The Training Wand

Several years ago when I was a trainer, I was reporting to a training manager who was a skilled operations manager, but knew little about training adults.  Her number one measurement tool was how many people received training each month.  It was never an issue whether the learning was applicable, or if the participants obtained skills, but the number of people who attended.

She was famous for agreeing to line requests for training on the fly, and those of us that were facilitators would be given days to pull something together for a workshop on any number of different topics.  We all functioned as waiters and cooks ready to serve up anything the client wanted to train.

Although we tried endlessly to explain how instructional design worked, and that learning objectives were a serious part of matching training with needs, she would not give us the time to make sure we got the training right before we delivered it.

During a rather tense staff meeting, one of the bolder trainers (not me back then) had went to the toy store and purchased a two foot long, bright pink princess magic wand.  It had feathers and glitter and to a 6-year-old would have been a perfect gift.  This trainer presented it to our manager with the insight that whenever she preferred to avoid adult learning principles in design and training requests in the future, she need only wave the wand over the trainer and everything would work perfectly.

No one could hold back their laughter, and the manager stepped right into the fun promising to use it in the future.  The activity released some stress, but none of us expected a change in her behavior.  And yet it did.

She put the wand in her office in a pencil cup on her desk.  When people asked her for training after that, she was often heard negotiating the terms and insisting that we had time to design a good workshop.  I once heard her say, “do you think I have a magic wand and I can just make the workshop appear out of thin air?”

Years later when I was a director of training, I found a similar wand at the dollar store and bought it for my office.  It was a reminder that training may look like magic, but it is really a science.  My boss hated it in my office, but I told him it was there to keep me from losing my focus.


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