Admiring the Problems of Our Own Success

I just stepped out of another awesome dialogue that has triggered another post. A two-part question was asked about “How to influence our training peers to step away from antiquated practices” …AND… “How to demonstrate to senior leadership that there is a better way to drive performance”. I think both parts of that question are essential and foundational to getting us out of the current practices that are so dangerously embedded. I say “dangerous” because both training budgets and jobs are at risk if we cling to status quo. Until we take meaningful actions to effectively address these issues, all we are doing is wringing our hands and admiring the problems of our own success.

So what have we been so successful doing that is such a big problem? Training, as an organization, is getting about as much respect from senior leadership as they are budget, and it seems like respect and budget are in a dead heat for the basement. I wonder how much of our current predicament is a result of unconscious incompetency…not knowing what we don’t know. Same could hold true of our senior leadership, not because they lack knowledge, but because they have a limited perspective on the path to performance outcomes. And whose fault is that? Training. That perspective is what we have been pushing for years.

We [Training] have been hugely successful selling the idea that improvements in performance can be driven by training. I know there are colleagues who bristle when I discount training’s impact, but my point of emphasis lays well beyond the scope of even the most excellent training product we might deliver. My rant is not aimed at deficient training; rather, it is in the misdirected application of learning. This not about “WHAT” as much as it is “WHEN” and “WHERE”.

If performance deficiencies were a forest fire, we [Training] are dumping gallons and gallons of water uphill from the fire and hoping some of it will trickle down to where it is most needed. The point is not so much Training doing the wrong thing as much as it is WHERE they are doing it…WHEN they are doing it…and, in many cases, WHAT is NOT getting done. Sustainable human performance cures all sort of ills; ask any business leader. Sustainability in human performance protects profits from failed execution – prevents creation of material waste – avoids business risk and liability…just to pick a couple biggies.

These attributes of sustainable impact are not manifested uphill from the fire – they manifest in the direct heat of the blaze – the moment of flawless [or not] performance @ the point of work. And Training is NOT there. I would argue that our “new classroom” is larger and more dynamic, and from what I have witnessed, is a significantly evolved learning solution from what we currently excel at. Add to that evolution a rapidly increasing urgency for us [or somebody] to show up in the post-training work context…in the fire…@ the point of work with learning, information and/or knowledge assets that align with role-based tasks that are NOT being executed flawlessly.

Granted the heat is significantly greater at the point of the fire, but that is where innovative tactics can smother a bad performance situation before more of the forest burns down. If Training pros are properly equipped, and if Training’s expertise is recognized we have a shot at making a sustainable impact. Here’s the rub as I see it. Being an instructional design guru or goddess is not the skill set that is going to carry the day. It is a variety of performance consulting that is skewed toward learning and performance. We need to be equipped to accomplish Front End Assessments (FEA) to determine the root cause(s) of performance gaps. Why? Because I can guarantee that some of the gaps are caused by something other than training.

But…is that the song we have been singing to position our services? Not very often. If your job is to design, develop, or deliver training, that’s what you are going to do. There is absolutely not future in that approach, and what future we thought we had is shrinking along with the training budget. Our senior leadership, bless their hearts, are tasked to drive profits, increase market-share, improve speed to market, drive and sustain sales growth, etc. Not a single one of them carries a bogey to increase knowledge in the workforce.  I ask then, why would they fund a business unit that does not effectively drive those tangibles that matter most to the sustainability of the business? Bingo…take another slash at the training budget…reduce the training staff…off with their heads.

We are faced with a paradigm shift of urgent proportions in our role of business contribution. Level 1&2 evaluations that are off the charts prove nothing to no one, and yet they are relied upon to prove our worth. To the question at hand, “How do we shift the role of Training to something more impactful – capable of driving tangible business results?

It “ain’t gonna happen” in the classroom or through on-line courses/blends, or pumping a million bucks into a LMS. We should be engaging the workforce [WHO] with relevant, readily accessible [HOW] performer support assets [WHAT] when their moments of need [WHEN put flawless performance at risk [WHY]. This “new classroom” is found at the heart of the blaze; a different venue; and an evolved design/develop/delivery model. Making this shift will require different/additional skills, and in some cases, even different technology. And probably most importantly, only a small percentage of those “different assets” may have anything at all to do with training.

While it is true we are being called to fight different fires, a different approach is implied; hence, the earlier post from this weekend, “ADDIE Abandoned for Performance Consulting Skills” in the event anyone wants to dig deeper. Performance Consulting is not THE silver bullet, but is absolutely an important one to have in the clip.

It is time to act. It is time to equip ourselves to do more than admire the problem we face.

Gary G. Wise
Workforce Performance Advocate, Coach, Speaker 
(317) 437-2555
Web: Living In Learning