A Good Training Program is like a Good Bread…

When I was newly married (the first time, eh-hem), I wanted to prove that I could cook and bake.   Everyone else could have cared less, but I was bound and determined to prove I was not a dunce in the kitchen, not having much practice when I lived at home.  So, of course, I had to start with a skill that is not that easy: making bread.  Not just any bread, mind you, no.  Challah.  Many pounds of flour and many loaves of really bad Challah later that everyone ate out of kindness, I believe I finally created some loaves of Challah that were very good.  One that I was particularly proud of never made it to the table, because the greyhound absconded with it while we were out of the house.  That’s funny…now.

At any rate, this morning I was having a waking dream – you know, the kind where you are still under but you are in control of the course your brain is taking?   This morning’s dream had me sitting at a conference table with a bunch of suits that I do not know.  On the screen is a PowerPoint that outlines the training program the employees will go through when my company is integrated with theirs.   As I am listening to the Training Manager drone on and on about requirements and priorities, my head is slipping further down the length of my forearm.  Finally, the manager gets annoyed and stops his talk to address me.

“Is this boring you, Heather?”

I straighten up.  In my dream, I’m brave and cocky.  “Yes, actually.”

“Why?”

“Because this is going to fail.”

“Really?  Why do you say that?”

“Because developing a training is like making a good bread.  You have to start, first, with a good recipe.  It might take a few tries before you get the right recipe.  I’m not sure that you do have the right recipe here.  Who was consulted about these requirements?”

“Your management.”

“Yeah, and who else?  Anyone ‘on the ground,’ so to speak?”

“Well, no.”

“That’s why you’re missing the saffron.”

“The what?”

“It’s a special ingredient in Challah that makes it very yellow and beautiful.  You’re missing the metaphorical saffron.  Your training is going to be boring and you will lose most of your trainees within the first half-hour.”

He sighed heavily.  “So, what do you suggest?”

“Go back and find some super users [please see my expanded definition of “super user” below].  Interview them; bounce off of them what the management gave you.  Do a real needs analysis, a 360 needs analysis.  Have you taken these processes from birth-to-death?  Have you created exercises that mimic real life?  I don’t see that.  I see a collection of procedures with no rationale behind the training.  How do you plan to explain why they have to learn this stuff?”

“That’s a lot of questions.”

“When you have answered them, then you have your recipe.  Next, you’ll need to mix the ingredients properly; baking requires exact measurements, unlike cooking.  You’ll need to knead the bread, to activate the yeast.  The yeast is the people factor; you need to involve the people or the training will fall flat.  In order to get the bread nice and fluffy, you will need to let it rise.  That means that you’ll need to let all of these explanations and connections germinate within your mind.  Then you can punch it down and shape it, meaning you can put together the curriculum and the exercises.  Then, you let it rise again – you put the training to the test with a select group of managers and super users.  Finally, you bake it; you deliver the training.  Get it?  After baking, people eat it.  Either they like it, or they put it to the side.  Some might put butter on it and improve it on their own; others will simply reject it.  You will know after you do the evaluation, but at least you will know that you put forth your best effort.  This,” I waved my hand, “Is not your best effort.”

“Listen, I’m a member of ASTD and a CPLP.  I don’t appreciate this criticism.”

“First, constructive criticism should always be welcome.  Second, if you are a CPLP, then you must have read Stolovitch and Keeps.”

“What did they write?”

Telling Ain’t Training.  Pick it up.  It’s a good book.  You’ll find out how to put together a real training program.  Another one is HPI Essentials. I don’t know how you got through the CPLP exam without them.”

I love waking dreams.

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