Latest 10 Posts

Kill It

Kill your projects The Sunk Cost Fallacy applies to almost every discipline you can think of. Even in the Silicon Valley world of startups, success is only about 10%. Most companies don't succeed. Most projects don't work out. Most initiatives don't last.

Maybe your project lacks engagement, stakeholders or customers. Maybe it didn't address its objectives. Maybe it was a great initiative but the wrong time. Maybe it was effective in the beginning but lost steam.

Many things can cause a project or initiative to be deemed "unsuccessful". And we need to be ruthless with unsuccessful initiatives.

If your initiative doesn't output more value than the effort that goes into it, you need to kill it. If it has little to no engagement, you probably need to kill it. If it once provided value but doesn't anymore, you need to kill it.

In my discipline, Learning+development, we need to constantly shift to meet the business needs again and again. We cannot do that if we are bogged down by managing a long list of low-value initiatives. To quote Steve Jobs, focus is about saying no.

To focus in the areas that provide most value, you must say no to the low-value items. Doing so will hurt feelings and egos (most of all your own). But focus is key to success in all disciplines - we need to be comfortable killing our projects.

Learning+dev Mastery: 4. Design the backlog

This is a post from a larger series entitled A Path to Learning+dev Mastery.

The path to mastery looks something like:

Keep it small, keep it quick

Learning+dev no longer has the privilege of designing and rolling out large-scale projects. The risk that those projects won't meet expectations after delivery is too great. 6 months to design and rollout an initiative is too long. Learning+dev must make speed and agility a priority. We must be able to take new requirements every day, prioritise and execute them swiftly.

As we discussed in the previous post, identifying your stakeholder's priorities are key to identifying your own. Once you have an idea where your contributions will be valuable, you can think about the initiatives that would assist your stakeholders. Remember not to design things in a vacuum. Your ideas must receive constant feedback from your stakeholders.

What is a learning+dev backlog?

At its simplest, a backlog is a list of tasks. The term is extensively used in product management, as it allows fast conversations around details and priority. Since it is a single list which everyone can look at, it provides a single source of truth for projects in progress and future projects. It facilitates team discussion when executing and it makes it easier to assign work.

There are many backlog tools available, from the simple stickies on the whiteboard (my personal favourite) to extensive product management software such as Jira. If you work by yourself, your backlog may even be inside your head, though I doubt such a backlog is of much use for discussions. It's important to write it down somewhere.

How do I create my backlog?

First pick your method. Personally, I like the stickies on a whiteboard - it's good to see what you want in front of you. Stickies also means you can move things around as needed. If you want software, Trello is free and provides all the functionality you need.

Take the priorities you spoke to your stakeholders about. Start throwing out ideas - anything and everything. What initiatives can you launch to support the strategy goals?

Learning+dev backlog

Brainstorming techniques

Your ideas are best written down. Ideas stuck in your head are of no use to anyone. You can't see them, you can't interact with them, you can't visualise them. Brainstorming is the act of putting your ideas in front of you so you can connect ideas together, see patterns and create better ideas.

There are plenty of brainstorming techniques and tools online. Here are the ones I come back to all the time:

Here is a braindump of Learning+dev ideas to help:

  • Workshops
  • Online micro-courses
  • Study groups
  • Communities of practice
  • Mentoring programs
  • Coaching programs
  • Certification programs
  • "Soft" skills programs (eg. Public speaking study group)

As you scribble down ideas and swap things in and out, you will build up a list of initiatives. Well done - you've built your first backlog!

Learning+dev backlog

Can I add anything I want?

In the beginning, you should add anything that comes to mind. If you hit a block and can't think of anything suitable, do your research. All the problems you face have been solved before by someone else. And don't worry about a perfect solution - there are none. In my experience, about 20% of initiatives provide tangible value to the company. This is why it's important to make your initiatives small. 80% failure rate of small initiatives is great. 80% failure rate of large initiatives is terrible.

After listing down things you want to do, go through each one and figure out whether they are feasible to rollout in your organisation. Fortunately, the product managers have been doing this for a long time, so there are plenty of resources to help.

Here are some questions to help you adjust each initiative in your backlog.

  • Does this initiative align with the company goals?
  • Do you have the resources (budget, people, time, tools) to launch and manage this successfully?
  • Are your employees & stakeholders ready and able to engage with this initiative?
  • What does success for this initiative look like? How will you measure it?

How do I pick which initiatives to start with?

Again, there is no 100% correct answer. I usually start by going through the list and asking myself the following questions:

  • What would happen if this wasn't rolled out for 6 months?
  • Does this impact my most important stakeholder?
  • How many people have asked me about something related to this initiative over the last few weeks?

Prioritising your initiatives is as much about understanding what's not needed right now as well as understanding what is needed right now.

Prioritising your backlog

What's next?

We didn't touch on a lot of other "design" elements of learning+dev initiatives. So I'll expand on this in the next post.

Learning+dev Mastery: 3. Stakeholder Engagement

This is a post from a larger series entitled A Path to Learning+dev Mastery.

The path to mastery looks something like:

Why should we care about other stakeholders in the organisation?

For most of what we do in our jobs, nobody cares as much as us. I think that's a good thing - it's great to be in a job we enjoy that nobody else is interested in. It makes us valuable.

Every so often, I land in the fantastic position where what I'm doing is so valuable to someone else that they care more about it than I do. And this is the position we all want - to bring as much value to our colleagues and organisation as possible. Going back to Learning+dev's purpose, we want to help others maximise their value to the organisation.

