The adversity of training

Training is one of the least effective ways to change behavior.

“But wait,” you may say. “Training is everywhere! When my team needs additional skills, training is the best option and readily available. There are thousands of training organizations and lots of places to get training online!”

While debatable in modern times, the 70-20-10 learning model states that 70% of learning comes directly from job-related activities (on the job experiences where the learner is directly involved in the business), 20% from others (e.g., peer coaching), and only 10% from educational events like training. If you subscribe to that model, there are better ways to learn than sitting in a classroom.

“But wait,” you may say. “I’ve learned a lot from my past courses, so why do you say training is not effective?” There are ways to make training more impactful. For example, converting to a workshop style with lots of hands-on activities involving real work (vs. playing with Lego or other artificial props), reinforcing the concepts immediately after the training, and having a great instructor that encourages interaction and real-time thinking are all ways to enhance effectiveness.

The other issue with training is that often it is the default method to fill a gap. However, the perceived difference may not be the right one. For example, one company approached us about improving their test automation story through training. Turned out that test automation was an issue, but not THE problem. What they really needed were improved product development practices earlier in the cycle, including the way they gathered and prioritized requirements, and how developers were writing code. In this case, a workshop (on backlog management) was only a small part of the solution. The key was to collaborate with the team to determine the root causes of their issues and create an improvement plan that addressed areas according to a Six Boxes model (more in a future blog post). Box 4 per the figure below (the “training box”) is accepted as one of the least effective solutions to human performance issues.

“But wait,” you may say. “Doesn’t Crosslake offer training solutions?” Yes, we do. However, Crosslake is not a training organization (although that’s part of what we do). Taking a request to do Agile training, for example, is not necessarily the right thing for the client. Our human performance improvement (HPI) process looks holistically, extracts the challenges from the team and then figures out how to apply solutions in the specific circumstance. In some cases, we talk people out of doing Agile if it isn’t right for them.

Nonetheless, when Crosslake does “training” (e.g., Scrum or Kanban), we do the following to ensure maximum impact:

  • Ensure it is the right thing for the client
  • Customize the content for the client (nothing is ever “off the shelf” because every team is different)
  • Do it workshop-style (not just someone presenting; lots of hands-on)
  • Use the client’s real artifacts to create a working session (e.g., Epics or Stories)
  • Facilitate in a very interactive way (e.g., asking lots of questions to help attendees figure out solutions for themselves)
  • Provide homework to cement concepts as quickly as possible
  • Always follow-up with additional coaching
  • Ensure it is the right thing for the client (yes, repeated for emphasis!)

Filling a skills gap can be an essential business challenge to address. While training is one solution, make sure it is the right one and done the right way for optimal effectiveness.