Skip to content

Coaches Corner Blog is Moving!

August 15, 2012

Hello Coaches Corner Readers!
At Traveling Coaches, we have the pleasure of providing innovative and forward thinking posts on our blog to the legal technology community. Today, we are proud to announce that every blog post from this day on will be found under our thoughts on our new website: www.travelingcoaches.com

For our subscribers, we encourage you to click on this blog link and re-subscribe to continue having our blog delivered conveniently to your email inbox. Whether you are a faithful reader of Traveling Coaches’ blog content or just peruse our blogs on occasion , now is the perfect time to visit our blog on our website and subscribe! When you reach our blog page, type your email in the field (as seen below) on the right side of the page and you’ll receive our blog hot and fresh to your inbox weekly.

Thank you for your continued viewership. We encourage you to post your comments at our new blog location and have fun! Let the conversation roll!

Please enjoy Jim Barker’s latest blog post Agile Development & Mobile Learning.

Sincerely,

Traveling Coaches

A User Adoption Science Lesson: Our Brains don’t like Change

August 6, 2012

A few days ago, I read an article that has stayed front and center on my mind.  It’s a university research study about our brains and change.  According to Michigan State University, the brain has trouble learning new tasks when the rules change.  As the article suggests, imagine moving to a new country and having to learn to drive on the other side of the road.   The study indicates that our brains become “overburdened trying to suppress the old rules while simultaneously focusing on the new rules…”

At that point, I immediately started to think about technical projects in law firms. Often they are major desktop overhauls.  Honestly, if a project includes a Microsoft Office upgrade it’s hard to make that a “small” project.  Char LeMaire and other Traveling Coaches have long been sharing the message that the change to Microsoft’s ribbon interface requires some “unlearning and relearning.”

My mind shifted again thinking about the need to include the end-user  as a strategic partner in any technical project in a law firm.  After all, they are the ones that will be dealing with the change on a daily, and possibly, minute-by-minute basis.  The technologist’s goal is to help our users be productive as soon as possible.  If this research is on point, then we need to continually strive to better understand what our users need and do all that we can to help them get there.  The importance of user adoption is definitely gaining ground in law firm technical projects.  Science would be proud of us.

Take a look at the link to research paper and let me know what you think.  What could we all do better for our users when we change the rules on them?

Lost in Yonkers? Using Excel’s Find Options

July 30, 2012

The Find and Replace functions in Word perform a lot of heavy lifting to make repurposing documents easier, quicker and more accurate. When it comes to Excel, Find and Replace become powerful tools for troubleshooting worksheets. Can’t find merged cells? Need to locate unlocked cells? Want to find cells with similar formatting.

(Sample worksheet)

In the following example, when using AutoSum for the numbers in column C, only the range C6:C8 is selected. Something is off with cell C5 and it appears to be merged cells. Extrapolate this issue to a worksheet with hundreds of columns and thousands of rows and it becomes a laborious task locating multiple merged cells.

To locate the merged cells in any worksheet, from Home | Editing, click Find & Select and select Find…. Click the Options button to expand dialog box. With the insertion point in the Find What box, click the Format button. Excel displays the Find Format dialog box. Click the Alignment tab and check Merge Cells. Click OK to close. Click Find All. A list of the worksheet’s merged cells display at the bottom of the dialog box. Click the Find Next button to move to each merged cell to unmerged it so that the columns will total correctly.

(Find and Replace dialog box)

Using the same technique, you can locate unlocked cells in a worksheet as well as different types of numbering formatting. Any attribute on the Format cells dialog box can be quickly located using Find and Replace. Although this functionality is not hidden, it is often overlooked. One final tip, click the Format options arrow, select Choose Format From Cell, select a specific cell to capture its formatting then perform a search for similarly formatted cells.

No more excuses for wandering around a worksheet with Excel’s Find command as your guide.

Planning: Where Project and Change Management Converge

July 24, 2012

Every day we deal with change whether it is taking a new route to the office or a big change such as changing jobs or moving. We all handle change differently depending on how it affects our everyday lives.  Some of us view change as uneventful, welcomed or even refreshing.  Others may view change as a burden, stressful or even traumatic.

