Thinking again on Recruitment

My last post on this topic was back in 2018 so, as I have been doing a lot of advertising and (attempted) recruiting in the last 9(ish) months, I thought I would put some more reflective thoughts down here.

9 months?

Yes, it has taken a while. We have basically been looking for someone since I was promoted last June. The delay has been due to various factors – including that it took a while to get confirmation of being able to hire and then I have been ill a few times (including more recently thanks to some bronchitis – yay!).

Within that time frame we have then had various attempts at hiring – interviewing a few people, readvertising with tweaked job descriptions, etc.


As was the case in 2018, the candidates applying have been hugely varied in terms of background, experience, etc.

We were perhaps looking for too much in terms of experience and qualifications but have tried to hold out for someone who has a good mix of those as well as (of course) someone who comes across well in interview, by email, via written application, on telephone calls with HR, etc.

The horrible bit

The bit that is not good about recruiting is obviously saying “no” to people. There have been a lot of candidates who probably would have been fine in role and probably would have fit in. Even applying models to the recruitment process still means you can making decisions on the minutia. There are no guarantees in this game and it was particularly harsh on some candidates in our final round as there were four or five I would have hired if building a team from scratch.

I have been on the rejected side of the recruitment process a lot over the years. It sucks. Hopefully I am a better interviewer than many people I have met…

The good bit

Learning and development is a relatively small world so I do enjoy interviewing as an opportunity to meet people and discuss roles, interests and the like. Hopefully those coming away from the process unsuccessful are not too disheartened from the experience of meeting me.

Reset your PCs!

Perhaps as my Windows user experience goes back to the 90s, when you didn’t want to lose your hard drive’s files and scan disk/defrag seemed to work quite well, I have rarely reset a PC. However, I have been having a lot of performance issues with my personal PC and, whilst I presumed this was age/hardware related, a full Windows reset seems to have massively helped!

The reset was actually quite a painless experience – OneDrive houses most of my files (I have realised I lost a few that must have been saved elsewhere but nothing too important), Chrome has all my bookmarks and passwords synced, Steam and other apps have my gaming libraries to reinstall, etc. All in all I will probably try and reset my machine quite frequently going forward, looking online it seems a lot of people suggest every six months.

Therefore, dear reader, if you are having PC problems – take the leap of faith and do the reset. It might just save you lots of time and money (if, like me, you were on the verge of thinking you needed a new machine).

Altspace VR is gone

This is where we say goodbye. Thank you for joining us on this wonderful adventure, and for making AltspaceVR a warm and welcoming community built by caring and creative people.  🥰

Though we’re sad to go, we hope that the friendships we formed, the experiences we shared, and the memories we made will live on.  

Final email to Altspace users

Microsoft’s Altspace has closed. Whilst I have only used the tool just a handful of times this could be something of major milestone.

As a service with genuine communities that predated the buzz over the “metaverse” Altspace will go down in history. Unfortunately though that may just be that it is just the latest of many examples where big tech acquires a service for it to die later.

Nottingham Forest’s 2022-23 season – as an example of change management

You often see on LinkedIn, and elsewhere, people crowbarring popular culture into articles tangentially related to management, business and other “LinkedIn type topics”. I tend to avoid these but, after 23 years away from the English Premier League, the team I support (Nottingham Forest) are back in the top league so I am going to try my hand at such a post.

There are, of course, other articles out there on this topic, including this example from The Guardian.

What has been happening at Forest?

Lots of headlines were created around the club last summer as they broke the UK record for signing the most players in a transfer window (22).

This podcast covers everything pretty well in terms of why so many players have been signed.

This approach goes against the established wisdom that teams need some continuity in playing staff to keep cohesion, such as the players knowing how each other play, as well as keeping momentum from the positivity around the previous seasons. The Forest approach goes against this logic and has led to lots of jokes and mockery online, such as:

Now there are valid reasons to question/criticise the Forest approach. The biggest is that the financial outlay has been big and therefore risks the club’s longer term financial security, the gamble is that the investment keeps the team in the Premier League and therefore able to continue to reap the financial rewards. The reality is that relegation, after this level of expenditure, would surely be extremely damaging even with an owner who has been supporting a loss-making enterprise since he bought the club a few years ago.

Reasons for optimism – two key differences this year

As a fan there are two key differences this year that, I think, have been little talked about in relation to Forest but make the strategy less risky:

  1. Changes to the rules on substitutions … essentially clubs need bigger squads this season and can make more changes during a game which means having more “first team” options, rather than “bench warmers”, that can be useful tactically.
  2. The winter World Cup … having a long mid-season break gives teams the chance to go on training camps and perform other activity to improve team solidity and strategy mid-season.

Why such rapid change?

For context, a football club (at least in the Premier League) can register 25 players plus have a pool of younger plays that do not have to be included in the 25. With this context, 21/22 new signings is clearly a huge number. However, Forest had 5 key players last season that they immediately lost at the end of last season as they were on loan (i.e. temporary contracts) from other clubs.

