Welcome to PacozDiscipline

I have a flair for making people & communities successful. I yearn to excel in that arena!

This is a compilation of my thoughts and responses to others thoughts. Most of them are relevant to the world of learning & development, and may be of help to you. Please add your comments and views.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Clients are too busy to keep their appointments. How to handle such situation?

This is the situation which occurs many a times... and its a good point that may help you. I recently responded to the same in a training session, where these Financial Planners were complaining that people don't even give time to discuss their financial plans although they may be paying for the ‘financial planning’ service.

My answer to them was SPIN (www.huthwaite.org). What we need to understand is that people don't buy solutions, or listen to you, or go through your documents, just because they have a problem that any of the above can solve.

Let me explain this in simpler terms...
1. Do we go to the physician when we have symptoms of the flu... No!
2. Do we go to the physician when the implication of the flu is such that it hampers things that are non-negotiable with us, such as not being able to meet the client leading to a loss of revenue... Well, YES!!!

The crux of the matter is that we don't take up solutions when there are problems, even if there is a 'contract'. On the other hand, once the implications of the problems are so large that they start impacting cost, convenience, time, quality etc., we open up to looking at solutions.

So, what you may want to do is to talk to your client in terms of implications of a delayed conversation... will the delay lead to a postponed project close, and will that lead to a delayed implementation, and will that lead to an increase in cost... so, what we are talking about is a balance with cost on one side and the value that one sees in talking to you 'now' on the other.

We need to build 'that' value in your conversation, which I am sure you are doing... and as I always tell myself, every conversation is a 'sales' conversation; if not in real terms, imagine them to be. By doing this one increases the chances of success.

Warm Regards,


PS… Do read the book ‘SPIN Sales Fieldbook’ by Neil Rackham

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Collaboration in Learning

I have been using collaboration in learning programs for sometime. In my current role, we have started looking at them being used very seriously.

In particular, there is a program called 'Sell Out Of Trouble' (SOOT), wherein we use the experience & learning of all participants to collaborate and resolve problems emanating out of a live case study ('personal financial planning' interaction).

The process is tedious for the facilitator, but the application of learning in the simulated environment is quick-effective-efficient, disparity in learning comes out and can be fine-tuned, seeing the learning being applied in action builds conviction; all of this leads to a higher probability of the learning being applied in the workplace. It is also important that the case study being used to collaborate is live in nature & spirit. For example in SOOT, facilitators use their own life as a case study, and become the subject who's financial planning needs to be done. The collaborative effort in unearthing the exact problems, their implications and finally the solution to payoff their need, builds conviction in the learners that the discussed methodology of sales 'works', and its OK to give it a try in the field.

Collaboration has been used in learning environments for a vey long time.

If you have any more examples of having used collaboration in the learning & development space, please do leave a note...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thank You!

A powerful phrase, but seldom used conscientiously and consciously. The following write-up was sent as an email by a friend-philosopher-guide, Basab.

THANK YOU (by Oprah Winfrey)
I live in the space of thankfulness - and I have been rewarded a million times over for it. I started out giving thanks for small things, and the more thankful I became, the more my bounty increased.
That's because what you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it. Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my life.

"Say thank you!"

Those words from my friend and mentor Maya Angelou turned my life around.

One day about ten years ago, I was sitting in my bathroom with the door closed and the toilet lid down, booing and a-hooing on the phone so uncontrollably that I was incoherent.

"Stop it! Stop it right now and say thank you!" Maya chided.

"But - you don't understand," I sobbed.

To this day, I can't remember what it was that had me so far gone, which only proves the point Maya was trying to make. "I do understand," she told me. "I want to hear you say it now. Out loud. 'Thank you.'"

Tentatively, I repeated it: "Thank you - but what am I saying thank you for?"

"You're saying thank you," Maya said, "because your faith is so strong that you don't doubt that whatever the problem, you'll get through it. You're saying thank you because you know that even in the eye of the storm, God has put a rainbow in the clouds. You're saying thank you because you know there's no problem created that can compare to the Creator of all things. Say thank you!"

So I did - and still do. Only now I do it every day. I kept a gratitude journal, as Sarah Ban Breathnach suggests in Simple Abundance, listing at least five things that I'm grateful for. My list includes small pleasures: the feel of Kentucky bluegrass under my feet (like damp silk); a walk in the woods with all nine of my dogs and my cocker spaniel Sophie trying to keep up; cooking fried green tomatoes with Stedman and eating them while they're hot; reading a good book and knowing another waits.

My thank-you list also includes things too important to take for granted: an "okay" mammogram, friends who love me, 15 years at the same job (and loving it more than the first day I started), a chance to share my vision for a better life, staying centered, having financial security.

I won't kid you, having money for all the things I want is a blessing. But as I look back over my journals, which I've kept since I was 15 years old, 99 percent of what brought me real joy had nothing to do with money. (It had a lot to do with food, however.)

It's not easy being grateful all the time. But it's when you feel least thankful that you are most in need of what gratitude can give you: PERSPECTIVE. Just knowing you have that daily list to complete allows you to look at your day differently, with an awareness of every sweet gesture and kind thought passed your way.

When you learn to say thank you, you see the world anew. And as Meister Eckhart so eloquently stated: "If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is 'Thank you God', that would suffice."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

CLO Symposium, TISS, Mumbai

I recently attended the one-day CLO Symposium in India (http://www.closummitindia.com/). I must appreciate the effort made by Kumaar Bagrodia to organise such an event, and TISS for supporting the initiative. One could always write a thesis on things that should be done differently, but it is important to celebrate the learning. I wish more people attended, and more importantly let's make an effort to make these successful in years to come.

I had been speaking to a lot of friends and industry-colleagues beforehand about their interest in attending the symposium, and although a few had mentioned that they would attend, but many were skeptical about attending. While there may be quite a few reasons for that kind of response, but I believe it was mostly because of the absence of a 'fraternity'. And this symposium and such symposia would, undoubtedly, ensure that the 'fraternity' gets built.

