Thursday, September 07, 2006

Making the Connection

I recently came across a refreshingly frank article by David Maister titled "Why (Most) Training is Useless." After years of experience as a trainer he has come to the conclusion that "the majority of business training, by me and by everyone else, is a waste of money and time, because only a microscopic fraction of training is ever put into practice and the hoped-for benefits obtained." Why is this? Because there is no alignment between what people are being trained for and how they are being managed. In other words, training is only really effective when organizations make a clear connection between what they are trying to manage and how they train toward and reward behaviour that contributes to what they are trying to manage.

This concept of making the connection between management goals and training goals came to my mind as I listened to Catharine Johnston in the webinar we hosted on Thursday. It centred on the theme of using eLearning to support a high performance initiative. Catharine is the Executive Vice President, Business and Organizational Excellence, for Intrawest Corporation, a huge destination resorts (think Whistler Blackcomb and Mount Tremblant) and adventure travel company.

Catharine (left) is overseeing a major initiative to implement Lean Six Sigma projects throughout the organization. Lean Six Sigma is a methodology for improving any process by removing unecessary tasks that do not add value and reducing defective processes down to virtually zero. In the case of Intrawest, for example, this may mean cutting wait times for ski rentals by half. Successfully implementing Lean Six Sigma across many units and various key processes in the organization saves and generates millions of dollars. So, needless to say, Intrawest is interested in doing it right.

Training is vitally important to ensure that employees throughout the company have the knowledge, skills and support necessary to do their part in making Lean Six Sigma initiatives work. And given that these employees are geographically dispersed and are being introduced to new ways of doing business analytics, eLearning plays a big part in sustaining the momentum. Catharine laid out four key elements to their "learning management system" (note: we are talking of an integrated approach here, not a piece of software):
  • Regular meetings, training sessions, brainstorming and problem-solving sessions using the WebEx online conferencing system
  • Resource sharing on the company's Intranet
  • Interaction via online project management software
  • Face-to-face training events where and when appropriate

Last week I noted that the problem with a lot of eLearning is that it is often a hammer looking for a nail to hit (i.e. eLearning is the starting point). In the case of Intrawest's Lean Six Sigma initiative, the nail is absolutely crystal clear and is the starting point. They have an organizational commitment from top to bottom to improve their key processes. eLearning is just one of the hammers that they are using to pound that nail. Therefore, there is an alignment of management goals and training goals. The connection is real and the likelihood of training success is heightened.

Here is a link to a recording of the webinar. Check it out if you want to see how an organization is aligning training to important business performance outcomes.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Say Rick there may be an old saying worth stating here, if you think training is expensive try ignorance..

1:01 PM  
Blogger Rick Nigol said...


Don't get me wrong. I think education and training are extremely important. I have made my living in this field for over two decades and have seen the positive effects of developing human potential.

The expense of training is not the real issue in my mind. It is the value of training I worry about. Investing in training that brings no real value to the organization is like throwing money out the window. That, to me, is where many companies reveal real ignorance.


1:20 PM  

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