Over fifteen years of training and development work in industry and organisations, I have been continually shocked at home many organisations talk of courses and workshops that simply didn’t deliver. I always remember a survey by A.T.Kearney way back in 1992 that identified all around the world, a general disappointment that change programmes such as Total Quality Management (TQM) were running out of steam after twelve months or simply not delivering the expected benefits.
Companies and public sector organisations put out large offers to tender for training and education work that simply fails to inspire participants to make the necessary changes back at base after the events that would support real and lasting change.
To be honest, it astounds me how much money is paid out for little or no benefit. Even when the immediate feedback (“Happy sheets”) is good or excellent, this is often little to do with real impact, and more to do with a sense of relief in participants that that day didn’t challenge them or take them into the zone of discomfort where change might occur in their attitudes or behaviours. (So they reward the trainer with flattering feedback). I call this the Collusion of Mediocrity.
Toolkits, techniques, methodologies, games, outdoor pursuits, simulations, role plays, group exercises, Powerful PowerPoint, online learning, feedback activities, 360 degree this, one-to-one that, are all trotted out in an attempt to reskill, upskill, empower, inspire, informate, imagineer, strategise, realise and energise.
And ever since I set up CATS3000 the phone keeps ringing with the same complaint followed by a request. “We ran a training programme a couple of years back but it didn’t really work for us, we hear you are different, do you offer training in….?”
“Sometimes it takes a big shake to wake you from a very deep sleep.” So goes the old saying. The training needs to have real impact. The challenge to current ways of doing this has to be strong enough to be a kind of constructive destruction of the beliefs and behaviours that are holding fast to an increasingly inappropriate present state of affairs.
The future will need to play into the present through using the courses and workshops to help engender what artists often feel as a restlessness, a restlessness to express, to get up and create something, to change or transform something – themselves, their work, an organisation, even society at large.
Such a restlessness is an affair not just of the head, but also of the heart, and ultimately of the will. If training doesn’t reach into our force of will, we will simply leave a course just talking about it, feeling dissatisfied or inspired, but never getting as far as tangible action in the world.
So the learning event has to be looked at, and felt as a critical incident, an event through which your world is changed. Things aren’t quite the same any more. Things will need to be different in some way. Without that change you feel restless. You are inspired to change.
You leave the workshop with a will to experiment, to try out new things, to put change into action – either personally or organisationally. If the training falls short of this mark, then it is simply a collusion where mediocrity and inaction results and money has been wasted.
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