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Run For The Hills: They Want To Send You On A Management Training Course!

Run For The Hills: They Want To Send You On A Management Training Course!

8.September.2013, 18:37



Karl Moore

Karl Moore, Contributor

I write about how leadership must be rethought

8/06/2013 @ 8:37AM |888 views

Run For The Hills: They Want To Send You On A Management Training Course!

Phil and I remember being younger managers in large multinationals (IBM for me) back in the 90′s, and in my case, the 80′s. We were sent to a variety of short training courses, and we honestly can’t say that we remember anything they tried to teach us. Except for one lesson. In fact, it was so powerful that we never forgot it. In many ways, you can say it shaped much of Phil’s career and eventually led both of us to work with Professor Henry Mintzberg in management development. Phil LeNir is a former student of mine, former middle manager in a high tech firm and now CEO of Coachingourselves. Let me let Phil tell the story in his own words:

It was very simple; if someone from Learning and Development was calling on the phone, ignore the call, or duck into the nearest washroom or closet. Do the same when you see someone from Training and Development walk down the hall, lest they try and send you to a course.

Back in the 90′s, it was well known that a sure fire way to lose one or more days of valuable work time and potentially derail your project was to get sent to a management training course. Sure, you would get to relax with friends in a non-cubicle environment, eat free muffins (very important for an engineer), and be entertained by a personable and highly animated trainer. We ‘d also get sophisticated and unbelievably large binders to fill the one shelf we all had in our cubicles. (Where did they get binders that thick I always wondered?)

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However, when you get back to work, the only impact was the highly elevated stress levels as the inevitable fire had evolved into a full blown crisis and the 297 new e-mails demanded immediate attention. The slick models and snazzy one-liner tips were rapidly forgotten, and even when we did sit down and read them again, well, they seemed kind of idealistic…. in the real world, we don’t have time to do that. So, the most powerful lesson I took from my management training courses back in the 90′s was: don’t get stuck being sent to management training!

Of course, I was always envious of the high potentials that got sent to some five star hotel for their training. It seemed so exotic at the time. You could tell everyone, “I won’t be in the office because I’m at a training course in So-and-So hotel”. The food always seemed fantastic, the social event interesting, and the big ballroom setting with fancy table cloths on nice round tables filled with neatly arranged writing pads and branded pens all seemed, at least from the outside, easy makeup for the lost work and time.

Yet, can I remember a single manager who came back from a training program and actually did something that really made a difference? I worked for a lot of these guys, and I don’t remember anything ever really changing.

Around the turn of the millennium we had the rise of e-learning. Like any trend, it seemed to make a ton of sense. Why not just put all that content online? Spice it up with interactive multi-media, and suddenly you have scalable low cost training. Unfortunately, only the channel has changed. I’ve sat through a number of e-learning modules for management and leadership development from some of the biggest and most prominent providers while users are using them.

When people are honest, they will tell you that they just need to “get this out of the way”, and “find the right answer”, or “what a waste of time”. I always imagined there was a business opportunity here. Many would happily pay a couple dollars if you could run through these e-learning modules on their behalf.

Do you think the problem is that managers don’t want to learn? Perhaps… but the vast majority are practical, down to earth people who really want to do the best job they can. Most rather strongly suspect that sitting in a classroom listening to a lecture, or selecting multiple choice answers in an e-learning module, has never helped them do their job.

However, I’d say that a large number of people in the Learning and Development actually know all this. Sure, there are still some ostriches with their head in the sand, but the majority know that things don’t work.

Over the past several years, this has bubbled up and become prominent… and it has recently been articulated through a philosophy for learning and development that many call 70:20:10. The idea makes sense… 70% of what we need to do our job is learned informally, on the job, 20% through interactions with colleagues, and 10% through formal classroom or e-learning programs. Off course, this is just a model and there are many nuances. However, think about how you’ve learned to do what you are now doing; was it on the job? Was it the one day training course? Sure, it helped, but you kept learning through experiences, trial and error, discussions with colleagues and much more.

This, as you can expect, has led to much upheaval for many… if all of a sudden the thing you have spent 100% of your time on (classroom workshops and e-learning) is now only supposed to be 10%, then just what are you supposed to do for the other 90%? But it has also led to an extremely productive change in the mindsets of people in Learning and Development.

Of course, none of this is new. Pretty much anyone in adult learning has been saying something like this for ever. Ebbinghause, a psychologist from the 1800′s, suggested the learning curve, and the forgetting curve… which all of us who crammed for exams in university knows implicitly. As soon as the exam is over you forget what you just learn at an exponential rate!

Which leads us to the future. A particularly insightful blogger named Harold Jarche said “Work is learning and learning is work”. I tried to explain this to some Learning and Development people and they agreed… but then went back to thinking about the Learning and Development program and the instruction design for a classroom!

So, next time someone asks for your input on management training for you and your managers…. ask them to help you learn from your experience, or learn from your peers… and refuse any option that includes sitting in a classroom, or working with an e-learning system. In a few weeks, we will share a bit of our experience on how you do this – just emergent thoughts, we would love to hear from you.

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