Shut Up and Focus

So I learned a few more things about creating value today, especially with regard to creating value with training.

First, as a trainer I’m not always creating value when I’m talking. In fact, I may actually be discouraging much more valuable input from someone else by dominating the conversation myself. So sometimes there is more value in knowing when to shut up and listen.

Shutting up is hard for me, not only because I simply adore the sound of my own voice (Me, me, me!), but also because the people attending the training want you to give them the answer. When you ask a question and then clam up, the increase in pressure in the room is almost tangible. Of course the real value in the training is when they come to a realization on their own. Then they are much more likely to retain that knowledge. That means you have to be able to ask them to work out the problem without you telling them the answer. It sounds trivial, but it can be excruciating to live in those anxious moments of silence that exist between the end of the question and the first tentative answer.

Summary: there is value in silence.

Second, focus enhances value. So today we used a timer when we did our training. The two of us each had a seven minute time limit on any given topic before we had to hand off to the other trainer. We kept this up for nearly eight hours (with some breaks). Having a deadline serves to focus the mind and accelerate the delivery of value. We were right on topic and right on time all day long. Whereas the previous day we had tended to drift off topic occasionally, now we were much more focused on making point, sharing an idea or delivering an exercise.

Another benefit of the short timeframe (also related to focus) was that we didn’t have much time to drift or daydream. You got seven minutes off while the other trainer was working with the class, but you had better be paying attention, because you were guaranteed to be back in the hot seat in just a couple of minutes. There was no time for distractions. The overall feedback from the class was that they liked the change.

Summary: focus enhances value.

Finally, we added a “yellow card” system where the members of the class could flag a topic as dragging on too long or less useful. This gave them a way to give us feedback about the value that they were getting out of the class in real time.

Summary: continuous delivery of value works best when there is a mechanism for feedback from the customer.

One Response to Shut Up and Focus

  1. I love these idea’s. I actually use most of them.
    Next to a yellow card, I also use a red one. Very interesting in an international environment. http://www.hanoulle.be/2010/07/referee-cards-used-at-agile-training-course/

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