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Process Transformations That

Sustain Distance Training


A Blend of the Best of Common
Maturity Models into a Framework
Allison Kipta and Zane L. Berge

Organizations striving to improve business processes are often faced with seem-
ingly unmanageable but required changes that must take place, and often turn to
use of a maturity model as a strategic tool for change management. Maturity mod-
els are used to build a framework for implementing process improvement in
stages, from least effective to highly ordered and efficient. As the adoption of e-
learning in the workplace becomes more widespread, development of a strategy
for improving the processes that drive it becomes a critical element of its success.
This article explores several existing process models and suggests employing a
blend of the best elements of each in building a framework for sustaining distance
training in the workplace.

Allison L. Kipta, 1610 Auburn Ct., Zane L. Berge, University of Maryland


Westminster, MD 21157. Telephone: Baltimore County, 1000 Hilltop Circle,
(240) 299-0535. E-mail: Baltimore, MD 21250. Telephone:
akipta@adelphia.net (410) 455-2306. E-mail:
berge@umbc.edu

Volume 3, Issue 2 Distance Learning 13


J
ournalist Lloyd Dobyns describes organization’s growth and development
change as disruptive, complicated, lifecycle process so a change process can be
and frightening. Still, no change can effective.
be worse. Resistance to change in an Rosenberg (2001) spells out what can
organizational culture is often identified as make or break an elearning endeavor in
one of the primary obstacles to sustaining a his “Four C’s of Success: Culture, Champi-
successful process. Implementing change ons, Communications, and Change,” and
in increments through the use of a matu- recommends focusing on change from
rity model helps establish a clear and start to finish. Starting early is important,
demonstrable framework for process trans- but the change strategy itself is critical. It
formations. must be sustained long enough to beat old
Many organizations already employ habits and become the preferred way of
one of the hundreds of change manage- learning.
ment strategies, project management theo- A survey of online teachers in higher
ries, readiness frameworks or maturity
education revealed inability to deal with
models in planning, building, measuring,
cultural changes as the largest class of bar-
and managing processes and products.
riers to online learning. “Responses placed
Among the most common are Carnegie
in this category included: faculty or stu-
Mellon University Software Engineering
dent resistance to innovation; resistance to
Institute’s (CMU/SEI) Capability Maturity
online teaching methods; difficulty recruit-
Model (CMM), CMU/SEI’s People Capabil-
ing faculty or students; lack understanding
ity Maturity Model (P-CMM), and Project
Management Institute’s Organizational of distance education and what works at a
Project Management Maturity Model distance” (Berge, 1998, Cultural Barriers,
(OPM3). Lesser known and specific to para. 1).
learning organizations are THINQ’s Organizational culture as defined by
Learning Management Maturity Model Curtis, Hefley, and Miller (2001) is reflected
(LM3), Online Course Design Maturity in shared values and the resulting patterns
Model (OCDMM), and eLearning Capabil- of behavior that characterize interactions
ities Maturity Model (eL-CMM). This arti- among the organization’s members.
cle explores stages of organizational According to Berge (2001), cultural change
maturity, capabilities, and competencies, is a necessary element of organizational
and examines how factors for sustaining a maturity. Where ongoing programs are
distance training program are integrated in transformed into delivery at a distance, a
the process of change. project management approach is helpful.
Change management (Rosenberg, 2001)
ensures an organization and its people are
THE PROCESS OF CHANGE capable of executing a business plan, and
TO ACHIEVE SUSTAINABILITY involves establishing an environment for
According to Branch (2002), nearly 70% of change. By improving performance, pro-
all change initiatives fail. One of the key ductivity, and motivation of the workforce,
reasons organizations fail to successfully change management moves an organiza-
implement change is in neglecting to con- tion toward its goals and improves the
duct an organizational needs assessment capabilities of its leaders to drive sustain-
to gain understanding of the organiza- able change.
tion’s performance, external environment, Curtis et al. (2001) warn that although
and future vision to develop a viable strat- an organization’s culture can be trans-
egy for change. The needs assessment formed through the use of process stan-
should consider obtaining a baseline of the dards, organizations often fail to