To begin with we were a few of us who had once worked for NIS Sparta (http://www.nissparta.com/), and it was quite a reunion-of-sorts (Vinay Pradhan, TV Binoj Vasu, Bulbul Ray, Rituraj Sar, Rahul Mehta, Me...). Navin Bhatia and Anand Dewan couldn't make it! Psst!

Unfortunately, I had to leave and hence could not attend Dr. Chandra's session onwards. The star of the entire session was the session by Mr. Bhaskar Chatterjee... he was smooth and moreover he gave us all something that we could carry back. Transcript of his session is at the bottom of this note.

Quite a decent bunch of speakers were there, most of them were good, but only a few could make it interesting. I have baptised their sessions basis my interpretation of what was being discussed, and my rating of the session.

Keynote Speakers (9/10)

  • Mr. Bhaskar Chatterjee (Secretary, Department of Heavy Ind and Pub Ent, GoI)
  • Mr. Kumaar Bagrodia (CEO, LeapVault)

Round Table: Who's a CLO and do we really need one? (6/10)

  • Mr. Arun Balakrishnan (CMD, HPCL)
  • Mr. Thomas Varghese (CEO, Aditya Birla Retail)
  • Dr. Mukund Rajan (MD, Tata Teleservices Maharashtra Ltd)
  • Prof. S Parsuraman (Director, TISS)
  • Vikram Oza (Bloomberg -UTV), Session Convenor

Learning at Teach for India (7/10)

  • Ms. Shaheen Mistri (CEO, Teach for India) - Introduced the work being done at Teach For India... very 'moving' presentation

Learning and Development in the PSU Sector (1/10)

  • Mr. S Mohan (Director, BPCL)
  • Mr. V C Agarwal (Director, Indian Oil Corporation)
  • Mr. K S Jamestin (Group GM, ONGC)

Individual Sessions (3/10)

  • Ms. Susan Bloch (CLO, Aditya Birla Group): The session was a polling session to figure out what people thought 'contributes' to learning. The audio-video presentation was good
  • Mr. Nilesh Kulkarni (Head HR, Novartis Consumer Health): The session was focused at Learning and Development in a Bio-Research environment

Round Table: Role of a CLO (8/10)

  • Mr. Yogi Sriram (EVP, L&T) - Session Convenor
  • Ms. Suchitra Rajendra (Director, Organization Capability, Pepsico)
  • Mr. Kalyan Banerjee (Head Learning, Mindtree)
  • Dr. Gopal Mahapatra (CLO, Oracle)
  • Captain Mohanlal J P (Head, Learning and Development, SBI Life Insurance)

Individual Sessions - Couldn't attend hereon...psst!

  • Dr. S Chandrasekhar (VP HR South Asia, IBM)
  • Mr. Ranajit Mukherjee (GM, Advisory Services NIIT)
  • Someone representing 'Who Moved My Cheese'

Transcript of Bhaskar Chatterjee's presentation

Will the CLO survive... Yes, In today's changing world, someone has to be responsible for the activity of Learning.

What defines a Learning Organization?

  1. Shared Vision - Disseminated or built bottom up. The CLO has to do that.
  2. Building Inertia - Stillness is calm and peaceful. Movement needs to be included to bring about change.
  3. Open Communication - Able to communicate without fear... question it... not just the board, but just about anyone.
  4. Departmental Interest - It has to be subjugated to to ensure the shared vision. We currently operate in a single-loop learning environment; but we need to build an environment of double-loop learning - mistake is a part of the process; use mistakes as a learning process. Could we work around a list of failures, rather than just a list of best practices?

CLO's responsibility is to ensure a constant learning process. The commitment has to be top-down. Evolving organizational structure needs to be ensured; one that works around the learnt elements; a culture promoting innovation.

Who is a CLO?

  • Highest ranking corporate officer concerned with talent and learning management. Expert in training and development of organizational talent for optimization of business results. Needs to be shrewed business person; responsible for optimization of business results.

What does the CLO do?

  • They don't provide companies with learning programs. They are responsible for fostering change in the workplace. Requires leadership skills, and also courage to bring about change... in a quite and gentle way.

What are the traits of a CLO?

  • Communication- One cannot be a retiscient communicator.
  • Influencer - Use right influencing techniques to get points across, in an assertive yet gentle manner.
  • Consulting Skills - Its about the CLO providing consultation to others and others doing it with the CLO.
  • Starategic Thinking - Where is the company moving.
  • Business Person - Every change is linked to business... Business Acumen

3Cs of a successful CLO

  • Care for people in the company
  • Content (core) of the organization
  • Contact (networked) within the orgzn.

5 things CLOs should do.

  • Understand business processes.
  • Learning resources to orient towards business processes.
  • Push employees' performance.
  • Promote a culture of innovation and successes, and a supportive attitude towards failure.
  • People will stop innovating if failures are not accepted.
  • Support CEO in reorganization. Be a champion of ideas and foster the same within the organization.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Immutable Laws for Success

  • Nothing of what happens inside matters, unless it matters to someone outside…
    focus towards your clients, customers and consumers
  • Avoid, ‘but’, ‘however’, and ‘no’ in your communication…
    creates positive relationships; mends broken ones
  • Don’t doubt…
    helps avoid negative perceptions and builds a clear perspective

  • Don’t bad-mouth…
    it just leaves you with a bad mouth

  • Shun mediocrity…
    it tends to make a mediocre of all those around

  • Stand by your people…
    for they weep when you cry

  • Build your team’s equity…
    helps build your personal equity

  • Live what you preach…
    in living it you epitomize what you preach

  • Don’t run away from what you do…
    who said it was going to be easy

      • It doesn’t matter what you think of yourself…
        what matters is what others think of you

      • Know which battle to lose…
        some battles have to be lost to win the war

      ~ Paco, 12th March, ’09

      Sunday, July 26, 2009

      MoLearn - 21st century's lo-tech learning platform

      What is it???

