Improvement Plans and Guides
Sometimes, the phrase “action plan” is not appropriate, if organizations have used it to refer to many other projects and programs, possibly leaving an unsavory image. When this is the case, other terms can be used. Some prefer the concept of improvement plans, recognizing that a business measure has been identified and improvement is needed. The improvement may represent the entire team or an individual. There are many types of simple and effective designs for the process to work well. In addition to improvement plan, the term “application guide” can be used and can include a completed example as well as what is expected from the participant, including tips and techniques along the way to make it work.
Moving beyond action and improvement plans brings a variety of application tools, such as simple forms to use, technology support to enhance an application, and guides to track and monitor business improvement. All types of templates and tools can keep the process on track, provide data for those who need it, and remind a participant where he is going.
Perhaps the most powerful built-in tool is the performance contract. This is essentially a contract for performance improvement between the participant in the project or program and her immediate manager. Before a program is conducted, the participant meets with the manager and they agree on the specific measures that should be improved and the amount of improvement. Essentially, they agree on an improvement that will result in the use of the content, information, and materials of the program. This contract can be enhanced if a third party enters the contractual arrangement (this would normally be the program manager for the technology-based learning program).
Performance contracts are powerful, as these individuals are now committing to performance change that will be achieved through the use of content and materials from the program, and has the added bonus of support from the immediate manager and from the facilitator or project manager. When programs are implemented using a performance contract, they are powerful in delivering very significant changes in the business measure.
The design of the performance contract is similar to the action plan. Figure 6-4 shows a performance contract for a sales representative involved in a blended learning program, including a combination of formal learning sessions, online tools, and coaching from the sales manager. The goal is to increase sales with existing clients. The sales manager approves the contract along with the participant and the program manager.
Job aids represent a variety of designs that help an individual achieve success with application and impact. The job aid illustrates the proper way of sequencing tasks and processes and reminds the individual of what must be achieved, all with the ultimate aim of improving a business measure. Perhaps the simplest example is the job aid used at a major restaurant chain, which shows what must go into a particular dish ordered by a customer. The individuals preparing the food use the job aid, which was part of a learning program. The job aid shows how the process flows, using various photographs, arrows, charts, and diagrams. It is easily positioned at the station where the food is prepared and serves as a quick reference guide. When used properly, the job aid is driving important business measures: keeping the time to fill the order at a minimum (time savings), allowing the restaurant to serve more customers (productivity), and ensuring consistency with the meal and reducing the likelihood of a mistake being made on the order (quality).