As a project manager I deal with change every day.  I manage software upgrades for law firms and whether the firm be large or small it is still considered a very large change.  I manage this change from a PM perspective by making sure the project is on time, making sure team members and clients are informed, managing the scope and staying within the budget. These goals and expectations are all managed within the five phases of project management which includes: project initiation, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling.

All of these project management phases then produce change which requires all of us to not only focus on the project scope and goals but it also requires us to focus on managing that change… and I’m not talking about managing a changing scope, schedule or quality.  Although all those are very important and necessary within the project lifecycle, there is also the important aspect of managing the human side of change.

Change management brings in the “people” aspect of the project which helps us manage the transition brought on by the change.  As you can see, project management and change management are both required in order to bring the change to fruition and completion successfully.  Project management focuses on the tasks to obtain project goals whereas change management focuses on the people who are impacted by this change.

You can’t have one without the other; therefore, PM’s should incorporate a change management plan into each phase of the project which focuses on the “soft stuff” such as communication, training and focus groups to name a few.  This is not done in the implementation phase but rather started in the initiation phase and continued through each phase so that we engage the users and the stakeholders early on and throughout the project so they can see the benefits of the change.

In order to incorporate tasks for change management, first take a look at the initiation phase and decide what you can do in this phase to involve the users such as:

  • Creating activities to solicit user needs
  • Creating communications that give high level detail about the project
  • Incorporating activities or communications to deliver the status of the project

Then, be sure to continue down this path with each phase and incorporate activities that make each phase shine. For example, before or during the execution phase, create strategies to communicate that user needs were recognized.

You will notice that when users and stakeholders are kept in the loop, they will continue to offer continual support of the project throughout each phase…AND that is the desired outcome.  Of course, that is right along with a project that is on time and under budget.

Happy planning!!

Creating a Firm Writing and Style Guide

July 16, 2012

Writing is an extremely subjective topic. Occasionally I work with a client that says, “But I prefer it this way…” It is precisely for this reason we deliver our content in its native format. We like options, flexibility, and choice—and we know you do too. No matter what style you employ, there are four basic elements of good writing:  be clear, be concise be consistent, and be correct.

The purpose of a writing and style guide is to help you be consistent. Defining and documenting your chosen writing style is important not only for your own reference, but especially when working in a group situation. As a team, you want to avoid having a “Matt’s style” and a “Susan’s style,” and instead have a single firm-style by which all materials are written.

A style guide is always a work in progress. With every application, new terminology and types of objects arise that will need to be documented. In addition, grammar rules will need clarification to ensure consistency. Because this is a lot of information to document, we recommend you adopt one of the many style guides currently available on the market. Recently, Traveling Coaches adopted the following style guides:

The Chicago Manual of Style 16th Edition for grammar

The Microsoft Manual of Style 4th Edition for technical writing

Occasionally, there is a usage conflict between the two aforementioned guides or we simply prefer a different style. It is these differences that we then document in our CLASS™ Writing and Style Guide.

Creating a writing and style guide may seem like an overwhelming task at first, but it pays off ten-fold down the road in helping you to deliver more professional materials.

A Quick Look at Captivate 6

July 11, 2012

Adobe’s Captivate 6 has been very recently released and I thought I would jot down my initial impressions of the demo I’ve been testing.  This is by no means a review as I’ve only had time during the last couple of days to take it for a spin.  Think of this as more of thoughts on the top new features from a Coaches perspective and how they may work into our current workflow, or even create new workflows.

HTML5 Publishing:

While Adobe provided a downloadable plugin for Captivate 5.5 that provided this functionality, it is now built into version 6.  At this point, I guess you could say, I’ve tested the feature but have yet to actually spend time with it in depth.  Can a feature based on an incomplete specification even be tested properly?  I suppose, until the specification changes or is finalized maybe.  Regardless, Adobe is jumping on the HTML5 bandwagon so that means we as developers get more publishing options.

