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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Top-Down Strategy

Most descriptions of tool sets start with the tools and proceed to describe the features of the tools. Starting with the tools is what I consider to be a bottom-up approach. It's left to the reader to interpret where they fit into their day-to-day concept work. I understand why most authors start with the tool. Trying to fit any tool into the myriad of different work lives is really hard. For example, where does blogging fit - well it depends on who you are talking to.

From the perspective of identifying a tool set for yourself, I recommend looking top-down as well.

What's a top-down strategy?

I'm sure there can be many top-down strategies, but for myself and in work literacy workshops I use a particular top-down strategy. It starts by looking at your key knowledge work:
  • Roles
  • Projects
For myself, these might be:

  • Small Business Owner
  • Manager
  • Acting CTO
  • Community organizer
  • Expert / Speaker / Writer
  • Client Advisor
  • Family Vacation Planner
  • Fine Dining Planner
  • etc.
  • Design and Conduct Workshops
  • New product design
  • Online workshop
  • eLearning Learning product design
  • Staying up-to-speed on eLearning 2.0
  • Spring break plans
  • etc.
Aside - Speaking of Spring Break plans, does someone want a workshop in an exotic location over spring break?

For each role and project, I ask myself:
  • What are the key tasks?
  • What methods and tools do I use for that task?
  • What information do I regularly consume?
  • What do I regularly produce?
  • What sometimes goes wrong or seems harder than it should be? (Problems)
  • Where do I believe I could have opportunity for improvement? (Opportunities)
I generally look back at the Knowledge Work Framework and its task categories as a trigger to remind me of these things. In other words:
  • Scan - Staying up-to-speed on a topic.
  • Find - Includes Evaluate, Narrow / Adjust
  • Keep / Organize / Refind / Remind
  • Leverage / Present
  • Network
  • Collaborate
I do all of this in a Word document - capturing it as a series of notes. I make sure to identify how my roles and projects fit with the tools and methods that I use. I look closely at my information consumption. And where I spend time. I highlight anywhere that I've identified problems or opportunities.

Based on having done this exercise formally or informally with quite a few people, I can almost guarantee that you will have a few aha moments. Many times it is simply because you force yourself to ask the question - is there a better way to handle this situation.

This also sets you up for aha moments as you encounter information along the way. Any information source that was not in your list should be questioned. If it wasn't on your list, is it just entertainment? Or is there an additional role or project that I should have thought about? Maybe I should get out of the way of this information source?
A really great exercise is to go through this with a peer or as part of a workshop ... hint :) ...

Spend some time to do this reflection, it's well worth it.

Other Posts in the Series

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tony, interesting concept and not too dissimilar to an approach I use at our hospital to align learning technology with learning moments of need. We use (and I've even organized my learning architecture team to mirror the process) a process based on SPACE, MEDIA and SYSTEMS.

I never considered it as "top-down" but a sense of sequential consideration is important when a technology/tool is being considered. Makes no matter if it's a small task solution or an enterprise-wide roll-out, the concept is still valid.

Our discovery model matches our implementation planning process by using a sequential approach. Here's the short version:

SPACE is where we profile the learner (role) in terms of physical location...Where are they in one or more of their five moments of learning need? Where are they in the context of their work (work concept)? And what is their level of urgency to perform the task(s)?

MEDIA follows next. Given the work context attributes of SPACE, treated as a key dependency... What is the most compelling blend of media required to effectively support the performer in their work context?

SYSTEMS then follow. Given the combined work context-centric attributes of SPACE and MEDIA requirements, we can determine the mix of technology and/or application of tools to support both access to/from systems and consumption of the learning asset through the optimal blend of end-user technology.

It's a little different spin on "top down", but the sequential nature of the process is spot on....and it does not start with the tool and its respective features...and the ensuing square peg round hole process of trying to make it fit. The focus is on the knowledge worker and their work context (or to use your phrase - work concept.

Point is...emphasis is on the worker and what outcomes they are tasked to effectively produce. It sure changes the conversation with the client/requestor because it's not about's about their capability to perform. We never show them the tool up front. It's what I call hiding the pill in the cheese. We fit the work context to the tool, and if the users don't know what the tool is, the better off we are in driving adoption.

Love your new series. Thanks for once again taking the lead on what is critical to much of our collective success in integrating Learning 2.0!

Gary Wise
Sr. Director Learning Architecture
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center