This is the power of frequent experimenting. Short, small ideas executed over time increase the likelihood you will land on an important problem. 1 person starts caring about 1 thing you're doing, then another, then 2 more. Eventually, you have lots of people benefitting from your work - a fantastic place to be as any practitioner.

Now, I could create and rollout 10 new initiatives to my organisation in the morning. But if they don't meet with the organisation's strategy, then nobody will care about it and it will become noise. Even if I land on something valuable, it will be drowned out.

This is where stakeholder engagement is so important. Engaging with your colleagues and creating initiatives without your primary stakeholders buy in is a sure way for failure. Without communicating with them, you increase the likelihood that your initiatives are not aligned with theirs.

However, once you get full alignment across the people who your initiatives will impact, then you end up producing valuable initiatives that push everyone in the direction they need to go in. What's more, you will get support from your stakeholders who will work with you to make your work successful. They won't push back against you because you failed to communicate properly.

Caring for stakeholders

Who are my main stakeholders?

There are many stakeholder engagement frameworks to help identify and prioritise your stakeholders.

Or my favourite stakeholder framework is the simple question: Who do I need to keep happy? If you know who to keep happy, your can focus your communication in their direction.

How do I engage with stakeholders for my strategy?

In my experience, the best way to engage your stakeholders is to present your initial strategy in slides. If you want, you can brainstorm with them, but only if the problem is crystal clear.

You can't ask your stakeholders "What do you think I should be doing?". It's not their job to think of what your job should be. So you must always come forward with suggestions, not a blank canvas.

Once you've presented some ideas (called a strategy), you can engage your stakeholders with questions:

  • How will this strategy help you?

    This will help you identify if your strategy is of any benefit at all. If everyone says "I don't think this applies to me", then that's valuable feedback.

  • Will these ideas support your own goals?

    You will get a response like "I don't think this will affect my own goals directly. But we can look at my own goals if you want?". This gives an insight on what your stakeholder cares about. You can throw ideas out as you talk about their goals.

  • I was thinking about doing X. What's your opinion on it?

    Open questions are good for giving people space to think and bring their own creative suggestions. They might say something like "That's not my understanding of the problem. I think we need to improve our programming skills in general - maybe create a workshop for it?". We know they don't need a workshop, but they have given us insight into the kind of problem we need to solve for.

The consulting process is an art. You need to build trust, get their buy-in, understand the other person's needs without them even knowing their needs themselves, lead people who are not interested in being led and much more. With this in mind, it's not a good idea to talk to someone and say "What do you want me to do?". I've fallen into this trap many times. Asking someone "What do you want me to do" is not helpful. You've just placed another problem on their shoulders. So when engaging with stakeholders, we must go in with a proposal. Even if you're not sure what they want, a proposal gives them something to push back against.

Overall, my strategy to engage with stakeholders looks like this:

  • Develop the strategy.
  • Show the strategy to all my stakeholders at the same time.
  • Talk to each stakeholder individually.
  • Note down thoughts, ideas, push backs, problems.
  • Repeat.

The last point is crucial - repeat. There is no such thing as a strategy that is done. What matters is that you get the critical items down on paper and agreed so that you can start to work. Too many people focus on "big bang" approaches to strategy. They fail to realise that tomorrow's environment is different from today's environment. Agility is key, and that means we develop mostly small projects. This way of working helps our stakeholders get on board. We can propose ideas that can get rolled out in a matter of days or weeks instead of a matter of months. Furthermore, a small project that gets rolled out and fails is much better than a large project that gets rolled out and fails.

Engage with stakeholders

Doing things now vs. later

As you engage in more and more conversations, you will develop a backlog. You will uncover the ideas and solutions that are important and put a timeline on them. Your timeline is subject to change as new priorities will arise.

I present a 12 month plan in January with the full knowledge new requirements will come in that will change the plan. This is why it's important to have a strategy attached to the business goals. New requests and requirements will always come in, so you need a way of priorisiting. Or in other words, you need a way of saying "No" to anything that does not align with your strategy.

The exercise of prioritisationg is key to a Learning+dev manager's success. There are an endless number of good ideas. Your job is to figure out what is most valuable to your business' strategy. You can use various different types of prioritisation methods:

Engage with stakeholders


The best way to engage with stakeholders is to just start talking to them. Whether it's a formal meeting in the calendar or a casual chat at the coffee machine, conversation is key to a happy stakeholder.

Learning+dev Mastery: 2. Strategise

This is a post from a larger series entitled A Path to Learning+dev Mastery.

As mentioned before, the path to mastery looks something like:

  • Understand the business objectives and strategy
  • Develop a learning+dev strategy that supports the business strategy - we will explore this here.
  • Consult and receive feedback from stakeholders.
  • Define the programs to meet the strategy including success criteria.
  • Execute the programs and track success.
  • Retrospect on progress and change based on feedback.

Figure out the business strategy first

We mentioned in the previous post how difficult it can be to figure out the business strategy. It's not always clear who has the best information or who is making the decisions, so it takes some time to find the right people to talk to. We will proceed based on the assumption you have at least an initial understanding of your business strategy. If you don't, it's best to start figuring it out as any learning+dev strategy you produce may be contrary to the org's strategy.

Initially, focus on the long-term

In the beginning, your focus should be on long-term objectives for your learning+dev strategy.

  • Where does the company need to be in 3-5 years?
  • What do they need to do to get there?
  • Who needs to be part of the journey?
  • What does the destination look like?

Forget about the cool workshop you're excited to run with the teams. Forget about the AI course you want to rollout. These are short-term goals, commonly known as tactics.

"Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." - The Art of War

For example, let's say you work for a software company who wants to enter the automotive industry. Here's what the long term goals might look like:

  • Secure a tier-1 automotive customer within the next 3 years.
  • Generate revenue of €2m per month in the automotive domain within 3 years.

