Embrace Plan B

The past two weeks, I’ve been on the road (hence the paucity of posts).  And they’ve been great opportunities to engage around interesting topics, but also have provided some learning opportunities (ahem).  The title of this post, by the way, came from m’lady, who was quoting what a senior Girl Scout said was the biggest lesson she learned from her leader, “to embrace Plan B” ;).

So two weeks ago I was visiting a client working on upping their learning game. This is a challenge in a production environment, but as I discussed many times in posts over the second half of 2014 and some this year, I think there are some serious actions that can be taken.  What is needed are better ways to work with SMEs, better constraints around what makes useful content, and perhaps most importantly what makes meaningful interaction and practice.  I firmly believe that there are practical ways to get serious elearning going without radical change, though some initial hiccups will be experienced.

This past week I spoke twice. First on a broad spectrum of learning directions to a group that was doing distance learning and wanted to take a step back and review what they’d been doing and look for improvement opportunities. I covered deeper learning, social learning, meta-learning, and more. Then I went beyond and talked about 70:20:10, measurement, games and simulations, mlearning, the performance ecosystem, and more.  I then moved on to a separate (and delightful) event in Vancouver to promote the Revolution.

It was the transition between the two events last week that threw me. So, Plan A was to fly back home on Tuesday, and then fly on to Vancouver on Wed morning.   But, well, life happened.  All my flights were delayed (thanks, American) on my flight there and back to the first engagement, and both of the first flights such that I missed the connection. On the way out I just got in later than I expected (leading to 4.5 hours sleep before the long and detailed presentation).  But on the way back, I missed the last connecting flight home.  And this had several consequences.

So, instead of spending Tuesday night in my own bed, and repacking for the next day, I spent the night in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport.  Since they blamed it on weather (tho’ if the incoming flight had been on time, it might’ve gotten out in time to avoid the storm), they didn’t have any obligation to provide accommodation, but there were cots and blankets available. I tried to pull into a dark and quiet place, but most of the good ones were taken already. I found a boarding gate that was out of the way, but it was bright and loud.  I gave up after an hour or so and headed off to another area, where I found a lounge where I could pull together a couple of armchairs and managed to doze for 2.5 or so hours, before getting up and on the hunt for some breakfast.  Lesson: if something’s not working, change!

I caught a flight back home in just enough time to catch the next one up to Vancouver. The problem was, I wasn’t able to swap out my clothes, so I was desperately in need of some laundry.  Upon arriving, I threw one of the shirts, socks, etc into a sink and gave them a wash and hung them up. (I also took a shower, which was not only a necessity after a rough night but a great way to gather myself and feel a bit more human).  The next morning, as I went to put on the shirt, I found a stain!  I couldn’t get up in front of all those people with a stained shirt. Plan B was out the door. Also, the other shirt had acquired one too!  Plan C on the dust heap. Now what?  Fortunately, my presentation was in the afternoon, but I needed to do something.

So I went downstairs and found a souvenir shop in the hotel, but the shirts were all a wee bit too loud.  I didn’t really want to pander to the crowd quite so egregiously. I asked at the hotel desk if there was a place I could buy a shirt within walking distance, and indeed there was.  I was well and truly on Plan D by this time. So I hiked on out to a store and fortunately found another shirt I could throw on.  Lesson: keep changing!

I actually made the story part of my presentation.  I made the point that just like in my case, organizations need not only optimal execution of the plans, but then also the ability to innovate if the plan isn’t working.  And L&D can (and should) play a role in this.  So, help your people be prepared to create and embrace Plan B (and C and…however many adaptations they need to have).

And one other lesson for me: be better prepared for tight connections to go awry!

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