PSL can be a great learning experience, but first you have to find the time and money to get there. For people of independent means, it’s obvious how to do this, but for those who work for a living, getting there may be half the problem.
The first step is convincing yourself.
I was just recommending PSL to one of my future sister-in-laws who works at Oracle, and checked out the section on getting sent. I wanted to add something I didn’t see:
The best resource in my attending PSL was Susie Brame [email protected] 503-721-0908.
Susie answered every question and concern I had: believe me, I had many. Although I found Jerry’s books enlightening, I took a lot of convincing that there was sufficient value to spend a week at this course.
Susie did me a big favor by addressing each of my concerns and enabling me to attend. She referred me to PSL grads in my organization. She sent me very professional descriptive brochures that I could leave with my boss. Susie is an excellent resource for addressing any manager’s concerns or questions as well as your own.
So, convince yourself first, then start to work with your manager.
The process of going to PSL marked the time when I changed from asking my manager for permission to attend a training course to just asking him for funding.
The discussion I had with my first manager was short. I explained to that him and every manager since that I was the best judge of my training needs. This statment often triggered a good discussion and always led to an agreement about training.
The first manager agreed wholeheartedly with my training stance and funded my PSL attendance. The next manager funded PSL II and the following manager funded Change Shop. My current manager failed to directly fund SEM but indirectly funded it.
Looking back on it, I think I got what I wanted because
1) I knew what I wanted
2) I asked for it
3) my managers liked, trusted and valued me.
In other words, getting yourself to the class is the first problem to be solved in the Problem Solving Leadership Workshop – and the first learning/growth experience. Here are some strategies employees have used to approach this problem.
Document Your Case
It may require several people to sign off on you going to PSL, and it may require some time. Whatever strategy you adopt, be sure to document what you’re doing.
The company I worked for is very tradition-oriented. To get support from my managers, I had to provide documentation that they could use to defend any support they gave me, and I had to demonstrate personal commitment.
* I asked for brochures (several copies). This was before your web site, so one might think this is no longer necessary–hardcopies of web pages might be good enough. But I think in a traditionally oriented organization, brochures still have more weight. So I would today use both.
* I showed my managers many of Jerry’s books. I brought them in to work, and left them with my managers for a couple of weeks. If people plan to do this, it would be good to check the company library first–if the library has bought them, then that fact could provide some added safety for the manager.
If the library hasn’t, they can request that they buy them. Today I would also use the IEEE Software article on Congruence.
* I asked W&W for lists of companies that have sent people. In my case, this helped fortify the decision–if HP, Microsoft, Tandem, and Los Alamos send their people, it must be good.
* I wrote memos. Memos are always important in a traditional organization. I summarized what I thought I would get: be a better contributor on teams, be more creative, enahance my leadership skills, learn something about conflict, about change, etc. I don’t think this is very effective, but if I hadn’t done it, that fact could have appeared in the debit column. I attached “exhibits”: the brochure, the list of companies, and (today) I would include hardcopies of web pages.
* When the time came to walk the req around, it turned out I needed more proof. Sure, my manager had all the proof he needed, but every signer wanted a copy. So I had my memo and all the exhibits copied, one copy for each of three signer.
Use the Training Budget
Lots of people aren’t aware of their company’s training policies and budget. Find out what your company allocates to spend per employee each year for training. Tell them you’ll take it in PSL.
Some companies actually do set aside money for training. Others don’t set aside specific amounts for training, but if you ask, you might get what you need.
Some companies don’t have a training budget, or a large training budget, but there may be a reward budget. Ask for PSL to be your reward for some remarkable job you’ve finished, or are going to finish in the future.
Show Your Commitment
If you’re asking someone to commitment to supporting you in PSL, they’ll want some show of commitment from you. Expending the effort to make your case will show them commitment, but there are other ways, too.
It helped that PSL and SEM spanned weekends. The fact that I was willing to spend my own weekend time without compensation was useful to my managers in justifying their support.
Make a Logical Case for PSL
In some companies, all you have to do is ask for your share of the training budget. In others, you have to justify why this training deserves they investment. For technical workers, the relevance of what appears to be a “non-technical” workshop may not be obvious, so make the case.
Tell your employer that the technical problems are the easy ones to fix. That’s what most of us went to school for. It’s the people issues that are the challenges for leaders today. The W&W Workshops help you to see that, experience that, and begin your journey of learning. At the very least, you’ll learn why a new Configuration Management or Project Management tool won’t come close to solving the problems leaders face today.
