Who’s trained the system?

A colleague is leaving and is clearing their desk and cupboards of decades of training manuals, never used, as the training was never used. It is like unearthing the last few decades of training fads that have plagued the public sector.

There is Prince2, in a lavishly tooled velour heavy binder of DVDs and bound documents.  It exudes solidity and authority. Christ it’s dull.

A sheaf of PISO stuff, lots of process maps full of good intentions that went nowhere as “the manager left”.

Lots and lots of generic “management training”. What is that?

Piles of the stuff is coming out. A monument to spending money on things organisations didn’t understand and had only an unfocused hope of doing anything with beforehand, and afterwards couldn’t do anything with anyway as people tend to “do stuff” that they want to or seems right in the circumstances. Even if whatever “model” that was trained out was a useless pile of rot or priceless genius, then they still would do nothing with it. The problem is the thinking was never changed was it? 

Throughout all of these decades of training, the fundamental worldview has not changed. This approach was pay and spray training. Pay for people to train your people for you, then spray the training at them, hoping it will stick and that things will somehow improve. I am not sure the cause and effect was thought through that deeply.

Looking at the files and manuals of hope and futility is depressing. So many good intentions! So much money spent before the end of the financial year to make sure it didn’t disappear.

How much training does a person need before the system improves? Not this much. In fact, none of this. Despite the good intentions, training people like this does not improve the service delivered. The person will come back from their training back to the same system they left behind, the system that is responsible for 95% of the problems in performance.  This won’t change through training people in doing Best Value Reviews or robust project management methods.

The place to get knowledge is in your workplace, where your work happens. That’s where to get knowledge. No need to go and sit in a lecture hall, no need to watch a powerpoint. Go to your workplace and ask proper questions and listen to the answers this will get you training in something useful, how to manage and improve your service.

  • listen to the customers coming in your door to find out what are the predictable demands placed and what matters to these customers, the problem they are trying to solve.   Now you know what your purpose is.
  • measure how your system responds to this. Now you know how well you are achieving purpose.
  • track the flow of customer demands through your workplace. Where does it go, who touches it, how many times is it touched, how many times is it passed backwards. Now you know how your work actually works.
  • identify the conditions in your workplace are helping or hindering your staff from solving the customers problem, what measures, what policies, what beliefs about work and how it should be done, what your managers pay attention to. Now you know what is in your workplace that makes it act like it does.
  • why are these conditions there? what do people think that make them put in place these policies, that persuade them that organising work in this way is useful.  Now you know the thinking that lies underneath the work.

Best of all, if you read the right books, speak with and listen to the right people, and ask the right questions in your work, then you’re getting the best training that is cheap and works. No manual required.

This entry was posted in all wrong, deming, knowledge, plausible but untrue, systems thinking, Uncategorized, vanguard method and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Who’s trained the system?

  1. bulldozer00 says:

    Nice post. “pay and spray training” LOL! And thanks for the link to my blog.


  2. Charles Beauregard says:

    Another great post :-).

    I think Investors in People (IiP) is to blame for a lot of this practice. I worked for a council that had a scheme called ‘Passport4Training’ where all staff had to attend between courses on between 10 and 15 (depending on their role) different subjects by the end of the financial year.

    Personally, and through talking to colleagues, I found about 95% of this training either had no relation to the person’s job, or was just a rehash of training we already had.

    From what I could work out, the only purpose of spending time and money on this training was to tick some boxes in order to get the IiP award (which we were meant to celebrate when we got it). And I still have never received an adequate explanation of the benefits of having an IiP award.

    BTW, I like the reading list. One other recommendation from me is Punished by Rewards, by Alfie Kohn: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Punished-Rewards-Trouble-Incentive-Praise/dp/0618001816/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1331111806&sr=1-1


    • ThinkPurpose says:

      Lots of people have recommended Alfie Kohn to me, and to my shame I’ve never got round to it. There’s lots of stuff I’m interested in on psychological responses to rewards and incentives. I’m currently going through Fast and Slow Thinking, which is brilliant.

      Thanks for thumbs up on the post, I am very glad I resumed blogging, and highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.


  3. Pingback: Pigsaw Blog » Blog Archive » Bookmarks for 8 Mar 2012

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