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Trainer’s Diary: Measure for Measure


Byron Kalies Byron Kalies is trying to be SMART about his objectives for 2006, but isn't sure he's got the measure of the task in hand.

It’s that time of year when we get to make resolutions. So what’ll it be this year – same as last – be more patient, try not to take it so personally, write up teaching notes, take evaluation much more seriously, and so on.

Maybe I should break this cycle of resolve – plan, think, don’t do, feel guilty, resolve, plan, think, don’t do - by using SMART objectives? I guess people are as familiar with Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic and Time–bound objectives as they are with other training clichés (there’s no ‘I’ in team; assumptions make an ass out of u and me. (Insert your favourite here.) I have always found SMART objectives hideous. There was a stage a few years ago when someone announced there would be SMARTER objectives. The ‘E’ was for exciting. I never heard what ‘R’ was to stand for as I was rolling about on the floor imagining selling exciting objectives to some of my people.

So what could some real SMART objectives be for me in my professional life this year?
1. By the end of the year to get six managers to demonstrate some form of respect to their staff. Sounds OK. Struggling on the Measurable and Realistic aspects though.

2. To have 28 people less stressed as they go through serious organisational change which could result in them losing their jobs, mortgage and self –esteem. The situation is realistic but how can you put a measure on the number of people you could influence? Tricky.

You see my problem?

I make no apologies for going down this road again. I’m still waiting to hear a joined up, cogent argument explaining how to evaluate stress, change management, relationships, assertiveness, etc.

I can sign up to 120 days training a year as a measure. But as an assessment of what? It measures the fact that I’m somewhere I said I’d be doing something I’m paid to do, but how effectively am I doing it?

Am I more effective, having more impact (I predict lots of column space in lots of training books for ‘impact’ the next year) if I’m training 30 staff or three? Am I more effective doing 120 days training or 20? There’s a pretty strong argument that says there would be greater benefit preparing effectively for 20 days training I guess.

An old maths teacher of mine told me that it is impossible to measure anything accurately. He explained that whatever unit you use to measure your result will be inaccurate by that unit. For example if you are measuring the distance from Liverpool to Cardiff it’s about 200 miles. If you measure it accurately on a map it could be 203 miles. This will only be an estimate. It could be anywhere between 202.5 miles and 203.5 miles. If you measured it as accurately as possible to the centimetre you would still be guessing to within 0.5 cm either way. So if you can’t measure anything accurately is there a point?

Anyway didn’t someone once say if you can measure something then it’s obviously not worth measuring? Or was it if you can measure something and put a number on it, you can begin to understand it?


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