How to create a value driver tree

The value driver tree is a tool used to identify the root cause of an issue. In our case it is used to identify causes of business issues. The value driver tree is also known as a fishbone analysis. 

The value driver tree is a very useful model to use when engaging in discovery sessions with prospective and current clients. You should be familiar with the model so that you are able to use it in conversations as a way to structure thinking. The best use case is creating a value driver tree on a whiteboard, computer or paper flip-chart as part of the meeting with clients, prospects and internal stakeholders.

An example of a simple value driver tree is shown above. In this case the issue facing the business is declining profitability.

The next level to the right of the business issue breaks the issue of declining profitability down to three possible solutions. The third level are the actions needed to execute the solutions. A key concept when creating value driver trees is MECE.

The MECE model is used to separate items into subsets that are ‘mutually exclusive’ and ‘collectively exhaustive.’ The MECE model as developed by Barbara Minto at McKinsey and Company in the late 1960s. You can learn more here.

In some cases these actions may directly address the issue or be actions such as research and analysis. In the latter case, this may then lead to a further value driver tree created to reflect the outcomes of research and analysis.

A value driver tree must focus on one single issue. Therefore there may be a number of value driver trees created in the course of a discovery session. It is common to start the process with a value driver tree to determine which of a range of issue should be prioritised and then break that down to individual issues. 

The example above shows a value driver tree that will then be broken down into the issue that is considered the highest priority. 

The value driver tree helped my client remain focused and not go off in a number of different directions. In my consulting practice, I only focus on one issue per engagement. I have learned this removes the risks of project creep and uncertainty about closure of an engagement. 

Once I have worked with my client to create a value driver tree on the challenge with the highest priority, there are two necessary steps before we commit to working together. The first step is gaining conceptual agreement. The process to this point is very positive for the client. Once the person is fully able to identify a business issue there is a sense of relief even before a solution is executed. 

The positive state achieved in the value driver tree process is the precursor to conceptual agreement. The conceptual agreement is both parties agreeing that there is a compelling case for moving forward with an engagement to build and apply a solution to the business issue. The conceptual agreement is gained by asking the client whether they wish to solve this issue using you and/or your firm. 

When this question is asked, there may be a few responses. One may be related to cost, another related to time, another related to decision making, etc. There is absolutely no point in developing a proposal with costs, activities and timelines until you have reached conceptual agreement with your client. 

This is always very hard for my clients to accept. Most people in business to business professional services are using an outdated paradigm wherein the proposal is a huge document that is used to sell an engagement to a client or prospect. This is all wrong. The proposal I use includes seven sections and the whole document is rarely more than four to seven pages. I will cover more about proposals in another article.

For now let’s assume you gain conceptual agreement with the client or prospect. You are now ready to create your short proposal. What about the value driver tree?

The value driver tree is captured and saved. You photograph the whiteboard, photograph and roll up the flip-chart paper, save the digital file or whatever. The value driver tree is your navigation tool moving forward with the the engagement. The value driver tree will set the scope of the engagement as well as define the parameters of the activities that are going to be included in the engagement. I will cover more about using the value driver tree to develop your engagement plan in another article. 

