AutoLoon ethics training



Your challenge

You’re an independent training designer. Business has been slow lately, and your spouse has been reminding you of the fast-approaching due date for your kid’s tuition in increasingly significant tones. It’s starting to look like ramen noodles will play a prominent role in family dinners if you don’t win a big project soon.

Today you have a chance to turn things around.

Last week, you were contacted by the L&D manager at AutoLoon, an auto parts franchise that has several stores in your region. It sounded like the manager, Ann, was interested in having you create some custom training. You invited her to your office for a two-hour meeting to learn more about the project and do some initial action mapping.

Now Ann is in your office, accompanied by Luis, the subject matter expert. Can you win Ann and Luis as clients, help them identify the best solution for their problem, and avoid a useless information dump?

Explore! Don’t be afraid to click what looks like a wrong answer. You can always go back.

I created the scenario in Twine, a free editor for interactive fiction.

In case it’s not glaringly obvious, this story is fiction.


Photo by Complete Interior Design via Compfight cc

What do you think? Are you satisfied with your work so far with Ann and Luis?

Points I wanted to make

First, please explore the scenario. Don’t hesitate to make “bad” decisions and see how they play out. I designed this as an exploratory scenario, not an assessment. Every misstep lets you go back at least one decision. Then click below to see what I wanted you to learn, and judge for yourself if I was successful.

See the points.

Here are the major points I wanted to make:

  • Don’t challenge the client’s training decision at first. If you think they’re making a poor decision, let them see it for themselves in the analysis.
  • It’s a great idea to ask early on, “What have you tried so far to solve the problem?” If I were scoring the scenario, you’d get a big pile of points for selecting that, because you’d discover that training has already failed to solve the problem.
  • Don’t insist on having a 100% perfectly phrased goal before continuing the analysis, especially if you suspect that the project could change significantly before you complete the action mapping.
  • Do everything you can to make the process easy for the client.
  • If you suspect that the client wants a quick, ineffective fix, avoid giving them any openings that they can use to justify that solution.
  • Be sure to get the approval of stakeholders who have veto power before beginning any design work. Have them check the goal at least, and possibly also the basic ideas about why people aren’t doing what they need to do.
  • When looking for causes on the flowchart (environment, knowledge, skills, motivation), do it for each task, not in general. You’ll uncover far more solutions that way, such as job aids, and you’ll avoid statements that can seem like global condemnations of the company culture or its workforce.
  • When you think you see the real cause of a problem, avoid telling the client. Instead, help the client discover it for themselves. They’ll be more receptive to it if they see it as their idea.

For more ideas on how to run a kickoff meeting, see this blog post.

Let me tell you all about the development!

The scenario has 57 decision points or endings, more than any scenario I’ve written before. However, it took me only 8 hours to write, edit, and produce it, which is far less time than any scenario I’ve created with a client. For client work, 20-30 hours was more typical, and that would be just for a script for a shorter scenario, and it wouldn’t include production.

I had a huge advantage this time because I was the client, designer, and SME all in one person. It also helped immensely to have a tool that combines plotting, script, and production in one tool.

What is this site?
You’re getting a sneak preview of a private site. It has materials for people who have taken one of my courses. Only they can leave comments on this page.



  1. Norman Lamont says:

    I liked this because
    – every choice seemed tempting, there were no throwaways; sometimes I had to read the choices carefully to see what the differences were
    – I only had to go back one step each time: it would have been really demotivating (as well as confusing) to have to retrace my steps further
    – the results were often surprising
    – the ‘bad results’ stung a bit! So much for my judgement. That’s why I appreciated getting to retake the previous step, not being sent back to the start
    – I found it perfectly engaging without a single picture of Ann or Luis. I could imagine them, that was easy enough. Too much effort goes into creating a picture story alongside the real story.