      • This is a unique initiative that converge the power of mobile and web application for the benefit of your learning.
      • This makes it possible for you to have complete control on how you learn and when you learn, and hence dispelling a lot of widely-held beliefs.

      How does it work???
      1. The entire learning module is broken into hundreds of learning-chunks,
      2. The essence of each of these learning-chunks is then ‘compacted’ to enable to be sent as a SMS to you; say, 5 of them in a day.
      3. You could then log onto certain pre-identified web-portals such as a LMS or a micro-site to access the SMS-series and their supporting text to know more about them. The sequentially placed SMSs (and their supporting text) on the web-portal gives you the entire picture.
      4. One could setup a mail account to entertain request for additional information on a specified topic or clarification on any of the learning-chunks.
      5. You could then take the assessments on the LMS. This ‘assessment’ feature could be enabled on the mobile as well.
      WoW! An effortless and fun way of learning!
      There must something that it can’t do…
      • O! Yes. It can’t replace the value that a trainer brings in form of tacit knowledge.
      • It can’t train you on skills such as selling, negotiation, swimming, cutting vegetables, driving a car etc. On the other hand it can give you the requisite knowledge, and hence prepare you in some way.

      Sunday, July 19, 2009

      Spending Money on Learning and Development - Measuring ROI

      Desikamani Gopaladesikan had posted the following question on LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/groups?home=&gid=27003&trk=anet_ug_hm&goback=%2Eana_27003_1247990854435_3_1).

      Does spending money on L+D really add tangible value to an organization? Or is it like prayer, spend and hope for some benefits to accrue...? Over the last fifteen years in the learning services business, selling and delivering training services I observe that it is very difficult to make CEOs perceive L+D spends as critical. They look at it charitably. I wonder if this will ever achieve a mission critical item status in organizational spending.

      The note mentioned below were the various response. The names of the responders have been mentioned therein as well. I have put only the relevant ones... those which take the discussion ahead fruitfully.


      John Bower

      Investing on the TLD of employees is no different than spending money on an IT system. If training is expensive try employee ignorance and see what that can cost the company. The key here is to ensure that all employee TLD is timely and effective with some measurable results that can be communicated back to the CEOs. I have been a TLD expert for the past 25 years and found it necessary to articulate to top management, the benefits of training and how this can impact the business success.

      Mike Andrew

      CEOs do look at training "charitably" as you described. I can't blame them especially with all the off-the-shelf programs and consulting firms who speak too much the HR language while not possessing the necessary insight and making an effort to understand the business. Training is often viewed as a nice thing to do, and it does not hurt the business. It is simply not core to the business. Now, on the other hand, if the learning and developing group puts in the rigor to understand the business, the challenges and opportunities facing the business, understand the strategic imperatives, etc. they are then in a position to put in the same rigor to create learning that is relevant to the business and practical to those inside the company to begin applying. Finally, it has to be more than hoping. Working with the same rigor to determine ways to measure impact or affect on the business is critical. The company may not ask for it, but the learning group would be wise to make an effort to determine the impact.

      Rebecca Everett

      Read my article, published in TandD magazine in February, for some specifics into what it takes only to get ROI and to thoughtfully plan an initiative so you can actually measure it. https://www.box.net/shared/f5mmi7xee0

      Jennifer Good

      Too many people think of training as a one day training course aimed at changing behavior. Training courses are only a small part of the training and development function. If top management does not believe in the usefulness of the training, improvement is unlikely. Coaching, performance goals and measures, on-line follow up, on the job training activities, stretch assignments etc. must all be incorporated into the training plans if goals are to really be achieved.

      Manju M N

      We can think back to the pre civilization era human race had the raw material to set a fire. With changes, innovations and constant learning now the same human race can use all the modern gadgets which can ignite in seconds. All this is the result of consistent and constant learning and development. Hence it is needless to think that any business can grow without spending on learning and development.It is an integral part of growth .With growth comes profit and motivation to go further.Kudos ! to CEOs who consider learning and development as the core support for any organization aiming growth and expansion.

      Rhonda Askeland

      The points reinforce the need for L+D to create/sustain a business alliance with the organization's leaders in order to understand the needs of the business and position training as an aspect of getting business results. L+D needs to stop seeing training as an event and start seeing it as part of a complete experience that is tied to how an organization achieves its goals. If L+D wants the "seat at the table" then they have to be a partner to the business and that means talking the language of the business and not "HR/OD speak" as Mike said previously and demonstrating results that are tied to the business.

      Gopal Bhutani

      After two decades in sales / marketing, I have chosen to switch to the formal TLD domain as a service provider. The point raised by Desikamani and responses by learned fellow members give an insight to the as-is state of the domain and also fuel my thought process. Thanks. With the above intro, and excuse me if am being simplistic, I place my views...

      > There is insufficient meaningful accounting of "human capital" in most of the enterprises - on a YoY basis as a "critical metric" - it is not a balance sheet item

      > Most of the L+D initiatives, if executed in right earnest, are long-gestation investments, going beyond the annual perspective - so it takes a leadership which has the necessary conviction, perspective and self-tenure security to commit for meaningful L+D initiatives.

      > I re-call a half-serious joke by one of the trainer - "an expert is a person who knows 10% more than you". May be the L+D professional pool is not really as great... and that inhibits the leadership in enterprises to commit on "suspect" L+D activities.

      > The risk of investment in L+D activities leaking - the employees moving out, leaving the enterprise high and dry

      > The L+D service providers not articulating the RoI as effectively - yes we swear by coaching on RoI concepts

      > One possible solution is that the service providers ( consultants, trainers, coaches ) adopt partnership model/s - linking the gains of service provider and the enterprise.... a kind of a shareholding.


      The question is darned good! While I believe in what Jennifer says, the most important is John Bower's response. Let's look at it this way... (that's the way how I look at it... its a bit long!!!)

