Are you a cog in the course factory, or are you a performance consultant? Where do you or your clients fall on the following spectrum, and where do you want to be?
|My job is to create training.||————–||My job is to improve the performance of the organization.|
|I shouldn’t question the client’s decision to provide training.||————–||Since my job is to help the client solve their performance problem, I need to determine if training really is part of the solution and identify what else might help.|
|The only thing I ever design is training.||————–||I might design job aids, create help screens, identify ways to streamline processes, encourage managers to provide stretch assignments, push for better communication tools…|
|My goal is to transfer knowledge.||————–||My goal is to solve a performance problem, and the best way to do that isn’t clear until I analyze the problem. Maybe it has nothing to do with knowledge.|
|The best way to transfer knowledge is to push information at people so they’re all equally exposed.||————–||If information really will help solve the problem, I look for ways to let people pull it when they need it. Training might not be necessary at all.|
|Training is an event, like a one-time course or workshop.||————–||If I decide a practice activity will help, it might be just that — an activity, not a course, delivered in any format, maybe in a live session, maybe as part of a “try it when you want” collection of online challenges, and preferably as part of a series of activities spaced over time.|
|Once the training has been delivered, I’m done.||————–||If the performance measure has improved, I’m happy, but I’m not done. I need to talk to the people affected by the project to find out what’s working and what isn’t.|
|When I finish one project, I wait for the next request to come in.||————–||I notice problems and suggest solutions before someone asks me for help, because I know what my organization is trying to accomplish.|
Two opposing sides?
Industry gurus have been pointing out for some time that L&D needs to stop being a course factory and become more of a performance consultancy. Sometimes they express their opinions with such zeal that it can feel like they’ve divided us into two irreconcilable groups: We’re either marching onto the bright consulting field waving the flag of the latest workplace learning model, or we’re stubbornly hiding in the basement, cranking out irrelevant courses.
I agree we need to become more of a performance consultancy. In fact, I think some new models of workplace learning don’t go far enough, at least as I understand them. They correctly and importantly remind us that people learn in a million ways, regardless of our “help.” They give less attention to making sure that learning will actually solve the problem.
If we’re going to be performance consultants, we need to identify all barriers to performance. We can’t assume that knowledge and skills will help.
I also don’t think we’re divided into two opposing groups. Instead, I see a spectrum.
I’ve talked to many people who want to leave the course factory behind but have trouble seeing how they could actually do it. Some have to fight their organization to take just one step because their job title is literally “Course Producer.” To climb out of the basement, they have to drag the dead weight of their department with them.
In the title of this post, I asked, “Do you care?” Most people I’ve heard from care. They know that cranking out courses on demand doesn’t meet the real needs of the organization. They just need help finding a way out of the basement.
For a lot more about why we need to move toward performance consulting, see The Business of Corporate Learning by Shlomo Ben-Hur. Jane Hart has a recent series of blog posts on what she sees as a stark division in L&D, starting with this post. In this interview, Donald Taylor sees the L&D world as divided not into two sides but four regions on a quadrant.
Finally, before we go back to our places on the course assembly line, let us sing in solidarity with our fellow workers who are hauling out the data on the Xerox line.
Factory worker photo by Howard R. Hollem. Public domain; US Library of Congress.