September 2014 v9no4
Building Capability
The Bigger Picture
In This Issue
Understanding the Work...Analysis
Legal and Effective Graphcs (Part 1)
Coffee. Everyone's Favorite Health Drink

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PRH_4  In this issue we will be looking at how we analyze work processes to find ways of improving them and to collect the necessary information for designing related training and support requirements.

  This month we had the pleasure of presenting at the Chicago eLearning and Technology Showcase. Our topic was legal and effective graphics...because graphics should be both things. It is so easy these days to pilfer images from the web that a cautionary note seemed to be in order. Based on the discussion at our session, apparently we weren't alone in thinking that.

  We also have a fun piece about coffee. I suppose it would be good reading at Starbucks.
  I hope you enjoy this issue of the newsletter. Please forward it to friends and colleagues. Any comments or suggestions about content are welcome. We are very interested in hearing what you think. 


Peter R. Hybert, CPT  

Principal Consultant

Understanding the Work


   In the last issue we teed up the topic of work and process analysis. There are really three keys to designing and developing solutions that improve capability

  1. Understand the work
  2. Understand the knowledge, skills, information, and traits needed to perform the work
  3. Design effective strategies for enabling performers -- in this case, effective means taking the shortest path to performance

   Understanding the work is the most important and first step. There is no point doing anything else until you understand what people are doing now, what they are expected to be doing, the gap between those two things and why there is a gap in the first place.


   We have been analyzing work for a long time and have settled on an approach we now pretty much use for everything (as long as the client doesn't require something else). It works well for capturing tasks, simplifying the work process, identifying knowledge and skills the performers need, and identifying opportunities for support (such as tools are references). 


   If you are interested, hop over to the blog and take a look at the details. Be sure to comment if you have questions or suggestions! 

Keep Your Graphics Legal!

Instructionally Effective Graphics That Won't Get You an Orange Jumpsuit 


   When we build training, we try to focus on the end-user performance and finding the simplest and most effective means of enabling them to perform their jobs.  Unfortunately, effective training is often not enough by itself. Clients expect the program to look good too, and by good we mean "professional." Professional training is often expected to look aesthetically pleasing.


   Advances in graphic design and animation have changed the game so that simple line drawings and text presentations feel incredibly dated.  So how do we as developers find time to create professional graphics without losing sight of the end user's actual training needs? Does substance take a back seat to style? It shouldn't have to.

   In many cases though, finding or creating

 effective and usable graphics is a headache, and by that I mean they ofte

n take more time than the benefit they provide. Graphics often serve a vital purpose, such as illustrating a complex performance or a theory that would o

therwise require a lot of words; let's say 1,000 for a nice round figure. In many cases though, graphics are just cute decorations presumed to keep your audience interested (and the client happy). 

    For very specialized applications, you may have no alternative to authoring your image yourself. In other cases, you may be able to find what you need on a website. Even when you are lucky enough to find a graphic that suits your purposes, it may actually be someone else's intellectual property. Though lot's of people will copy images freely from Google searches or other web sources, it is not always clear whether it is really legal to use them without permission.


   There are really four situations in which you can legally using a graphic. 

  1. You created it and own the rights
  2. It is not protected by copyright
  3. You have permission or a license to use it
  4. You can use it without permission, under "fair use"

In the weeks to come, we will look at these four paths and some of the in's and out's to legally using graphics. You may be surprised to see that things are not as simple as they might appear at first glance.



Ian and Pete recently presented a session called "Legal and Effective Graphics for eLearning" at the 2014 Chicago eLearning and Technology Showcase. Most of the principles apply to all kinds of training, as well as presentations. If you want the details, view the presentation.

Everyone's Favorite Health Drink


  Coffee can be indispensable in the workplace. We just read a study about how coffee really works. Kind of the reverse of the conventional wisdom. According to this study, in layman's terms, coffee doesn't really "wake you up" as much as it keeps you from getting sleepy. Here are the details


   The above doesn't entirely fit with experience though, if you consider that (actually unpleasant) sensation of being too wired from too much coffee. But, I'm not a scientist. Although we once did a project at a lab with combinatorial chemists and they always had two pots going at all had green tape wrapped around the handle to indicate that it was double-strength. (Ok, that was a gratuitous mention of "combinatorial chemistry" but the two handles thing is true.)


   The green handle is symptomatic of the problem of individual preference. In an office, it can be difficult to get agreement. In a doctor or dentist office, or in a one- or two-person office, it is even more difficult as the small volume of sporadic consumption makes entire pots of coffee potentially wasteful. Hence the popularity of the K-Cup.


   First of all, a few jobs ago (before anyone in the midwest had heard of Starbucks) several of us in our work group tried to engineer a satisfactory single-cup solution. We emptied out tea bags and put coffee in and tried steeping it. We put a scoop of coffee into a filter stuffed into a funnel and then did a pour-through. These methods were OK, if a little awkward from a labor and clean-up perspective. K-Cups excel at convenience. You buy an expensive hardware component and pretty expensive individual capsules but you can crank out good-tasting single-cups all day. But there are a couple of things to feel guilty about.

   There is a large waste to cup ratio. Many of the capsules are not too environmentally friendly, though some are biodegradeble. And, they are expensive. According to a New York times article, on a per pound basis, some K-cup coffee sells at approximately a whopping $50 per pound!  


   There are alternatives though. There are single-cup makers and there is even a commercially made version of the tea bag. My personal favorite is the AeroPress. It makes coffee as good as a French press but with way easier clean-up.


   Some people get their best work done at a coffee shop. The coffee probably helps but there are definitely other factors at play. One is probably getting away from the office where there are distractions (like the phone, co-workers, your boss) lying in wait. Personally, I like the white noise distractions at a coffee house...the conversation going on at the next table that you don't care about, the banging they apparently have to do to dislodge used espresso grounds, the hissing of the milk steamer, and the background music. Even the fact that you know you aren't going to be sitting there all have an hour or two to get to a stopping point on what you are working on and then that's it. (And if you have more time available, keep in mind that Starbucks furnishes their shops primarily with non-cushioned chairs, probably for a reason.) All of that forces you to boost your concentration level and put on your task blinders and crank away, head down and oblivious.


   A couple of app-makers must have noticed the benefits of background noise, probably while brainstorming ideas for apps while sitting in a coffee shop. So, if you want that vibe but don't feel like actually leaving your desk, you can import the audio portion to your ear buds from one of the sources below.


Thank you for your interest in PRH Consulting! For more about our company, approach, and experience, please visit our website at  
We hope you think of us the next time you need help improving or supporting performance.


Pete Hybert, CPT


PRH Consulting Inc.
20 Danada Square West, #102
Wheaton, IL  60189

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