14 Distance Learning Volume 3, Issue 2


implement them effectively because they CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY,
attempt too much too soon (Branch, 2002). SOFTWARE ENGINEERING INSTITUTE’S
A capability model is a standard indus- (CMU/SEI) PEOPLE CAPABILITY
try tool for assessing the needs of an orga-
nization, documenting processes, and
MATURITY MODEL (PEOPLE CMM)
providing a multistaged template for The CMU/SEI People Capability Matu-
growth. Such models help manage chaotic rity Model is composed of five maturity
periods of transformation as an organiza- levels. Curtis et al. (2001) describe each
tion matures. Although models are not maturity level as “a well-defined evolu-
solutions in themselves, they provide a tionary plateau that institutionalizes new
conduit for change and a vehicle for capabilities for developing the organiza-
expressing an organization’s goals and tion’s workforce” (p. vi). Following are
objectives. descriptions of each of the five levels.
Level 1—The Initial Level. Organizations
at this maturity level have difficulty retain-
MATURITY MODELS ing talent, are poorly equipped, operate
Curtis et al. (2001) define a capability matu- with ad hoc and inconsistent processes if
rity model as “an evolutionary roadmap they have defined practices at all. The Ini-
for implementing the vital practices from tial Level exhibits the following four char-
one or more domains of organizational acteristics: Inconsistency in performing
process” (p. 16). With few exceptions, most practices, displacement of responsibility,
maturity models are composed of five lev- ritualistic practices, and an emotionally
els, where level one typically represents an detached workforce.
ad hoc state and a very low level of matu- Level 2—The Managed Level. At the Man-
rity, and level five represents the highest aged Level, the workforce operates at the
level of maturity and continuous process unit level. Practices implemented at this
improvement. A maturity level represents level focus on unit-level issues, and build-
a new level of capability within the organi- ing workforce practices within each unit
zation, created by a change in one or more provides a foundation on which more
of the organization’s processes. The CMU/ sophisticated processes can be imple-
SEI Capability Maturity Model, for exam- mented as the organization matures. The
ple (Wesman, 2004), shows maturity as a organization’s capability for performing
sequential progression through each of the work is best characterized by the ability of
five capability levels. To progress to the its units to meet commitments. “This capa-
next higher level, an organization must bility is achieved by ensuring that people
demonstrate achievement of a set of pre- have the skills needed to perform their
scribed processes. A review of relevant assigned work and that performance is
maturity model literature suggests using a regularly discussed to identify actions that
maturity model to support change can improve it” (Curtis et al., 2001, p. 22).
incurred by process improvement pro- While the organization may exhibit a stable
duces several outcomes. In general, pre- environment, frequent problems at this
dictability, increased control, and low level of maturity are identified as:
improved effectiveness are three results Work overload, environmental distrac-
that can be expected. According to Systems tions, unclear performance objectives or
Engineering Capability Assessment and feedback, lack of relevant knowledge or
Training (SECAT), using a maturity model skill, poor communication, and low
helps an organization transition from fire- morale.
fighting to operating according to plan. Level 3—The Defined Level. At the Repeat-
This decreases rework levels (SECAT, 1998). able or Defined Level, although they are

