Rainy windshield

Weathering The Storm of Organizational Change

As an employee or a manager in an organization, you’ll eventually have to deal with organizational change. These changes will take form as downsizing, company mergers or acquisitions, or simple an organizational shake-up. Whatever the reason, changes in the organization invariably cause insecurity, anguish and anxiety. Despite the rush of negative emotions, business must go on. The organization is still in operation to make a product or deliver a service. Stakeholders or stockholders still expect a return on their investments. You still have a job to do!

How can you focus on your job when the insecurity of organization change is upon you? It’s not easy. If it were, there wouldn’t be a need for Leading Organizational Change workshops, but there are. Managers and non-managers will likely feel differently about changes coming down the pipe. Job security will vary by position, job function, effectiveness, work duplication, among others.

The best way to approach this time of uncertainty is to try to understand the change as thoroughly as possible. Ask your manager to talk candidly about the coming changes. Be an employee that can maintain his/her composure in the face of bad news. Your manager won’t necessarily give you the full story if you are one to lose control of your emotions when given bad news.

Stakeholders or stockholders still expect a return on their investments. You still have a job to do!

If you are given the ‘rundown’ on the coming changes, then you’ll want to get prepared for the new structure. If, for example, you are an accountant in a company about to be bought out by a larger competitor, then your position might be on the chopping block, because of redundancy. Instead of fretting and moping about possibly losing your job, you should start pointing out to upper management (or anyone who will listen) that you know the idiosyncrasies of your department’s accounting books – things that the other accounting department won’t know about. If you can position yourself as an invaluable resource, then you boost your chances of being kept on.

If you have been told that your position will be downsized, then again, the best reaction isn’t to mope and fret. Remember, your current manager will be your most recent reference for your future job. Don’t give your manager any reason to give anything but a glowing review of your performance at your current position. Offer to help your replacement get caught up to speed. Ask your manager if you can help close open projects. Encourage others around you to ‘keep their chin up’. Be positive and helpful. Your manager will certainly remember it when a new potential employer calls to verify your references. It may mean the difference in getting the next job you want.

Keep in mind that this change may be a blessing in disguise. You might find that you are a more important resource in the new structure than you were before. Your next job may pay more, be more fulfilling, or have greater upward mobility. Facing organizational change is a lot like driving in the pouring rain. Your windshield wipers are on full blast, clearing the rain just a split second so that you can see the road ahead. All you feel is chaos and uncertainty. But look in your rear view mirror. Despite the rain, the view is clear. You can easily see the cars behind you, who are undoubtedly feeling the same way you are. Although it’s raining, you can see that it’s not all that bad. Looking on the bright side, you’ll be out of the rain before the cars behind you. Stay positive, be encouraging and helpful and complete your daily responsibilities.

Micro Learning

The Micro-Learning Trend

One of the latest buzzwords in the learning industry is Microlearning. Just the name seems to lessen the importance of learning, by making it ‘micro’. It is, however, gaining some traction among corporate training administrators. So what is microlearning and is it for you?

What Is Micro Learning?

Micro-learning in a nutshell is simply learning broken down into relatively tiny chunks of information. Personally, I think the rise in popularity of this technique is evidence of the noticeable decrease in the average attention span over the past few decades. That aside, the technique is great for people who have a busy schedule, but have intermittent downtime during the day of 5 to 10 minutes at a time. So during that 5 minutes, you can log into a website with structured micro-learning, and learn a concept that is a small part of a larger topic to be learned. Each micro-learning session builds upon earlier sessions, with brief refreshers to help the learner retain the past session’s concept, and more easily grasp the new concept.

How Is Micro Learning Best Used?

Some ideal candidates for microlearning would be a new hire at a company, someone who is preparing for new position within the company, or just someone who loves to continue to learn, even with a busy schedule. Microlearning is not conducive to learning complex topics that normally would require extended periods of serious contemplation and uninterrupted research – differential equations or advanced psychology, for example. But it’s tailor-made for learning executable skills like Microsoft Excel pivot tables, or Project Management basics. A learner can get guided hands-on experience learning pivot tables, five or ten minutes at a time. After an hour or two of scattered training throughout the week, the learner should have a solid grasp of the concept of pivot tables, and begin to be able to use them effectively in his/her job. Microlearning is also effective for learning a second language. Rosetta Stone uses focused micro-learning chunks along with other techniques to help their customers quickly learn a language. To gain the most from micro-learning, there should be occasional quizzes or learning checks to ensure that the learner is actually benefiting from the sessions.

