Roaming Q and A

By | 2010/08/17

As agents of change, IT managers have the daunting task of ensuring the user community is informed regarding changes that are deployed. One of the methods to keep users informed is training sessions. I’ve covered different types of training tools in past blog entries.  In this write-up, I’d like to highlight an approach I recently stumbled upon that worked extremely well.

Employees are busy – they simply don’t have time for training.  I’ve provided lunch and snacks to get people to attend and I’ve held virtual sessions so the users can stay at their desks. In most cases, they happily show up (especially when food is involved!), but when they’re busy with work, training is the last thing they want to work into their schedule.

I recently tried something new and the results were surprising. Instead of doing training around a topic, I decided to hold weekly Q&A sessions, where the employees can ask any question they want — in exchange for candy (food always helps!). The first two weeks, I set up shop in the conference room and announced I was “open for business”. Anyone who visited me in the conference room and asked a question received candy. I had a few people show up and the questions were very good. After each week, I compiled the Q&A topics into an email and sent it to the entire staff.

When the third week rolled around, I found the conference room in use, so I decided to make “house calls”. I visited each user in their own world – cubicle, office, whatever. The difference was astonishing. Instead of a few people asking questions, almost every employee had questions. The simple act of visiting each staff member where they “live” was enough to spur questions, suggestions, comments, complaints, you-name-it!

The lesson learned for me was this:  it helps to visit users where they live. When I set up shop in the conference room, I got a couple of questions per week. But when I started doing house calls, I found that one hour wasn’t nearly enough time to field all the questions! Our employees have an enormous amount of experience and some awesome ideas for simplifying their work. They just need someone to come into their world and listen.

I did the roaming Q&A for three weeks and came back to our IT department with a list of several easy tasks that will help our employees be more productive in their jobs. After these tasks are done, I plan to do another roaming Q&A series, as well as offer one-on-one meetings with end users to discuss their needs. It’s amazing how many great ideas are out there in the end-user community, just waiting for an IT professional to listen.

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