Category Archives: Learning & Development

Confessions of a Management Consultant: Why Training (Often) Doesn’t Work!

Confused businessman finding solution

“Consultant’s Curse: If your only tool is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.”

As a management consultant I strive to be a performance consultant where possible. This means that I seek to add sustained value by partnering clients in implementing sustainable solutions to their identified performance gaps. I seek to follow the model produced by ISPI (International Society for Performance Improvement). This framework carries out a needs analysis (not just a training needs analysis) and identifies:

(a) the gap(s) between desired and actual workforce performance, given the organisational, vision, mission, key strategies and business unit needs.

(b) underlying causes of the performance gap(s).

(c) interventions needed to address the gap(s) – training normally being just one of the interventions.

(d) implementation of the interventions, using key change management principles.

(e) evaluation of the whole process, and continuing again with points (a) to (d) as appropriate.

That’s the ideal, the theory! However, if the client asks me to run a one-day workshop (or longer), and doesn’t want to explore a more holistic solution, I oblige.

All well and good, but a few questions are in order here.

  • Was that training a response to a clearly identified performance gap?
  • Was there a serious attempt to identify the underlying causes of that gap?
  • Were there any efforts to identify and implement other interventions to address the gap and also support sustained benefits from the training?
  • Were the participants’ managers enlisted to help ensure sustained benefit from the training?
  • Was a serious evaluation made (up to five or even six levels) of the effectiveness of the training other interventions?

All too often, the answers are no, no, no, no and no! All too often, training is the quick-fix, knee jerk solution to the perceived issues – very much a band-aid solution, and therefore also not likely to have any real sustained benefit.

Around five years ago, I won a tender to develop and deliver a substantial training program for a government instrumentality. It involved delivering around twelve two-day performance management workshops to all their managers and executives.

I suggested to the HR Director that they use a model similar to the above model used by ISPI. I also suggested that the training effectiveness could be evaluated at up to five levels. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, and in addition, the CEO was not a good role model himself. He certainly didn’t hold his executives and managers accountable for their performance management.

End result? Some five years later, they requested tenders for the very same training. I submitted one. Did I get the training? No! Am I surprised? No!!!

To what extent is the performance consultant approach relevant to your role as a consultant, HR staff member or client?

What needs to be done differently to embody this role?

Narayan van de Graaff

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