Thursday, November 09, 2006

Getting Approval for Your eLearning Project

The following has happened to me on more than one occasion. I'm either sitting at a table or I am on a conference call with a client group and we congratulate ourselves on coming up with a really solid plan for a new eLearning project. Then someone says that this will be taken up the line to Mr. or Ms. X for final approval and budget allocation. My question is always the same: why wasn't Mr. or Ms. X here during our many hours of deliberation and debate when we came up with this plan? Because when they are brought into the picture after the fact, rarely do they get a full appreciation of why a certain approach is being proposed, and why it will be the approach most likely to garner success, and why a certain investment is required. So, surprise, surprise, they often reject the proposal.

Why Mr. or Ms. X are not at the table from the outset is a matter for another day. They are usually very busy people who need to make big decisions, but cannot be everywhere, and cannot afford to get mired in detail. It is a fact of life, so instead of lamenting this, it is better to accept it and work at improving your communication skills to have greater influence and to get what you want.

I interact with training professionals daily. They are convinced of the value of training and are committed to developing the best training experiences for their organizations that is possible within the constraints of time and money that they face. In fact, I have heard some speak of the intrinsic worth of ALL training. Unfortunately, there are likely very few in the organization who are as "religious" as this about training. Upper management, in particular, will rarely buy into the idea of the intrinsic worth of training. They have to be presented with a good case, based on hard facts, not on conjecture and good intensions. And this is often where it all goes bad.

Training professionals have to become more adept at making the value proposition for their training programs. This is especially true for eLearning, as the initial required investment is usually higher than for traditional forms of training, and because of existing skepticism from those who have seen few good examples of eLearning.

Training professionals have to find out what is on the minds of management - what are their burning issues and what keeps them up at night - and then pitch their eLearning solutions in terms of how they will solve some of these problems. And you do not necessarily need a 50-page tome to make your case. Work at honing your message down to the essence of your value proposition. As my colleague Karin Albert puts it, you should be able to make your case in a 30-second elevator ride with a decision-maker.

In the end, it is not about "selling" eLearning at all. It is about selling solutions to problems, and, oh, by the way, this will be accomplished via eLearning. That's how you will get the thumbs-up you desire for your project.

We will explore these issues in much greater detail at next Thursday's (November 16th) webinar titled How to Get Management Buy-In for Your eLearning. We will have the usual 12:00 noon Eastern time. Join us if you are looking for ideas on how to make the case for your eLearning projects.


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