When Does Micro Learning Fall Short?

College students would be the least likely candidate to benefit from micro learning. Because the concepts of most college classes are typically complex and often foreign to the learner, micro learning would fall woefully short. College students operate in learning mode most of the day, so the concept of microlearning is actually counterproductive. These students would most likely benefit most from ‘micro-breaks’ from their lengthy learning sessions (see our article on the Pomodoro Technique for effective learning).

In Conclusion

Corporate Trainers would be wise to implement some sort of micro-learning into their curriculum. Examples of concepts that could easily be developed would be a short course on the company vision, mission and corporate strategy. We mentioned Microsoft Excel as a possible topic. Who in the organization wouldn’t benefit from greater understanding of the vast variety of features of Excel. How about a course for employees who aspire to be managers within the company? A management skills micro-course would be ideal for them, as would the previously mentioned company vision short course. The applications are virtually endless, and limited only by the administrators’ imagination.

Pomodoro kitchen timer

Simplicity At Its Finest – the Pomodoro Learning Technique

Of the hundreds of productivity tools and methods available today, one stands apart due to its simplicity and effectiveness – the Pomodoro Technique. It’s probably the most talked about productivity method available. It’s simplicity must have had productivity tool designers slapping there foreheads, saying “why didn’t I think of that!” So let me turn on my pomodoro, put my nose to the grindstone, and get this article written.

Francesco Cirillo developed a method of ‘chunking’ using his kitchen timer which was shaped like a pomodoro, Italian for tomato. He would set the timer for 25 minutes, and during that time, focus on his task or tasks that he had predetermined to complete. After the 25 minute interval, take a 5 minute break, then resume another ‘pomodoro’ interval of 25 minutes. After four of these intervals, he would take a longer break of 15-30 minutes. That’s it. Simple, right? But the science behind it is genius.

First of all, science has proven that the human brain does not function as well when asked to0 multi-task. As much as we would like to think that we multi-task well, it just is not true. The more separate tasks that we interleave with each other, the worse our productivity gets. So focusing on one task until it is complete is the most efficient and productive way to carry out that task. The Pomodoro Technique is a linear process that encourages the user to work on the task until it is complete, and only then, begin working on the next.

Second, the longer a brain is engaged in a task requiring sharp concentration and focus, the less productive it gets. Have you noticed that when studying for an exam, or trying to understand a new concept, you tend to ‘lose momentum’ after a while. You may think that your brain just can’t comprehend this new concept, or hold any more information, but in reality, your brain is just begging for a short break! The Pomodoro Technique is designed to give your brain a break after 25 minutes of concentration and focus. That doesn’t mean you should go work on something else during that 5 minutes. No, actually give your brain a break! Get some coffee, watch a cat video, or visit with a co-worker. Just don’t get carried away. Five minutes is enough for your brain to recuperate.

Though extremely effective, this technique doesn’t apply in all scenarios. For instance, if you want to perform better in your job as a phone support representative in a call center, you can’t really apply the technique to what you do while at work. However, if you want to improve your technical skills or expand your knowledge, then you may use the technique at home where you would be able to block off chunks of uninterrupted time to learn.

This technique is most effective for people who require long periods of concentration and focus. Francesco, the creator of this technique, was a student at the time, and used the method to keep his mind focused for a set amount of time, while regulating his breaks for optimum learning. In fact, this technique works best for those who are learning or researching. It also works well for writers, like me, who often do research and must focus intently in order to present their research in a way that is understandable, informative yet entertaining to their readers.

So there you have it. It’s most likely the simplest method for staying on task for learners, project managers, researchers, developers, etc. Likely one of the most effective, as well. I have to admit, it took me three pomodoros to complete this article. Now it’s time to wind it up again and get to work on the next article.

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