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Ask the Experts: Guy W. Wallace

Guy W. Wallace has been in the training and instruction game since 1976 and has success stories in every area of our field.

Author, instructional designer, director and president are just some of the titles from his distinguished career and he has kindly agreed to take some time answering questions for the community.

1) Your time in the industry spans over 40 years of award-recognised excellence. What drew you into the industry and what’s made you stay?

My Radio-TV-Film degree got me a guaranteed job offer from my employer as a part-timer as a college student. There, I was oriented immediately to a Performance-Based approach to Instruction – both Job Aids and Training or Performance Support and Learning Experiences.

It all made sense, this Performance Orientation, back in 1979 and it still makes sense to me today. On the customer-side, it helps people learn how to do their jobs with Competence, and so both they and their management win. And from the supplier-side, it makes our efforts more predictable in terms of time and cost.

2) You have experienced the industry from the ground up, how does the learning mindset change as you move into more senior roles?

Your perspective necessarily widens. My role has been the same since becoming a consultant, and I had to get good enough at client relations, program and project management, and client hand-off to my staff, in addition to my skills in analysis, design, development, and implementation oversight.

I’ve had staff for 20 of my 40 years as a consultant, so I was Staff Development Coordinator, a Performance Coach, besides being a Business Partner, and a Practice Leader,. I was also involved with Marketing & Sales, Project Planner, and Manager, and I was a Process Enablement Engineer because I controlled the purse strings and decided what our technology investments would be.

3) You recently wrote a great piece overviewing your training needs analysis (TNA) approach. How would you break down your process from meeting a new subject matter expert (SME) to that final release?

The most important aspects of my approach happen before I meet with any Master Performers or Other Subject Matter Experts. I meet with the Stakeholders and conduct Project Planning with them so the scope gets set and the resources I need from them are clear.

Doing a “Training Needs Analysis” is all about the data, which for me includes Target Audience Analysis, Performance & Gap Analysis, and Enabling Knowledge & Skills Analysis.

Most of my books address this, but I was recently published on this – “A Deep Dive into Conducting a Learner Needs Analysis from A to Z” - which you can see here:

4) There are so many skills from overlapping professions required to be a learning designer. What core skills would you say every designer should have or work on?

The word “Designer” means so many things in today’s L&D world. But doing a Performance Analysis and then deriving the Enabling Knowledge & Skills is critical. Then the key thing is knowing what to do with the Analysis data to create a Design to then hand off to Developers.

5) Working with some of the biggest companies in the world seems very rewarding but daunting. What advice would you give designers to be able to work at that level?

Know your own ISD/LXD Processes, where you must be more rigorous and where you can be more flexible. And you’ll need to work well with teams of other people.

6) Designing learning differs depending on the industry you’re in. How do you approach designing for enterprise learning vs educational or public sector?

I don’t think it differs across industries, but there is a considerable difference between Enterprise Learning and Educational Learning. In Enterprise Learning, it’s easier to define the terminal performance – the Outputs & Tasks of the performers and ensure that that is authentic – than it is in an Educational context.

7) Condensing complex learning issues into approachable targets can be difficult for designers. How do we accomplish this?

To me, it all centres on an Output and its Task-set. So you have to be able to define the whole Performance (or scope) and break it down, segment it, in a way that facilitates meeting the variances in needs across the target audience(s).

8) For many members of my learning community, metrics are considered a difficult aspect to implement from their learning. What makes good learning metrics and how can you implement them?

In Enterprise Learning, it’s all about the Measures of the Outputs and Tasks that reflect the Stakeholder Requirements, beyond but including the downstream customer of that Output.

L&D metrics need to focus on the Business Results Measures and not Learning Activity Measures. You need both, but without the former, the latter doesn’t mean a thing.

9) You’ve worked with some of the biggest names in the industry, but you always seem to be learning and sharing your findings. Who would you recommend designers follow and what areas should we be studying now to be ready for the future?

You need to follow people who are involved with what you do at work, and follow those where you think you’d like to take your career. And then you should always learn from 'outside the box' and broaden your horizons. But for names; I’d mention Donald Clark, Richard E. Clark, Ruth Clark, Mirjam Neelen, Julie Dirksen, Will Thalheimer, Clark Quinn, Matt Richter and dozens and dozens more. Check out who I follow on Twitter.

10) Do you have any final thoughts or advice you’d like to give to new or current learning designers?

1- Know your own process and compare and contrast it with others for ideas on Continuous Improvement.

2- Stay abreast of the constant churn in technology and what the new features and benefits are.

3- Mentor/Coach others.

Thank you Guy for your time and all the help!

Please be sure to take a look at Guy's 30+ books designed to help you become a better learning designer!

In our next session, I'll be speaking with the incredible Dr. Patti Shank!

See you then!

(Note: I do not gain any financial benefit from these links, They are solely provided for your ease of access).

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