Courseware4all & GamingWorks – Combining Theory and Practice

Published on Tuesday 27 October 2020 by in News with 1 comment

‘Whilst there is VALUE in a certificate, there is MORE VALUE in the ability to apply the theory in PRACTICE’

Many training organizations have been forced to ramp up their e-learning offerings and capabilities as a result of COVID. It has been a small example of what some refer to as ‘digital transformation’ at work – changing training delivery models, getting content online and making it online friendly, engaging, dynamic, interactive. In order to both attract and retain customers.

Is remote learning effective?

However not everybody has made the learning experience fun, engaging, dynamic or interactive.
We often hear complaints about e-learning being dull and tiring. Students miss the interaction, the dialogue, the exercises to work in teams to apply the theory.

This impacts learning uptake and employee motivation and may reduce the chance that the learning will be transferred into sustainable new behaviors”.  Is this a risk?

The shift to online learning is just a tiny example. The digital transformation brought about by COVID is much bigger. Forcing many organizations to innovate and rapidly deploy new digital services and offerings, not just to remain competitive, but in some cases for survival.  This has resulted in an explosion of demands to IT organizations. Transformation has brought about the need to innovate at speed, with the added challenge of employees and teams working remotely.

This sudden demand necessitates a transformation in IT organizational capabilities. To become more agile, to improve the end-to-end flow of work, to maximize the throughput of demands using scarce resources, to minimize mistakes and rework which waste valuable resources”.

Remote learning NEEDS to be effective

IT Teams need to learn more about applying new ways of working like agile, DevOps, ITIL4 and other agile ITSM approaches. This means that online learning needs to be effective. But not only must teams learn these new agile ways of working, they also need to learn how to do this remotely. And not just remotely in isolation (self-paced, individual e-learning) but with other teams and end-to-end stakeholders.

Learning and improving together, not in isolation, becomes an imperative if we are seeking to improve end-to-end capabilities”.

It is more than just learning the latest best practice approach!

So what we are seeing in the market is a growth in demand for developing new skills and behaviors.
On the one side a growing demand for best practice skills related to agile ways of working. E.g. ‘What is ITIL4 and what are value streams’? ‘How do you apply the guiding principles’? ‘What are the 3 ways of DevOps, what do we mean by ‘flow’’? ’What is a stand-up’? ‘What is ‘kanban’ and visualization’?
On the other side we see an even bigger demand for the softer skills such as effective communication and collaboration when working remotely.

“E-learning is good at giving the theory of the best practices, but getting end to end teams to learn to apply it, and getting end-to-end teams to change the way they communicate and the way they work together is difficult in traditional e-learning”.

Maximizing the value of remote learning

These are challenges that can be addressed with online experiential learning such as business simulation games and exercises like the MarsLander (ITIL4, agile ITSM approaches) and The Phoenix Project (DevOps).

Business simulations are:

  • fun and engaging;
  • they bring end-to-end stakeholders together in a remote learning environment;
  • they simulate real challenges that need to be solved applying ‘new ways of working’ (DevOps, ITIL4) allowing delegates to apply theory in practice;
  • they demand effective communication and collaboration;
  • they allow delegates to develop continual learning & improving skills and behaviors – reflecting and improving between multiple simulation rounds.

What happens in a simulation?

In a business simulation a team of players are placed in the context of a simulated environment, they play business & IT roles – often representing end-to-end stakeholders. In the environment the team must design, agree, execute and improve their end-to-end ways of working, dealing with growing workload demands and conflicting priorities. They cannot do everything. How can they prioritize their work to deliver maximum value to the business? How can they effectively communicate and collaborate and apply best practice theory such as DevOps or ITIL? A simulation facilitator will challenge and where required coach the team.

Adding a simulation to your portfolio

‘A game is just a NICE to have addition……right?’

Courseware4all  is a one-stop-shop for Smart Information and Technology Education Solutions for training organizations, corporate customers and students. Now, through their closer working with GamingWorks they are also able to offer business simulations as part of their portfolio – both classroom based and online simulations. Making a powerful combination of both theoretical and practical learning.

Many training organizations and customer organizations consider a game just a nice-to-have fun add on to a training. However, here two Courseware4all training partners share some of the captured learning and takeaways from these ‘learning-by-doing’ training interventions. Mindstream and Experience S3i.

Mindstream CEO Kinga Anna Matysiak  ‘….The most important thing for me was what happened after the training – the team felt the need to introduce changes in the way of working and was inspired by some of the presented solutions’.

Emmanuelle Simon, Conformity & Governance Expert , Experience S3i
With an absolute “non-gamer” mindset, the game itself felt out of my comfort zone, even as an observer. From my different experiences as a Processes governance consultant and long time trainer/coach, I have felt for a long time something was quite off with the “certification only” mindset way of delivering any value to our customers.

If I got away with one thing from the 1-day game I observed, it was the take-aways, embedded at each rounds’ end. Communication is a difficult toolset but when you are adopting systematic feedback in the culture of an organisation, it can become a powerful tool to identify blind-spots (things you don’t think about), bias (things you only see from your perspective) and comfort zones (things you always do/see the same way) and then generate enough traction to transformation and create true value for the organisation. The sessions were eye-openings to missed communications and reverting to old habits of working, while forgetting already agreed on changes.