In today’s complex work environment, a professional must have certain essential skills, beyond basic professional competency.
Tell your manager, “In the PSL course, I will learn how to work with people, understand how to leverage the diversity in work groups, and in particular how to improve my effectiveness in this organization. Moreover, PSL is designed to encourage participants to apply the learning to their particular environment and background.”
Some managers will appreciate these logical appeals. Others will be more impressed with references. Show your manager the list of our clients. Perhaps your company, or its competitor, is already on the list.
If the list alone isn’t sufficiently convincing, ask us for the names of some previous attendees (perhaps in your own company) who can talk to you or your manager about the benefits they’ve received. Contact our workshop coordinator to get references
Another possibility is for you or your manager to talk with our faculty members. We’re always happy to discuss any issue either of you may have around your participation in PSL, and perhaps, after talking to them, your manager will be convinced by the quality of our instructors.
Tell your manager, “PSL is taught by acclaimed professionals in the areas of software engineering and organizational development. By participating in this course, I will have a unique opportunity to learn directly from these professionals.”
Make a Financial Case
Some managers are quite willing to spend money on training, but want some idea of what will be their return on investment, so make a financial case. Ask your boss how much is it worth for you to learn to be more effective?
One way to make a specific financial case is to choose an example of something really bad that happened, or an opportunity that was missed. Show your manager how “I could have fixed that/prevented that if you’d send me to PSL.”
Some managers will appreciate a more forward-looking approach. Arrange to give immediate value back to the company: Offer to write a trip report or give a lunch talk on what you learned, or one piece of what you learned. If you do this, you can ask for some help from the instructors on how best to present the information.
It was my manager’s idea that I would give seminars on my return, to spread the knowledge around. I think the seminar approach assumes a model of the training that is more content-oriented than experiential, but it did provide my managers some coverage if they were ever questioned about their decision to support the training.
One unexpected thing that came from the seminar clause of my “contract” was an opportunity to deliver a 4-session lunchtime series in which I got to practice leading experiential workshops. I devised a set of one-hour sessions that really did convey the flavor of PSL and ChangeShop, and, I believed, really moved some people. And I had a great time doing it.
Nothing is more convincing than some immediate, direct benefit. What’s your company’s hot button: metrics, project management, process, etc? Ask how much it would be worth for you to spend a week with Jerry Weinberg and at least two other top consultants, plus at least 20 other professionals who do nothing but that for a living? PSL costs far less than that, and this argument may be even more applicable for Change Shop and SEM.
Send Your Manager
Some managers are reluctant to send people into an unknown situation. In that case, get a managers to go, and then they’ll send other people. Maybe even you.
I had a manager who had been to PSL, knew the value it had provided to him, and understood the positive impact it could have on my interactions with my coworkers (including him) and customers.
Here’s how one manager expressed the value of PSL and other W&W workshops:
From: Becky Winant,
mail: [email protected]
Company website: http://www.EspritInc.com
I came to PSL as a business-owner and manager. Up to that point and throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to attend many conferences and a lesser number of seminars. The information offered by these sources, plus books and journals, comes in varying levels of detail. Through that information I can better understand trends and technical issues affecting my business and my employees.
As a learning strategy this has worked well for me and is consistent with my overall educational experience. I soon discovered that PSL and the Weinberg and Weinberg seminars would up-the-ante on learning experiences.
Jerry Weinberg gave a presentation at one conference I attended. Having read a few of his books I wanted hear what he had to say. However, I really can’t tell you about his specific subject matter, because what impressed me more than the content of his speech was the delivery of it.
There was a connection to his audience felt more strongly than by any speaker I’d heard before. His communication style is rare. Because I believe that communication skills separate adequate from excellent, I felt sure that there was something important for me to study. Afterward I spoke to him briefly and he told me about PSL.
What I took away from that first class made a significant difference in the way I looked at my work, my business, my partners and my employees. As a small business our ability to communicate and to be creative has been our strongest asset. I became more aware of where our current strategies needed to change and recognized that my company would benefit most from sharing the lessons and experience of PSL.
In this era of belt tightening very penny counts. Happily our investment in PSL continues to pay back.
Send Yourself (Negotiate a Deal)
Lots of independent consultants/contractors send themselves to PSL, and that’s not unthinkable even if you’re an employee. First of all, consider how you can contribute part of the cost:
I had some limited success getting my company to justify PSL and SEM. They paid for the tuition and travel, and I used vacation time.