Now let's overlay this with some learning+dev goals.

  • Secure a tier-1 automotive customer within the next 3 years.
    • Establish a process to find new business opportunities in the automotive space such as communities of practice, Hackathons, competitions, industry site-visits.
    • Create a program that prepares the leadership team to engage with this industry.
  • Generate revenue of €2m per month in the automotive domain within 3 years.
    • Identify key talent to enable this growth (eg. Account Managers, Pre-sales engineers).
    • Bring key talent together to workshop long-term strategy.

Notice we're not quite diving into low-level tactics just yet. These goals provide enough direction without describing the finer details.

As you analyse your own company, build two pictures: The company's 3-year strategy and Learning+dev's 3-year strategy. Make sure your learning+dev strategy is linked to the company's goals.

Learning+dev strategy

Brainstorm tactics

Take your two sets of information and pick out the opportunities for you to get involved along that journey. Ignore what you know today as a Learning+dev practitioner - that's beside the point. You need to do whatever is required to push the car towards its destination, no matter what skills you need to learn. But remember your role in all of this. This is not where you shine as the lone hero. Going back to our first article: Learning+development should help people maximise value to their organisation.

As you outline what you need to bring to the table, make sure you have this statement in mind. If you find yourself as the sole player in this strategy, you need to revisit your strategy.

Now for some tactics. Read through both the company strategy and the Learning+dev strategy. Write down any idea that comes to mind to support these strategies. The purpose of these ideas is not to define initiatives or tactics, but rather to give your stakeholders a starting point to have a conversation. If all goes well, most of your ideas will get thrown out. But in throwing out your ideas, you build a better picture for your strategy. Here's an example.

Goal: Establish a process for identifying new opportunities and building proof of concepts in the automotive space. Learning+dev tactics:

  • Create an automotive community of practice lead by our automotive SMEs.
  • Define 5 small projects we could research and build in the automotive area to explore new business.
  • Host a Hackathon under the automotive theme and fund any promising projects.

Each goal should have 2-3 ideas under it, ranging from very small to large. Remember, the purpose here is to get conversation going. This is an early stage - we don't want to execute on anything yet.

This is how I visualise the strategy. Notice how each Learning+dev point is an idea to support a point in the main company strategy. There should never be an initiative that has no ties to the company strategy. Learning+dev tactics

Next we need to talk to our stakeholders and get some conversations going.

Learning+dev Mastery: 1. Understand the Business Objectives

This is a post from a larger series entitled A Path to Learning+dev Mastery.

As mentioned before, the path to mastery looks something like:

  • Understand the business objectives and strategy - we will explore this here.
  • Develop a learning+dev strategy that supports the business strategy.
  • Consult and receive feedback from stakeholders.
  • Define the programs to meet the strategy including success criteria.
  • Execute the programs and track success.
  • Retrospect on progress and change based on feedback.

Understand the business objectives + strategy

North Start

The world of business is breakneck. 6 months is a lifetime in business, sometimes quite literally. Companies have collapsed in the short timespan of a few months because they were unable to adapt to changes. Some famous examples are Blockbuster, Kodak, Toys R Us. But to adapt and change the business direction quickly, we first need to know which direction we are currently facing. Without a clearly articulated business vision accompanied by objectives, nobody knows where they're going. They don't see the north star. And if they don't see the north star, they can't juggle their tasks and prioritise work to move towards it.

Let's say a SaaS business CEO wants to expand to a new region - Eastern Europe for example. He has thought about this in his own head and sees lots of potential to grow. But he has failed to communicate this idea to his heads of departments. So now, instead of paying closer attention to Eastern European trends and clients, the SaaS employees simply focus on whatever problem is in front of them. Nobody talks to the Eastern European clients, nobody keeps an eye out for new opportunities. So the business doesn't grow. The CEO has become his own worst enemy because he has failed to communicate his idea to his business.

Why does learning+dev need to understand the business strategy?

Aligning Learning+dev

Now imagine you're the Learning + Development manager. Without understanding the need to expand in Eastern Europe, how can any of your initiatives meet the needs of that expansion? Maybe the Eastern European market requires specific new skills. Maybe the market is focused on a particular niche for us to learn about. Maybe you need to include Eastern European languages in your learning+dev initiatives!

If we don't know the business objectives and the strategy created to meet the objectives, there is never going to be a moment where we are maximising our value to the company. Our initiatives could even contradict the direction of the business. By understanding the business objectives and its strategy, learning+development can support and attach itself to that strategy. By attaching ourselves to tangible business outcomes, we can track progress, metrics and successes that matter to the people around us. The value of this is incomparable to traditional learning+dev which focused on class attendance and training programs.

I don't know the strategy!

Figuring out the strategy You might ask yourself, "Where can I find the business strategy?". It's not publicly available on the website - external people don't need to see the internal strategy. If you are not already participating in monthly or quarterly strateegy meetings, it will be difficult to get the insights you need. Or maybe your company doesn't have any strategy meetings (this often happens in smaller company). If you don't have the information and you don't know where to find the information, how can you learn how to support with learning+dev?

The first thing is to find out if there is a regular strategy meeting and get added to it. Being at the table when the strategy is being discussed is the most valuable place for learning+dev. If you are not invited or there is no meeting, the next step is to talk to the people who engage with the strategy. These could be C-suites, directors or other managers. Second-hand information is not 100% reliable (because people absorb only the things they need to absorb), but it is a lot better than no information at all. At least the people you are talking to hopefully have actions and responsibilities to update at their next strategy call. Ask to see and discuss their actions and figure out how you can help with specific actions.