Volume 3, Issue 2 Distance Learning 15


performing basic workforce practices, should be performed and when it is
organizations are inconsistent in how they required.
are applied across units—and in general-- Level 2—Planned-and-Tracked. Processes
the entire enterprise. Standardization of are planned and tracked. Performance is
practices does not occur because the com- based on specified procedures and is veri-
mon core of knowledge and skill have not fied. Products meet standards and require-
been defined. The primary objective at this ments.
level is to develop competencies to achieve Level 3—Well-Defined. Processes are
business objectives. Absence of critical planned, tracked, and well-defined using
workforce competencies poses a severe approved, tailored versions of docu-
risk to the organization. mented organization-wide standards.
Level 4—The Predictable Level. An organi- Level 4—Quantitatively-Controlled. Mea-
zation achieving the Predictable Level is sures of performance are collected and
able to manage performance quantitatively analyzed, leading to a quantitative under-
and is able to predict the capability for per- standing of process capability. The organi-
forming work. It can use competency- zation has an improved ability to predict
based processes and measure the capabil- performance that is objectively managed.
ity of its workforce in performing tasks. At Level 5—Continuously-Improving. Pro-
this level (Curtis, Hefley, & Miller, 2001), cesses undergo continuous refinement and
when when an organization is committed improvement and effectiveness and effi-
ciency targets are established based on
to competency-based processes, it can
organizational business goals. Continuous
begin integrating multidisciplinary work-
process improvement is established.
force processes.
Level 5—The Optimizing Level. The entire
organization is focused on continual MATURITY MODELS SPECIFIC TO
improvement at Level 5. The organization LEARNING
employs quantitative management activi-
A four-stage model used by Berge (2001) to
ties founded in the Predictable Level as a
describe stages of technological maturity
template for improvement. “Maturity (or capabilities) in an organization’s dis-
Level 5 organizations treat change man- tance learning endeavors presents matu-
agement as an ordinary business process to rity levels as such (pp. 15-16):
be performed in an orderly way on a regu- Stage 1. Separate or sporadic distance
lar basis” (Curtis et al., 2001, p. 27). learning events occur in the organization.
Stage 2. The organization’s technological
SOFTWARE PROCESS IMPROVEMENT capability and infrastructure can support
distance learning events.
AND CAPABILITY DETERMINATION
Stage 3. The organization has estab-
(SPICE) lished a distance learning policy, proce-
SPICE is a major international initiative dures are in place, and planning occurs.
to support the development of an Interna- Stage 4. Distance training and learning
tional Standard for Software Process have been institutionalized in the organi-
Assessment (SPICE, 1995). zation as characterized by policy, commu-
Level 1—Performed-Informally. Practices nication, and practice that are aligned so
of processes are not rigorously planned that business objectives are being
and tracked. Performance depends on addressed.
individual knowledge and effort. There is Elements that foster organizational
a general agreement among individuals change are present in transitions to (Berge,
within the organization that an action 2001) Stage 3 and Stage 4, with a stable and

16 Distance Learning Volume 3, Issue 2


predictable process in place to facilitate the defined, learning and performance man-
identification and selection of content and agement are institutionalized and inte-
of technology to deliver distance training. grated into the business planning process
With a strategic planning process in place and visible. Characteristics of the LM3
(Berge, 2001), budgeting, communication, Stage IV (THINQ, 2004) are evidenced in a
workforce development, policymaking, shared commitment to learning, thinking
and other management processes enable systematically, and a high degree of
positive change within an organization. accountability.
Stage V—Optimized Workforce. The Opti-
mized Workforce stage, success in share-
THINQ LEARNING MANAGEMENT holder value and net worth are measured.
MATURITY MODEL (LM3) The organization has a flexible, learning
THINQ (2004), a learning management and performance-centric structure and has
software vendor, developed the five-stage an established approach for continuous
Learning Management Maturity Model improvement, so that the work done by
(LM3) described below. the people, and the learning that occurs
Stage I—Ad Hoc. In Stage I there is no before, during, and after, are directly
consistent process within the organization linked to the organization’s goals (THINQ,
used to manage learning. Individual busi- 2004, Stage V-Optimized Workforce, para.
ness units may adopt and implement their 1).
own processes and tools to meet their
needs. The organization is unable to
quickly determine training costs, out- ONLINE COURSE DESIGN MATURITY
comes, or if it even occurs, and therefore MODEL (OCDMM)
operates at high risk due to a lack of Neuhauser’s (2004) proposed Online
accountability, visibility and control Course Design Maturity Model (OCDMM)
(THINQ, 2004, Stage I-Ad Hoc, para. 4). is another five-level framework, consisting
Stage II—Managed Learning. In the Man- of the following stages:
aged Learning stage, a consistent approach Level 1—Initial. The goal of the Initial
to learning management is adopted and a phase is to introduce face-to-face students
learning management strategy is defined to using communications technologies
and executed. The organization is able to such as email and document transfer on
quickly determine training costs, out- the Internet on an optional, unregulated
comes, and has access to training activity basis.
across the enterprise. Evaluation tools are Level 2—Exploring. The Exploring stage
in place. examines enhanced communication
Stage III—Competency-Driven. The orga- between student and instructor and intro-
nization focuses on building a learning cul- duces face-to-face students to Web-based
ture in Stage III. New technologies play a information between face-to-face sessions.
key part in the efficiency of the organiza- Level 3—Awakening. Using text in vari-
tion. The workforce engages in collabora- ous formats, the Web, and discussion, fac-
tion, uniting instructional designers in the ulty and students are “awakened” to the
content design and review process. A possibilities of online instruction for
learning content management system enhanced learning outcomes.
(LCMS) is in place and is used for central- Level 4—Strategizing. In the Strategizing
ized storage of learning assets. Reuse of phase, students and faculty form partner-
content is part of the policy. ships, strategize the use of multimedia
Stage IV—Integrated Performance. At this resources, and use group learning and
stage the organizations strategy is well assessments.

