Branching scenario design out loud #3: the scenario decisions

We’re at stage 3 of building an elearning branching scenario. (Where we started) The next stage in our process would be to list the decisions the learner – in the role of manager with a team – would have to make.  In effect, these are the scenario learning objectives.  We based these on the second stage of Action Mapping, and decided that these were the ones we could reasonably address in a story without getting over-complicated:
  1. decide where and when to have the conversation
  2. decide how to raise the issue with the team member
  3. give the praise clearly separate from any other issues
  4. be specific about what was good about the staff member’s action
  5. reiterate the praise if the team member dismisses it
We decided that (3) was the most difficult, and we’d include more than one temptation to combine the positive feedback with other messages. So it would recur in different guises throughout.

Adding detail

Vintage photo of man and woman in an office.

Yes, Michael, that’s your hat and this is your desk. You’ve achieved your week 1 learning objectives.

As the ideas for the story started to flow, we were able to put more flesh on these:

  1. decide where and when to have the conversation – perhaps the decision is whether to go to the team member and praise him in front of his colleagues or do it in private
  2. decide how to raise the issue with the team member – this is an attempt to address the ‘not a formality’ learning point – choose a way of introducing it that doesn’t make it too casual
  3. give the praise clearly separate from any other issues – there could be some things the team member isn’t doing so well. And perhaps the manager is under pressure to do something for which he’ll need this team member’s help.
  4. be specific about what was good about the staff member’s action – this is simple enough.  Make sure you include the positive result for the company that came from the action. What did it do for us?
  5. reiterate the praise if the team member dismisses it – give the learner ways to respond to  ‘ I was only doing my job ‘

Getting into the story

We continued to develop ideas for the situation:

Why would the manager feel genuinely grateful to the team member? Perhaps he’s been under pressure for something – maybe losing business – and the team member’s action has saved the day.

Why would the location matter? Perhaps the team member is shy or introverted, and would be embarrassed about being singled out.  If it’s the other way round, and you praised an extravert in a private meeting, it wouldn’t really do any harm. So we decided the decision is to use a private meeting to praise an introverted team member.

How to raise the issue?  We could give alternative formulations that might seem friendly but were actually making the praise too casual, and thus likely to be dismissed.

Separating it from other issues: we want to emphasise that praise works best in a standalone conversation, so we need to provide something in the story that shows the team member isn’t brilliant at everything, and there’s something he or she can legitimately be criticised for, but  not at the same time.  We thought a common temptation to do that is to leave the praise for something like a performance review, where it’s almost certain to be ‘contaminated’ with other issues. So let’s imagine a performance review is scheduled for the following day or the day after. One choice then is to leave it till then.  Jackie said another common ‘contaminant’ is the need to enlist the team member’s help for something. So the praise isn’t received as praise, but as buttering up for a favour.  One way to do this might be to have the manager under pressure for something similar to the situation where the team member ‘saved the day’. So can I get him to do it again?

Having the team member as an introvert would give us an opportunity to cover the ‘reiterate’ issue, as he is more likely to dismiss the praise and not want a fuss made.

So we had the general principles of the story – we now had to develop a situation and characters.

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