Over time, by talking to multiple people across multiple conversations, you build up a picture of what the short-term and long-term goals look like. As you build the picture, you can progress from helping with individual tasks to proposing grander solutions.

Nobody else knows the strategy either!

The Strategy Gap Worst case scenario, there is no clearly communicated strategy. Actually, that's not worst case. Worst case is if there is absolutely no strategy at all. But this is rarely the case - your company was not built by accident. The strategy might simply be in your leaders' heads.

There are many problems that stem from not having a clearly communicated strategy, but the bright side is there is plenty of room for suggestions! So break out powerpoint start building grand initiatives. Use the strategy gap as an opportunity to excel and promote your own ideas - don't complain there is no strategy! (Unless of course the company is going under...then it might be time to look elsewhere.) Figure out what the leaders of the company want and translate it into proposals that can be rolled out across the company.

For example, let's say you have spoken to the leaders and a few people mention the need for more expertise in AWS migration. Scratching beneath the surface, you ask "Why is this expertise important to you?". You find out that many managers across the company are leading AWS migration projects and all have similar problems.


Now you can propose initiatives such as a cross-project community of practice, curate resources, hire consulants and so forth. And now, you have created a small strategy - do this enough times and people start to notice.

So don't resent the fact there is no strategy. The biggest opportunities lie in the gaps.

Strategy - Figure it out or build it

In conclusion, figure out the business strategy by getting to the table where it's discussed, talking to the people who are at the table, or building your own. As long as learning+dev's part involves solving people's biggest problems, you will provide a huge amount of value.

A Path to Learning+dev Mastery

What is learning+development?

Learning+dev through the ages Learning+development is a strange concept. Learning+development (L&D) has its beginnings in corporate training programs in the industrial revolution where initiatives were created to ensure workforces could keep up with the pace of change. Henry Ford has the historical quote: "The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training your employees and having them stay". World War 2 had a profound impact on training the workforce in America. The rate of change in the corporate culture was so fast that companies had to invest large sums of money to ensure their workforce were able to meet demands. These shifts in attitude towards large-scale training produced new theories and academic research over the 20th century.

The 21st century brought technological revolution, leading to new initiatives in not only individual training, but organisation development. Things move too fast in the 21st century for a command-and-control style of management. So the focus shifted away from industry to the needs of the employee to enable autonomy and fast, large-scale change. Learning+development transformed to become a facilitator of strategic change in the organisation, something that many people today still don't realise.

The shift to focus on the employee has a lot of overlap with Human Resource (HR) practices. As a result, many Learning+development departments fall in as a branch of HR. This has led to the rise of organisations such as CIPD directing Learning+development towards HR needs, rather than focusing on Learning+development as a separate practice altogether. As far as I can see, this has tainted the Learning+development profession to the extent that many professionals are drawn into HR-related initiatives instead of focusing on the development of the individual and organisation. Dare I mention "Diversity, equity and inclusion"?

In summary, the Learning+development profession has transformed according to the needs of the organisation. Organisations are no longer command-and-control. They require people to own their work and transform their environment for the better. With the infinite amount of knowledge available online and much of it for free, the need for bespoke training is rarely required from Learning+development. Now, with the dawn of ChatGPT, knowledge is quick to access and easily consumed. So what now? What do we do? Training isn't needed. Knowledge creation isn't needed. Can we scrap Learning+development?

Not quite. Yes everyone has all the knowledge at their fingertips. No, that does not mean all their problems have disappeared. Now, employees must be supported and challenged. Their performance is on the line. And how do we judge performance? We judge performance based on the contributions of the individual towards their company.

So this answers the "what". What should Learning+development professionals do? We should do whatever it takes to support the performance of individuals. Or in other words: Learning+development should help people maximise value to their organisation. This is the vision for great Learning+development. We must strategise with the organisation to increase its employees' value.

That's the "what". Next is the "how".

Learning+dev Fundamentals

Learning+dev fundamentals Like any discipline, Learning+development has an infinite amount of knowledge we can spend many lifetimes studying. But like any discipline, we need a structured approach to understanding how to master it. So what will the best Learning+development practitioner do to help people maximise their value? The flow looks something like this:

Over the next couple of posts, I will explore an outline of each of these areas. I hope to provide a journey of important topics to get started as a learning+dev professional.

ChatGPT for Learning and Development Management

Benefits of GenAI

I've been using ChatGPT consistently for about 5 months now. I experience about 20-30% extra value output each day for my management responsibilities. That means I get an extra week's work done each month - well worth the €25 investment!

With this level of extra productivity, I presumed everyone else was doing the same as me and using ChatGPT for as much work as possible. But it wasn't until I attended a conference recently that I realised how little people are using ChatGPT. Maybe people are uncomfortable with it. Maybe they see it as cheating by automating their tasks. Or maybe they are using it but don't want to say.

For anyone that is using it, the use cases are straightforward. Most use cases equate to pasting content into ChatGPT and asking it for feedback or insights. That's not to say this isn't valuable, but it only touches on the extra value it can bring to a manager. Let's walk through how I use it to manage learning and development in my organisation.

ChatGPT is not a new Google - it is a copilot

Many people have warned against using ChatGPT as a google replacement. Worse still, some people have relied on ChatGPT to their detriment. ChatGPT's answers should not be blindly trusted. Anything it produces should be verified, particularly if it is crucial information.

But anyway, quick knowledge is not the primary benefit of ChatGPT. Its value is in its ability to interact with my ideas. A loose idea can quickly get teased into a robust proposal with ChatGPT. It can be used as a coach, content creator or document expert which allows me to interact with it for a particular task.