Two Keys to LMS Implementation Success

Recently, a client asked me about the “lessons learned” from previous LMS implementations with other clients.  As a project manager for a hundred or more LMS implementations, I have identified some common issues with previous implementations that clients consistently encounter on the pathway to a successful LMS implementation.     Even with our internal processes to proactively avert these client issues, sometimes they can have a significant impact on project success. LMS If you are implementing an LMS in the near future, it may be worthwhile to find measures to deal with these issues to ensure a smoother and successful implementation:
  1. Leaving the IT components as late as possible will put your LMS implementation at risk.
An LMS is a system, after all, and therefore will require involvement from internal IT resources.
  • Typically, the IT tasks involve creating domain names (usually sub-domains of an existing client domain) or an email address to be utilised for the LMS from address.
  • It usually means the purchase of an SSL certificate.
  • It may even involve activities associated with authentication methods (e.g., single sign-on). These items are quite technical and can be daunting.
It is human nature to put off items we do not understand.  Most LMS project implementations are managed by learning and development teams who may need more information on these IT matters. With a recent LMS implementation, the client PM had set a go live deadline, but had issues in getting their IT department to understand the importance of having an SSL certificate for the LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol). Finally, the client IT department purchased the SSL but did not have the network ports configured correctly to allow the LMS server to make a connection.  It took several days at the last minute and in a rush to sort out the SSL and correct network port configuration by the client IT department. Imagine Friday afternoon before a go live on Monday (that had been advertised to the whole company) – high anxiety moment in the best of times. Finally, the client network port were finally configured correctly to be able to use the SSL certificate for LDAP. As the vendor company, we had to make a decision as to whether there was enough time on that Friday afternoon to install the SSL for LDAP so that the client could go live on Monday.  The client project manager left work on Friday not knowing whether we were going to be able install the SSL after business hours so that they could go live on Monday. It was a close call. Recommendation:
  • Have IT stakeholder involvement in the project from the beginning.
  • Have a clear list of tasks that your IT department needs to complete
  • Make sure your IT department commits to the timelines and are accountable
A client IT team is crucial for a successful LMS implementation.
  1. Clients sometimes have only a general idea of the business processes and learning workflows, but are not prepared for the detailed understanding required for an LMS implementation.
People usually choose to implement a learning management system to solve issues regarding learning, competency and reporting requirements; among other reasons. A learning management system by its very nature requires business processes and learning workflows to be systemised.  If client business processes and learning workflows are not documented, how can the learning and/or competencies be put into a learning management system? Sometimes clients start an LMS implementation coming from a mixed-up world of spreadsheets and inconsistent processes or workflows.  When clients do not have documented business process or learning workflows, it is the most common cause of a project cost and timeline blowout. A recent client with multiple divisions and only using spreadsheets embarked on an LMS implementation.  There was an exhaustive exploration of LMS functionality during the procurement process. The client team had a general idea of their internal business processes and learning workflows without much documentation.  After a significant amount of time trying to map previously stated requirements from the procurement process, it became clear that documenting specific business processes and learning workflows in a detailed manner was required. Recommendation:
  • Do your homework prior to beginning an implementation by documenting business processes and learning workflows
  • In businesses with multiple divisions, decide whether internal business processes or learning workflows are to be harmonised or operate independently
  • Know your data – where it is coming from, who owns it and what you are going to do with it.
Do not expect an LMS implementation will sort out the lack of internal learning workflows documentation; that is a separate piece of work that should be undertaken prior to the commencement of the implementation or add additional time during the implementation for this work. Being prepared will minimise risks associated project implementation costs and timelines.

Filling the gaps in your LMS

Despite the advances in LMS technology and the enormous range of features being added to learning management systems, some organisations still find there are gaps in meeting their learning strategy objectives.

An organisation facing this reality will often search for a new LMS to meet their needs. This process may be costly in time and financial resources. These are a few ideas that warrant consideration before taking the plunge.

  1. Make sure you have your current LMS configured correctly. Have you changed your configuration to meet new requirements?
  2. Have you kept pace with updates from your vendor?
  3. If reporting is not delivering what you need, have you considered integrating with a third party reporting tool?

If you are looking to build a continuous learning framework, the LMS is a great platform to contribute to the framework, but it may need to be supplemented with other tools and processes. You may want to consider these options as well before ditching your current LMS.

  1. Consider offering micro-learning in your LMS. Make the learning fun and always available by not being linked to sessions and enrolment processes.
  2. Try using social media to foster greater collaboration and teamwork. The social features in learning management systems vary widely. Social platforms offer a number of ways to engage your people without cost and with a good chance of widespread adoption. YouTube is an incredible resource that is under-utilised for learning across an extended enterprise.
  3. Offer classroom and online follow-up to your learning programs. We have achieved great results using collaborative communities of practice and expert areas to foster ongoing learning and retention.
  4. Personalise your learning to individuals and teams. Most learning management systems have the ability to do this to varying degrees. Change the learning programs regularly to keep people interested and engaged.

