For a few months, Design Pickle has been using the cloud-based software Trainual to train our team as we grow. Seeing that we are a virtual company, it is impossible for me to meet and train anyone in the traditional sense. Even if we were a brick and mortar company, I don’t think I would go back to traditional training anyway. The impact of having everyone getting the exact same information in a friendly, repeatable, and scalable way is such an awesome experience that I expect Trainual to be a large part of our business for many years to come.
Trainual allows you to build an online training manual and does it in a way that is easy to use, easy to build and easy to deploy.
The biggest challenge for us was the overwhelming thought of – great, now we have this training software but what do we put in it?! As a startup, we didn’t have any processes or systems established, let alone documented. We didn’t have time to pause and take a few days off to document everything either. For existing businesses, I can imagine this statement also hits close to home. Our systems and processes were changing daily as we improved Design Pickle and, even if we did put something into the software, it could be outdated by the evening.
Not to be discouraged, the term MVP – or minimum viable product – came to mind. An MVP is the base features and functionality of a product that allow it to effectively sell or deliver a service to customers. What if we were able to create an MVP? Where would we start and what would be the process?
Creating your Minimum Viable Training in 4 Easy Steps
Step 1. Document your company process in 10 minutes or less
The key to creating your MVT is documenting your current process while not worrying about optimizing or improving it. This assumes your current process is working. If your process is not working, then you will not be able to create an MVT.
With your working (but not perfect) process, get the key people at your company in a room with a whiteboard and map out how you sell, deliver and support your service or product.
Think in flowchart format here:
Break down what is happening and who is doing it step-by step. It doesn’t have to be perfect and should be completed in 10 minutes. The goal is to have a clearly organized process that everyone can understand.
Step 2. Identify the critical paths
With your new visual process, take some time to identify the areas that are most important to the success of your business. Spoiler alert: as you go through this, you’ll find the initial critical paths center around finding, hiring, and training the right people. If you don’t have the right people on the bus, you will not be able to execute the rest of your company’s set mission! These early critical paths are the areas to initially focus on as you short list your MVTs.
For Design Pickle, we had two critical paths that popped up:
1. Interviewing and testing new designers before they were hired.
If we were able to do that effectively and find great candidates, the rest of the company would perform better because of it.
2. Training new designers on our software platform.
Early on, we knew we were locked into our software to deliver super-fast graphic design to our clients, so it was safe to say this would be our next critical path. Once we found good designers they needed to know how to use our system well.
Here is our actual workflow for critical path #1:
Both of these areas were working well enough so we set out to build the training.
Step 3. Document & Produce the Training
This step can be the downfall of organizations as they tend to over complicate documenting their critical paths and/or break them down into so many steps it’s difficult to follow. Years ago, I read the book Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande and he breaks down ineffective and effective checklists (aka processes) as such:
- Vague and imprecise
- Too long/hard to use
- Made by desk jockeys without functional knowledge of field
- Try to spell out every step
- Turns brains off
- To the point
- Can be used in the most difficult situations
- Above all: practical
Keep this in mind as you outline how to execute your critical path. Early on we outlined our two critical paths and realized that everything needed to efficiently capture the process broke down into three buckets:
- Preexisting written content
- Someone explaining something verbally
- Someone doing something on a computer
With the beauty of Google Docs and a screencasting software, we sat down for 2 hours and wrote and recorded everything needed to teach it to someone else. We literally did the tasks we expected someone to learn. Try and keep any video or recorded content under 10 minutes for attention’s sake. With our written and recorded content complete, Trainual allows us to directly drop it all into a course anyone can easily go through online.
Step 4. Use your minimum viable training!
With your training ready to go, the final step is to use it. Trust me, things will change! As soon as we finished documenting our training we changed a piece of software, but all of our steps still referenced the old software. One of our core promises is next-day delivery, so it was more important to start finding great people to deliver on that promise than wait to roll out the training. Be ok with 50% – 75% accuracy in the beginning. Trainual even has a neat feature where your staff can submit questions for things that pop up. If your core content changes beyond that 50% point, then it is time to update the training materials.
Train & Repeat
After your first critical path is complete, do your second, then your third and so on. Move quickly and use smart tools to help along the way. Soon you’ll find an incredible boost in your ability to move on to more complex training projects.
Good luck and happy training!
About the Author:
Russ Perry is an Arizonan native and has spent the last 10 years working with brands such as Apple, LG, Morgan Stanley and the Harlem Globetrotters. In 2014 he founded Design Pickle, a startup that provides unlimited graphic design help for only $195 per month. Russ believes there is a better way to get your day-to-day graphic design done and it doesn’t have to cost you a small fortune or even worse – take up all your time. Learn more about Russ and his startup at DesignPickle.com/organize