Does your PI Training have leaks?

Recently, I began to renovate an old home. Many DIY TV programs certainly make it look so easy, although I still have no idea how they can accomplish so much in one hour. The flow of the house just wasn’t going to work for productive living. Building in better flow and increased capability for handling cooking and guests was a must. As I peeled back the proverbial onion layers of the old place, I soon discovered this project was going to be much bigger than I anticipated. Not to be deterred, however, I dove in and began working. Somewhere along the way, I managed to pick up a small nail in one of my truck tires. It was a slow leak so not a huge concern at first. I didn’t pay it too much attention because it seemed like such a small thing given the enormity of the project. At first, it was just a nagging little thing. Over time, however, I found myself managing project time around filling the tire with air. I was constantly mentally calculating if I could make it to a destination and back before the tire went flat. Soon, progress on the house slowed. All because of a small nail in the tire. Finally, I broke down and had the tire patched. It was amazing the amount of mental energy released when the problem was addressed and all the tools necessary for the renovation were performing optimally.

Perhaps Process Improvement isn’t all that different from renovating a dysfunctional house … a less than ideal current state, the payoff of a glorious future state, and the work that lies between. There are many critical success factors to seeing the house transformed. A well-designed plan, knowledge, skill, proper tools in working order, and quality materials are a few that come to mind. The critical success factors needed to create an effective, high impact Process Improvement (PI) initiative are many. They include culture, processes, people, systems, learning, incentive, and more. While some may seem far more important than others, a small problem or deficiency in one area can translate into under-realized process gains. To realize all the benefits of PI, none of the factors can be ignored or even minimized. Remember the slow leak. In this series, we examine the various elements of PI, looking for ways to identify leaks in our initiative so they can be patched, or even replaced if necessary. The result: mitigation of the risks of failure while increasing our speed to success.

One of the key success factors of a PI initiative is the training necessary to ensure team members are effective and efficient in their application of PI. Could it be that your organization is taking your training process for granted? Does this attitude exist, “It’s always worked in the past so why change?” How carefully are you planning your training process? Is it possible that you’ve got a nail in your training tire? You may be slowly losing the air of effectiveness because your training process hasn’t adapted to respond to the way people learn best today.

For thousands of years, education has been a personal proposition with one person teaching another a skill or principle in a face to face context. As technology changed and developed, new tools were added to the learning process. The printing press created a new form of “remote” learning where authors’ thoughts and ideas could be shared with people far beyond their day to day reach. Nearing the end of the 20th Century, most learning was still conducted in a face to face manner in conjunction with the utilization of other outside resources. With the arrival of the digital age, a new revolution took place. Anyone over the age of 30 can certainly appreciate the speed at which humanity has become dependent on the internet. So, what does all this have to do with training your team members? Close examination of our training techniques is necessary if we hope to realize the ultimate ROI for the effort: effective PI team members meeting business objectives. We will look at three different approaches to training, weighing the pros and cons of each, while using the Kirkpatrick Model as our standard.

As a measure, the Kirkpatrick Model is a worldwide standard for evaluating the effectiveness of training. It considers the value of training across four levels:

  • Level 1 – Reaction. This is the degree to which participants find the training favorable, engaging, and relevant.
  • Level 2 – Learning. This is the degree to which participants acquire the intended knowledge, skills, attitude, confidence and commitment based on their participation in the training.
  • Level 3 – Behavior. This is the degree to which participants apply what they learned during training once back on the job.
  • Level 4 – Results. This is the degree to which targeted business outcomes occur because of the training.

 

1. All Instructor Led

The pendulum of change never really moved with this approach. It remained firmly rooted in best practices of the past but not without some seemingly good reasons. We can all relate to that one teacher who had a big impact on our learning development. The same can be true of gifted corporate instructors who can not only teach but inspire individuals to apply what they’ve learned in their workplace.

This face to face approach allows the instructor to personalize and adapt the training to the needs of each class while bringing real world examples to exemplify the material being covered. Despite all the good just covered, there are some realities to this approach that should be understood. For each amazing instructor, your organization may have three who are not on par. Simply because an instructor has the same power point deck does not mean they are presenting the material the same way or are even using the same terminology. I remember hearing of one organization that had two divisions with competing PI programs. Each thought they were executing a better version of continuous improvement. Turns out they were executing the same version, just using different terminology!

