It’s 3:00 p.m. on a Thursday and 12 trainers are near the end of a certification session on a new program they’ll deliver to 3,000 employees before the end of the year. The trainers feel confident and excited. It’s a great program full of useful skills, entertaining videos, and engaging activities.
Before the session ends, the master trainer asks the group to engage in one final activity. He pulls out a flipchart, grabs a marker, and says, “Let’s imagine you want this program to fail.” The trainers look at one another with raised eyebrows, silently asking if they’ve heard the question correctly. “Come on now,” the instructor says. “What would you do to make sure that participants don’t use the skills they’ll learn in this workshop?” After a long awkward silence, the ideas start to pour out . . .
- “I’d ensure the managers know nothing about the program.”
- “I’d make it a ‘one and done,’ with no refreshers or reinforcement.”
- “I wouldn’t give learners tools they can use back on the job.”
- “I wouldn’t let participants know why they are there or how it relates to them.”
After several minutes, the instructor puts down his marker, looks at the group, and says, “How much of this is actually about to happen when you roll out this program?” The stricken group of trainers realizes that they were about to make exactly these mistakes.
Would it surprise you to know this is a real story? In fact, we’ve repeated this exercise dozens of times with seasoned, talented learning professionals and the outcome is almost always the same. Despite the fact that we know better, it is easy to get caught up in the pressure to push out programs quickly and neglect the factors that will dictate whether the learning will improve performance.