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The seven deadly sins of systems training


Written by Annar Ramji

2014 is the season of systems training. As we emerge from a period of economic difficulty, companies are finding the confidence to invest in new infrastructure and make acquisitions. This makes systems training a flaming hot topic – and an opportunity for all kinds of training devils to resurface!

To help you and your project team avoid spending a season in the abyss, I’ve put together a list of the ‘seven deadly sins of systems training’, drawing on my own experience. Which ones are you guilty of?

1. Lust

A lot of hopes and desires get pinned onto new systems, creating a sense of urgency which can be dangerous: “This new integrated CRM system will revolutionise our sales cycle and save our business…it’s make or break… there’s no time to spare! Let’s get the training out there now.” This kind of passion is great, but don’t let your passion overcome a sensible, cautious approach to the change programme. Rushing the pilot or training prematurely will lead to dire consequences later.

2. Gluttony

It’s a sin if someone’s excessive desire for food causes the needy to go hungry. We should remember that some roles have bigger appetites for training than others, but the programme needs to be inclusive. The loudest voice doesn’t always imply the biggest need, and even the most irregular users of a new system can create big problems if their training needs are not catered for.

3. Greed

The general rule-of-thumb is that a training programme should account for about 10-15% of the total IT budget for a systems roll-out, a figure which most organisations underestimate. If you get greedy and try to spend less by picking a poor quality generic solution or squeezing your supplier, the end result will be a less effective implementation and a failure to realise productivity gains.

4. Sloth

This is (hopefully) an obvious one! Sloth means neglecting to do the things that you know you ought to, or failing to make the best of your talents. For example, it’s tempting to compromise on quality when developing hours upon hours of simulations, or to defer key improvements to a later date (which might never arrive!). Sloth is the gravest of the deadly sins of systems training! 

5. Wrath

It is quite likely that things will get heated during the development of the training programme. A systems roll-out puts everyone under extreme pressure, so when the red mist starts fogging your vision, just hold your breath and count to ten before firing off that email. If you need to vent, buy a punch-bag!

6. Envy

The worst way to pick a technology or technique is to try to emulate that cool, expensive gizmo you saw at Learning Technologies, but with less time and less money to spend on it. Envy can lead us to make poor decisions, and trying to compete too much with another organisation’s programme will cause you to lose focus on your own.

7. Pride

There are many manifestations of pride or hubris in systems training. One problem is expecting every learner to complete every module when only two or three are relevant. The system might be at the centre of your world, but to learners it’s not. Another example of pride is assuming that the benefits of the system are so obvious that they don’t need to be ‘sold’ to learners. In fact, the benefits of a new IT system look very different from an end-user’s perspective, so putting the time into winning emotional investment is useful.

Do you have any more deadly sins to add to the list, or an anecdote to share? Leave a comment and let me know.

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