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Training trainers? Don’t teach them the systematic training cycle!

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Holistic viewGarry Platt makes a plea for a more holistic approach to training than the systematic training cycle, and one which looks at the bigger, more strategic needs of any business.







For many trainers the first thing they learn early in their development is the Systematic Training Cycle (STC).

This consists of four separate stages which are presented as a cyclical process. It starts with the identification of training need (ITN) followed by design, the creation of a training response. This is followed by delivery where the training takes place and finishes with evaluation; checking to see if the training has worked.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this process but it can be misleading and has contributed I think to the isolation and separation of many training departments from the businesses within which they work. It has also led to poor evaluation strategies and, even worse, a range of training interventions which are not helping the business achieve its goals.

Photo of Garry Platt"I suspect that the majority of people have something they might like to be developed in, so that they could improve or refine their performance, but is it 'worth' the effort and how should that 'worth' be quantified?"

What's wrong with the STC and why should we stop using it? To understand this we must step back and look at the big picture. Within any successful organisation there are going to be three layers of activity:

* Strategic: the development of long-term goals which are shaped in response to the external factors
* Tactical: where ideas and goals are turned into projects and plans
* Operational: where the work is undertaken and the product or service is delivered.

The STC is essentially an operational activity. It encompasses the process by which a trainer produces the training they will deliver. And here is where the problem lies. Many trainers undertake the STC and then proceed to deliver their training. The event, or range of events, they deliver might be appropriate for a particular job, role or function but it constantly fails the strategic test.

The STC looks at a job and task and produces a learning event which will close up a performance gap with the missing knowledge and skills. But the issue is: what priority or importance is that training in relation to the overall aims and intentions of the business? Is this learning essential for the achievement of organisational goals and objectives? For example: how many of those assertiveness workshops are imperative to the achievement of service targets or budget figures? What are those stress management events seeking to achieve, not at an individual level but at the strategic? What organisational troubles or challenges either current or predicted are diversity training actually impacting on? And should we be running team-build events while there are still people in the business who don't know how to use their laptops properly?

These questions are sometimes never asked because the STC does not inherently demand it. It simply asks if there is an existing or projected performance gap? Does the gap exist because of an absence of knowledge or skill? How can we best deliver the missing elements and then check that we have closed that gap? What the STC does not prompt us to do is ask how important this performance gap is in relation to the overall needs of the business. I suspect that the majority of people in the majority of roles have something they might like to be developed in so that they could improve or refine their performance, but is it 'worth' the effort and how should that 'worth' be quantified?

The STC will not provide the answer - but adopting a business and training cycle (BTC) will. The BTC is an integration of the organisations approach to strategic planning and how training should be identified and prioritised against this background. In its most simple form the business cycle consists of an organisational plan developed in response to the PESTLE (political, economic, social, technological, environmental, legal) factors. What follows is the 'doing' stage where the plans are rolled out and implemented. Then a review of progress is made and then revisions undertaken based on the findings. The old and out of date STC fits into this process at the 'doing' stage with little or no contextual understanding. The result? A menu of courses that managers 'like but don't need' and a vague driven approach to training initiatives.

The STC looks at a job and task and produces a learning event which will close up a performance gap with the missing knowledge and skills. But the issue is: what priority or importance is that training in relation to the overall aims and intentions of the business?

So with the BTC, before we undertake any ITN we look at the strategic needs of the business. We look at what major pressures and weakness we have within the organisation as a whole, and what we must address based upon what the organisational plan demands and how that will impact on the business. Training has to be driven by strategic need, not management request. A manager somewhere might feel that diversity training is important. That's great - what's the business case? And if there is one, then train it, if there isn't - don't.

Once we understand the strategic needs of the business then we can produce a training plan which outlines what issues we will address and by when. And then (and only then) - after we have prioritised what we are going to do and why - do we commence the ITN process to define the content and design of events. Now the training delivery works alongside all the other projects being undertaken in all the other departments, like premises, sales, accounting, etc. And we can move forward with the rest of the organisation in reviewing and evaluating our training against the bigger picture. In other words, we now start to become 'core' to the business because we operate from within the business cycle and not outside and separate from it.

The systematic training cycle

ITN/design/delivery/evaluation is too narrow in its scope. We must look at the bigger picture, not just now and then but all the time. If we don't we deserve to be made redundant if the projected slow up and predicted recession starts to grip in the coming months. The STC after all merely causes us to create and deliver training - it does not ensure it has any organisational benefit.


Garry Platt is a senior consultant at Woodland Grange specialising in management development and trainer training. He can be contacted on 01926 336621 or e mail:
[email protected]


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