Volume 3, Issue 2 Distance Learning 17


Level 5—Integrating Best Practices. At this technological devices or processes would
level all best processes are integrated, and simply increase cost and complexity.
technology is exploited to provide an effec- In discussing organizational require-
tive learning environment that is manage- ments, Bates (2000) and Levy (2003) list
able for students, motivating, and sensitive several organizational barriers to imple-
to learners’ needs ((Neuhauser, 2004). menting technology. The greatest inhibitor
is lack of faculty interest in using the tech-
nology for teaching. Technology-based
A BLEND OF THE BEST teaching requires more skill and effort than
Sustainability is an attempt for perma- traditional face-to-face classroom teach-
nence (Seufert & Euler, 2003), and in terms ing. “When the rewards for appointment,
of distance training, means developing sta- tenure and promotion are driven primarily
ble structures that are integrated institu- by research accomplishments, there is no
tionally and result in fundamental changes incentive for professors to put more effort
in instruction. Employing a maturity into their teaching” (Bates, 2000, Barriers to
model as a framework (Moore, 2004), orga- change, para. 1).
nizations can aim for a specific level or Change needs to happen. According to
stage, make assessments to benchmark Seufert and Euler (2003), sociocultural
their relation to the model, and create a changes have to be proactively supported
strategy to reach their maturity goals. Fol- in order to reach a permanent attitude and
lowing is a proposed framework for sus- behavior modification of the involved tar-
taining distance training in the workplace, get groups.
integrating a blend of best-practice ele- Level 2—Managed and Replicated. At the
ments selected from the aforementioned Managed and Replicated level, through an
maturity models. interdisciplinary team (Berge, 2001), dis-
tance training events are replicated. The
Level 1—Ad Hoc. At this level, the dis-
team responds to the needs of staff and
tance training efforts are chaotic (Berge,
management and makes recommenda-
2001), separate, or sporadic. Related to Peo-
tions for the management of distance
ple CMM (Curtis et al., 2001), there is
learning throughout the workforce.
inconsistent practice, displaced responsi-
Use of distance training technology is
bility, and emotional detachment. THINQ
supported across the enterprise (Berge,
(2004) characteristics of the Ad Hoc Level
2001; Levy, 2003; THINQ, 2004) and an ele-
reveal incomplete, informal approaches
mentary approach to learning manage-
with unpredictable outcomes. Perfor- ment is established. Quick access to train-
mance depends on individual knowledge ing activities is available and visible. The
and effort (SPICE, 1995), and there is little organization uses a common set of tools
or no organization to support develop- and processes for training development. A
ment. A systematic approach for change method for evaluation is in place.
management as a part of organizational The organization’s ability to develop a
development, support for teaching/learn- systematic plan of action for using the
ing outcomes, and establishment of a sys- technology is a key factor in whether or
tem of incentives are also typically not it will be used successfully. The largest
neglected (Seufert & Euler, 2003). challenge (Bates, 2000) is the failure to use
Little or no technology is required. At technology strategically, and without cul-
the ad hoc level, Saba (2003), suggests that tural change this will not happen. Moore
in general, faculty can teach with a white writes, “As a learning organization
board, a flipchart, or a piece of chalk and a matures, so does the level to which IT sup-
blackboard, and the addition of emerging ports and engages learning technologies to

