Real learning is a part of the work, not apart from it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Working Out Loud: Our Sponsored Mentoring Program (WIP)

We've been sitting on the idea of an organization-wide mentoring program for quite some time. This is mostly due to being a small team, just Nona Gormley and myself, with other short-term initiatives to address. As a key component of our overall learning vision of "A Connected and Continuously Learning" organization, mentoring is something we'd like to see become a part of the culture.  However since it is currently not, a more formal framework to kick start it may be warranted.

Until now we have shared the concept and conversation in our ESN in an effort to invite opinion and ideas.  Today though I felt compelled to expand our working out loud and invite the world to our approach.  Mentoring is nothing new and frankly one could argue that our Sponsored Mentoring is a misnomer really since I believe a true mentor is not selected for you, but by you.  Like I said above however, a mentoring culture is the long-term goal, and quite possibly a more formalized framework could support the effort until it is institutionalized and the scaffold could simply fall away.

Of course any program should be taken with a grain of salt when there is no context behind it.  So to help understand why this approach has been chosen, I've shared a bit about my organization here which can be found in detail along with our vision in Dr. Clark Quinn's new book "Revolutionize Learning and Development: Performance and Innovation Strategy for the Information Age."

Systems Made Simple (SMS) is a privately owned Healthcare IT company with concentrated attention on government contractual work (primarily in health care clinical and delivery systems at the Department of Veteran Affairs, Military Health Systems, and the Department of Health and Human Services). Systems Made Simple specializes in four core areas of competency: Program and Project Management; Systems and Software Engineering; Infrastructure Management; and IT Services. Systems Made Simple uses an extended workforce model. With roughly 450 employees working on more than forty contracts, we work closely with partners and subcontractors to ensure the right talent mix is in place to meet the customer's need. Systems Made Simple is geographically dispersed throughout the United States, with offices in Syracuse, New York, Vienna Virginia, Salt Lake City, Utah, Austin, Texas, and Clearwater, Florida. Our project teams include a mix of work from home, in government facilities or in an System Made Simple office. The workforce is not only extended by time and geography, but also by function and relationship to the organization. Many Systems Made Simple employees are accustomed to working closely with other project team members to function as a single, cohesive team as seen by the customer. While a large number of employees are hired for direct contractual work, the intention is to provide career growth opportunities for each employee. Our employees are more often experts and practitioners not novices; well versed in their craft, often coming to us often with a wealth of experience.

So with that, I invite you to look at what we're thinking about - click here. Far from being a complete set of thoughts, I believe the materials will give you insight into the approach, give you a chance to offer an idea or two and maybe some take aways for your own efforts in building a mentoring culture.

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