Using a Learning Management System to Gather Good Ideas

There’s a winding, two-lane highway in Quebec that has a telephone/electrical pole standing in the middle. This isn’t a joke. I’ve inserted a photo from a reputable news source below to show you that this really exists.

How did this happen? Apparently, a road crew was sent to pave the road and they worked around the pole, rather than coordinating with a crew from the electrical company to remove the pole first. You can read about this here and here.

We can all breathe more easily, however, because:

“The pole has not caused any harm, so far…the problem will be fixed by the end of the month”
An electric pole stands in the middle of a road in Johnville, Que. on Monday Nov. 19, 2012. The ministry of Transport fixed a dangerous curve in the road issue this summer, but Quebec's public utility apparently failed to coordinate its timetable with the roadwork.
CAPTION: An electric pole stands in the middle of a road in Johnville, Que. on Monday Nov. 19, 2012. The ministry of Transport fixed a dangerous curve in the road issue this summer, but Quebec’s public utility apparently failed to coordinate its timetable with the roadwork. Jocelyn Riendeau / Canadian Press / Sherbrooke La Tribune

Well that’s a relief.

 It seems very unlikely that no one on the road crew mentioned paving around the pole might be a bad idea. At the very least, I would expect that the person operating the heavy equipment that flattens the asphalt to say “paving this stretch of road would be a lot easier if this pole weren’t in my way.”

This is the type of thing that happens in organizations that are either deaf to the input of workers, or have a culture where people are scared to speak up.

I’m certain that there’s a diagram somewhere at a Quebec government office showing that there’s a telephone pole in the middle of the highway. But, this is surely easier to be overlooked by an engineer sitting in a distant office than by a member of road crew leaning against it.

Input from those on the ground, doing the actual work, is critically important to the success of any organization. What works in theory may not work in practice.

Here’s an idea:

Since organizations typically use learning management systems to show people how to better do their jobs, why not use learning management systems to gather input from workers on how the work they do can:

  • Be safer
  • Be done more efficiently
  • Be less expensive
  • Be more rewarding and stimulating
  • Generate better products and services

Here are some ways to do this:

  • Include a task after a lesson that invites the learner to submit improvements via a wiki, Google Doc, or other online editor.

The lesson you've just completed shows how we currently perfom this process. But, it may not be the best way. We invite you to log into our wiki and submit any ideas you might have on how this can be improved. This is voluntary. You don't have to do this. But knowing that you'll be working in this area, we'd appreciate your input. We promise to read every suggestion submitted and implement as many good ideas as we can.

  • Or, for each course related to an internal process, add as a resource a link to an online, editable document to which learners can contribute.

  • You could even create a course specifically designed to improve a process. Rather than showing learners how a process is currently done, simply enroll a project team into a course that contains one objective: the completion of a document describing their best collective thinking on how to complete the initiative.

Gathering input from learners  is only a start. Decision makers and managers must review the information submitted and provide feedback, ideally directly in the online document, stating which suggestions will be implemented and providing reasons for why those that won’t be implemented were refused.

Input from workers can’t fall on deaf ears, otherwise learners will stop contributing good ideas. Then, morale will drop and poles might appear in the middle of highways.