Make Decisions or Resign!

Making decisions is a skill that too many managers struggle with these days.  In general, any manager that cannot make a decision, needs to find a job without management responsibilities.

This blog however, is devoted to the health and return on the training department function within your organization, so my words today are being sent to training manager, directors and those running the training function.  If you are unable to understand your issue well enough to recognize if a solution fits or not when presented in order to make a buying decision, it is time to resign.  Move out-of-the-way, you are impeding traffic and are a terminal condition infecting your training department and entire organization.

In complete frustration with someone I am coaching, I said basically this same thing to them after watching weeks and months go by and this person spinning in circles because they cannot commit to begin or end anything.  A peer of mine scolded me for being my ever blunt self, but the individual I’m coaching looked me directly in the eye and admitted I was telling the truth.

This is a reality check that too many managers never get.  Peers, other managers and staff have learned to work around their inability to make decisions and compensate for the inefficiency it causes.  Performance Management 101 tells us to address all performance issues, and get to the root causes.  In this training department that root cause is a training manager that cannot make decisions in a timely manner and thus causes a domino of issues.

If you run a training department, stop and make a list of everything that is waiting on a decision from you right now.  Is it a short or long list?  The longer it is the more work you are impeding, and the quicker you need to start deciding on each item so you unplug the dam.

If you are a CEO and have no idea if your training function is actually a healthy part of your organization, then it is time for a Training Physical to determine how serious the problem is!

The Gotta Do Training

In my book, The Training Physical, I spend some initial time asking training managers to make a list of all the skills that need to be developed in the employees that work for their company.  We often start with what I call the “Gotta Do Training.”  This is the training that either is done or the business goes under.  Usually compliance and any state and federal learning requirements.

I call this training Gotta Do, because in too many companies it is literally the only training that gets done.  Yet, are you asking yourself about all the other training that needs to be done?

What about sales and service if you are in any kind of retail type of business?  What about management & leadership development?  What about systems, ethics, policies, procedures, and product knowledge just to name a few?

What happens when you skip this training?  Productivity is less than it can be.  Goals are not always met.  Companies fail and lose vital employees.  This list goes on an on………

Most of these additional skills can be quickly trained, practiced and applied.  Yet for a minute, focus on the largest skill set, management and leadership development.  These skills take longer to digest and become really competent in their use.  These skills need to be taught and applied by anybody that supervises and manages people.

If your company is not training these skills, share with us the reasoning behind this strategic decision to pass on this skill development.  I for one, am very eager to learn why so many companies avoid creating leaders today.

Is Training Helping or Hurting Your Success?

I’ve been called a “purist” for believing that the training / learning function within every company is vital to the ultimate success of said company.  I work off the simple premise that companies have goals and objectives to meet.  They hire human beings to perform tasks to meet these same goals and objectives.  When these human beings are well skilled, they perform well.  If these human beings lack the necessary skills to perform their functions, then goals and objectives are not achieved.

The primary function of the training department is to prepare newly hired employees to perform their jobs, while building skills in existing employees to take on new responsibilities in the future.

If your company has a functioning and healthy training organization then it is helping to achieve your success.  Likewise if they are functioning poorly, lack the competencies themselves to perform their jobs, then your training department is actually hurting the chances of your success!

How do you know if training is helping or hurting?

Well I would have to ask how you determine if any department or function within your company is helping or hurting your success.  Maybe you evaluate based on goals being met.  Or possibly you are focused more on audit results, customer feedback, revenues or “No news is good news.”

I found an article today that was written by Sam Palazzolo in February of 2009 titled “Should You Fire Your Training Department?”  Even though I just read his thoughts now, these same ideas have been floating in my head for years.  Because I firmly believe that no company should be without the training function, I do believe that some people do not belong in training and do more damage then they do good.

Have you heard of Operations Management?

Wikipedia describes Operations Management with a very detailed and long winded definition that is very correct, and yet I like the definition I heard this past week on a webinar.  They said that Operations Management was learning to do the same things better!

If we can support this direct definition of operations management, then we can agree that no matter how well your training department is functioning today, it can find ways to do the same things better!

When it comes to discovering the health of your training department, I firmly believe that a 3rd party audit designed around your use of learning is the best way to uncover issues and create plans for improving the operation.  The auditor and management needs to spend time before an audit to agree on the types of things to be evaluated.

A possible list could be:

  • Comparing the training plan to the company’s strategic goals
  • Evaluating the skills and competencies of the training staff
  • Evaluating the use of technologies
  • Comparing the course offering to the learning needs
  • Evaluating developmental and succession plans
  • Evaluating the learning methods used to meet generational needs
  • Comparing the training budget to the training plan
  • Evaluating the quality of the learning materials
  • Evaluating the vendor programs for contractual compliance
  • Evaluate the use of consultants and their ROI

Agree to get healthy before starting treatment!

Imagine going through the audit process with any department, coming out with a list of possible improvements, and then doing nothing with this knowledge.  Talk about a complete waste of time, resources and money!

It is fair to assume that if our goal is to “Learn how to do the same things better” then we should be able to agree that we will be making not only suggestions for improving the operation, but implementing these suggestions.  By discussing and agreeing on this ultimate path before the audit begins, all parties realize that things will be changing.

So if you were put on the spot today:

Is Your Training Department Helping or Hurting Your Success?

If you don’t know, what are you going to do to get the answer?

This blog was originally posted on on June 9, 2011

Operations Management – The New ROI

I was listening to a webinar last week about how companies can create efficiencies through Operations Management.  A relatively new term to me in this arena, they were talking about “How to do the same things better!”

As I beat the drum about the need for the training function to demonstrate and prove their ongoing return on investment, it dawned on me that all I’m really doing is trying to “help to do the same things better” by using The Training Physical as a tool for managing the  learning operation.

Operations Management is the newest buzz word for re-engineering.  Looking at a function, (in this case the training department) and evaluating what is working well and what are the changes to make things work better.  After making the changes the cost of the function might be the same as it was before to run, but now the output is better and the ROI can be justified.

What caught my ear in this webinar was the complete absence of training or any other HR function from this process.  The speaker was so focused on every other department, I just had to chat the question “would this work for HR and Training too?” 

The speaker validated my reason for writing the book, as he said he hadn’t thought about those departments, but that I had made him think twice about excluding any department from Operations Management.

Humm, are you ready for a Training Physical now?

Avoiding The Problem Won’t Make It Go Away!

For most of us, when we become ill we seek out medical assistance so we can rid ourselves of whatever is making us sick.  We have learned that the longer we put off getting treatment, the harder it is for the doctor to cure us.

The whole idea around an annual health physical is to document your current health, and when possible catch anything you may have wrong in the early stages making treatments easier and increasing the likelihood of a complete cure.

For many in corporate training they work daily on avoiding problems, while suffering under the misconception that if we ignore the processes, failures and incompetence they will somehow magically disappear.  And if we never actually identify a problem early or not, it means that we don’t have one or it will just go away naturally.

Ask any doctor what happens if an illness is allowed to go untreated, and they will likely step up the description of outcomes until they reach the final cause that killed the patient.

For too many training departments, their illness is getting worse, and being unhealthy has caused them to be less responsive to their companies, that attitude lands up closing the training department.  In other words the patient dies.

So the purpose of the Training Physical is to prevent death of this very vital department.  This is why I campaign everywhere I can to promote the health of every training department I reach.  But some patients continue to avoid their problems.

The problems are not going away folks, but eventually you will go away!