive commerce going; invite less-inside folks to make use of what's there -- seems to me far likelier to gain ground than hectoring people into putting stuff on a wiki.

Within the context of an organization, the people working with this resource are going to have some commitment to its quality. Will that be ISO 9000? You've got me. But in the past year I've seen directly two work settings for the manufacture of highly regulated products. Both these places had more quality controls and standards and procedures than Kansas has stalks of milo.

In practice, though, a lot of that procedure was ritual -- like "read and understand" training. Read these six changes to what you do on the Flimwhoogie Manufacturing Line (53 pages from an engineer who couldn't write a ransom note for his own ransom).

Sign here; you're trained. And when you mess up, it's your fault.

Quality, like best practice, is another of those faiths with lots of people on the parish register, but far fewer in church.

Tony Karrer said...

Dave - great comment. I was just mentioning the issue of policies, procedures, etc. in the other post on this topic. In the case of liability associated with the content, it's interesting that the best defense for a company is not to write down anything that might suggest anyone did anything other than the limited policies and procedures expressed.

I would agree that in these cases, there is risk with Web 2.0 and you need to look at how you will moderate it.

Anonymous said...

I think that Mark touched accurately on the concerns of C-level folks, and those tie into this issue of quality (as well as the one of compliance that I just smuggled in).

At the client I'll call SealTek (not their real name), they manufacture and package products that people consume. These products are strictly regulated. The regulatory body can send inspection teams. Changes to, say, the sealing process on the manufacturing line have to be validated.

One approach is to wall off problems with paper. I worked on revising and consolidating procedures for one of several manufacturing lines at a single facility, and probably dealt with 150 separate procedures.

That stuff will never in this century be handled by Web 2.0. There are too many stakeholders, some very large outside bodies with very big sticks.

I do think there's probably a lot of process management, process re-engineering, worker involvement, etc. that could improve the value and decrease the burden of the paper. And much of that work could benefit from tools (and other practices) that foster collaboration.

Onsite, though, business-related change was so rapid that there was no formal procedure for the boxcar-size, highly complex main machine on one line I worked with -- yet an entire, separate procedure for how to clean the plastic container used to check leaks. (That had two steps: disassemble, wash with clean water.)

I'm not making fun of SealTek; I'm pointing out that the folks onsite could scarcely keep up with their main work. Introduce too much change, especially when it doesn't seem to connect with what they feel they get paid for, and the change ends up dropping to the floor.

Anonymous said...

Eric - Beautiful metaphor!!!

Is there a "take-out" option for this stuff, or maybe a way for us to throw a party and cater in the 2.0 stuff for them to try out?

I think what Tony summized @ the end of "quick wins" is a bit of that take-out.

Also, what are everyone's thoughts on introducing non-corporate, "fun' if u will, elements of web 2.0 (which invariably spawned these concepts). users would be "playing" with loading family pictures, commenting/rating video posts, and having discussions about weekend plans, or tv shows. this would allow users to get comfortable with the tech, so when the shift of info becomes more corporate, and the tools shift more enterprise, the leap won't be so grand.

I am actually incorporating this with a client (luckily, the big boss is WAY COOL, and is trying to help his office see the value in these newer collaboration methods).

I mention this because i feel it is a combo of a quick win, and backed by the needs/strategic next-steps.

Anonymous said...

You can find one more e-learning tool at