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Have you noticed? In organizations nobody is against learning or training per se. No one denies their benefits. Everyone – at least with words – keep learning and training investments in great esteem. May be even a bit too much. So much so that “training” is often synonymous with either a quintessential technical solution for a big problem or, sometimes the failed technical solution to re-occurring problems…

To explain what I mean here are a few examples I have collected in the last months from newspapers, the internet and in general public discourse; they are examples of “training as the silver bullet”, the “technical” solution for solving big problems and make you feel mighty as a trainer!

  • “Better training for teachers” is supposed – alone –  solve to the nation’s failing public schools system
  • “Increased funds for training”  is supposed to solve high unemployment rates and poor GDP growth,
  • “Training”  is alone sufficient to minimize abuse from caregivers in bad nursing homes.

Yet it’s interesting how the regular use of the “rhetoric of training” as the panacea for many problems, hasn’t protected training programs to be the first victims of budget cuts and reduced spending. So which one is it? Is training essential or expandable? And of course we are not disputing whether throwing training at a problem really helps solve it. What if we do? Obviously when the use of training doesn’t produce the results expected, training is instead seen as the bad guy.

  • “Poor training” alone was the cause of failed expensive software implementations across federal agencies
  • “Lack of training of the intervention personnel” was the culprit for weak responses to natural disasters
  • “Staff lacking training on the guidelines against torture” was even the cause for recent egregious human rights violations in US prisons in Iraq

Do we need a Training Anti-defamation League to respond to these allegations? Or are we facing the difficulty of admitting that training was simply not the right solution in the first place? Was the issue a little bigger than simple lack of knowledge or skills in the first place?

3 ways of creating resilient learners and resilient training programs

Unreasonable expectations and lack of accountability or clear definition of the boundaries of training responsibilities can kill the best training work before it even starts. So be careful with training in organizations: it is work highly controversial, highly visible and often not fully understood.

As a manager or training provider, I have three suggestions for you to ensure the success of your training investments:

  1. THE PAST Clarify the history of the problem and what has been done in the past to solve it, asking, “Why have past solutions failed to address this problem?”
  2. THE FUTURE Define the issue with all stakeholders, asking them the key question, “What will success look like?”
  3. THE PRESENT Set a meeting for debriefing the training experience and  reflecting on its strengths/weaknesses, asking questions like, “What have we accomplished with this work that was not done before? What is possible now?”

Good luck with your training work!