ChatGPT prompts

Prompts are the input we type into ChatGPT. Each prompt will get you a response, but the more detailed and specific your prompt, the more relevant the output will be.

Brainstorming initiatives and solutions

Quick brainstorming is one of the most common ways I use ChatGPT. I can prepare for a meeting in 15 minutes instead of an hour. If a colleague asks me to help them with a problem, I'm able to interact with ChatGPT and propose a more robust solution that better solves their problem.

Stakeholder request example:

ChatGPT prompt:

"I want you to act as a learning and development manager in a software company. You've just received the following request from a stakeholder and you want to propose back a solution that is more robust and better aligns with their needs. Here is the request: I have one team that is poor at debugging and resolving their tickets quickly. Give them a workshop to fix this problem."

Screenshot: ChatGPT Stakeholder Request

As you can see, ChatGPT responds with suggestions on diagnostics, training programs, hands-on workshops and regular feedback. Not only does this better align to the stakeholder's needs, but I can propose something like this to my stakeholder at a much lower cost of my time than previously. The answer may not be 100% or even 50% what I want, but it gives me enough to start putting ideas together. Combined with my own expertise, I can write out a pretty good proposal for my stakeholder.

Create workshops

With ChatGPT, I can put together a decent workshop in 1 hour instead of 3. The workshop still needs to be tested on a group of people, but I no longer need to spend the time researching in-depth into multiple topics to find the correct one that meets by team's needs. I will still spend the time to research the chosen topic, particularly if I'm the one giving the workshop. But now I'm hyper-efficient. A quick prompt on the problem statement and what I'm trying to accomplish and ChatGPT spits out the outline of a good workshop. I can interact with the response, suggesting games or activity formats that suits my team.

One big advantage I'm getting from this is that I can create multiple workshops to offer a team, rather than offering a single workshop to everyone. Instead of booking a team into an hour's workshop and presenting them with the predefined topic, I can offer them a menu of options to choose from. This helps them get the most out of the hour together and choose something that best supports their needs. In the future, I hope to get to a stage where I can ask each team what individual problems they have and develop a workshop tailored to their specific needs.

Each workshop has some key ingredients that make it effective. I use ChatGPT to help me craft better versions of these ingredients quickly.


Ice-breakers are a common way of getting people to talk and interact with each other straight away. Here I've asked ChatGPT for a list of ice-breakers to begin my workshop:

ChatGPT ice-breakers

Interactive Activities

Effective workshops are interactive and get people talking. Discussions, games and pair-based activities are all things ChatGPT can help with.

ChatGPT workshop activity

Engage with document content

One of the newer features of ChatGPT is its ability to absorb documents you provide. For example, I can upload this whitepaper for "Learning through play: A Review of the evidence".

Then I can ask ChatGPT to give me information about the document back to me.

Document summary

Formulate better ideas

Learning and development is a highly creative discipline. It is fuelled by ideas that can help people. Anyone who is used to coming up with ideas everyday understands how messy they are in the beginning. It takes discussion, drawing and writing to transform a loose idea into a robust solution. ChatGPT can help us short-cut the messy phase and get into proposal mode faster.

Here is an example of a specific idea that was messy to begin with. ChatGPT was able to give me a starting point to structure the loose thoughts.

ChatGPT management program

Custom GPTs

We can now create our own tailored chat bots used Custom GPTs. These are custom versions of ChatGPT that respond in a particular way which you have defined.

Learning + Development Coach GPT

Here is a coach I created that is specialised in learning and development, organisational development and innovation. I generally spend 30 - 60 minutes per week engaging with this bot to help me identify challenges and goals for myself. It is designed to act as a coach and ask me powerful questions rather than give me answers to everything. This helps me challenge assumptions and organise my thoughts.

MILES - The Learning and Development coach

Learning + Development Mentor GPT

I found myself typing the same information into ChatGPT again and again. The number of people in my organisation, my role, the domains we are part of. So I created a Custom GPT with all this information in it. Now I just have to start a new chat with my Learning and Development Copilot and it knows all the specifics related to my job.

Here is the instructions I give the GPT:

The GPT, as 'Learning and Dev Copilot,' is specialized in providing support for various learning and development initiatives across an organization. It offers expert guidance on remote-based courses, workshops, and projects, tailored to the needs of a diverse workforce. The GPT will provide innovative ideas for engaging and effective training, feedback on existing plans, and suggestions for improvement. It will take into account the challenges and opportunities of remote learning environments and diverse learning styles. The GPT will avoid making assumptions about the specific nature of the organization or its employees, instead asking for details when needed to provide accurate and relevant advice. It will maintain a friendly and professional demeanor, aiming to be a supportive partner in the learning and development process.

Domain expert

A big challenge for teams in my organisation is to learn domain knowledge quickly and easily. Usually this involves trawling through messy documentation and confluence pages to find the correct information. I've started to create domain expert GPTs for each team's area. I hope this will help the teams find the necessary knowledge they need quickly and easily.

So far, domain experts has included telecoms ecosystem, kafka and high performance java.


ChatGPT is incredibly powerful for management tasks. The increased level of productivity and quality you receive is a no brainer. Add in the extra features of the premium version and you get a powerful virtual assistant who knows nearly everything about anything.

Everything should have a timeline

We hate them, but timelines are important

Most things have timelines. Projects, tasks, meetings - nearly everything has an end date. Timelines are needed to clarify expectations and let people know when things will happen. Without timelines, dependencies can't be managed and communication breaks down. Your colleagues need to know what time you'll arrive at work. Your manager needs to know what date the project will deliver. You need to know when the plumber will come to fix the drain.

