Making training effective: closing the habit gap

Training has a success rate of 1%

This means that of the total potential value (TPV) that could be added to the organisation if all the skills and knowledge of the training course were implemented consistently and to a high standard, only 1% is realised.

In other words: rV (realised value) is equal to 1% of TPV (total possible value).

OK, I just made that up.

Not just the numbers, I also made up the concept of rV and TPV.

None of it came from any form of evaluation or research, I just pulled it out the air – but they sound true, and that’s good enough for me to construct the following argument.

There are three internal factors that get in the way of learning leading to improved performance. For the first two, I borrow from Blanchard and Hersey model of “Situational Leadership”, the other is from observation and from Peter Senge’s rubber-band analogy about habitual behaviour.

  • Motivation (do they want to do it)
  • Confidence (do they feel they are able to do it)
  • Habit (do they default to other behaviours – do they remember to do it)

There are also three external factors, but I’m not including those here for fear of this post turning into a tome – but for completeness they are culture, management, and opportunity.

Training is concerned primarily with closing knowledge gaps, and to an extent addressing skills gaps – at least giving the learner a start on closing the skills gap.

Training can influence the motivation gap, and by encouraging action planning, coaching and practice, it can begin to tackle the confidence and even habit gap, but it’s that pesky habit gap that’s the big stumbling block.

(See here for a great podcast on action planning and other learning implementation strategies)

The Habit Gap

A habit is the default response, it’s the six-lane neurological pathway that cuts through our brain, it’s the road you travel on autopilot because you don’t notice the poorly-maintained rabbit paths snaking off to the side, paths that could lead anywhere.

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Creating a learning organisation

There are many reasons why the learning organization remains so tantalizingly elusive.

Like any big idea that’s about intangible stuff like culture and attitude, the concept suffers from being a bit wishy-washy and vulnerable to the told-you-so cynics who love to point out how all the stuff isn’t perfect.

It also asks people, employees and managers, to behave in ways that are not necessarily in their own short-term best interests. It requires people to be mature, professional, think long-term, share and collaborate, and create safe environments where people can make mistakes and learn.

Not only that, it’s a staggeringly ambitious vision for an organization. The standard definitions offer a glittery utopian future that few would see as undesirable, but most would fail to even know where to start, let alone be able to put together a coherent programme that would impress the finance department.

So, I thought I’d solve all of these problem by developing a three-stage definition that would also serve as a road-map.

Learning Org

This isn’t to suggest that this is simple. It isn’t. The road is strewn with obstacles, but let us not be deterred by the difficulty of the terrain, let us break it down and get stuck in …

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