Training Is Not “Predicament-based” & That’s a Predicament

It’s funny how the craving to grind out a new blog post is often flung upon me by falling into a collegial scrum triggered by a well-written article. In this case, the article was an ATD post I totally missed that surfaced back in February – The Future of Learning Is Not Training. What tripped my trigger was not the article but the reader comment thread attached in one of the LinkedIn groups I follow. As is my usual practice, I read the comments first…and then got sucked into the article. Glad I moved beyond the scrum…

The article nailed the concept that we all-too-often innovate while continuing to drag along historical baggage of familiar old best practices…the kind of best practices we knee-jerk to because that’s how we’ve always done it. You know the ones…we’ve all done it. The comment thread bore this out by one commenter suggesting L&D should expand and offer the same content in multiple venues in the future and that the learner…after they have assessed their learning styles…could then choose the venue to consume whatever training was most compatible with their style preferences. Say Whaaat?

Why toss that monkey on the learner’s back? C’mon, we can’t build taxonomy on the stinking LMS that will allow you to find something much less adding another handful of venue options to the mix. Good luck with that…

Do we even know that the perceived “need to learn” is in fact a real need to learn? So we do what? Assume it is…because that’s what we’ve always done…and continue to feed useless crap to our learners. But hey! It’s in a format they seem to find compatible with their learning styles. Is that sweet or what?

Maybe I’m crazy, [don’t answer that…] but if I’m going to recommend “learning” delivered in ANY venue it’s because I’ve uncovered a performance predicament somewhere in the learning and performance ecosystem.

Until we completely understand the nature of the “predicament” and the other attributes affecting performance at the Point-of-Work, how in the world would we know what venue is most appropriate? Never mind that we’re now licensed by tradition to conjure more useless content for an assumed learning need.

Okay…sorry…some of that’s not really fair…but it should ring true for the most part. We would…however…know for sure if we had the performance “predicament” and the root causes nailed down tight.

The authors described how we tend to look through the “wrong end of a telescope”, and I could not agree more. In fact, what the article described totally validated the findings from a recent diagnostic effort we completed for improving onboarding practices for new employees. Here’s what happened…

Using the performance driver & restrainer categories I described in “Have You Discovered Your Discovery Gaps Yet?”, we completed a rapid performance diagnostic on what ordinarily would have been satisfied with a training needs assessment…because…ordinarily, the solution would be “training-based”. Truly, there would be an innovative shift toward “micro-tizing” and gamifying and “all-the-other-really-cool-things-we-can-do-with-training-izing”. And in reality, none of those training innovations are bad solutions…BUT…is the “predicament” worthy of training in the first place? And that would be my point…

Back to the Diagnostic

The driver and restrainer attributes were assigned to the correct categories using an unscientific stroke-count to the responses we received on interview questions asked of our target audience. Remember, part of the expectation was that a training solution was at hand. The discovery findings told a different story…and the story was validated by the ATD prediction article…as a bonus.

We found that restrainer attributes to performance fell into the six categories of attributes as shown below:

  • Leadership – 14%
  • Capability – 6%
  • Motivation – 8%
  • Process – 19%
  • Resources – 39%
  • Environment – 14%

Oh, by the way…Training Programs fell under Capability at only 6%.

  • In other words, Knowledge & Skills ain’t the predicament!

Performance Support and underlying Collaboration Technology fell under Resources at 39%.

  • Smacks of satisfying Moments of Need at Point-of-Work…being somewhat of a predicament.

Coaching, Mentoring & Peer-to-Peer Networking fell across Leadership, Motivation & Environment at a combined 36%.

  • Managers play a HUGE onboarding role in coaching and mentoring, or at a minimum pairing up a newbie with a SME…another “predicament” impacting competent performance.

Back to the Article & Validation

The ATD article talked about how we need to “transition training and learning from a “managing hands world” to a “managing minds world”. And managers will be at the center.” [Emphasis mine…] Notice they did NOT say L&D would be at the center.

The article continues… ”Training and learning are no longer the primary responsibility of someone else, such as the L&D department. The primary role managers will have will be helping people continuously learn, equipping them with the tools and technology they need, empowering them to work together, constantly collaborating, openly communicating, and figuring out what they need to know, and know how to do it so quickly and effectively. Managing minds is now their responsibility and they will need to rethink and relearn what to do.”

Sounds a lot like coaching and mentoring and collaboration among supervisors and peers doesn’t it?

And they wrap up with…”The only certainty about the future from here on out is that it won’t resemble the past. We no longer have the luxury of time to define, design, develop, deliver, manage, and measure formal courses. Survival will require people who can navigate a rapidly changing maze of policies, procedures, products, and services at high speed. They need to find their own curriculum and courses, figure out an appropriate way to learn, and get on with it. It’s cliché to say it, but employees will have to learn how to learn in this new environment.

 It feels good to have diagnostic findings validated. It feels even better to be able to put proof on the table in front of non-believers of the performance paradigm that “training ain’t the solution!”

 Fear not long-time L&Ders, our jobs are safe…for the moment…but I’d be doing a disservice to my profession by not re-emphasizing that…we no longer have the luxury of time to define, design, develop, deliver, manage, and measure formal courses.

We…L&D…are in a predicament because we don’t actively seek out predicaments. We cannot see them looking through the “wrong end of the telescope”. We don’t design solutions for predicaments…to be more preciseperformance predicaments. And that, my friends, IS a predicament!

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