Creative Planning Model  –  The Framework Every Learning Business Partner Should Have

Creative Planning Model  –  The Framework Every Learning Business Partner Should Have

If you’re going through hyper-growth at your company, there’s a framework you should have in your toolkit.

It’s the same framework I used when I re-architected new employee onboarding at Google in 2005.

The product support team grew from 30 people to 150 in a single year.

Growing 5x in one year meant we couldn’t scale internationally or keep up with the hyper-growth pace using the same onboarding experience.

It took us 3 months to fully ramp a product support specialist. My team and I reduced it to 2 weeks + N.

At the heart of the re-architecture was David Allen’s Creative Planning Model (via Getting Things Done).

It uses 5 steps to plan and anchor any project.

How many times have you been halfway through a project sitting in a conference with some teammates and stakeholders, and you look around at each other asking, “Why are even meeting about this?”

The Creative Planning Model anchors you and your team so you have a North Star to point to whenever it feels like you and your stakeholders–or learners–are misaligned throughout the project.

How It Works

  1. Purpose and Guiding Principles (Why are we doing this, and what will guide the way we operate and behave?)
  2. Desired Outcomes (What will success feel like, look like, be like? What’s “wild success”?)
  3. Brainstorm (How might we achieve our desired outcomes given our stated purpose?)
  4. Organize (What are the constraints, budget, stakeholders, end users, dependencies, timeline, etc., that we’re facing in this project?)
  5. Next Action (What is the immediate next action that moves this project forward?)

Putting it into practice: 80/20 and X Weeks + N

You may have heard of Pareto’s Principle: 20% of the input is responsible for 80% of the results.

Let’s consider some examples of it in practice:

  • Learn 5 power chords and you can play 80% of classic rock songs on the guitar
  • Learn how to cook with 10 essential ingredients and you can cook hundreds of recipes

At Google, we spent 3 months instilling product knowledge for our core search capabilities in every new hire. The problem with that model was we were expanding rapidly.

We began supporting new products like Groups, Desktop, Blogger, YouTube, Picasa, Gmail, Analytics, Earth, Maps, Apps (Docs, Sheets, etc.), and more. We were also growing globally.

The solution was to distill the core elements of Websearch to 2 weeks (10 business days). That would be the foundation every new hire received.

After 2 weeks, every new hire was assigned a product to support, and we architected individual product training onboarding programs.

The plan for a new hire was the following:

  1. Learn the essential 20% of Websearch that unlocked 80% knowledge
  2. Go deep into the specific product they were assigned to support

Put another way, we essentially created an 80% foundational, core, and consistent onboarding experience with what we called Core Concepts (first 2 weeks).

We provided every product team 20% flexibility to customize and tailor their product onboarding paths (N).

N could be an additional 2 weeks for some teams or 2 days for other teams. Depending on the complexity of the product and the number of subject matter experts who could focus part of their time on training.

We reduced employee onboarding from 3 months to 2 weeks + N with an Extended Trainer program (or Train the Trainer), using the Creative Planning Model and Pareto’s Principle.

Because we used the Creative Planning Model, the stakeholders aligned with our strategy and execution. They understood our approach and the potential results we hypothesized we’d get.

Your Turn

Try using the Creative Planning Model on talent development initiative you might be starting or may have already started.

When you’re done, email me at charbel at talentgroove dot com to let me know how it went.

Typewriter and notepad
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