I’m not listening…la..la..la..la

not-listening1Harold Jarche and Jay Cross recently discussed the idea of closing down the training department and getting out of the training business. Harold quotes Jay as follows:

“Next week, we will close the training department. We are shifting our focus from training to performance. Legal or the line departments can handle compliance. Any remaining training staff will become mentors, coaches, and facilitators who work on improving core business processes, strengthening relationships with customers, and cutting costs.”

I am certainly all for this idea of shifting the focus from training to performance. But it seems that we’ve been trying to do this for some time. Dave Ferguson will tell you that he has been out on the front lines with this message for what seems like forever. So will Clark Quinn. If that’s the case – namely that many of us in the learning profession believe in performance outcomes over training (and I bet it’s a LARGE majority that do hold this belief) – why have we failed so miserably in making our case to the powers that be as well as to the people we are supposed to serve?

Will Thalheimer may have some clues. In a recent blog post Will contemplated why it is so hard to get people to change their minds about things. He specifically mentioned the examples of anti-bacterial soap and vitamins. Basically, long standing evidence runs counter to people’s standard beliefs, yet even in the face of this evidence, they still cling to older beliefs and behaviors. In his final thoughts, Will says:

“…we often forget that long-held views are not easily overcome. We need to be more careful and more energetic in confronting them. It’s not our learners’ fault when they don’t make the turn. We have to make it our fault. We have to take responsibility.”

My question for all of us to consider is: What’s our responsibility regarding performance outcomes? If we know this is what we need to target, why can’t we get buy-in from other constituencies? Weren’t we ALWAYS supposed to be focusing on improving core business processes? Weren’t we ALWAYS supposed to be strengthening relationships with customers? Weren’t we ALWAYS supposed to be cutting costs?

Are you still using anti-bacterial soap in your training efforts – or have you taken a good hard look at the evidence and decided it’s time to make a change?

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One response to “I’m not listening…la..la..la..la

  1. Well, “we all” is a great thing to say when you’re in full rant (which is my main form of exercise), but our perception of reality — yours, mine, Will’s, Marcia’s – is just that: our perception.

    Take people on Twitter (and all four of us are). I see all this excitement about 140 characters being the road–or the transporter–to the promised land of real collaboration. Then I listened yesterday to tweets from inside a federal government social media conference. Most of the in-person attendees had never used Twitter (some grumbled that people reading tweets hadn’t paid for the conference).

    I did a little digging and came up with a comparison. Number of people on Twitter: around 5 million. Number of households in the U.S. that have pet birds: around 12 million.

    Tweet, tweet.

    So: lots of people in the training field are, and have always been, stand-up instructors focused on very specific content using very traditional approaches. Probably the next biggest batch is the people cranking out that instruction (sometimes there’s a big overlap). And the vendors whose livelihoods depend on feeding that particular elephant.

    And the employers, by and large, like it that way, or at least accept it — because by definition half of all employers are below average. The organization’s leadership, when it thinks about this at all, leans to the dosage view of training: so many exposure hours, so many bits in the LMS bucket, so many sign-offs that you’ve taken X.

    Unless you’re a Tom Peters for whom starting at the bottom means talking to the chief operating officer, if your vision of job-related learning and performance is wider than the organization’s, you need to build alliances with the people who control budgets. If “informal learning” as a term doesn’t fly (as it won’t, in many places), then call it OJT or individual learning or training 2.0.

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