Timelines influence priorities

While timelines exist to add structure and predictability, they can be mismanaged. Timelines also indicate priority, so we should be hesitant to apply aggressive timelines without checking their priority. If I have 3 high priority items on my todo list, I'll do the one with the shortest timeline first.

But if I have a low priority item that needs to be done in the next hour, it suddenly becomes the most important thing on my list. If we're not careful with timelines, they can do more damage than good, introducing chaotic timelines instead of following priority.

Timelines add accountability

We are not good at task management. We opt for tasks that are either enjoyable or tasks that have someone shouting at us. In other words, we aim for the most pleasurable tasks or try to complete the most painful.

But there is a lot of space between those extremes, and the "enjoyability" of a task shifts as it progresses. Learning a new skill is always exciting in the beginning. But as soon as we hit a challenge, we say to ourselves "I'll come back to that later" or "This other thing is high priority so I better get it done first". What was once exciting is now difficult and we find excuses to do something else.

A timeline can help keep us on track for tasks that were once enjoyable but now difficult. I'm much more likely to progress with a difficult challenge if I know someone will check-in on me. This is why universities use timelines. Whether an assignment or a subject is enjoyable or stressful, the timeline is there to place accountability on the student.

Accountability vs. Pressure

We hate the word "deadline". It conjures up images of late nights and long weekends with pressure from the boss. However, we can all agree that deadlines are needed most of the time to hold us accountable to progress. So what is the difference between holding someone accountable and pressuring them? Two things are important - the intention of the manager and the support received by the person who is accountable.

A manager who has the intention of getting to the goal as fast as possible and sees people as a means to that goal will treat them as such. This has the opposite effect of creating responsible work environments and causes people to be less accountable. The person who is under pressure without any support sees responsibility as a punishment and will opt out of it in the future.

However, a manager who has the intention of supporting his people to do their best work can produce an environment of accountability where each person understands the expectations and knows the people around them are there to support them instead of pressuring them. Therefore, deadlines by themselves are not enough to hold people accountable to their goals. The manager holds his people accountable by providing clear expectations on the goals together with the necessary support to set them up for success. Once this is done, the person feels a sense of empowerment and excitement to do good work instead of being afraid of extra responsibility.

Why should I put in a timeline when I know they'll slip?

Most timelines slip - it's the nature of the complex work we do. Something as certain as "today I'll have my lunch at 1pm" is not a sure thing. While one purpose of the timeline is to predict when something will be completed, another purpose is to make sure people are kept up to date and invite conversation.

When my 1pm lunch gets postponed, I know I have made the promise to my friend to meet them and so I must now make sure they know I'll be late or need to cancel. They might be disappointed, but not as disappointed if I never showed up. So sure, timelines make us commit to things that may not come true. But thankfully, if and when things do get postponed, those commitments enable us to have the conversation to discuss a new plan.

How does this apply to Learning + Development?

I repeatedly make the mistake of giving the impression that learning is optional. In many of my Learning and Development conversations, a new initiative can often be met with pushback.

  • We don't have time for that right now.
  • We have a tight deadline. (see my previous paragraph on tight timelines)
  • This isn't a priority for us.

In each response, there is valid feedback that makes me question whether the idea is worth the time invested. But often, teams and individuals will prioritise the tight timeline against the Learning + Development initiative. Why? Because the L+D initiative has no timeline.

  • Oh it's ok. You can take this at your own pace.
  • Get this done in your spare time.
  • There's not pressure to complete this course.

Now, let's make sure everything has a timeline and an estimated number of hours. The above responses change:

  • Anyone who signs up to this program will require 5 hours per week for 6 weeks.
  • The course will close in 8 weeks giving everyone plenty of time to complete.

Now, participants understand what they are signing up to. As the program progresses, check-ins help keep in touch and remind participants of the importance of their learning. The timeline has smaller checkpoints indicating progress in their knowledge. Each participant feels a sense of onus to progress (especially if they have to give updates in front of other people) and the program has a higher level of energy and participation.

What do leaders do? Communicate.

Communicate by Default

A manager's default task is to communicate. If the manager finds themselves prevented from communicating to their stakeholders by more "productive" tasks, they risk failure in their role. All managers face this challenge at some point or another and fall into the "I'm too busy leading to lead" trap. Managers should communicate all day, everyday. They should overcommunicate by sending the same information through multiple channels - email, meetings, presentations, group chats.

For example, if a manager wants to advertise each team's project status, they could:

  • Send an email detailing each team's project status.
  • Setup a meeting and ask a delegate from each team to give an update.
  • Attach a meeting agenda to the call to communicate what they need to prepare.
  • Send a follow-up email after the call showing the summary and highlighting any actions.

Look at how much communication has occurred for an effective cross-team meeting. There can be no doubt for anyone included what the status of things are.

Here's how not to do it (taken from a real-world scenario):

  • Invite every team member from each team into a call.
  • Ask a delegate from each team to give their update one-by-one.
  • Finish the call.

In this example, the manager could say that everyone now understands what's going on. But in reality, most people who joined the call knew they didn't need to be there and zoned out. The critical actions and cross-dependencies between teams were not captured and followed up afterwards. The manager is relying on everyone to:

  • Be present and attentive when someone else is talking.
  • Recognise critical information.
  • Recognise hidden information

Communicating in L&D

For "horizontal" responsibilities that cut across the whole company, communication is even more important as so many people rely on hearing from you. In Learning and Development for example, employees want to hear about new initiatives and opportunities that come up that they could participate in. Even if an employee never joins any L&D initiative, seeing other people participating acts as a reminder to them to keep improving themselves. An L&D practitioner can communicate to the company in multiple ways:

  • Display the L&D dashboard at the all staff update.
  • Send out a monthly L&D newsletter summarising the latest initiatives.
  • Communicate to managers and major stakeholders that engage with the company.

