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Do you have a road map?

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I’ve been working for the past several weeks with one of our clients in direct selling. We’ve collaborated with them to produce a robust curriculum for their U.S. representatives (in both English and Spanish) over the past four years. Now, we’re in the training consulting stages for a redesign and alignment of the global curriculum. One of the planning tools that has been especially useful is a curriculum map.

Of course, the idea here is nothing new; it’s the training equivalent to innovating on a cocktail napkin or on the back of an envelope. Creating a picture of the solution, however primitive, inevitably leads to a more structured analysis. I’ve been in many sessions where we start with putting ideas on post-it notes so that we can quickly move around the various components of the curriculum and class them into categories. I think that this sort of approach works well, especially if you’re in brainstorming mode.

The training equivalent to innovating on a cocktail napkin or on the back of an envelope.

At some point, however, someone needs to take the notes and ideas back to the cave to try to find the tree, web, flow, hierarchy, phases, or tracks that will best represent the collection of post-it notes or flip charts. This is where a little creative magic is needed to figure out how to create symmetry out of chaos. Sometimes the process highlights relevant gaps and other times it can create the impression of gaps that are really not that relevant. The lesson that I learn again and again is that this is one of those times where your mistakes are going to be very valuable. You take your best guess and then take it back to the group. You’ll then arrive at a level of analysis that you probably wouldn’t have achieved in your brainstorming session, regardless of how long you drag it out.

I try to encourage my team to map things out visually, not just curricula but course content, navigation schemes, wireframes, facilitator guides, etc. We have one wall of our office dedicated to poster-size versions of some of custom training. To me, it’s a hall of fame for projects where our thought work was world-class, where we had a plan and were clearly targeting specific objectives. One of the best testaments to the value of these maps is that the ones on the wall are nearly all outdated. As we learn more and as our client partners learn more, we revise, edit, and improve our plans.

Well, it’s back to my pretty picture of the global curriculum I’ve been working on. My three phases are now four and I’ve consolidated four tracks into three.