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Training Plus reviewed


Training Plus
Authors: Brian Clegg
Publisher: Kogan Page
Year: 2000
ISBN: 0-7494-3188-1
Price: rrp £16.99, TrainingZONE price £13.60
Format: Paperback, A6 size

Brian Clegg's review of training promises to revitalise "hackneyed and tired" tricks of the trade. And, in just short of 200 pages it does much to help do that.

The book starts with the premise that many training techniques have become overplayed. The author suggests that we've seen it all before... from irrelevant party game icebreakers, via death by overhead on to the obligatory break-out groups. And everyone, trainees and trainer alike just wants to scream out loud that enough is enough!

To counter this the book offers five "zones" plus a useful appendix (offering sources of information and resources covering mind-mapping, innovation and creativity, shareware and training websites -including Training Zone- ice-breaker and team exercises and much more).

Zone 1 introduces the author's opinion that much of training has got a bad name due to its poor image, lack of an obvious impact on business success and its uninspiring ways. Citing the first of many case studies, he notes that at times of business crisis training staff are amongst the first to go. The answer, he suggests, is to take on board his philosophy of creative Training+ as expounded in the rest of the book.

In Zone 2, titled "Do we need people?", the book presents a "paean to the wonders of technology" and IT's place in the new world of training. However, Mr Clegg also offers the reassurance that we will still need trainers and, no doubt to the relief of the IT-illiterate, that it will sometimes be beneficial to take a step back to flip chart and pens... to provide a contrast if nothing else.

As its name suggests, Zone 3, "Self-Assessment", provides a number of key questions against which readers are invited to rate their or their organisation's current training performance. Whilst users of NVQs would shudder (what, no range statements?), the questions do provide some useful benchmarks to think about. Each question also offers references into the body of the book, thus providing a more focused way of reading the book than an unstructured browse would.

Zone 4 is where it starts to get serious. Simply titled "Actions" this zone is itself broken down into six sections, one each for the environment, communications, vehicles, support, development and targeting and marketing. Taking up 154 of the books 185 pages, the author offers advice, case studies and an eclectic range of quotes on topics as varied as how to liven up training sessions by choosing exotic locations or introducing still and video images to the value of "giving it all you've got" and managing and using trainee's own energy and enthusiasm.

The mini-case studies provide the easiest reading, and indeed may be all that many browsers do read. My own favourites concern the "Riot in Training Room H", where the trainer had grossly miscalculated the abilities of their group and "The Spring Role", where the trainer's carefully contrived conflict role play was frustrated by the role player's eminently reasonable and accommodating attitude (interestingly, the trainer didn't seem to be able to draw the equally valuable learning points around managers avoiding rather than handling conflict).

That the role player was Brian Clegg himself does display one minor irritation in the book. Not only does he continually cite himself, both within the text and in the recommended reading, but his references to (an italicised and no doubt copyrighted) Training+ smack a little of evangelism. Indeed, one suspects a Training+ series... and no doubt the Training+ course, Training+ video guide, Training+ CD and Training+ T-shirt... will emerge if the book lifts off. (Just in case, buy it now... then you too can say that you read it long before it became popular!)

The final Zone is a mere two sides. This asks readers to revisit the Zone 3 self assessment and, in light of the issues raised, to "pull together an agenda for transforming your training". He does give some ideas and guidance on doing this, in particular suggesting a focus on developing creativity and identifying three specific topics to develop.

However, the brevity and lack of guidance on action planning makes it all feel rather like one of those Friday afternoons when an exhausted facilitator, in the last few minutes left after cumulative over-runs, is faced by ten or twenty trainees all eager to get off home. Looking drained, the trainer utters those immortal words: "we don't really have much time left... but what I'd like you to do is put together an action plan to show how you're going to apply all your new-found ideas knowledge and skills back at the workplace".

Overall, as a studied and academic read, forget it. As a way of really changing the face of training, I doubt it. As a good browse and source of useful if sometimes off-the-wall ideas, go for it.

Training Plus was reviewed by Neil Wellman of NetWork Associates.


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