These methods of communication are for the general employee. Each initiative must also be communicated individually. Few things frustrate people than feeling like there is a secret project they don't know anything about, especially in smaller companies.

With all this in mind, it therefore makes sense that a large portion of time is spent preparing to communicate. Effective emails and clear visual dashboards help people see the trees from the forest. So spending the time, whether it's 15 minutes before a call or 1 hour to prepare a company slide, is extremely worthwhile.

Celebrating Wins

Most of the time, we focus on the biggest problems of the moment. What's the biggest headache today? Who is causing me inconvenience? When will this pain and stress end?

It's no surprise that focusing on the negatives all the time leads to increased stress and burnout. It reduces motivation and engagement with our lives and the people in it. We forget the good things we have and wish everything was perfect all the time.

Recognising the positive events can be a big step towards a more enjoyable and meaningful life. And I think this is difficult to achieve alone - I think we need to celebrate with others.

Benefits of Celebrating Wins

Give people credit

A great joy is found in telling people "Well done" when they've achieved something. Their face lights up, they try to hide a smile or they shrug it off. But you can tell that they are really pleased with themselves and excited by your compliment. The biggest part of saying well done is that you are telling them "You should do more of this". So they go away and work hard to get another "Well done".

Get people on your side

People like you more when you give them compliments and celebrate their achievements. Celebrating produces positive emotions and so you become enjoyable to be around. Even if you're known for being hard on people, if you consistently give credit where it is due, they will forgive your faults. New opportunities come up too when people are on your side. You make more progress and people are more likely to help you achieve your goals.

Recognise progress

Celebrating small wins shows progress. When we celebrate small wins, it shows we are on a journey towards a larger win. Ignoring small wins leaves people with a sense of "I haven't accomplished anything lately". For example, authors like to divide their books into smaller chunks so that they can feel a sense of accomplishment as they complete each chapter. So they're not creating a book - they're creating a collection of articles.

Give a positive outlook

Celebrating wins encourages us to celebrate more wins. There will always be nay-sayers who say things like "Well that's not very impressive". But we're not solely aiming to impress people when we celebrate - we're aiming to get credit. Amabile and Kramer's Progress Theory shows that celebrating and tracking small achievements leads to more a more creative, productive and engaged person. This gives everyone a positive outlook on the future where everyone is excited to see what will happen next.

Identify who should celebrate wins

Knowing who to celebrate with is important. Rather than an email to allstaff@mycompany.com to tell them what we achieved today, a better idea would be to send a report to our manager at the end of each week. When I start a new job or project, I keep my reporting manager up to date on every win each week for the first couple of months. This shows they are getting value from money from me straight away, rather than guessing if I was worth the hire.


The biggest dopamine hit is not when I send my manager an email each week, but when they reply back saying "Well done". That's the first group of people who should celebrate wins - leaders. If a leader gets into the habit of celebrating and showing off the people around them, they will find enormous gratitude coming from their people. People get excited when they are celebrated. They feel more creative and courageous to bring new ideas to the table. We all want that appreciation - more than money. This is the tip of Maslow's Hierarchy of needs - self-actualisation. We want to know we are creating something great.


While leaders should celebrate wins, it's not always clear to them what small wins happen during the day. A team sees every piece of progress each day. So they are in the best position to celebrate. Take a look at your team today - what small wins were accomplished? It could have been a code commit, a ticket closure, a bug breakthrough, a difficult conversation. Turn around to person in your team and say "Good job on closing that ticket this morning!". Imagine what multiple "well done"'s throughout the day can do for people. It drives them on to achieve more and do better things.

Identify your Wins

Focusing on your wins over your failures is a different mindset than we are used to. Whether this is on a personal level, a team level or a business level, we always find it easier to find fault. In contrast, we are glad when things work out and breakthroughs happen, but quickly go back to the next headache. This is called Negativity Bias. When presented with two things similar in kind and of equal intensity, we will focus on the more negative thing. This results in a short-term outlook on situations. By focusing on the negative, we are only concerned with getting over the pain and make rash decisions that affect long-term progress.

This isn't to say that we should never focus on the negative things that happen. But we shouldn't focus only on the negative things. Acknowledging wins brings a long-term, forward facing attitude to decision making. We can see what has been accomplished and, with a little effort, work to create a similar environment for more wins going forward. There are a couple of ways to identify wins.

Celebrate during daily reflections

I'm not a big fan of daily journaling - it never clicked with me. I prefer to write about ideas (hence this blog). So when I talk about daily reflections, I'm not saying anyone should buy a bullet-journal and start drawing pictures, though feel free to do so. A daily reflection can be a 5-minute intellectual exercise with yourself or your team. Ask yourself "What was 1 good thing that happened today?". Then ask yourself the most important questions: "How can I make similar good things happen again tomorrow?". This is a tactic I credit to Woody Zuill who asks his teams everyday "What went well today and how can we turn it up tomorrow?".

Celebrate wins as they happen

One of my biggest learning curves was as a Scrum Master a few years ago. I made the mistake to view our team retrospectives as yet another "pesky" meeting. One of our phrases was "We'll talk about this in our retro next week". Imagine that - we just achieved something and we said we would acknowledge it later. We could have done much better. We should have said "Let's get on a call so that John can show us what he's done - great work John!". John gets to show-off what he's accomplished, everyone else gets to learn and we all get to give him a big pat on the back.

