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

Thinking About Your

it's the season for thinking of "Shoulds," but don't forget "Should Nots"

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

This is a season when people review the past year and set goals -- or resolutions -- for the coming year.

My guess is that if most training departments looked at their goals for the coming year, their key strategies and major initiatives, their lists would bear rather striking resemblance to last year's lists, and to those from the year before. Some items are on these lists because you keep trying to get certain things going, but they haven't really made much headway. Others are there out of habit, perhaps simply because they seem to reliably get past budget and other review without much opposition.

This might be an excellent time to un-resolve a few things, that is, to figure out:

  • What recurring resolutions are either myths that will never be realized, or habits that you need to examine more closely;
  • What programs and services may be less important or less valuable in the coming year;
  • What goals and priorities need to change, or even disappear, to remain aligned with overall organization goals and priorities (especially under current economic conditions and forecasts).

Typically, many items appear year after year among "resolutions" until we don't even think about them anymore. Here are a few common ones that need a closer look:

  • "Our goal is to increase the number of participants (or number of training hours delivered, etc.) by X%." Maybe you could serve the company better by training more tightly on certain key principles and functions. Perhaps doing a better job of training a smaller number of people would actually have more impact.
  • "This year we will make significant progress in moving all of our training to on-line delivery." There is no one-size-fits-all approach to training that will be ideal for every topic and audience within your organization. This is a great resolution in terms of serving technology, and perhaps serving technology vendors, but it is simplistic and ineffective when it comes to serving your company.
  • "We will enhance efficiency to produce significant savings, allowing us to provide more service to more employees with the same resources." This tends to be a recurring resolution that hangs around mainly because it looks nice. Who could argue against it? But those savings are generally illusory. It just isn't that easy to pull off enough cost savings to make a difference, and there is a limit: once you get pretty efficient, there isn't much more to be squeezed out of your operations. (All the same, in a survey I did at a major training convention last spring, nearly two-thirds of the audience of training managers and chief learning officers say they would obtain resources needed to make changes in part through savings generated by greater efficiency. More about this survey below.)

Great managers are always looking at both sides of the budgetary coin: what they should be doing, and what they should not be doing. Every year they drop or reduce programs and activities to deploy those resources elsewhere, instead of waiting to be forced to cut back by pressure from other departments or through management directives. In fact, they know in advance where, if they suddenly were told they had to reduce costs 10%, they would look for those savings.

They know, in other words, which resolutions are worth fighting for, and which ones are just nice to have if you can do them. They know which are which in good times and bad, and they never assume that everything they are doing is of equal value to the organization.

They plan for, rather than just respond to, conditions. Let your first resolution for the coming year be to lead, rather than react.

© 2008 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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