My employer has a very small training budget that has pretty much been targeted for specific in-house training. I got them to support my attendance for PSL/Change Shop by offering to pay for the expenses if they paid for my time. Unreimbursed business expenses are tax deductable. I did of course describe the courses and the benefits it would bring to my job (as a Software Process person).
Many attendees discovered that by offering to contribute to the cost of PSL, they convinced their manager to pay the entire cost. As these cases show, you can negotiate any deal that works for you and your employer – time, money, tasks.
But even if you don’t convince anyone else to pay any part of the cost of PSL, it’s good to ask yourself: “How much is it worth it to me to learn how to be more effective?”
Some employers simply don’t believe in paying for training, or giving time off. If that’s your situation, you may want to consider what that policy tells you about your future in this company.
A number of people who come to PSL tell us that when their manager refused to send them to PSL, they started looking for a new position in their company. When negotiating their new position, they made PSL a condition of accepting the job. And some had to leave their company to find a more hospitable environment for their learning.
I found out about the W&W courses in 1994. At that time I worked for a company that didn’t have much of a training budget, nor sent its people to conferences. (I wanted to go to the International Conference on Software Testing, once, but my VP insisted that only the people in our internationalization team needed to go!)
My strategy was to change jobs: I made PSL a condition of employment for the next company that hired me. They were happy to oblige. I think there are two reasons for that:
1. When someone’s trying to hire you, training seems like a small expense compared to your salary. The only time $3000 is going to sound like a small number is when it’s dwarfed by a number like $60,000 or $90,000.
2. Your desire for training shows that they are hiring an appreciating asset, and during the hiring process is the time when most companies are dwelling on your future value.
I did the same thing to get into SEM ’98.
One way to ask for it is to say “I’d like to work for you, but I was planning to take PSL in a few months. I was going to ask my former employer to pay for it, but now I’ll need you to send me instead. Is that going to be a problem?”
Create and Persist
Whatever your strategy for getting to PSL, don’t give up easily. Lots of people tell us that they were turned down the first time, but they just kept asking when the time seemed right – as when they finished some fine piece of work.
Other people were accepted, only to have their manager attempt to cancel the agreement shortly before the class (“But this project just can’t spare you!”) Be prepared for this, and if you need help with this situation, contact our workshop coordinator.
Vary your approach. Be incremental. For instance, you might start by joining the SHAPE forum and sharing some of the problems and solutions with your manager. Or get your manager to buy some of our books for your company library – or buy them for yourself. Share your learnings with your manager.
If you want to share PSL with us, we want to share PSL with you. So, keep asking. Be creative. If need be, wear them down.
In the end, I didn’t get my company to send me to PSL. Instead, I found one person in my company to send me to PSL.
My company didn’t understand the purpose or the benefit; neither did my manager. After a time, a different person became my manager. She didn’t understand either.
I kept practicing my explanation for the next time, just knowing that if I could say it just right they’d have to agree.
After two years, in the hall I met a man, the manager of a different group, with whom I had worked a little on a shared project. He said, “I can’t go to this PSL workshop given by Jerry Weinberg. Would you be interested?”
And I went. And he paid for it out of his budget. (… and the orchestra swells in the background.)
These tactics are not exclusive. As Mike describes, you can combine any or all of them to make the best deal and get to join us in PSL.
Here is how I got support to come to PSL.
1) I told the decision-maker about Jerry – why I thought he had something to say that would be valuable – his seniority, the number of books he had written.
2) I told the decision-maker about someone else I knew who had taken PSL. They worked for a recognizable and respected organization. I explained the benefits that they got, and how much they recommended it.
3) I explained to the decision-maker what I expected to get out of attending PSL. My enthusiasm showed. I promised to report back about what happened. It was clear that I would do everything I could to create a benefit for myself, and have that benefit impact my customers, co-workers, and the person deciding.
4) I understood that training dollars were in short supply, and that I was seen as someone who already had the required skills to perform my job. I didn’t make the decision-maker, or the organization, wrong about this. I asked how it could work anyway.
5) The decision-maker proposed that the organization pay for tuition, that I take vacation to attend, and pay my own travel expenses. I didn’t want to give up vacation, and they accepted my counter-proposal that I take time-off without pay instead.
6) I stayed over a Saturday night to reduce air fare. This arrangement continued for Change Shop and SEM.
So, give it your best shot, and we’ll see you here one of these days, telling other people how you got to PSL!