  2. Robert Penn says:

    I love this scenario, for the same reasons that Norman pointed out. I think a good test of a branching scenario is if I want to do it more than once, which I did in this case. I’m curious, in what situations, would you provide the take-away concepts after the scenario (e.g. Don’t challenge the client’s training decision at first, etc.)? when would you provide them before the scenario? when would you not provide them at all?

  3. Cathy Moore says:

    Robert, thanks for your question. I strongly prefer having people explore a scenario with a minimum of preparation so they feel like they’re discovering and achieving things rather than just obediently applying tips that they read a minute ago. That’s why the detailed tips come after the scenario, rather than before.

    However, it’s important to avoid frustrating people. In the case of this scenario, most people who are going to see it are familiar with the basic steps of action mapping, so the situation isn’t going to be completely alien. So I’d recommend “just enough” preparation to avoid frustration. Testing the scenario on a few learners can help us find that “just enough” spot. Letting players go back one scene also helps reduce frustration.

    If the scenario is supposed to act as an assessment, then I’d provide no tips at all (since supposedly they should know the material by now). I’d also give them no chance to go back. The learners’ score would be the ending they achieved. My ideal use for scenarios when an assessment is required would be to provide a series of increasingly challenging exploration scenarios, in which nothing is scored, players can go back to redo their previous decision, and a thorough debrief helps learners draw the right conclusions. Then I’d end with one or two assessment scenarios.

    Listing the tips afterward as I’ve done above is a very weak alternative to what I’d prefer, which is a live discussion. I’d prefer to have a debrief that happens live, either in person or online, and that’s led by a facilitator who asks questions that elicit the conclusions that I listed above, so the learners are creating the tips themselves through discussion. But since people are going through the materials here at very different times and often alone, I just listed some conclusions that I hope they drew from the scenario. A forum would be another way to provide asynchronous discussion but would lack the impact of a live back-and-forth among participants.

  4. Liz Armstrong says:

    I really like this scenario. I’ve had a situation exactly the same as this where there was a built-in disincentive for the desired actions and behaviour. The internal client asked for training in the usual way to solve the problem. I did all of the things in the scenario both right and wrong, including representing the client’s answers on a flipchart as the discussion progressed, hoping they would see the disincentive for themselves, but alas they didn’t. In the end they paid an external to do some training which didn’t solve the problem. I wish I’d had this scenario years ago.

  5. Cathy Moore says:

    Liz, thanks for your comment. Although the scenario couldn’t help you with your past client, I’m glad to hear it might be helpful in the future.

  6. Emmanuelle Erny-Newton says:

    I really enjoyed this life-like scenario -it even made my heart pound at some point when I was torn between two answers 😉
    I also really liked the list of points. I would add one, which I enjoyed finding in the scenario : the idea of “looking for bright spots” ; asking your client if there are individuals in the company that naturally perform better in the area the client wishes to improve, and then probe further by asking what those individuals do differently.
    Positive and constructive !

  7. Cathy Moore says:

    Emmanuelle, thanks for your suggestion. I can get so deep into looking at problems that I forget to acknowledge that not everything is going wrong, and that there are people who are doing it well who we can get ideas from!

  8. Cathy Moore says:

    Here’s a timely article on “positive deviance” that tracks with Emmanuelle’s comment:

    Not “Why are staph infections so high in the hospital?” but “Why are staph infections lower on the third floor?”
    Not “Why are sales down in Regions 6 and 9?” but “Why are sales up in Region 4?”
    Not “Why do so few graduates of our leadership academy get promoted?” but “Why did these seven graduates get promoted?”

  9. Emmanuelle Erny-Newton says:

    Yes, that was what I was referring to.
    Positive deviance is extensively used in the humanitarian sector, from where it emerged, but it is now used in lots of other contexts. Often, the solution to the problem you’re trying to solve is already being solved by individuals in the community (the “bright spots”). Those people do not have better means, nor a better environment, yet they do better. Their solution is therefore bound to be both cost-effective and achievable.

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