Want to See An Organization’s Mission? Check out the Checkout.

cashregisteroldThis posting is more about the sort of work I do professionally, which is in the area of organizational learning. You know . . . the stuff we are sometimes told we have to learn for this or that reason, often following some learning objectives we were given and at times without a clear understand for how we can make use of it once it is learned?

I may exaggerate a bit here, but bear with me for a moment.

Invert Learning

This is the area that I think about . . . a lot. How can we try to invert learning, if you will, from something we think we need for only this or that work reason or to put out some fire, and reframe it as learning for a higher purpose.

No, I don’t quite mean THAT higher purpose, but rather as something linked to the organization’s mission and vision? Come to think of it, do you know your organization’s mission or vision? If so, is just knowing it enough?

Case in Point . . .

Earlier this week I visited a new supermarket in the neighborhood, one that I did not know was a specialty chain until I looked it up online, but I am getting ahead of myself.

Anyway, I went into this market at 10:30 on a weeknight. It was brightly lit, cool with air conditioning, spotlessly clean, inviting, and filled with employees stocking shelves and helping customers.

Yes, you heard that right . . . there were literally dozens of customers and the many employees were actually HELPING them. Not just pointing or motioning, but actually stopping their work, standing, making eye contact, bringing people to what was requested, smiling, and being professional, polite, and cheerful. 

This happened throughout the store.

Being my first time there, and given how some stores do not follow the cookie-cutter mold of store design, I actually spoke with 4 members of the staff about 4 different things I wanted, and was treated in the same way by all of them, across the store, on both levels (Manhattan has its own ways of handling space). Even when I got to the checkout I was greeted with a smile, complimented on my glasses, chatted up about the yogurt I bought (everybody seems to love Greek yogurt), invited to join their loyalty program (that does not force me to carry a silly card with me), and left the store laughing due in part to the friendly banter with the person who left the final impression on me, one of positive energy that capped a great overall customer experience.

Wondering at this, I went home and looked on their website to try to understand what just happened, and it was there that I saw it, the Mission. The company had it on their About Us page. Let me clarify . . . their visually represented Mission was their page.

Organizational Mission

Lots of organizations have mission statements and vision statements, but what many of them seem to lack is an authentic experience of their employees actually living it or doing it.

What does this all have to do with education, which is how I started this off?

I believe this is what good organizational learning is—it infuses everything it does to support, connect, and engage the work tasks with furthering the mission and vision.

After all, what is the point of professional learning if it does not help to move toward the mission and vision?

Look at your own checkouts; do you see staff who live the mission, just know what the mission is, or just work . . . to get it done? I am not sure about you, but I do not often leave supermarkets with a smile and want to know more about them. Do people do that when they finish interacting with your company?

Now, don’t limit this to supermarkets. I believe this perspective is applicable to all our work. Do your client efforts, contact, and customer experience—the very places where the mission and vision face reality—exemplify why your organization exists? Let me state it in a different way; do you and your staff live the Mission, allowing it to influence and guide your actions and interactions, or is it just a page of words that sound nice but do not really make a difference in practice? Can we see traces of the Mission in how people act and interact, or do we need to ask about what the Mission is?

Pretty scary if not, as that is where the revenue stream begins, or perhaps ends. This is what organizational learning and development should be all about–teaching people how to do their work in ways that support reaching and realizing the mission and vision. Training or learning within organizations is not a nice to have or regulatory check box, it should be a fundamental onboarding to the Mission and Vision, namely linked in to every reason why an organization exists, and how it can be supported by all members within an organization.

This is an adaption of a post that first appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.


Personal Goals for 2015

While I had mixed results with my 2014 Goals and Intentions, I want to focus on moving forward rather than looking back. After all, measuring my previous personal success won’t get me very far now that we are into the new year. Onward and upward!

Having thought about these for some time now, these are my Personal 2015 Goals:

1. Engage in Timely Communication

I want to maintain Inbox ZERO (delete, delegate, respond, defer, or do) for Email and Social Media (Twitter replies, Facebook replies, etc.). Remaining current enables a discipline that I have long struggled to maintain, with the side effect of more strongly connecting me with my networks.

2. Communicate the Connections between my Learning and Teaching

I am always learning something or another, yet I do not always share this with my networks at the time. I want to more intentionally do this through social media, my blog, and other channels.

3. Attain Financial Balance

A fool and his (her) money is soon parted, and I am tired of playing the fool.

Some progress is better than none at all!


#AdjunctChat is Coming; What does that mean to You?

I have taught as an adjunct faculty member at New York University and Pace University since 2005 and 2009 respectively, and while I do it for the love of teaching and academic discourse, I also realize that my commitment to the universities is only for that semester in which I am hired to teach. There is little ongoing support or communication outside of my ongoing teaching appointments. While I do not expect anything more from the institutions–after all, adjunct faculty are effectively (highly educated) contract workers–I do have some needs for support and communication and sharing and discussing these experiences with others who may also be in the same or similar situations.

It appears I am not alone.

In fact, the Chronicle of Higher Education cites the number at 70% of higher education faculty as off the tenure track. While not all of them are adjuncts, a good number of them, or us, are.

After so much personal success and academic fulfillment while completing my PhD through the wonderfully supportive community that is #phdchat, I felt my needs begin to shift, leading to my thoughts about a similar chat for adjuncts, or those who generally teach less than full-time and are not on the tenure track. That is the initial idea behind #adjunctchat.

AdjunctChatWhile I know others seem to find this idea useful, I am not sure what it may mean in practice, so with that I am looking forward to a first synchronous #AdjunctChat on Twitter on  Tues, May 14, 4:00pm EDT.

All that remains now is to brainstorm what to chat about!