18 Distance Learning Volume 3, Issue 2


cultivate a continuous learning culture” element of a sustainable change,” more
(Moore, 2004, Extending Learning Matu- personal responsibility is placed on learn-
rity Through Relationships, para. 3). ers, and it becomes more important to pro-
Level 3—Competent and Capable. At the mote self-guided learning within a team or
Competent and Capable Level, the organi- workgroup.
zation focuses on building a culture of Criteria for improved outcomes (Mar-
learning (THINQ, 2004), and (Berge, 2001) shall & Mitchell, 2002) rather than mere
“a stable and predictable process is in place reaction or perception are developed and
to facilitate the identification and selection established. Costing data is gathered regu-
of content and of technology to deliver dis- larly and used to ensure maximal use of
tance training” (p. 16). Competency mod- resources. The organization has identified
els are in place (THINQ, 2004) and a set of standard pedagogical methods, tai-
competency-based learning and skill lored to the workforce.
assessments are used. The workforce Use of shareable and reusable content
moves from operating in “fire-fighting” becomes the norm. Learning packages
mode to “operating according to plan,” start to tie into other enterprise applica-
(SECAT, 1998), and the transition from tions and sharing information. Further
Level 2 to Level 3 brings “improved morale advances along this “framework show a
and a coherent culture.” more sophisticated world in which learn-
New learning technologies are instru- ing technologies are interoperable—not
mental (THINQ, 2004) in improving the only sharing data but also providing value
efficiency of the organization, and knowl- to other systems” (Moore, 2004, Extending
edge transfer is a product of collaboration Learning Maturity Through Relationships,
and mentoring. The organization exploits para. 1).
Web-based resources (Neuhauser, 2003) Level 5—Optimizing and Continually
and utilizes Web technology to increase the Improving. Level 5 organizations are “run-
learning capabilities. Curtis (2001), how- ning on all cylinders and driving maxi-
ever, warns of a misconception that use of mum business value from their e-learning
communication and information technolo- programs” (Maskell, 2003, Introducing
gies (CIT) can make course delivery more LM3, para. 5). Core business functions are
efficient: “There appears to be an implicit web-enabled (Rosenberg, 2000) and inter-
assumption that efficiencies can be nal work and communication is online.
achieved through the use of CIT, but it is The workforce is well prepared to succeed
clear that setting up to use such technolo- and is considered technologically
gies entails high infrastructure and staff advanced. The organization defines
development costs and may require the elearning to include knowledge manage-
‘re-engineering’ of course delivery pro- ment, performance support, and other
cesses” (p. 21). web-enabled learning. The organization
Level 4—Predictable and Stable. The orga- constantly evaluates learning needs to
nization possesses “a quantitative under- determine appropriate methods for any
standing of process capability and an given situation.
improved ability to predict performance. Success is measured in shareholder
Performance is objectively managed” value (THINQ, 2004) and net worth, and
(SPICE, 1995, p. 3). The organization has learning is “inextricably linked to the orga-
(Berge, 2001) an established distance edu- nization’s goals” (Stage V-Optimized
cation identity and is conducting orderly Workforce, para. 1) The organization is
assessments of its distance training. Seufert flexible, and learning and performance-
and Euler (2003) find support for the learn- centric in structure. Continuous and rapid
ing culture at this level is a “fundamental correction can occur with little disruption

Volume 3, Issue 2 Distance Learning 19


to business. Change management is a stan- http://www.westga.edu/~distance/
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Volume 3, Issue 2 Distance Learning 21