Articles / Getting learning back on track

A guest post from Sean Buckland

A perennial argument

On the one hand everyone knows that investing in Learning and Self-Development is a Good Thing. On the other, the mechanisms of management decision-making demand evidence of ROI – Return on Investment – something that is usually very difficult to prove. This in turn can lead to much time and cash being spent on creating “evidence”.

Often people return to “it’s something I should do, can I afford it (time /money) just now?”

People selling training solutions are faced with the same dilemma: how to create that evidence based link between their product and others’ benefit from the use of it?

Underlying assumptions

These challenges arise largely, I believe, in the way Learning, Education, Development, Training, etc. have been conceptualised, experienced and functionalised over time.

The advent of eLearning and the Internet have created a significant disruption and a whole bunch of opportunity. In the main though, I still hear the same comments I heard 20 years ago:

“I don’t have time”

“I’m on Training today”
“It’s L&D’s job”
“Great training, but no, nothing’s changed”
“Why did they pay for me to go on this course, but I’m not allowed to use what I learned?”

and many more…

In short the way I utilise training hasn’t changed, even if the available technology to support new learning has. my underlying assumptions about training are still essentially the same. And probably sub-optimal.

Alternative management thinking

The management thinking that led to what is partly branded “Lean” provides a very different set of management assumptions to the traditional.

For example, decision making should be integrated with the work and implemented in real-time (and therefore happen at the relevant front-line). Training needs analysis and training evaluation clearly belong, therefore, at the point where the need for training arises.

This thinking also stresses the importance of achieving understanding of the problem before designing a solution i.e. the Root Cause was a proven gap in knowledge, skill or attitude.

A third example of this alternative management thinking is the need for rapid trials to test solutions. This includes training solutions, so that there is clear evidence that the solution has addressed the problem.

Example quality criteria for L&D

Summing these up as a set of quality criteria for L&D:

Interventions need to:

  • be identified and delivered as responses to systematic root cause analysis
  • be conducted in real time at the front line
  • use rapid cycles of intervention and testing to prove their efficacy at removing the issue

Compare that approach with these typical examples of common practice:

  • an annual sweep for training needs
  • programme-driven large scale roll-out
  • long lead times between identification and delivery
  • large batch attendances
  • complex evaluation schemes and databases.

They all fare poorly.

Taking Action

There is a great deal that can be done about this. Not just by the organisation’s management team, but also, ironically, from within the L&Dfunction or by the external solution provider.

But first I have to understand more about alternatives to traditional management thinking. Alternatives that have a proven track record in getting to the desired result quicker and more effectively.

I are running a 1-day “Lean Learning Masterclass” on the 26th February in Birmingham. If you want to get more from your L&Dinvestment, improve the effectiveness of your L&Dteam, or be able to develop more attractive L&Dsolutions for your clients please register to attend at:

About Sean

Sean Buckland Is a specialist in helping managers to realign their operations with customer value, improve staff morale and at the same time get to a stronger financial position.

He has transformed a number of Learning and Development teams during his career.

Posted: 04 February 2015

Tags: Learning