April 23, 2017

Finding the Real Problems before Jumping on the Training Bandwagon – Part 2

As discussed yesterday, in technology-based change many companies identify additional training as the answer to spur adoption but often miss the real underlying problem. In today’s blog we’ll discuss two potential root causes for lack of adoption as well as solutions.

First—sponsorship. Is the functional executive regularly demonstrating support of the well-informed use of the technology, or the timely and effective participation within the processes? Is he/she verbally expressing that support in forums or in one-to-one conversations? Is the leader using the technology or requesting information or reports that require others to properly query the tool? These are forms of demonstrated support—not just sending out a corporate-speak email that declares the launch date and the business case, then perceived by the audience as ‘everyone better get on board or else’. Effective demonstrations of support must be repeated for the long haul and be genuinely part of the mantra of that leader and ultimately those who choose to follow. Without demonstrated support or direction, individuals can easily find other priorities or simply not give the technology-enabled process the simple attention to detail it deserves. “I’m really busy today… I’ll get back to that tomorrow.”

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins describes how successful companies typically exemplify the culture and behavior of its leaders. This purposely demonstrated support bridges the wide gap from the ivory tower to real ownership in a personal, authentic way. Suddenly, team members might think “Wow, she’s really serious about this—I need to get my ducks in a row.”

What do you mean by ‘discipline’?

So we picked on the executives a bit—now for everyone else. Discipline falls to everybody within an organization. And unfortunately, it may also take a lot of time and hard work to improve. I believe whatever discipline exists (our definition here can be rigor, consistency, or commitment to a process or way of working) comes from the deep rooted culture over time. If people witness others behaving or acting in a certain way, it’s more likely that they will adopt those behaviors.

But this discipline opportunity can tie right back to good sponsorship. It’s another chance for leaders to express the desired focus, outcomes and behaviors within the environment in question. How might end users act when they hear an executive say to them, “We are making multi-million dollar decisions every quarter on new product development priorities based on the timeliness and accuracy of the data you manage in this tool”? My hunch is most would heed the beckoned call.

But let’s not throw learning needs out the window. The point of this piece is not that training or learning won’t help, or are not the root cause of low adoption and poor performance, but that training is an easy scapegoat when things are going awry. Unfortunately, the act of learning is not sexy or a quick fix—much less easy. And even when training is the right choice, it can still be poorly planned, developed or delivered. Frankly, it’s sometimes easier to lay blame where many are involved rather than on specific leaders or behaviors… with the simple notion of ‘people are not doing this right—let’s do more training.’

But there’s a better first step. Asking people close to the pain points for their input is not only a good starting point for unearthing real problems, but it’s also a very positive way to mine useful data. At the very same time something else profound can begin to happen—those people feel they are being heard and their opinion might actually matter. If people feel empowered and part of the solution, ownership and commitment usually begin to rise. Even if learning is found to be at least some part of a solution people will be much more receptive if they were included in the discovery process from the start.

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alan.crean@changepoint.com' About Alan Crean

Alan Crean is SME in Lead 2 Cash in Professional Services and SME in PPM & Resource Management within IT Shared Services Organizations. Subject Matter Expert in Professional Services Automation with a particular focus on supporting the Lead to Cash process for Technology based Professional Services and Consulting firms.