      Basic Premise...

      All humans have common-sense, and most of the common-sensed executives are mostly bothered about two things, a) their growth, and b) the perception that people hold of them. That goes for you and me as well, whether we are in the L+D business or business of sales or wherever. But, more importantly, we in L+D should understand that.

      We are enablers, and that goes for both businesses and people, which includes our customer's personal expectations. If we focus on that, we would be able to logically create solutions that impact the above, we would in turn influence the aboe mentioned points a and b for ourselves. Most of the time most of L+D executives forget that, and focus on just a and b for themselves (which includes the Paco in '02-'03). To top it up most of L+D executives are not fully geared to handle L+D, esp., in India. This assumption holds good for the entire world.

      And if I were to write on the mistakes which most L+D executives make, I could write a 50K-word dissertation. Let's not focus there.

      Let me share something that we have done.

      The Environment...
      Our organisation is an exceptional organisation, and we decided to use simple methods to 'make the most important person in our company successful' - the Relationship Manager (RM) on the field, and when that happens, we knew would have impacted the topline, and as we move forward, the bottomline as well.

      The Problem...
      We are in such a business where sales is accrued from our distributors advising/persuading investors to invest in our Mutual Fund schemes. Our RMs faced a huge challenge whilst addressing the 'capital-market fallout' related queries that our investors had for our distributors (I'm putting it mildly... very mildly). To top it up there was competition from other Mutual Fund schemes, and many of our distributors not being able to manage their investors expectations in terms of advisory services... and many more. We realised that the important aspect is that our distributor needs to be engaged and supported to be able to in turn support their customers, and while we do that we need to focus on sales. So, we devised a plan

      The Solution...
      We decided that we would have a 'focus-of-the-month', and then we would go on a formal blitz of formal/informal (including huddles) training sessions with our distributors across the country on the focused product, and these training sessions would be conducted by our RMs; but our RMs were not trained facilitators, but we tackled that by smart 'ID'ing. This impacted their engagement levels, build conviction in themselves, and also made them percieved as demi-specialists in front of the distributors. The distributor also gets to interact on a formalised framework. But this doesn't end here; we are piloting a mobile-based learning engagement model, which would keep the distributors engaged (and be reminded that 'we are always there') when our RM is not in front of the distributor. In parallel, we have launched a drive to enable our distributors with a suite of skills such advisory skills, influencing skills, assertiveness, negotiation etc. So, whilst the earlier helps build knowledge, the latter helps build the skills to apply the knowledge, and these in turn impact the behavior that the distributors demonstrate in front of their customers which help them build a positive perception about themselves in the eyes of their customers and hence impact their growth. When the distributor grows, it has a cascading impact on the perception that our RM carries about a) oneself, b) scope of business development activities, and c) the capabilities of the L+D function. This has already yielded results

      The Inference
      But, does that mean we have stopped doing some (as I say) hygiene activities, which many of my industry colleagues seem to be doing most of the times; well, no! I am OK with the miniscule proportion; as we focus on what makes the difference, we don't have prove the worthiness of the function. WE do come across challenges, but they are either personality-based challenges or procedural. The former can be influenced, but one needs patience, and the success is still not guaranteed. The latter can be handled by working on it together
      By maintaining this balance, I know we have been a) a tool for success, and b) have been able to add value to people

      What's In It For Me
      This enables me to face the man in the mirror without being labelled a moron by the man on the other side

      As Rhonda mentions about the 'seat on the table' can only be gotten by adding value to business, and speak the only language that makes sense; that of making the enterprise successful. There is no point being a fountain of knowledge, if I am disconnected from reality... that's the enterprise's existence and growth and the perception that the shareholders/stakeholders hold.

      Germaine Broadbent

      Money spent on L+D should be focused, managed and measured and should relate to the bottom line and the brand of the company. Some measures are easier than others - are those concerned now able to do/produce something different that will make money? Sometimes what is contributed is difficult to measure and has to be discussed, valued and agreed to add to the integrity and long term growth of a business. For example, many Cactus clients are learning a language for work-related reasons. Some may have to be able to actually communicate messages regarding invoicing and / or delivery via telephone or email. However, some will be learning or improving their language skills in order to create better business dynamics or stronger business relationships. They already make the deals / have the business / speak the language but they view this form of L+D to have a value.

      Peggy Jones

      To Mike's point that some of the training program proposals make no effort in "understanding the business", I feel that the source of making a training program add tangible value to a business is to build it on a needs assesment of the organization. And to continually make a training program better an organization as a whole, a complete evaluation system will have to be put into place. Just as in the typical ADDIE model, analyzing is the first step and evaluating is the last, which makes the process come full circle.

      When you create a Needs Assesment report of the organization and word it correctly, I feel that Chief Officers and senior management have much more of an understanding of how a particular training program will contribute to their company. This is especially true if the assesment includes a cost analysis. When you break down the costs of a training program and estimate a ROI, the senior management has much more of an inclination to give the okay

      As so many people have said before, training is generally the first to go in a downward spiraling economy. Now the new buzzword is ROI in order to enable training professionals to add some worth behind their product. I am in complete support of this. If a training program does not have a postive and significant ROI then the program will not be carried out. In the past too many training programs have been based on industry fads and what the organization THINKS they should do rather than cold-hard numbers. Now is the time to reevaluate L+D's zeitgeist and direct it toward true tangible added value specific to each organization in order for training to survive.

      Rhonda Askeland

      Peggy, you are absolutely right that a needs assessment that looks at the organizational needs and ties the learning to the org. needs is essential. Too many times, L+D feels pressured to just "do something" and they don't build the value that a needs assessment provides into the process. It's a "we needed this yesterday, so just give us what we tell you we need" process and the patient doesn't know the root causes to sickness or problem they're having

      If L+D is reactive, then senior leaders don't see the value to the business and the credibility of L+D is diminished. ROI is the new buzzword (with a lot of people at all levels in an organization who don't know what it means or how to calculate it) and that's part of talking the language of the business I mentioned in an earlier post. L+D needs to know what it means, how to calculate it, and how to present it so that organizations take L+D more seriously and so that organizations have sustainable results that L+D helps them achieve.

