What will I do differently?
Organizations invest in training because they want to improve performance. Yesterday I was talking with IACCM’s head of Managed Learning about his observations on the effectiveness of training, in particular the challenge of applying knowledge to working practices.
There appears to be a big difference between basic and more advanced training. Basic programs are directed at students who have limited prior knowledge. Therefore they have not developed particular methods or approaches and are receptive to learning and its application.
Those at a more advanced – or established practitioner – level are far less receptive. They have established approaches which they need to unlearn or discard before they can adopt a new approach. Making this shift seems like hard work, because it often takes more time and demands fresh thinking. Therefore, even if we accept in principle that there may be a ‘better way’, we are often resistant to its application.
This is reflected in our experience of observing students when they participate in simulations or are asked to reflect on what they have learned. Those who are relative newcomers rapidly produce an extensive list or visibly put the methods they have been taught into practice. The established practitioners struggle to say what they will do differently and instantly revert to their tried and trusted methods, even when they acknowledge that the new method would bring better results.
In a community such as contract and commercial management, this is a problem. There are relatively few newcomers to this community. Typically it does not have openings for graduate hires. Most people have learnt ‘on the job’ because, until recently, there was no underpinning body of knowledge and even less established techniques or methods. This disparity is a source of weakness and illustrates a lack of professionalism.
So unless practitioners are open to learning – and applying that knowledge – we cannot improve our contribution and performance. And that, of course, is exactly the criticism that often comes from senior management.