  • As one delegate stated at the end of the experience ‘It is not a game, it is an instrument for changing mindsets and experimenting with new behaviors. We need to define the behaviors we want to ‘unlearn’ and define and agree ‘desired behaviors’ we want teams to learn and practice as we did in this exercise’.

These are the results of one debrief with a team following a simulation workshop.

  • Gaming can help you identify issues linked to your real life – identifying behaviors that need to change. We need teams to learn to capture, visualize and prioritize these challenges that we all need to work on.
  • We need to recognize and respect the different personalities and how we can use these to create effective team working, ensuring that all voices are heard. We experienced today the impact of poor collaboration and not having everybody engaged in agreeing new ways of working.
  • It is important that people understand, accept and agree roles and responsibilities and are empowered, enabled and coached to take ownership, as we practiced today.
  • We need to engage with all stakeholders in the end-to-end flow and gain knowledge about what they perceive as value, and why – having end-to-end delegates today helps identify conflicts and what appears to be undesirable behaviors but may be driven by conflicting goals.
  • Frustrations toward the online collaboration tool and the language (new terminology, new concepts) we experienced today matches reality – frustration when confronted with new ways of working, you need time to learn, there must be a safe environment to give feedback, and take iterative steps to embed in ‘the way we do things’. Coaching and facilitation is important.
  • In the hectic of daily work it is easy to un-focus from our objectives – forget the ‘why’, taking time out to reflect helps bring back focus on what is really important.
  • Not all at teams are at the same maturity level, or can improve at the same speed, we need to assess current team skill levels, identify maturity in communication and collaboration and provide support and enablement to grow at a speed the deal can deal with.
  • New roles and responsibilities with new ways of working may be outside our comfort zone – ask questions, ask for help, failure is ok, ask for feedback, ask for coaching. Offer help to other team members – this requires a safe, trusting environment.
  • Understanding WIP limits, conflicts in priorities. Ensure that time is reserved for learning and improving.

Below are the captured learning takeaways from an ONLINE MarsLander and Phoenix Project simulation. These were takeaways from delegates who had already attended theoretical DevOps and/or ITIL training. Take a look at these captured takeaways. How many are relevant for YOUR organization? Would you like YOUR teams to discover and commit to these types of takeaways following a training course?

  • The important of effective communication: (active) listening – summarizing, asking questions, confirming understanding, let people finish speaking, actively seeking input and feedback from people.
  • Ensure questions are answered and closed before switching subjects.
  • Ask for help, offer help. New ways of working require new skills, new behaviors. People are uncertain, there are doubts, fears, anxieties.
  • Confirm that people: understand their roles, the new ways of working (with procedures/tools) and that they feel capable and enabled to do the work? Coach people in new ways of working if needed, giving feedback.
  • Foster a culture of continual improvement – ‘Improving your work is just as important as doing your work’. Facilitate improvement sessions, engage with all and ask people to record improvements (what worked well, what needs improving, what questions are unanswered? Suggestions to try?).
  • Ask for feedback, ask people ‘what do you need from me to do your work?’. Agree upstream and downstream.
  • Visualize improvements and track the impact of not prioritizing them (“we have lots of improvement ideas that get ignored or dropped, this demotivates people who are then unwilling to come up with new ideas and suggestions”) – avoid losing this type of valuable feedback.
  • Ensure you balance work between Value creating work (Features, requests, projects) and Value leakage work (events, issues, problems, technical debt) and Value improvement work (remove waste, improve effectiveness and efficiency, automate and optimize).
  • Make visible the impact of not prioritizing technical debt/problems and improvement work on value.
  • Ensure an effective prioritization mechanism to prioritize conflicting demands on resources
  • Facilitation skills. Ensure somebody facilitates moments of collaboration and stimulates effective communication disciplines and engagement of all – e.g in meetings/stand-ups/retrospectives/brainstorm sessions.
  • Assess the flow of work, ensure flow is managed to ensure more work flows (reduce waste and rework) and faster flow (reduce hand-offs, automate, provide right information, right time to improve decision making).
  • Get regular business/customer feedback – use this also in making improvements (feedback on new solutions as well as feedback on existing solutions).
  • Avoid ‘what went wrong!?…and who did this!?’ and ask ‘How can we stop this from happening again’?
  • Avoid putting pressure on teams to adopt new ways of working (quickly) without giving them time to understand, practice, learn and without coaching them and gaining feedback can cause more stress, frustration, anger, blame and lack of motivation.  Without an open, safe culture for feedback this can remain hidden and can damage progress and value.

Nice-to-have or NEED to have’?

As can be seen the simulation experiences helped teams’ discover the importance of soft skills and allowed them to practice and experience the effect of undesirable and desirable behaviors. At the same time delegates were able to experiment with translating theory into a practical solution and directly experiencing the impact of applying the practices in the simulated environment.

At the end of the day delegates captured agreed takeaway actions THEY committed to applying. Is a simulation just ‘NICE-to-have’?

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