      Peggy Jones

      Rhonda, I completely agree that L+D professionals need to know what ROI is, how to calculate it, and how to present it... I also think it is very much easier said than done. My first project at my current organization was to conduct a cost analysis on our orientation program and present a ROI report. The process was so out of my league that we ended the project with a cost analysis and recommendations on how to cut costs on the program. No where near a full ROI report which would take so much more time and effort than we had

      On that note, do you have any suggestions for figuring the ROI of training programs? After the initial cost analysis of the program how would you figure the ROI?

      Charles Jennings

      Whether ROI or ROE (Return on Expectation) - which is probably a better approach to demonstrate business value - the REAL value a TLD professional can bring is knowing when training won't add value. i.e. knowing when NOT to train. There's a blog posting of mine about this here http://www.linkedin.com/redirect?url=http%3A%2F%2Fis%2Egd%2F1smm7&urlhash=njDF&_t=tracking_disc or links on my website. http://www.duntroon.com/

      Robert Bilotti

      Hard to believe we are still talking about this... I would make one suggestion.... stop giving your people lousy, irrelevant, ineffective, overpriced, too long, poorly produced training.

      Charles Jennings

      Every year $ billions continue to be wasted on training that has absolutely no impact on individuals or organizations whatsoever. Yet managers continue to demand training when the business problems they want to address can't possibly be addressed by training, and internal training and development departments (and external training vendors, no less) continue to provide it, because 'that's what they do for a living'

      If only we could get rid of the ubiquitous Training Needs Analysis we'd be part way there. TNAs assume that training is a solution or, at least, part of a solution even before the root cause of the problem is identified.

      TNAs often back Training and Development departments or managers who don't know any better into a corner and force them to use the wrong medicine to fix the patient.

      I refer to this situation as the 'Conspiracy of Convenience' because that what is often is

      > Business managers demand 'training' because they have a 'gut feeling' it can help fix a performance/business problem
      > No-one does any real root-cause performance analysis to understand what's actually causing the problem (incidentally, most problems caused by inadequate performance are not due to lack of knowledge or skills but to external 'environmental' factors such as process that don't work, lack of motivation - read poor management -, poor infrastructure or a myriad of other factors)
      > Training managers or training vendors design, develop and deliver training in response to the business managers request/demand
      > No-one measures to determine if the training has any impact on individual or organizational performance
      > Nothing happens. Everyone's happy

      and, worse still, everyone feels that they've done their jobs. Managers have provided their employees with the opportunity for training, and Training Managers have delivered training. After all, isn't that what training managers should be doing?

      Rhonda Askeland

      Well said, Charles. Training is one solution and not the only solution. Until L+D people are adept at HPI and look at all of the root causes, solutions will continue to comply to what the business leaders demand and not meet the true needs.

      How many times have you done a performance analysis to find that process, structure, and/or motivation/incentives and consequences (the environmental factors that Charles called out) are the culprits to poor performance and the business problem? I have to say this is most of the time. Not to say that there aren't training needs - they just aren't first (or second or third) on the list

      Less focus on training as the only solution and more focus on the process/systems that are getting in the way.

      John Bower

      I agree with you Rhonda and Charles, I have been leading organizational TLD for 20 years in five different countries for medium to very large organizations

      The biggest problem here in north america is that people who know little about TLD are managing the internal trainers and negatively influencing them. Or let me put another way they are creating barriers to their own direct reports performance

      Hence a while ago I said trainers and vendors have become order takers rather than consultants for fear of being panel beaten by their superiors. Too often the easy way out is to please the boss or training requester

      Another issue is not to use the terminology of TNA but change to Needs Analysis, and yes in my experience many of the requests for training were solved through implementing a simple employee procedure, or suggesting the supervisor or department head smarten up and do his/her job of having regular performance discussions where applicable

      Too often especially in north america the training department has become the sacrifical lamb and is blamed for many problems while in reality the directors or managers leading the training department are the weak link and need to learn to trust and stretch the TLD expert to do his/her job according to the need and research. After all why did the organization employ a TLD expert if everyone else is trying to perform this role?

      Rhonda Askeland

      I have some empathy, but overall, I think that TLD has brought on their problems for a number of reasons. When I facilitate sessions on learning development, my challenge to the groups is always to think like a business person and provide business value by creating partnerships, asking a lot of questions and getting to the root causes so that they can garner more respect and credibility.

      Sangeeth Ibrahim

      I think we can change the way they think by measuring customer perception and internal indicators regularly. I head the TandD initiatives of a bank in the middle east. Three times a year we measure customer perception, speed of service, errors, attendance, 360 degree feedback. Once a dashboard is created from this data, we conduct customised Trainings for branches and one to one coaching for associates performing below targets. We also reward branches and associates going above targets.Three times in a year, we measure and three times we conduct trainings. In 1.5 years we have seen dramatic reduction in errors, increase in accuracy and increase in customer service. If we focus on making a real difference and if we measure this difference, then we can make a difference in the way people see our service. Now our CEO doesnt see it as a cost, he sees it as an Investment.

      Rebecca Everett

      Measure what's important and address those areas. Measurable increases in performance are all the C SUITE people are willing to entertain as relevant.


      Measurement is the reason why most training professionals stay away from measurement... mostly because they don't know; and all those who know a little (most of the others), start talking about ROI without even understanding what it is. Customer perception is a reflection of whether the customer-group liked or not, which could be a reflection of whether one's work impacted performances or was it that the trainer was a good public-relations guy. Having said that its good for getting the money invested.

