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Frances Ferguson

Glasstap Ltd

Training Design Manager

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Potholes: The Very Definition of Insanity!


I am going to start by admitting that I have a very particular reason to dislike potholes, having broken my foot many years ago by stepping into one whilst wearing some (oh so beautiful) strappy sandals – but that’s a whole other story. 

But, experience tells me that, whilst my tale may be unique, almost everyone reading this has their own stories of pothole horror...

There is one roundabout near where I live that has caused an unusual amount of interest locally, where the ruts had become so pronounced that there had been warning signs up for months. So, it was a relief to see the road repair people get to work as I headed out for a run one Sunday morning back in February.

When I ran back an hour or so later, I was rather surprised to see the repair vehicles had already left!

Instead of fully re-surfacing the road, they’d simply poured hot tarmac into the holes and moved on. But, it was clear that the ‘repair’ was already breaking down, and loose stones were scattered around.

Within 24 hours the road was worse than ever! So, imagine my surprise when the following weekend the repair guys were back and applying the exact same patch-job repair to the road surface.

It doesn’t take a genius to guess what happened next… the road surface deteriorated within 24 hours yet again. This time it was so bad, I started actively avoiding the junction.

But guess what? The same thing happened the following weekend! Were Einstein still alive and living in this part of Gloucestershire he would probably have rolled his eyes and reminded us that insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

But whilst such apparent stupidity might bewilder us, can these experiences teach us something about being better trainers? How can potholes help us to assist others in developing their skills?

In this, my views may be a tad controversial.

You see I totally agree that fab training can make all the difference in the world; it can help people to make the decision that they want to change as well as give them the skills and tools to do so.

However I firmly believe that it can only do that if our focus is more than just what happens in the training room (our patch-repair); it needs to also be about what happens back in the workplace (a full repair to the foundations and re-surface). Or in other words, instead of focusing what happens in the training room, we work on what our learners are going to do differently because of the training.

As a profession, we are well used to writing Learning Objectives, but what about if, instead, we focus on Behaviour Objectives?

What difference would it make when designing training if, for example, instead of focusing on an objective such as "Can define what open, closed and leading questions are and how they can be used" we set an objective such as "Appropriately uses different questioning types to understand their customer's needs"?

How different would your approach be if you focused on that as your goal from the training you want to design and deliver?

How much easier would it be to prove the value of your training if you can demonstrate the difference you made to the behaviour & results of those you trained?

I am guessing the answer is something along the lines of "quite a lot".

Even better, the more of us who adopt this approach, the more the credibility of L&D grows and the easier it is to justify our budgets. When training succeeds we can show that we are worth it, because we are.

I'd love to know your thoughts. 


PS Roundabout update, the road repair guys came back and did a full resurface job J And guess what? Taking the extra time and trouble to address the fundamentals of the problem works for roads as well as people…

Author Profile Picture
Frances Ferguson

Training Design Manager

Read more from Frances Ferguson

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