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Training Smackdown: Expensive Ignorance

In a recent online discussion with professional trainers, I shared my assertion that the vast majority of training activities (80% to 90%) are waste, meaning that the activities don’t directly help a learner perform better on the job.

My point didn’t go over well. One person retorted: “If you think training is expensive, try ignorance.”

I replied: “If you think ignorance is expensive, try ineffective training. Then you’re paying for BOTH.”

Ineffective training creates twice the waste. You spend time, money and energy and have NOTHING to show for it. The same performance problem you tried to solve still exists.

I’d like to say ineffective training is an exception, but, sadly, it’s too often the normal state of affairs. Courses are created and foisted on employees with little thought to the business problem that needs to be solved, who the learners are and how effectiveness will be measured.

Lean Learning Solution: Write a Good Problem Statement

A good problem statement is the first step to avoiding “expensive ignorance” and has five characteristics:

  1. Relevant
  2. Factual
  3. Focused and concise
  4. Unbiased and not blaming
  5. Doesn’t suggest a solution

Writing a problem statement that meets all five criteria is hard work. It takes time, thought and digging to do it well. The result, however, is a clear, crisp summary of current performance that becomes your starting point for measurable future improvement.

What an Inadequate Problem Statement Looks Like

Training professionals often jump too quickly into learning solutions when they hear statements like these:

  • “New hires don’t understand the importance of customer service.”
  • “I think it’s time we had a leadership refresher course.”
  • “Our sales people do a poor job of representing our brand…the clothes they wear…the way they talk about the products…one guy took a client to a strip club for lunch…it’s all wrong.

These are NOT good problem statements.

What a Good Problem Statement Looks Like

If the above examples were good problem statements, they’d look like this:

  • “The average customer satisfaction rating for call center technicians hired within the last three months is 50% lower than their peers hired previously.”
  • “Forty supervisors and managers (out of 60) blamed their staff as the major reason they failed to achieve a key objective last year.”
  • “Our sales closing rate has steadily declined since October 1 and is 25% below target.”

See the difference? Hear the difference?

A good problem statement paves the way for investigation and analysis and, most importantly, provides a metric you can use to evaluate whether your learning solution was effective. You’ll avoid “expensive ignorance,” save resources that you can devote to solving other learning-based problems, and move your business forward.

 

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