      As Rebecca mentioned it is right that the C-Suite undoubtedly recognises measureables, but the problem goes back to the fact that most don't know what to measure, when to measure, and how to measure. It basically stems from a deficiency of understanding. Because of this deficiency, most trainers jump to finding out what it means, and as they stumble upon Kirkpatrick, they forget about the initial stages and jump to ROI. It is interesting that most of us don't know the difference between Business Impact (Level4) and RoI (Level 5).

      Once a young apprentice from HR came over to get feedback on HR processes. Ignorance was profound in her, which is OK; interestingly, she had taken some guidance from supposedly seasoned HR professionals. The questionnaire had questions which gave an idea that after training if one does regular reviews one can find out about the effectiveness. The apprentice had to go through a harrowing time with me!!! But, what about the seasoned-professional... oblivious to the truth and contented with ignorance. That's the case with most.

      So, according to this HR colleague of mine, let's say, I have been trained on sales, and after my training is over regular reviews with my supervisor/me should give me an idea about effectiveness. My question is training the only impactor of performance, or are there others? So, if there are other things such as supervisory support or changed market conditions or improved product design and performance, which have helped me improve, then shouldn't YOU, my sales-trainer, share the spoils. Similarly, in a downturn of performance, one needs to examine the impact of the aforementioned factors (and many more).

      To figure out the ROI, the best way to do is to conduct a controlled group exercise wherein one group is trained, and the other group is not. All the other variables are kept constant. The difference (PD) shows up in the performance, and that can be co-related to the cost of training (CT) for each of the control-group participants (CG). The coefficient [(PD/CT)/CG] thus arrived at could be used to invite investment.

      ROI per Participant = [(PD/CT)/CG]
      Investment = RoI per participant X Total number of sales people to be impacted

      The methodology of calculation will be different for other forms of intervention, but the basis mentioned above holds good with most cases that I have come accross. I am yet to get exposed to all scenarios, and hence can't call this hypothesis a theory.

      But, I have one theory to support this... Take credit when you know you are the contributing factor, and not whenever it comes. Take only that much what is rightfully yours. If you take more credit than what you deserve, then when the downturn happens, as Rhonda said, one would become the sacrificial lamb.

      Rebecca Everett

      RE: Pratapaditya's comment, CEOs..."don't know what to measure, when to measure, and how to measure
      It is incumbent upon L+D professionals to decide these things and design learning interventions that get desired results. L+D professionals have to let go of the expectation that a C-level person is going to tell them what to measure. Take the initiative to choose interventions that will meet business needs as directly as possible and design them so they can both get those results and prove it by the metrics.


      That points out to my basic outcry... L+D professionals need to not only understand the science and art of L+D, but also be able to communicate the same in respect to organisational requirements.

      Volney Spalding

      I agree with the conversation regarding measuring performance and comparing against a norm or control group. In sales productivity there are many metrics to track: sales activity, pipeline generation, revenue, win rates, close rates, lead conversion rates, etc. As it turns out, at Salesforce.com of course we can measure all of these metrics since they are tracked in our app. We measure all of them and report on progress against a new hire baseline.

      But how do we measure non-sales related activity and measures? If you are rolling out a Management development or Leadership development course, what are the day to day measures and activities you can track? Leadership development would appear to involve some highly abstract measures: Ability to convey vision, ability to correctly coach and guide employees relative to their experience, ability to motivate managers during down economic cycles, ability reduce complex variables to a simple plan, etc. What are the measures and where are they stored?

      I accept Rebecca's challenge that we need to not wait for C-level to tell us what to measure, but am interested in best practices from others.

      I would be very interested to know how others have achieved meaningful Level 4 and 5 evaluation for non sales related activities.

      Srinivas Prakash

      There are measurable and non measurable qualities. The representation of the subjectiveness involved objectively is of course one of the most difficult tasks. In my experience, especially in the service industry, I have dealt with level 4(business impact) which could be measured objectively and precisely. For example the improvement in the customer satisfaction scores (can be measured) indicates the overall improvement in quality (is subjective). But return on investment with regards to quality is often subjective though it can increase the customer base. I think training evaluation and measurement makes sense till level 4 in business. Level 4 has a direct impact on level 5 which CEO’s understand, however the strategic linking of these 2 levels needs to be objective and precise. In this case an improvement in quality can or cannot increase sales. However it is for the CEO to see the result at level 4 and develop an effective stratagy at level 5. If L+D tries to show ROI then it would be subjective and would not produce accurate and predictable results. Measuring physiological and behavioural aspects and their impact at level 5 is something I have never pitched for. Please provide inputs.


      Measuring at Levels 4 and 5 are a rather difficult proposition, but not impossible. The difficulty comes from the ability to point out the parameters of evaluation and the cycle time.

      Let's take the example of leadership development. We may go ahead and conduct a training program on Situational Leadership, but its difficult to identify and measure its contribution in the entire 'leadership' trait-set, as there would be many a affecting factors.

      So in case of measuring the development of complicated / higher levels of skills, one should look at the entire learning plan rather than just one singular program.

      Secondly, the time taken for any of the attributing traits to bloom and be demonstrated so as to be measured at either 4 or 5 is very long, hence usually not taken in context.

      However, the 3rd level needs to be done... changes in behaviour. I hope I am able to respond to your query. Incase you wish to discuss my experience on this, do respond back.

      In actual scenarios, training managers agree to measuring levels 4 and/or 5 without understanding this... and as Rebecca mentioned, the onus lies on the L+D professional to articulate the measurement and its components to the stakeholders beforehand, rather than being reactive and defensive later on... and finally commit something completely not-do-able in haste.

      Friday, July 17, 2009

      Super Sales Man

      Hi! All,

      Today we were discussing about the essential traits and processes which make a salesperson successful. While working on what we could do to catch the attention of our relationship managers, I re-created an acronym, and took one from Zig Ziglar... 'SUPER' and 'SALES'.

      SUPER is about the key processes that a sales person needs to keep in mind that would make the person successful. The SALES traits mentioned later are to be demonstrated whilst these keys processes are carried out...

