Tools to help people take action

When you buy a piece of IKEA furniture, do you take a class in furniture making to know how to assemble it? What if you mess up and your Havsta cabinet doors won’t close all the way? Do you hire a consultant to convene the team around the shared goal of storage practice?  

I bet you grab the assembly guide and follow the instructions. If you mess up, you search YouTube for an installation video, like this one. If you want to avoid the whole thing, you pay IKEA to receive the cabinet assembled. Or you live with the door not closing all the way. Yeah, we have one of those.

Why is it then when people in our nonprofit space don’t do something, we think they need a training? Board members aren’t helping us to raise funds, so let’s send them to a training. Finance staff aren’t following our fraud-deterring policies, so let’s send them to a conference. Policymakers aren’t voting the way we need them to on homelessness funding, so let’s lecture them on the whys, whats, and hows of our mission.

This is an expensive, time-consuming, and ineffective way to approach a performance problem or missed opportunity.

What if we got board members to help us raise funds by giving them a worksheet where they could fill in the blanks with a case for support. What if we got our finance team to be more fraud-minded by giving them a checklist or decision-making tree. What if we gave policymakers a directory of nonprofits working on the issue of homelessness with key data about who they serve. What if we gave our board members a directory of policymaker phone numbers and a script and texted them when to call? No training required.

Great tools help people to do their jobs, whatever that job is. Some tools are designed used on their own, such as checklists, reference guides, templates, or directories. Other tools support learning, helping people to reflect and transfer learning back to the job. These tools work in tandem with a workshop or webinar. I’m thinking about the workbooks that I frequently use to encourage reflection and discussion.

I think of tools as falling into three categories:

  • DIY tools that allow people to do the job without help.
  • Bridge-to-action tools that support learning transfer, often as a part of a workshop or webinar.
  • Social tools that encourage conversation and collective reflection.

Our first class this fall will dig deeper into tools to support action and learning. “Beyond Workshops and Webinars: Tools to Move People to Action” on September 23 kicks off a series shaped around the Trainer Academy and topics that we don’t have time to cover there. It responds to what nonprofit and learning leaders have said they most want to learn about. Registration is now open. Join us!

I’m still think about that Havsta cabinet. Curiously, IKEA doesn’t provide an explainer video. The one I found was privately produced. IKEA relies on one somewhat cryptic document to help people assemble their furniture. I’m probably not alone with cabinet doors that aren’t quite straight. When we expand our use of tools, we give our people more ways to achieve success.

Published by Nancy

I work at the intersection of learning, nonprofits, and leadership. I am a teacher, instructional designer, and nonprofit person who has worn every hat possible. I regular write, speak, and consult on learning strategy, design, and leadership.

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