Another reality that must be considered is scalability. With a mid to large size deployment, how quickly can the best instructors be replicated? Will the deployment be forced to rely on less gifted instructors in order to keep up with training demands? Too often the answer is yes. With all instructor led training, almost all class time is spent attempting to reach Levels 1 and 2 on the Kirkpatrick scale. Unfortunately, the ultimate success of the PI initiative depends on team members reaching Levels 3 and 4!

Pros

  • Individualized attention
  • Adaptable to needs of each class
  • Comradery of students as they learn together.

Cons

  • Takes longer
  • Underutilizes talented instructors
  • Hard to scale quickly
  • Increases cost of training (time and travel)
  • Hard to keep consistent message across multiple instructors

 

2. All Online CBT

With the glorious appearing of the digital age came the somewhat less glorious appearing of online learning age. The pendulum quickly swung to the all online approach with its promises of training that was faster, further reaching, and less expensive. With amazing quickness, courses where constructed to run entirely online. Unfortunately, what started with a bang quickly began to fizzle. Learners were faced with the effective equivalent of an online page turner. E-Reading would have been a better description of what was served. Much of the speed promise was delivered by simply converting power point presentations into online page turners. Quickly the pendulum swung back to the relative safety of all instructor led training.

To be sure, online learning didn’t even achieve Level 1 on the Kirkpatrick scale. Not shrink from a challenge, however, content producers rolled up their sleeves and dove back in to create even better online training. This time proved to be more successful in some regards. Learning designs were improved, voice over, video, and animation were incorporated and testing ensured an accurate grasp of the facts. Of course, not all online learning providers engaged in continuous improvement. Some seemed content to let industry innovation bring renewed interest to their sites. This led to a varied mix of online learning experiences that, once again, produced distrust in the quality of the offerings.

By this time, it was well documented that online learning, when done correctly, could confidently deliver Levels 1 and 2 on the Kirkpatrick scale. A great achievement to be sure, but online providers wanted more. They attempted to convince organizations that days of human interaction were past. They could achieve Reaction, Learning, Behavior, and Results if only the learner would spend the next 100 hours online, reading and listening to their content. Simply put, they over-reached and under-delivered allowing the war between all instructor led vs. all online to rage on.

Pros

  • Learners progress at their own pace – don’t get left behind
  • Consistent messaging across an organization. Everyone is on the same page
  • Highly scalable
  • Less time spent training
  • Decreased cost of training (time and travel)

Cons

  • Without a class structure, many students fail to complete the training.
  • Difficult to customize/localize
  • Underutilizes talented instructors
  • Difficult to create class comradery
  • Isolation

 

3. Blended Learning

Eventually, corporations and organizations began to jump off the pendulum somewhere in the middle. They chose to stop picking sides and began to appreciate how bringing the best of the first two learning approaches together could achieve the sought after Level 3 and 4 success. If training efforts were not leading to business results, what was the point of all the time and expense! Allowing excellent online learning to teach the foundational concepts freed valuable Instructor time and expertise to be spent in class helping team members with the application of what they had learned to defined business objectives. The synergy of the high quality online learning paired with the invaluable experience of the instructor empowered PI teams to achieve true bottom line goals. Students found the learning to be engaging and memorable. They could move through online modules at their own pace while still enjoying the comradery and structure of a classroom experience. They felt confident in their ability to take what they had learned and apply it to their workplace. Instructors began to take on the title of mentor as they were free to spend more time guiding participants through projects.

At OpusWorks, we began to refer to this phenomenon as the “Flipped Classroom”. It was Flipped in the sense that Instructors were now free to spend more time at the top two levels of the Kirkpatrick model while allowing the online learning to successfully cover the first two levels. While success stories abound that support the effectiveness of a Blended Learning approach, great care most still be exercised for the initiative to be successful. Simply slapping the word “Blended” on a training program because it contains both instructors and an online component is a recipe for disaster. In a future post I will go into greater detail about the ingredients of a successful blended learning program.

Pros

  • Online Learning is performed at the pace needed by student while organized class time ensures students stay on track and complete the training.
  • Consistent messaging across an organization. Everyone is on the same page
  • Highly scalable
  • Less time spent training
  • Decreased cost of training (time and travel)
  • Individualized attention
  • Adaptable to needs of each class
  • Comradery of students as they learn together

Cons

  • May need help with learning designs
  • Instructors not “bought in” to online training will create confusion and dissatisfaction among students
  • Poorly created online learning will derail initiative

 

Perhaps after reading this post you have identified at least one nail in your process improvement training tire that needs to be patched. Stay tuned as we dig deeper into Blended Learning and the other critical success factors of process improvement in future posts.