      S: Have a Systematic approach to sales; plan out your funnel and the target.

      U: Update yourself with CPAC - Company Information, Product Information, Advantages & Benefits, and Information on Competition

      P: Prepare yourself

      E: Engage your customers

      R: Review your performance regularly & rigorously

      SALES is about attribute as per Zig Ziglar...

      S: Sell to Help. Always put the others needs first. To paraphrase Zig Ziglar: If you help your prospects get what they want, you can get more of what you want out of life. People can usually sense a salesperson just out for a commission. It either comes out before or after the sale. If you are looking for the benefits of long term relationships, like repeat and referral business, Selling to help is a must. Transactional salespeople don't last long term. How aware of your prospects needs and wants are you? How well do you match your product or service to fill those needs of wants?

      A: Attitude. That is Positive Attitude as opposed to 'Having an Attitude'. Attitude is what drives behavior. A positive attitude leads you to thinking about your potential for success, as opposed to what could go wrong or why something won't work. Remember -Your thoughts are the one thing in this world that you have complete control over. And your thoughts lead to your actions which lead to your results or the success that you want. So you are in complete control over the level of success you achieve. How is your attitude in general? Is your sales attitude getting you the success that you want?

      L: Likeable. People want to do business with people they like. Like leads to trust. Friendly leads to easy to do business with. Friendly is showing an interest in others. When you do that, people feel liked. If a prospect likes you and trusts you, then they MAY do business with you. Otherwise you have very little chance of earning a sale. Are you likeable to everyone, all of the time?

      E: Enthusiastic. Passionate. People want to see enthusiasm. Being enthusiastic about what you do makes it easier for your prospect to buy "you". Enthusiastic and passionate makes it easier for a prospect to like you. People will buy more from your enthusiasm and conviction. These are all foundational to relationships and sales. Enthusiasm can be transferred to a prospect which increases your chances for a sale. But remember that it needs to be real. How enthusiastic are you every day? What can you do to refresh your enthusiasm?

      S: Smart (Knowledgeable). Knowledgeable leads to trust. It leads to competence and confidence. People want to do business with confident competent people. Know all you can about your product or service and its possible outcomes in terms of your prospects needs, wants, concerns, or issues. Know all that you can about building relationships and influence. It is then that you can deal from a position of resource and advisor. That's a good place to be. What can you learn to be more valuable to your prospects and clients?

      The over-riding attribute is 'Authentic'. One need to be who one is. None of this can be faked. One will always be more effective when a person is oneself as opposed to trying to imitate someone else or to use a "technique". Authenticity is using our natural talents for the right reasons and in the right way.

      Happy Rading!

      Saturday, July 11, 2009

      How to handle on-platform faux-pas?

      I guess a million hours of research has gone into finding out the cosmic reasons for an on-platform faux-pas. Unfortunately, it has always been a mystery. Having said that there are couple of things that can be done prior to and immediately after the 'unexpected' faux pas has happened

      Before the session
      > The 3P methodology... Prepare-Prepare-Prepare; but don't confuse yourself. Usually, we are left wanting for more information, because we prepare at the last moment
      > Confidence Squared... That is the mathematical expression of Over-Confidence. We all know that it can not only kill one's performance, but incinerate the facilitator out of existence. So, keep that in control. Walk into the session with respect for the learners, and their superior ability to throw up questions which can derail the most proficient of facilitators
      > Don't operate out of a pedestal... The fall hurts even more

      Just after the faux-
      > One should not go out and make a congressional speech out of one's error... becuase that is over-doing; however, what one can do is to accept the error in a manner acceptable to the learners.
      > Don't be arrogant... Learners would stop listening, and become casualties in no time.
      > Don't be ignorant... Learners would mock you if they come to know (which they would in sometime... murphy's law), and thereafter your respect would diminish.

      Sunday, July 5, 2009

      Does sales training work, without the use of subsequent reinforcement consolidated learning?

