Team Management Systems

Tinker, Tailor: An approach to L&D App development

By Dick McCann
Copyright © Dick McCann. All rights reserved.

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iPads, Smartphones and Tablets are more affordable by the month and their reach across all ages and industries ubiquitous. Look in any briefcase, backpack or handbag and you're sure to find at least one piece of this technology. Going hand-in-hand with this is the rise of Apps which are now a solid part of daily life for many. They come in all variants of usefulness - some give value, some give fun, some even manage both and as a result gain glory.

To stay current and avoid an awkward silence which can follow the inevitable question - 'Does your organization have an App?' – it's an area that we all need to consider. The 'How' may seem overwhelming but the 'What' and 'Why' are equally important as the starting point for getting your App into development. 'Why' will people want to use this App and 'What' it will deliver are fundamental to success.

What interests me is the level of 'engagement' or lack of it that can be found in many L&D Apps which employ straight push-technology. They send you a 'Tip of the Day', a motivational 'moment', generalized personal improvement data or industry-related updates. For some that may work as a 60-second feel good factor; for others it might deliver a mind jolt that can quickly and succinctly provide generic information. But this is really just focusing on the 'How' with only a glimpse at the 'What'.

I can't help but wonder if we shouldn't do more. In the age of 'ME', surely personalization has never been more critical for engagement and value-add. With a little tinkering on designs, Apps can be extended beyond generic developmental data and tailored to meet individual needs.

Apps in the workplace

The phrase 'Is there an App for that?' has fast moved from one that was shared only among the technologically superior, to become commonplace as the market experiences exponential growth. With all of this forward movement, what is the particular impact of Apps on our business - learning and development - and specifically feedback Profiles for personal development, the mainstay of the Team Management Systems (TMS) approach?

Feedback Profiles have always been personal, with unique data generated and interpreted from answers to a set of 60-or-so items. Standard Profiles are text-based, delivered either as hardcopy or as a PDF viewed through any suitable reader usually on a desktop, notebook or tablet device. But the advance of technology has allowed us to explore the option of adding interactivity to Profile feedback systems.

Technology has developed at such a fast rate that it's now possible to provide a full multimedia experience for learners - with text, graphics, videos, audios and interactive experiences. This approach enhances learning and results in faster, more targeted development of individuals and their teams.

Many learning and development Apps have sprung up over the last year and they are almost always interactive. They make a contribution to learning much the same way as a book does – but the interactive nature allows the learner to converge quickly on those concepts that interest them most.

But just being interactive doesn't always translate into a sophisticated App that meets individual needs. To do this, we need to move away from the generic Apps with their flashy multimedia but no substance, to Apps that can make a difference to each individual who accesses them. The longstanding adage of 'Just because you can doesn't mean you should' comes to mind when designing for learning transference. The balance between whizz-bang multimedia and the application of content needs to be in place to ensure that learning and not just entertainment actually occurs.

For us at TMS, the design principle has been to ensure that our Apps have two fundamental criteria – they must be interactive and they must also be personal. Our approach is to spend time in the design stage, tinkering with possibilities and focusing more on the 'What' and 'Why' before concentrating on the 'How'. This allows us to tailor the App in both design and delivery so that it relates to the specific Profile feedback respondents receive and so adds depth to the Profile information and the application of this learning in the workplace.

Apps at TMS

To highlight how we are making technology count with Apps, let's now have a look at some of the content from the new Team Management Systems E-Profile multimedia feedback system focusing specifically on the Apps so that you can see our 'What' and 'Why' considerations in play.

With our E-Profile system it's possible for respondents to complete an e-profile questionnaire and receive their Profile report online within a few minutes – ideal for real-time use in workshops. Alternatively, accredited network members (through their unique Facilitator Access Site on can hold back delivery of the results to a time of their choosing, perhaps after the concepts are introduced on a workshop. As many of our end-users now carry notebook or tablet computers with them, this is fast becoming a popular future way of delivering Profile results.

Respondents receive secure access to their unique E-Profile website for 365 days containing a personal 5,000 word Profile and a Personal Discovery Workbook, both in PDF format, along with an interactive Norms App, which allows them to compare their results against more than 170 norm data sets. In addition, the facilitator can tailor the learning event by adding in Apps that are relevant to the learning event they have designed for their clients.

In keeping with our design philosophy for Apps, we have created a series of interactive and personal Apps. For example, the Team Management E-Profile now has a Pacing App available where the feedback is uniquely tailored in real-time to both the end-users' personal scores and their assessment of the person they wish to improve their communication with. If the focus is on career coaching or work allocation, the facilitator might choose to include the Job Demand-Work Preference Match App. Here the respondent (or a colleague) completes a 40-item questionnaire and the results are then matched in real-time to the respondent's own work preferences from their Team Management Profile to produce customized feedback. The Window on Work Values E-Profile feedback system includes the Values Alignment App that enables respondents to assess the values of their own organization or one they may be thinking of joining in the future. The organizational values are then matched in real-time to their personal work values to produce customized feedback.

In addition, we have developed a free series of 'theory Apps' which are designed to support the facilitator in their delivery of theory and content in the workshop. This series includes the Video Case Study: The Reluctant Engineer App, Job Demand-Work Preference Match App, Overview App, and Identifying Work Preferences App).

All of the Apps are available for unlimited use in the 365 days that the user's personal E-Profile website is online.

What have we learned?

Our development process has been in place now for over 12 months and we are starting to gather some meaningful data on how our facilitators are using the Apps and which ones they favor and find value in. We are starting to learn whether the tinkering and tailoring is effective or not.

What are the results? Well, while the 'theory Apps' contain interactivity and are free, our stats show that they are outnumbered in usage by the 'personal and interactive Apps' (Pacing, Job Demand-Work Preference Match; and Values Alignment) at almost 3 to 1.

It seems again that 'customized' and 'personal' prove to be the most valuable asset in design. Theory Apps certainly have a place in reinforcing content and concepts using multimedia and interactivity, but for practical application and transference of learning into the workplace, the results show that Apps need to be personalized.

In conclusion

The 'How' or delivery question on technology issues often (along with cost) consumes the majority of planning time and debate. The 'What' and 'Why' should at least receive equal attention.

In the age of 'ME' where engagement and value-add are critically assessed, it's never been more important to focus on the 'What' and 'Why' before forging ahead with your next e-development. Take some extra time to 'tinker' with the design and 'tailor' the outcome to provide not just maximum value-add and engagement but a unique experience for your client.


Have you registered for your free and personal Facilitator Access Site? Facilitator Access Sites are available to all accredited network members worldwide and offer exclusive access to E-Profiles and multimedia Profile Applications (Apps).

If you are not yet familiar with the, you may like to view the online video by Dick McCann where he explores the E-Profile system and multimedia Apps.

Copyright © Dick McCann. All rights reserved.

With a background in science, engineering, finance and organizational behavior, Dick McCann has consulted widely for organizations such as BP, Hewlett Packard and Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank. He is coauthor of Team Management: Practical New Approaches with Charles Margerison; author of How to Influence Others at Work, the TMS E-Book Series and The Workplace Wizard: The Definitive Guide to Working with Others; and coauthor with Jan Stewart of Aesop's Management Fables and The Half-Empty Chalice. Dick is coauthor and developer of the Team Management Systems concepts and products and also author of the QO2™ Profile, Window on Work Values Profile and the Strategic Team Development Profile. Involved in TMS operations worldwide for over 25 years, Dick is now Managing Director of TMS Australia and a Director of TMS Development International.

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