Training needs to be founded on clear objectives. Without them, the experience is something else: a meeting, brainstorming, diagnosing a problem, identifying issues, and sometimes, just venting. In the Big Training Program I’ve mentioned before (the BTP), experience is proving that we’re offering a seminar guided by some broad and noble goals. It’s a better program for it.
For background, the BTP was planned as a comprehensive review of the role and responsibilities of folks who head day-to-day operations in most departments. That means they oversee financial management and many aspects of compliance in spending about half the revenue here.
Efforts to create activities that reflect a common experience of the work have been thwarted by the very different local organizations, projects, and funding sources. These differences make it impratical to create more than a few scenarios that realistically reflect their work.
The facts are the facts
The fact that can’t be wished away is that the people in the target audience have too little in common to practice a set of procedures or prescriptive decision-making. The BTP is accommodating all these differences by featuring them as a learning opportunity. Folks will reflect on their own experience to extract lessons, rather than as a problem to solve. And problem solving is what these folks excel at. The facilitator’s challenge is to manage the learning in such a way that cohort members don’t feel dissatisfied because they don’t solve the problem once and for all.
While we secretly aim to achieve clear learning objectives throughout the BTP, in fact, we’re not solving a performance problem or creating the conditions for performance. We’re supporting decision-making and focusing on the critical features of good results. That makes the BTP less rules-driven than envisioned. It makes the learning less predictable. It’s a great, if sometimes wild, ride.
More on how we do this and learners’ discomfort next time.