Finding the Real Problems Before Jumping on the Training Bandwagon – Part 2

As discussed yesterday, in technology-based change many companies identify additional training as the answer to spur adoption but often miss the real underlying problem. In today’s blog we’ll discuss two potential root causes for lack of adoption as well as solutions.

First—sponsorship. Is the functional executive regularly demonstrating support of the well-informed use of the technology, or the timely and effective participation within the processes? Is he/she verbally expressing that support in forums or in one-to-one conversations? Is the leader using the technology or requesting information or reports that require others to properly query the tool? These are forms of demonstrated support—not just sending out a corporate-speak email that declares the launch date and the business case, then perceived by the audience as ‘everyone better get on board or else’. Effective demonstrations of support must be repeated for the long haul and be genuinely part of the mantra of that leader and ultimately those who choose to follow. Without demonstrated support or direction, individuals can easily find other priorities or simply not give the technology-enabled process the simple attention to detail it deserves. “I’m really busy today… I’ll get back to that tomorrow.”

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins describes how successful companies typically exemplify the culture and behavior of its leaders. This purposely demonstrated support bridges the wide gap from the ivory tower to real ownership in a personal, authentic way. Suddenly, team members might think “Wow, she’s really serious about this—I need to get my ducks in a row.”

What do you mean by ‘discipline’?

So we picked on the executives a bit—now for everyone else. Discipline falls to everybody within an organization. And unfortunately, it may also take a lot of time and hard work to improve. I believe whatever discipline exists (our definition here can be rigor, consistency, or commitment to a process or way of working) comes from the deep rooted culture over time. If people witness others behaving or acting in a certain way, it’s more likely that they will adopt those behaviors.

But this discipline opportunity can tie right back to good sponsorship. It’s another chance for leaders to express the desired focus, outcomes and behaviors within the environment in question. How might end users act when they hear an executive say to them, “We are making multi-million dollar decisions every quarter on new product development priorities based on the timeliness and accuracy of the data you manage in this tool”? My hunch is most would heed the beckoned call.

But let’s not throw learning needs out the window. The point of this piece is not that training or learning won’t help, or are not the root cause of low adoption and poor performance, but that training is an easy scapegoat when things are going awry. Unfortunately, the act of learning is not sexy or a quick fix—much less easy. And even when training is the right choice, it can still be poorly planned, developed or delivered. Frankly, it’s sometimes easier to lay blame where many are involved rather than on specific leaders or behaviors… with the simple notion of ‘people are not doing this right—let’s do more training.’

But there’s a better first step. Asking people close to the pain points for their input is not only a good starting point for unearthing real problems, but it’s also a very positive way to mine useful data. At the very same time something else profound can begin to happen—those people feel they are being heard and their opinion might actually matter. If people feel empowered and part of the solution, ownership and commitment usually begin to rise. Even if learning is found to be at least some part of a solution people will be much more receptive if they were included in the discovery process from the start.

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To Train or Not to Train Is the Question – Part 1

“We need training!” These three words are likely stated in repeated glory as much as any often-used phrase in business cultures. I’ve heard it proclaimed from individuals including administrative assistants, functional subject matter experts, HR generalists, managers and executives—even training professionals!

In fact, when I hear those words I’m reminded of one of my least-liked graduate school professors. While I wasn’t a fan of his approach or attitude, I must credit him for providing our class with the single rebuttal I would use time and time again—“Is training the real need?” Try using it the next time you hear the aforementioned declaration of blame. And while watching the other person’s facial expression change to pondering or thwarted, you’ll have a few seconds to counter again with meaningful suggestions to help discover what’s really affecting productivity. Here are just a few …

  • Have we asked the people closest to the process for their input?
  • Do we truly know that a significant percentage of users are lacking the necessary knowledge or skills?
  • Do we even know where exactly the root cause problem lies?

Your transmission is not really broken…

Consider automobile repair as an analogy. Have you had those few, yet joyous, occasions where your trusted technician delivered the outstanding news that your car would only need a $79 repair when you expected it to be hundreds, or maybe thousands of dollars? The reason that happened is based on a few simple truths—a trusted resource looking in the right places with the right diagnostic tools to find the actual problem; not disassembling the entire transmission and replacing all the inner parts when an inexpensive sensor was the actual culprit.

In technology-based change user adoption of the tool of choice or related processes is a broad and potentially expensive symptom of what might be a more straightforward problem. Declaring that users aren’t well-trained infers that a lack of knowledge or skills is the direct and only contributor to low adoption. But is that the real root cause of the adoption gap? For our automobile analogy, a major undertaking of training would equate to the extensive transmission repair. Many companies decide quickly that training is the problem, reassign resources or hire in new ones, build elaborate strategies and plans, require a large portion of the work force to attend training on multiple topics, spending tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars…only not to solve the underlying problem causing the low adoption.

In tomorrow’s blog we’ll discuss two potential underlying problems and solutions to increase adoption without making ‘lack of training’ the scapegoat.

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Written by: A.J. Holley, Director of Change Management and Learning 

A.J. Holley joined Changepoint to lead the development of a new Organizational Change Management solution to help customers manage the human element of change–a core challenge to any project or business transformation. Holley has over 15 years of experience leading organizational development and change management initiatives, and shares best practices and valuable strategies for project managers to apply to make communication a more calculated and strategic tool for project management success across a business.​