Successful Viva = PhD

As I mentioned in my Tweet on March 25, 2013, I successfully passed my Viva Voce exam at Lancaster University and was awarded my PhD in E-Research and Technology Enhanced Learning (Educational Research) forthwith. In the British system, passing a viva forthwith means I passed without corrections and was thus awarded the degree.

Jeffrey Keefer Viva Tweet

As a result, my doctoral thesis, entitled Navigating Liminality: The Experience of Troublesome Periods and Distance During Doctoral Study, is being printed and bound at the university.

I especially want to thank my supervisor, Professor Malcolm Tight,  (standing next to me in the image below), and my examiners Professor Paul Trowler (in the left on the picture) and Dr. Margaret Kiley (who attended remotely from Australia). Alice Jesmont (also in the picture below) has been invaluable in her assistance while I attended Lancaster University, along with Dr. Gale Parchoma, who started off as part of my supervisory team before moving on to the University of Calgary.

Jeffrey Keefer Viva

I am now working at publishing some of the results of my work, so hope to have lots more to share. Thanks goes to all who have supported, guided, and helped me along the way, about which I will also speak more in the near future.


A Model for Using Twitter as a PLN

I had a request to break out my Using Twitter as a PLN (Personal Learning Network) model from my Using Twitter for Personal & Professional Development workshop, so here it is. I added a cc license for it as well in case anybody wants to use it and try it out.

This is how I use Twitter and find it to be a rewarding experience for developing my personal learning network. It is like Karma — give so you can get.  The best way I have found to get suggestions, answers, resources, help, and support is to offer the same first. Why should somebody spend any time replying to my Tweets if I have not shown myself willing to share and give the same? Give encouragement and answers and offers of whatever is needed, and that initial discussion and trust and acknowledgement that I exist online and want to be a member of a community of sharing will then build online credibility and a sense of presence. Share first and it is more likely somebody will then want to share back, at least in the world where I find most of my support, namely via Twitter.

Using Twitter as a PLN

While I am especially considering this use of Karma on Twitter as a guide for a personal learning network, i comes from my experiences “offline” as well–the time to ask for help or a job or resources is not when nobody knows who I am, being an unknown quantity, but only after I have developed a reason for people to want to help. Think of when you are moving; that is not the time to make friends who will help–that all has to come first before you need anything. Give so you can get.

This means, in effect, that conversations do not simply happen–they require effort. If I create a profile and follow a few people and then nothing more, it is unlikely that anything will come of it. I have to first give people a reason to want to talk. That is why a personal learning network is not magic, and indeed does not come without a price–I have to work on it and constantly develop it, otherwise I will not be able to rely on it when needed. This may be easier for some people than others, but for those of us who love process issues, few things beat the experience of sharing and helping others as its own reward while engaging in social media. Let the discussions and ultimate learning then follow.


Using Twitter for Personal & Professional Development

Last week I did a workshop for my organization’s Learning and Development Forum, where I discussed Using Twitter for Personal & Professional Development. I posited Twitter usage as a Personal Learning Network (PLN) , where it works best for you to “get” something from it only after you “give” something to it. While many of my slide presentations are not fully intelligible without attending the presentation itself, I hope these may be useful.


How can I “Acknowledge the Opposite” when Preparing to Teach? #fslt12

As I am putting the final tweaks in my preparation for my 3-hour on-campus session of my Pace University course, NURS 840: Teaching and Learning in Advanced Practice Nursing, I am again pausing for a moment to explore and further develop my COWIL model (Consider the Opposite of What I Like) to better meet the needs for my students. Students who like what I like or think similarly as I do are already fine — I will meet their learning needs more easily as we are already approaching learning in a similar manner. The trick is being able to meet the needs of other students who don’t approach teaching and learning as I do. Yes, I can focus on my methods that already seem to work, but is that really taking them where they are and working with them? Is that really respecting some of their own interests?

I cannot consider the opposite unless I am clearer on what I like. While I did enough of that to get me started on this process, I want to turn my reflective attention to considering what I do not like, or to put it more gently, to more clearly articulate what does not resonate as much with me. To do so, I will reach out again to borrow from the work of Stephen Brookfield, this time his work around around the critical thinking process:

  1. Identify assumptions embedded in words & actions (discourses & systems)
  2. Assess grounds – evidence, accuracy & validity
  3. Take alternative perspectives – intersubjective understanding / perspective taking
  4. Take informed action / agency

While I am not seeking to critically think through things at this time, I do want to focus on the assumptions aspect, namely to identify those things I assume — those taken for granted beliefs about the world, and our place within it, that seem so obvious to us as not to need to be stated explicitly (again, from Brookfield).

As I see my COWIL model developing, I intentionally want to identify the things I assume are not the case about the world and my place in it, in this context teaching and learning, and explore if there is some way I can bring those things into my class as UNDOUBTEDLY there will be people who think differently enough that perhaps their needs may be met.

Let’s try a simple example I have in mind. I assume people learn by discussing (constructionist) and also by internally grappling with content based on personal experience. However, this assumption does not readily allow for watching videos and then discussing them (as I personally do not watch a lot of television, videos, movies or the like). However, in Considering the Opposite of What I Like (COWIL), perhaps I should try a video or two (like we try all things in class to see if they work for the learners, content, time, etc.) in the course.

Yes, this is a simple example that may not need a degree in education to see, but what better place to start than with something simple as I am exploring and fleshing out this model? After all, if a video or something more multimedia does not work, what has been lost? If nothing else, it becomes another teachable moment as the experience (consider actor-network theory) may more closely resonate with common learning approaches for some. 

I will let you know what I find, though working through COWIL from the critical thinking frame to flesh out those assumptions can be quite useful.