‘So’ – I asked, ‘How was the training course?’
‘Amazing’, said the newly minted ‘Super Agile Scrums Mechanical Engineer’.
‘Cool, what did you learn…? ‘
‘I learned about all this amazing agile scrum stuff!’ replied the eager chap
‘Great,’ I smiled, ’so what are you doing differently?’
‘What are you doing differently?’
‘Erm, not sure what you mean’, he replied looking confused.
‘You learned all this cool super-agile-scrum stuff’ – I said encouragingly. ‘How are you going to use these great skills?
‘I have no idea’ said the trainee
This would happen to me. I’d go on a course, learn new things, be all excited to try these skills, then get back to the office and promptly not do any of the things that I thought I had learned.
Clearly it was me. Perhaps I wasn’t motivated enough or smart enough or even disciplined enough. I’d be back at work ready to apply but things would always seem to get in the way. Come to think of it, when I wasn’t exhausted from the daily grind, I wasn’t even sure how to do the stuff that I had learned. When am I supposed to do what and how?
It was even harder to do new actions in the middle of business as usual, meetings, issues and challenges. Day to day activities stopped me from even thinking about the new stuff.
I was clearly a bad student and would always resolve to be better.
Fast forward to being a trainer
Things didn’t get any better when I became a trainer.
I’d teach loads of new effective stuff to eager candidates and we would have a ton of fun trying, learning, failing, laughing and trying again. The classes would be awesome, high energy affairs.
The trouble came during the follow up. A couple of weeks later, I’d check in with the class students and ask what tools have been the most useful for them. What is working and what isn’t. I’d be met with some sheepish silence on the call – ‘I haven’t used much’, they’d say.
More knowledge does not necessarily generate the right actions
The principle that more information and data will lead to new behaviours may sound good in theory but in practice, more knowledge does not usually equal the right action. We get back to work and find the traditional approaches feel strangely comfortable. The gravitational pull of the old makes it hard for us to start the new.
And that’s if we know what to do.
Most training courses go on the premise that new information is the catalyst to new better behaviours. but we all know that excess carbs are bad for us and we probably shouldn’t eat loads of sweets. But late at night after a hard day’s work we still buy the extra-large super stuffed crust cheesy pizzas and munch through a dozen Krispy Kreme’s like the Cookie Monster.
It gets worse when the class is a 400-slide power point affair. How is anyone supposed to pick up, retain and then use the information that’s been blasted at them? How am I supposed to do all that?
I once did an agile Scrum training on mega large lean agile scrum scaling approaches with 50+ people in the room and hundreds of slides. At the end of the ordeal, I had no idea where to begin. Nor did most of the students that were learning with me. I got the certification though, so maybe it was worth it?
So, if trying to absorb a plethora of tools and knowledge won’t help, what will?
Analysis entertains, application rewards.
Fear not, you can still go on your agile training and learn loads. Here are some ideas from the world of behavioural change.
One of the keys to having training/courses translate into action is to think about and plan for how to the apply the learnings. What actions should we see when the training has stuck? What evidence will let us know we are using what we learned?
For trainer’s, some thoughts that could help
- What are the key takeaways you want your students to gain from the training?
- What specific behaviours will your students be doing and how will they be doing them?
- What classroom exercises will simulate the new behaviours in the right context?
Similarly, when you are learning something new, good questions to ask yourself are
- What are the key learnings that I need from his training?
- What behaviours will convince me that I am using what I have learned?
What have been your experiences of good and bad training?