Picasso and Me

“A picture used to be a sum of additions. In my case, a picture is a sum of destructions.” ~Pablo Picasso

“A course used to be a sum of added information. In my case, a course is a sum of deducted information.” ~Tricia Ransom

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Show Your Work: SMEs

We all work with SMEs. Sometimes it’s wonderful, sometimes painful. Here are my tips from 2010. I still stand by these:

My philosophy is that SMEs are busy and my job is to minimize my impact on their time while maximizing their focus on the need-to-know information vs. nice-to-know.

I need to have the need-to-know, and that is my sole focus. My job is to get my SMEs to understand need vs. nice. [jump to 2014: If I were writing this today, I'd say, "doing vs. knowing". What do they need to do?]

My SME work is getting them to understand need vs. nice. [2014 Tree here again..."My SME work is getting them to understand doing vs knowing."]

I like to have an introductory meeting with the SME where I ask what their preferred method of communication is (phone, email, face-to-face), how long they can go before getting antsy, and what I think the time impact will be. I do this even if they’ve been “volunteered” by their manager.

Before I meet with any SME, I send an email with a list of the questions I’m need to have answered. If they respond back to me with the answers I use the scheduled time for deeper probing.

I research everything to get myself up to speed on terminology, processes, etc. This helps build my credibility. They know I’m always prepared and that I am only coming to them for something I can’t find on my own.

I over-schedule meetings!! If I know it’s going to take 30 minutes, I schedule 60. That way we’re done early, they think I’m terribly efficient and they don’t mind accepting future meeting invites from me.

If we’re done early, I end the meeting and let them go. I NEVER EVER just fill time because we have time.

I focus, focus, focus them on need vs. nice to know. It’s rare that I’m going to include nice-to-know in training (learners don’t often remember it). I’m always saying “how does this work for 80% of the people? The other 20% aren’t the norm, and this training doesn’t cover that. What do 80% of the people NEED to know to do 80% of their job?” [And again, in 2014 I replace the "need" with "do", "nice" with "know". See the change?
I focus, focus, focus them on doing vs knowing. It's rare that I'm going to include knowing in training (learners don't often remember it). I'm always saying, "what do 80% of the people DO? The other 20% aren't the norm, and this training doesn't cover that. What do 80% of the people need to do to complete 80% of their job?"]

I keep asking “If there was one thing, and only one thing that learners need to remember from this training what is it?”

I also ask, repeatedly, “What is the question that you keep having to answer over and over again?”

If they’re reviewing content, I tell them “these are your words, just re-ordered to allow for adult learning theories and concepts”. SMEs are people too, and very very VERY sensitive about their creations and words!

When I ask them to review something, I highlight/post-it note/call out the areas where I absolutely need them to answer a question or give me input. I tell them, “It would be ideal if you could review everything, but at the bare minimum please look at those areas”.

If I’m asking them to create content, I create a sample and a template. I make it very structured. “Put step 1 here. Step 2 there. Make the steps a single sentence that starts with a verb. Give me access to the system, and I’ll get the screenshots myself!”

Finally, I’ve become a master at the cube-lurk, random emails or IMs, or just anything that puts my name/face in the front of their minds. Usually just seeing me reminds them that I need something from them.

These are my SME tips…what do you do?

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Part II: Learning About Learning From My Ancestors — Grandma

An old draft post I found from November 2009.

This is part II in my series about how/why I’m so focused on learning. It’s a learned trait – passed from my great-grandmother to my grandmother to my mom to me. This section focuses on my grandma.

The writing is choppy, and sometimes disjointed. I wanted to get the feelings and words down, and to convey the emotion that I feel. If I were speaking aloud about Mama, Grandma, and Mom, I wouldn’t be polished and flowing. And I won’t be here either.

This is my story of Callie, my grandmother. I wish I could have known her better.


Me, Mom, and Grandparents

This is my grandma, Callie Miller Murphy along with me and my mom. She was Mama’s first-born and only daughter, and I didn’t know her that well.

What I do remember is that she was always smiling, and that she and grandpa called each other Mother and Daddy – never their names of Jake and Callie.

Grandma graduated high-school from Wendell Phillips in Chicago, the same as her father. In fact, grandma was friends with the great poet, Gwendolyn Brooks, but grandma’s story was very different from hers.

My grandparents met at a party, and within a year of being married, they were parents to my mom. It was the middle of the depression, and times were hard for everyone, especially if you were black. My grandfather was very fair-skinned, and could pass for white, which he did occasionally to find work. Grandma was primarily a stay-at-home mother.

Miller Family House 1920-1973

This is the house where my grandparents lived with Mama and Papa when they first married. My mother and her sister were born on a couch here. One of grandma’s brothers married the girl who lived downstairs. A member of the Miller family lived here from 1920 to 1973, and it’s still standing (this picture was taken in 2009).

The stories I remember most about grandma are these:

  • She would organize the kids in the housing projects (they lived in Ida B. Wells when it was first built), and take them to museums and outings to downtown. She used to tell them that just because they lived in the projects didn’t mean that they couldn’t appreciate art.
  • She made my mom take piano and violin lessons (which would amuse you if you knew my mom, as she is not the most musical of people).
  • She insisted that they sit down to dinner together as a family every night, and eat off of cloth tablecloths and napkins which had to be ironed.
  • She used to tell my mom that if you carry yourself as a lady, you were a lady.
  • She loved to dance, and before she married my grandfather, she used to win dance contests in the clubs around Chicago. In fact, she won so many, she was barred from them.

At the end of her life, grandma couldn’t walk and was in a wheelchair. She was still smiling.

Here is Callie, my grandmother. I wish I could have known her better.248524_2057005670964_5705636_n



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