Simple phrases like "Well done" or "Thank you for doing that" are huge boosts to morale in any scenario. My approach is: When in doubt, say good job.

How to Celebrate Wins

Wins require effective project management at both a macro and micro level. Setting clear goals, avoiding micromanagement, allowing time, providing support - these are all trademarks of a good leader. But many managers are effective in these skills, yet forget to celebrate the wins. So we need another ingredient. We need to record and advertise these wins.

Track Wins

Nothing gets celebrated if it is not written down. So the first step to celebrating wins is to write them down somewhere. This might be in a chat, an email, a dashboard or even a notebook. The simple act of writing it down is a win in itself. You are giving yourself and your team permission to celebrate by taking the time to write it down. As you build up a record of wins, you can start advertising them to others.

Advertise Wins

I'm not good at claiming credit for things. If someone pats me on the back, I prefer to say "Oh it was nothing really". So advertising our accomplishments and achievements can seem a bit cocky in contrast. But the simple fact is this: Nobody will ever know what you've accomplished if you don't tell them. And if nobody knows what you've accomplished, they will assume you haven't accomplished anything at all. So once you have your accomplishments and wins noted down, it's time to advertise them.

Pick your Celebrants

How you advertise your wins depends on your position, your stakeholders and your surroundings. If you are a manager, you probably don't need to advertise your wins to your sub-ordinates, especially if you're not in the habit of advertising their wins on their behalf. Or if you are on a team, it probably doesn't make sense to email your friend about all the great things your team are doing. So pick the right people - who are your main stakeholders? Who is charge of your raises? Who is charge of advocating on your behalf? Who are the people you work with daily? These are the people you should communicate to.

For example, if you are a software developer on a team, it makes sense that you advertise your personal wins to your team, your project manager and your line manager. Your team because they are who you work with everyday. Your project manager because they advocate on your behalf with other managers. And your line manager because they keep record of your achievements for performance reviews. Make sure to reciprocate the "good job"'s! When your manager and teammates achieve something great, say thank you and well done. They appreciate hearing it as much as you do!

You can communicate your achievements in many ways:

  • Email
  • Powerpoint dashboard
  • Team Chat
  • In-person
  • On a call

Pick the medium that best suits your stakeholders. If you are advertising to your manager, an email is the best way to ensure they see it. If you are showing-off your team's wins at a company update, a powerpoint dashboard is best. Choose the best medium for the situation.

Say Thank you if your win is celebrated

It's one thing to celebrate your own wins and the people around you. But what happens when somebody else calls you out and celebrates what you have achieved? It is just as important to accept praise as it is to give it. If we decline someone else's praise, we are saying that we don't want to hear those things in the future. It doesn't mean we need to jump up and down when someone says well done. All it takes is a simple "Thank you - I appreciate it", and move on. There is no need to make a big thing of it. But there is equally no need to make nothing of it (if you want people to say well done in the future anyway).

Agile Learning and Development

Learning+dev Mastery: 4. Design the backlog

This is a post from a larger series entitled A Path to Learning+dev Mastery.

Learning+dev Mastery: 3. Stakeholder Engagement

This is a post from a larger series entitled A Path to Learning+dev Mastery.

Learning+dev Mastery: 2. Strategise

This is a post from a larger series entitled A Path to Learning+dev Mastery.

Learning+dev Mastery: 1. Understand the Business Objectives

This is a post from a larger series entitled A Path to Learning+dev Mastery.

A Path to Learning+dev Mastery

What is learning+development?

ChatGPT for Learning and Development Management

Everything should have a timeline

We hate them, but timelines are important

What do leaders do? Communicate.

Celebrating Wins

Learning and Development Theatre

What is L&D Theatre?

How to Develop a Learning and Development Vision

Learning + Development vision

How to Participate in a Retro

Difficulties of retro participation

3 More Onboarding Antipatterns

Given the success of my previous post on hackernews, here are 3 more onboarding antipatterns.

Onboarding Antipatterns

Effective Onboarding

Beyond Root Cause Analysis

Using root cause analysis for people problems

Turning up the Good

Get better results by focusing on what's working

Asking HN Their Favourite Lecture Series

Learning Lab: Case Method

Lost Communication Moments in Remote Working

Remote Mob-programming toolkit

This template is inspired by a number of software coaches including Woody Zuill, Kevin Meadows and Llewellyn Falco.

List of Software Definitions + Phrases

Knowing chess rules does not make me a grandmaster

A Checklist to Onboard to a New Project

What the heck is a 'Learning Culture'?

What is a culture?

L&D Toolkit: Learning Clusters

What is a Learning Cluster?

Retrospectives: The Fuel to Continuous Improvement

What is Continuous Improvement?

Highly Productive Retros


Kill It

Kill your projects

Don't know what to focus on? Develop a vision

How to know you're not focusing

Questions for teams' retros

Why use different retro questions?

Scrum Scenario #2: #NoStandups

*This is a series of exercises in preparation for scrum.org's PSM certifications.

Scrum Scenario #1: Where is the Product Owner?

*This is a series of exercises in preparation for scrum.org's PSM certifications.

A Template for Effective Retros

Lessons From a Tricky Performance Bug

Save Your Team 100s of Hours

How is time wasted in your team?

Why Write?

A Framework to Manage Team Bugs

Transferring a Software Project - Lessons Learned

Techniques for Difficult Team Members

Protect Your Team from Weekend Work

Team Leader Anti-Patterns

Team Improvement Techniques

Leading Within Your Team

Extreme Product Ownership

Listen Effectively

Write Better Examples



Learn Lots of Tools

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6 Simple Ways to Create Clean Code

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