You can achieve great things as a learning professional using technology and other tools to supplement your LMS. Do not consider the LMS to be the only tool you have to achieve your learning objectives.

Using Your LMS to Boost Sales Performance

How to boost your company’s sales using effective blended learning. 

Your LMS can make a huge impact on the sales performance of your organisation by supporting effective blended learning. It is often overlooked as a key component of sales and marketing technology, and yet a learning management system will contribute to deliver measurable sales growth if used effectively for both internal and external audiences. I am going to cover some ideas on how to use your LMS for your internal audiences that will form a key part of your sales strategy to deliver sustained predictable revenue growth for your business. We are talking here about people with job titles like those below who are responsible for delivering sales results.
• VP of Sales
• Sales Managers
• Sales Executives
iStock_000014315034Large • Sales Representatives
• Internal Sales
• Marketing Managers and their teams

The most basic use of the LMS is to capture and maintain training histories. This should be no different for your sales team. By maintaining sales training histories you will be able to more effectively measure the return on investment of the training you are investing in. If you are a Sales Manager you should be very interested in this data when you are preparing to request money to undertake further training. If you are a Learning and Development Professional, you may include this data in your reporting to highlight areas of improvement and to verify a link between training investment and improved performance on the job.

• Sales training is often instructor led and the learners are then expected to apply their learning to their jobs. In ideal cases, there is follow up and practical coaching to ensure there is learning retention. If you outsource your sales training, consider these ways to use your LMS to get better results:
• Create competency frameworks for your training that can be aligned with different roles and job titles.
• Ask your training provider for resources that can be adde to the LMS for learners to refer to after the training as refreshers.
• Set up discussion forums to enable informal sharing of ideas and best practices among participants.
• Allow your training provider access to your LMS to participate in discussion forums, add new content and respond to questions.

There are some excellent ‘off-the-shelf’ e-learning programs available for sales and marketing training. We offer one comprehensive program that is designed for the 70:20:10 learning framework. Using this model encourages the natural inclination to learn ‘on the job.’ The framework looks like this:
• 70% of learning occurs through challenges and practices on the job.
• 20% of learning derives from social exposure from personal networks, coaching and other collaboration.
• 10% of learning is achieved from structured courses and programs.

For example, you may offer learners short online learning modules delivered from your LMS. These learning modules are supported by written tools or checklists to apply the learning to the job. Each learner is asked to journal their experiences in applying the learning. A manager or coach meets with the learners every week to discuss the learning content and share ideas and experiences in applying the learning. The LMS is used to facilitate online discussion forums and the individual journalling. The short e-learning modules are available 24×7 for refresher sessions.

Here are some ideas to use a blended e-learning approach to sales and marketing training.
• Use short e-learning modules linked to skills or competencies in your LMS.
• Provide strong linkage between the competencies and the performance objectives of the people in the sales and marketing teams.
• Set up collaborative environments in your LMS. The discussion forums, messaging, expert areas, and supporting content will all help to support learning.
• Establish a management process that includes one on one or group meetings to discuss the learning, competencies and the application of these on the job.
• Ensure managers are ‘shadowing’ and providing supportive coaching to learners on-the-job. For external sales teams this can be termed ‘curb-side coaching.’ For internal people it could mean a sales and/or marketing manager working hands on with the team.
• Ensure the learning and development team meet with the relevant managers to gain feedback and insight on how the learning program is going.
• Establish metrics covering areas such as participation rates, learner feedback, course feedback and of course sales performance.
There are other tools that may also be used to provide a fully integrated approach to sales and marketing training. We have clients who have also developed new sales processes, marketing strategies and customer service processes that are supported by both the LMS and the CRM, [customer relationship management software].

If you are interested in exploring highly effective sales training for your business, please get in touch and we can provide you some ideas and let you experience our short e-learning modules and coaching services.