They also lost two players who had been major figures in the last few years – the goalkeeper Brice Samba (who seemingly was not willing to sign a new contract and wanted to move back to France) and Lewis Grabban (last season’s captain who presumably wanted to remain a starter rather than become a bit part player for Forest in the Premier League).

Therefore, Forest had to sign at least 7 players.

If you think those 7 must have been ahead of another existing contracted 7 then it is probably fair to say that means at least 14 players were needed for the higher level of the Premier League. Depending on who you listen to the “lost” players can be seen as not just the 7 but actually 17:

Therefore we could argue the change is justified as the club simply lacked the resources to compete in the Premier League due to a “ahead of plan” promotion. Whilst Forest have had a couple of good seasons in recent years, promotion was unexpected, the club being bottom of the league early in the season when the manager Steve Cooper was appointed.

Therefore, the Forest project/experiment this summer transfer window has essentially been a “scaling up” exercise. Whilst numbers of staff may have changed relatively little in total headcount (in part due to the 25 player rule), the percentage of total that is new is considerable and we are seeing a major shift in competency (at least perceived competency based on historical performance).

This is not dissimilar to other industries where we are seeing needs for hiring/upskilling/reskilling to fill roles, especially in fast moving areas like cyber security. Therefore, I am going to try and apply some key management theory to the situation…

Some application of change and team theory

Perhaps the most well know team formation model is the “Forming > Storming > Norming > Performing” model of Tuckman. This is essentially the theory applied by critics, i.e. that the changes have not given Forest enough time to “form” into a team. The winter world cup break should help with this and some “storming” seemed to be happening prior to the break.

The Forest manager, Steve Cooper, is clearly a quite modern manager in the way he speaks. He regularly refers to mentality in his interviews and it would seem he refers to the importance of a shared vision for the team. Such a vision is a key part of various business management models – not least Senges’ five disciplines. Similarly learning from mistakes and other aspects of Senges-like models bleed out of Forest’s current practice.

In many ways Cooper and the management team have had some of the work done for them – the sense of urgency (for example in Kotter’s change model) was well established. They could then focus on empowering the players to achieve through a vision of how the team should be operating. The short term wins of models like Kotter are also well suited to football and the “taking one game at a time” kind of mentality.

Start of the year reflections – including “Full stack instructional designers” (and ending my CMALT status)

New year, new reflections on professional status.

I travelled for work earlier this month, I think this was only the second international work trip in something like 8 years (when I was previously travelling internationally quite a lot). This absence of international work travel has been due to different factors, including different scope of roles, the covid pandemic closures, etc. However, being back in environments I have not seen for a while (airport lounges!) got me thinking about my personal profile again.

“Full stack”?

I have tended, for a decade or so, to think I am a fairly “generalist” L&D person – whilst I came into learning through libraries and eLearning I have moved away from those specialisms into more of a general L&D role. I have noticed of late a few references to “full stack” instructional designers – this seems to be an attempt at saying someone who does a bit of everything, not just a designer but working across ADDIE (the top Google result is to this Medium page from a few years back). Is this IDs looking to be seen as full L&D pros or something else?

The idea of “full stack”, as far as I know, is coming across from IT industry language:

A full stack web developer is a person who can develop both client and server software.

In addition to mastering HTML and CSS, he/she also knows how to:

  • Program a browser (like using JavaScript, jQuery, Angular, or Vue)
  • Program a server (like using PHP, ASP, Python, or Node)
  • Program a database (like using SQL, SQLite, or MongoDB)

I would personally say this does not really work in an ID context unless we mean “full stack” in terms of being a programmer of the systems and not just a user of GUIs to develop learning solutions.

Nonetheless an interesting development given that IT has taken the use of “information” from other domains/professions and we might now reach the point of maturity where IT terminology starts getting adopted in other areas (“Agile”, or at least “agile”, being an other term where this has been usurped outside pure-IT communities I guess).


Thinking about the “generalist” vs “full stack” vs “something else” language impacted on my decision not to renew my CMALT status as of the Jan 1st renewal date.

I was an early CMALT holder, number 53 I believe, having completed my portfolio and application when the CMALT list was just a doc on the ALT website Now it is a nice searchable interface and has effectively become the standard to achieve for UK learning technologists.

CMALT (and the other activities of the Association of Learning Technology) were important to me when working in Higher Ed. This all remained useful when I moved to working in more general L&D areas. However, I have not really engaged with ALT very much in the last few years (beyond completing some reviews of CMALT applications). Therefore, I opted against renewing as it seemed somewhat false to maintain my status when not really engaged in this community (albeit that this is in part a problem with ALT as the focus seems to have been too much on UK HEIs).

This is interesting as, like when chose to drop my Chartered status of CILIP (MCILIP) at the end of 2016, in can be seen as something of a epoch in my professional focus. However, I ended up working in a library service again after dropping MCILIP so who knows what the future will hold.