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Learning & Development Blog

Ferris Bueller

Ferris Bueller , And Developing Training For ERP Implementation

Remember the Art Institute of Chicago scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off where Cameron is staring blankly at Seurat’s "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte?"

To jog your memory (or to experience it for the first time for those of you way younger than me), check it out in Cameron’s Pointillism Stare:

From a distance the painting looks like this:

Ferris #2
Up close (as Cameron realized) it looks like this:

Pointillism Ferriss Bueller

Using juxtaposed dots of multi-colored paint, painters like Seurat allow “the viewer's eye to blend colors optically, rather than having the colors physically blended on the canvas.” This technique relies on the ability of the viewer’s mind and eye to blend the color spots into a fuller range of tones.

So what’s the significance for developing training for ERP implementation?

The lesson learned from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off  is that, like Cameron, our subject matter experts completely lose their ability to blend the color spots into a fuller range of tones. They can’t stop long enough to see light at the end of the tunnel let alone the grand plan for training.

Ferris and SMEs
Right about the time of user acceptance testing, the instructional designers appear full force—eager to start painting the training picture and clearly seeing the grand training scheme. I image that to the SMEs, we’re just a living "Clippy."

“He interrupted your work by offering his services even before you had the time to need anything. And because he didn’t know what you really needed, he made guesses, which, most of the time, were wrong.”

I have to admit, I’ve sometimes wondered “what’s the point” myself in the midst of creating all those step-by-step instructions and capturing all those screen shots and recording my 200th system demo. Will anyone every use the stuff (or even find it) once I leave? Will the person who eventually unearths my masterpiece simply hit delete?

Then, about 10 weeks before system go-live, all hell breaks loose and the training development team teeters dangerous close to becoming seen as ___________ (fill in the blank).


Because now EVERYONE cares about training, and the pressure is on.

I experienced this again just last week. About three months into a training development effort for a large ERP implementation (and about ten weeks before go-live), we learned—from the Program Manager—that some SMEs did not see the value in our work. They felt it was unnecessary busy work.

Then it occurred to me: of course the SMEs can’t see the big picture. We’ve been painting multi-colored, juxtaposed dots, but have not given the SMEs an opportunity to connect the dots visually. We quickly scheduled and held a training preview for the SMEs.

It made all the difference. The SMEs “saw” the masterpiece and felt relieved. Mostly, the SMEs were relieved to learn that we did not expect them to know everything yet—that we were simply painting the dots at this point. They were also relieved to know that we were making progress and that their new knowledge was being captured in a structured, scalable, and sustainable way.

With this latest experience, I realized that instructional designers and training developers really do create masterpieces by:

  • Capturing the SMEs knowledge as they become new SMEs on new processes and new systems
  • Creating the training tools that enable SMEs to successfully impart their newly gained knowledge to the end user community
  • Creating electronic performance support systems to support end users at go-live

It took Seurat 2 years to complete his masterpiece A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Similarly, it takes months, and often years, to implement a new ERP system and build the end-user training.

As instructional designers and training developers, we need to be better about working with SMEs and revealing our plan along the way, so that all key stakeholders stay just close enough to blend the spots.

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