For my “testing” I opened one of our existing eLearning briefs and republished to HTML5.  To keep things simple (along with the fact that I didn’t have time to test with an LMS), I removed the export for LMS reporting data.  The pictures below tell the story of publishing to HTML5 vs publishing swf.

Pictured above:  With HTML5, you’re going to have many more files to track and maintain.


Pictured above:  Publishing to swf means fewer files to maintain since everything is embedded within the swf.  The captivate.css is new to v6.

Once everything is published to HTML5 you’re still going to have to contend with ensuring your audience has a browser that supports HTML5.  Internet Explorer 8 or earlier will not work with HTML5.

High-Definition Screencast

This could be something we incorporate in the future.  Right now our eLearning is much more storyboarded and our step-by-step method doesn’t lend itself to live screen recording.  These types of recordings tend to run larger in file size and limit interactions without additional editing in post.  This certainly doesn’t mean Traveling Coaches can’t look at how to integrate something like this into future iterations of our eLearning.  Being able to more informally capture something “in the moment” along with one click publishing to a YouTube channel could have merit if implemented properly in my opinion.

Smart Learning Interactions

These remind me of Articulate’s Engage offering in the past.  Recently I was a beta tester for Articulates new offering, Storyline.  I remember thinking while testing Storyline that Articulate had moved more toward looking like Captivate and now that I see the Smart Learning Interactions it looks like Captivate is offering what Articulate Engage provided in the past.  I really like the Smart Learning Interactions for soft skill learning.  Although our eLearning briefs take a more literal, step-by-step approach to gaining skills with software I would still like to find a way to incorporate these in the future.

Themes

The themes are very well done and professional looking but since Traveling Coaches records eLearning to take up the entire window and there is no background to see per say, themes wouldn’t really do anything for our current workflow.

Characters are also available in various styles (business, casual, illustrated) that can lend a nice touch in the appropriate training scenario.

Rounding everything out is a tweaked user interface, better object styles for consistent formatting, XML file export and a Table of Contents aggregator.  Of these I would really like a bit more time to play around with the XML export and see how many platforms I could build out with the data.  Take a look and let us know what you’re most excited about with the new features.  As always, we look forward to hearing your feedback.

You’ve Got Talent!

July 3, 2012

I was watching an episode of “America’s Got Talent” a couple of weeks ago and heard myself tell my husband “They should call this America Doesn’t Have Talent.” I’m sure many of the acts put on that stage were selected specifically to get that type of reaction out of the audience. But it got me thinking about talents and how important it is that we take the time to discover and build on our talents.

Reality TV aside, I do believe that everyone’s got talent. Our talents are those things that we are naturally good at. When you use your talents, you are happier and more productive. So if we all have talents, why aren’t we using them?

Most people do not maximize their talents because they do not recognize what their talents are. Having the talent is one thing, discovering it is another.

Often when something comes very natural and easy to you, you believe that these things come easy to everyone else as well. Not true. Have you ever had someone say to you:  “Hey, you are really good at that”? Only to respond with, “Really, it’s no big deal”.  That thing you do so well might be your talent.

Or, have you ever found yourself working on a project or a task and being so caught up in it that time just slips by without you even noticing. When you absolutely LOVE doing something – you could be using your talent. When you are using your talent, you feel happy, at ease, secure and comfortable with yourself.

To discover your talent, start by really listening to what people tell you about yourself. It could be your kids, your co-workers, your friends or your siblings. Don’t be afraid to ask them. You also need to listen to your own inner voice. When you finish a task or project and you think – boy that was fun! Or I can’t wait to do that again – then you are using your talent. Keep a list of those things you love doing and how doing those things makes you feel.

As you discover your talent, your goal should be to start using your talent more. Many people may believe they have a special talent, but they may not be in a position where they can use it. Fear often keeps us stuck where we can’t maximize our talents. So, can you use your talents in other ways? I work with some great trainers whose talent is acting. When they can’t use their acting talent on stage, they put it to work in the classroom.

So, what is your talent? Have you discovered it? Are you using it? I’d love to hear from you.