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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

How To Be Dumb

it is the small, quiet, routine dumb things we do that kill us

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

Fortune magazine recently published its list of "101 Dumbest Moments in Business". Most of these were on the spectactular end of the scale, highly visible public missteps that make us laugh, or at least shake our heads and wonder what they were thinking.

When we are trying to spread and maintain best business practices in an organization, however, the dumb things we do, the ones that hold us back, are quiet, ongoing errors, things we do or fail to do on a regular basis. And we keep those on our own "dumbest employee communication activities" lists year after year because we don't have the dramatic embarrassments, of the kind seen on the Fortune list, to jolt us out of our routines.

When the only consequence of our dumb decisions in training and employee communications is that employee performance doesn't improve, best practices don't take root. We don't notice what we are doing wrong because we don't see worse results, like higher costs or lost business. What we see -- or actually, what we fail to notice -- is a lack of improvement, a continuation of the same results we were trying to change.

There are many "quietly dumb" employee communication practices that I see (and work to correct) in the organizations I work with, including:

  • Once Upon A Time: a "hot" newly discovered best practice generates "binge training", a massive, disruptive employee communications dump. And then no one ever hears about it again.
  • Because I Said So: no effort is made to connect best practices to a stronger company, better working conditions for employees, direct and indirect benefits to the participants. Management authority should be just one of many reasons for embracing the training.
  • One Size Fits All: all training is in the classroom, or on-line, or in annual or quarterly meetings. Results from all employee communications events are evaluated exactly the same way. I can predict the delivery format, time allotted, and evaluation method for any future topic without even knowing what it is.
  • Fight Fire With . . . Nothing: When there is a crisis, cut training. When customers are leaving for your competitors, cut costs by eliminating customer service training. When sales are slumping, get rid of employee communications that help everyone in the organization support the sales process.

The biggest dumb move is just repeating what we have always done in training and communication without looking at where it is getting us. Remember how the instructions on shampoo bottles often said, "Lather, Rinse, Repeat"? Many feel that "repeat" was in there not because it was necessary to clean your hair, but because it was an easy way to sell twice as much shampoo.

If you "repeated" over and over again and still couldn't get your hair clean, wouldn't you throw away that shampoo?

If you are repeating the same employee communications activities year after year, and employee performance hasn't changed, it's time to invest in the design of new approaches that will produce real returns for your company.

© 2008 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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