ottoman_before_afterI admit it, I’m a DIY junkie. I love all the shows: “House Crashers,” “Kitchen Impossible,” even “Man Caves.”  While taking something old and turning it into something new has become quite the trend in recent years, I first became interested in this concept while in college. I discovered that I love to take an old piece of furniture and make it new again. Imagine my surprise when, several years later, I realized that the steps I take to refinishing furniture mirror those we use at Orgwide to help our clients interested in refurbishing their training programs.

If you have never refinished a piece of furniture before, let me walk you through the steps so we can discover the parallels between refinishing furniture and repurposing in the work place. 

  1. Assess the Bones – The first step when choosing a piece of furniture to refinish, you must “assess the bones.”  I often visit local thrift stores for new pieces to work on, and the first thing I look at is the quality of the piece. I ask several questions. Is it made with good, solid wood (not cheap laminate)? Is it fairly sturdy? If wobbly, is it fixable? Does it have clean, classic lines? I recently found an antique shipping crate that I found fascinating. It wasn’t originally furniture, but I knew I could do something with it if it was solid and sturdy.

    In the same way, if you decide to refurbish a training program, you must first assess the bones, or conduct a Needs Analysis. When assessing the bones, determine what type of content you’re training. Are the learning objectives still valid? Did the program create the desired behaviors when it was first launched? How were the participant survey scores? Not everything will translate well into a new work product. Like furniture, it may have already served its purpose and cannot be re-used. It must be able to stand the test of time.

  2. Envision the Future – After determining a piece of furniture is solid enough to refinish, you must have a vision for its future. In other words, what purpose will it serve? You may find that its original purpose no longer applies – or that you want it to serve another purpose. For example, I had already assessed the bones and decided the shipping crate was solid enough and since it was essentially just a wooden box, I envisioned an upholstered lid on it, turning it into a storage ottoman! I now had a future vision for this piece.

    With your training program, you need a vision as well. Should you change the method of delivery? Does it just need freshening up with a new format or template? Or, is it time to migrate the content from a classroom experience to an eLearning course? You must have a vision for the outcome of the refurbished training program before you begin step three.

  3. Plan your Work and Work your Plan – For the shipping crate soon-to-be storage ottoman, I had to develop a work plan. Was I going to paint the wood? Stain it? What was I going to use to create the lid? How would it attach to the box? What kind of fabric would I use to upholster the lid? All these questions had to be answered as I developed my work plan before I could begin tackling the project. 

    You must also plan your work to repurpose that training class. After you have decided the learning objectives are solid, the outcome behaviors are still desirable, and you have a clear vision for the future courseware, you must now plan your work. What changes need to be made? Is there any research that must be conducted? Does the format and template require an updated design? What resources will be required to create the new training course? Once you have decided what work needs to be done, do it!

  4. Enjoy the New! Finally, revel in the results of your hard work! This is my favorite step because I get to take that piece of furniture out of the work room or garage and place it in its new home. I get a great sense of pride when I look at a piece of furniture I refinished and think “I did that!” (You also have bragging rights!)  Once the piece is settled into your home, you have the pleasure of enjoying it for years to come.

    When you have made all the appropriate changes to your training course, you can now set it free, or deploy it, if you will. A refinished training program is now ready for consumption by the team or other associates. Your organization will reap financial benefits of the changed behaviors, plus you reap the added benefit of knowing you made a difference!

There you have it. Confessions from a DIY junkie turned corporate training and communications guru. Through the steps of assessing the bones, envisioning the future, planning your work, and enjoying the new, I hope you can now see the (unlikely) parallels between refinishing furniture and repurposing in the work place! For assistance in repurposing in your work place, feel free to contact us!

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