Do Not Train! Unless …

Here’s a question every organization can ask:

What problem do we have that would be solved by a positive change in our people’s thinking, emotions, and behaviors?

This email came from a prospective QBQ! client:

“We are a large manufacturer of industrial products and we ship to customers all around the world. Our plant is operating six to seven days a week with very little down time, causing fatigue and tension between our teams. We hear a lot of ‘It’s not my fault’ and ‘I am a victim’ stuff, along with the ever popular blame game.”

Now that’s real stuff.

We delivered QBQ! training at a well-known, foreign-owned technology firm. They told us this:

“We’ve not given out any pay increases since 2008. People are angry at the company and morale is in the tank.”

And, Kristin and I did a joint session for a state corrections division, hired by the Secretary of Corrections himself. Their story was, as they say, “same song, second verse” as the tech group mentioned above.

I share these client comments with you because they are representative of organizations that train for the right reason.

Let me be clear. I’ve been in the “organizational development” (OD) industry since 1986, and here’s what I know:

Outstanding organizations don’t train because they “should” train. Nor do they train so management can check off another “to do.” They don’t train to keep their OD departments busy or to “create happiness” in the people. They also don’t train because an outside consultant tells them to. And they never train just to embrace the latest fad and hot book, or to meet a celebrity author, speaker, or ex pro ball player!

Here is the #1 reason why outstanding organizations train:

To solve a problem. 

Low productivity, lack of collaboration between departments and within teams, “in the toilet” attitudes, confusion and fear resulting from change, lack of knowledge and skill required to perform tasks, and above normal turnover are all examples of serious problems.

And we train to solve them.

Even training a group or team that is currently excelling is worthwhile, as it prevents problems such as complacency from setting in.

The problem is, so many organizations have trained for the wrong reasons for so long that executives who were once middle managers, supervisors, and front-line folks and currently control the purse strings, have seen resources wasted on either lousy training or good training implemented for the wrong reasons. So now they are cynical toward all training.

It’s no wonder training budgets are the last ones funded and the first ones cut.

But, if your organization is willing to ask and answer the question posed at the top of this post, you’ll discover the reason to invest in training. But if you can’t answer that question, here’s my recommendation:

Do. Not. Train.

That’s right. You heard it from a guy who’s made a living selling training for almost three decades. Please, do not train—unless you train for the right reason:

To solve problems.

(PS More here on the foundation of effective training.)

For discussion:

What problem is your organization experiencing that needs to be solved?

How would a change in people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors help solve that problem?

And just for a good chuckle, feel free to describe the worst training you have ever experienced!

(If you are not a subscriber to our QBQ! QuickNotes, sign up here.)

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9 Responses

  1. I once attended a traning seminar focused on Improving One’s ORGANIZATIONAL skills. I arrived 20 minutes late because they changed the location and failed to tell everyone who had registered! After finding out it had been relocated, I spent several minutes circling the parking lot at the original host location like a mother goose trying to gather up my coworkers and get them headed across town to the new location. At that point, I should have just gone back to the office – the tone was set – how could these people teach me anything? Sadly, my mind was officially closed!

    Then during a role playing exercise one attendee stood and presented a scenario about not being mindful of other people’s schedules. The speaker failed to realize it was another scenario, took it personal and blasted the woman for being critical. Finally the poor seminar attendee mustered enough courage to tell her it wasn’t a personal complaint but a scenario – and then the speaker apologized feverishly!

    Looking back… perhaps I learned more than I thought at that event! 🙂

  2. I worked for a company that brought in a speaker to discuss personal accountablity at our annual President’s Club event in Las Vegas…the session started at 8am…in Vegas…If I remember correctly, the speaker’s last name was Miller…. 😉

    I’ve been a QBQ deciple ever since. The timing of that training was poor, but the content outstanding!

  3. Four words: Dean Vaughn Medical Terminology. If you’ve ever had the pleasure, well, this makes a world of sense.

  4. Great article! I work in the training division in my company and we recently found out that our business partners were attending our training just because we published something new. They always gave us good feedback and told us that there were good takeaways from the training, but we weren’t solving any issues that they had. Since then, I’ve been able to work with the business unit to take a step back, find out where their training needs are and we are starting to work together to develop the training that they need.
    I think we’re starting to solve some problems.

  5. As a training coordinator for a large Government agency, I am tired of delivering training that was developed years ago. I agree with your philosophy, how do I get buy in from those that make the decisions?

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