      Keiran Scally posed the above mentioned question (http://www.linkedin.com/answers/marketing-sales/sales/sales-techniques/MAR_SLS_STC/454116-23664146?browseIdx=10&sik=1246776242987&goback=%2Eama) on LinkedIn, to which the note mentioned below was my response. The reference made inline refer to all the posts made by others in the same post.
      Dear Keiran
      I must commend... very very interesting question; and something that most people in the field of learning & development remain baffled when asked. Well, I will try to respond to that in brief (compared to the volumes that are available to learn from). LI provides for answers only upto 4000 characters, hence, I have divided my response into two parts, This is the first one. Your question is... Does sales training work, without the use of subsequent reinforcement consolidated learning? In the question I could not get the contextual meaning of 'consolidated'... pardon my ignorance. Having said that my response is to 'Does sales training work, without the use of subsequent reinforcement of learning?' The simple answer is NO. The basic question is 'why are we doing sales training?'. As Gerry mentioned, most sales people would take it as 'free lunch'. In my experience, while I do agree to that, I also believe that instructional designers could use simple tools supported by concepts like ARCS. John Keller synthesized existing research on psychological motivation and created the ARCS model (Keller, 1987). ARCS stands for Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction. This model is not intended to stand apart as a separate system for instructional design, but can be incorporated within Gagne's events of instruction. (http://www.e-learningguru.com/articles/art3_5.htm). The next important thing to work on is the basic understanding of what can be done whilst in the classroom. It is very well explained in Bob Mager's 'What Every Manager Should Know About Training'. In his typical clear, jargon-free style, Bob Mager explains what training is, and what it's not. "Training" won't fix a problem unless the problem stems from a lack of skill or knowledge. Mager explains why you can't train your way out of badly designed jobs, or idiotic incentive systems, or a lack of resources. He also shows ways to deal with those barriers to accomplishment. He also talks about building 'self-efficacy', and that is what the trainer can surely do in the class. Self-efficacy refers to the judgments people make about their abilities to execute particular courses of action – about their ability to do specific things. For example, “I know I’m a good golfer;” “I know I can beat my sales record of last year;” “I know that my fencing skill is the best in town.” Self-efficacy isn’t about the actual skills people have; it’s about the judgments they make about the strength of those skills. People with low self-efficacy don’t believe they can do the things they actually can do. “Oh, well, I didn’t take the job offer because I didn’t think I was really good enough.”... and that is one of the main reasons for sales people not wanting to put the learnt knowledge into practice, which leads to learning-atrophy, and in some time becomes irrelevant, and that is what remains in the memory, 'the program was all knowledge, but nothing can be implemented'. This is one of the reasons. Don’t confuse self-efficacy with self-confidence, which is a much more generalized way of referring to one’s feelings, and often refers to the expected outcomes of one’s actions. That’s about the classroom piece.Now, after the classroom event, I would like to draw your attention to the component of learning-atrophy. How to handle it is something that could be worked out, and is relatively easy (!). The fight is moving the learner from Level II to III on Kirkpatrick's Model. People start forgetting unless the knowledge/skill is put into practice within a specified time frame. The time frames vary on a variety of factors, such as motivation, instruction quality, relevance, need, learner-maturity, methodology, overlearning percentage, difficulty of the learned material (e.g. how meaningful it is), its representation (see: mnemonic), and physiological factors such as stress and sleep etc. We should also keep in mind that the fastest drop in retention occurs immediately after learning (Peterson and Peterson, 1959). Drop in retention or the forgetting curve illustrates the decline of memory retention in time (x axis - time // y axis - memory). Studies indicate that time has an inversely exponential impact on 'forgetting'. In 1885, Hermann Ebbinghaus discovered the exponential nature of forgetting (Über das Gedächtnis, later translated into English as Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology), and there has been a lot of work around it for a long time. So, what are the basics that we need to keep in mind, in case we want the memory to retain, so that it aids in application. While the following are measures of retention, the same could be used to build retention. The form of the retention curve depends in part on what measure is used. The three most frequently used measures are recall, relearning, and recognition

      In recall, the subject is asked to reproduce the original response in some form. In experimental work the subject often responds vocally or may even be asked to write his response in a blank. There is little prompting in recall testing. Often the student is simply instructed to remember as many items from a list as possible. As might be expected, a test of recall generally yields the lowest measure of retention.

      Relearning is sometimes called the savings method. Using this method, the subject first learns some material and, after various lengths of time, relearns that same material to the same criterion level. The number of trials to relearn the material is always fewer than the number required to learn it the first time. Relearning usually reveals more retention than recall because more stimulus conditions are present in both the original learning and the relearning.

      Recognition is the type of retention measured by a multiple choice question. The learner is required to choose the correct alternative from among several. In an experimental situation, the subject would be required to point out the correct answer from among many. The above alongwith hand-holding (executive and/or functional coaching), as suggested by Judy Sundale does most of the job. Offcourse willingness to do it and motivation to do it (incentives, promotions, respect, remunerative, recognition hike etc) play an important role as well.

      You could refer to the following for more on psychological research in learning and memory...
      > Ebbinghaus and learning/retention curves
      > Pavlov and conditioning
      > Thorndike and the laws of learning
      > Watson and behaviorism
      > Hull and the reaction potential
      > Tolman and latent learning
      > Skinner and reinforcement

      The 'brief' response was not really brief!


      What are the dos and don'ts of giving other trainers feedback?

      Andrew Calvert posed the above mentioned question (http://www.linkedin.com/answers/management/organizational-development/MGM_ODV/416428-4161241?browseIdx=16&sik=1246779891209&goback=%2Eama) on LinkedIn, to which the note mentioned below was my response. The reference made inline refer to all the posts made by others in the same post. I have also mentioned the answer selected by Andrew as the best answer; mine was selected as a good answer Everyone should benefit!!!
      People are observed so that they can be given feedback... and not just feedback, but 'articulating' ways to strengthen strengths and weaken weaknesses, that is to improve upon the current state of performance. So, whether we talk about a trainer or any other profile, the basic premise remains the same. I have done some work on this area, and am going to give a brief outline of the same. The most crucial aspect is to be clear & articulate the parameters to observe. Now, for a trainer (whilst facilitating a training program), there would be some activities which would be event-based (such as setting objectives as per Bloom's taxonomy prior to the beginning of the session), and some would be ongoing (not pointing a finger at the audience). The identification & articulation of these parameters in form of observable traits is key to the whole process. One could look at breaking down 'facilitation' competencies, or one could look at ready reckoners (if any available) of observable traits. The second most important thing is to articulate the Likert scale. I have picked up the scale of proficiency from Sharon Gander's OPIS (Outcome Proficiency Indicator Scale) and created a 7 pointer scale. Each point on the scale is well articulated, and is simple. The discrepancy, when used by and untrained eye, lies at about 13%, which is OK for the time being. The next most important thing is for the observer to be trained in observing. I have noticed many (read many many many many) observers, who do not write their observations; so, even if there is a detailed set of observable traits avaialble, one still needs to write the indicators, so that the same could be used to give feedback, hence making the process non-controversial. Most observers observe and then write in hindsight, making the entire observation subjective to the extent of what I think is the best or worst component of the 'performance', and the other biggest deterrent for the entire process is the involvement of memory in the entire process. When written after the even is over, it is a matter of 'how much I remember', which is unjustified for the person being observed. This is one of the primary reasons that even after giving repeated feedback sessions, trainers are not able to maintain their proficiency scores for they focus on improving only, and lose sight of maintaing the appropriate behaviors. The next step is to give the feedback, and that is where most coaches fail. So, there are three types of feedback-providers. a) those who give 'back-feed' rather than 'feed-back'... those who just complain all the things that were not done (this includes all those who sugar-coat and give feedback); b) those who give feed-back in the way that it is supposed to be given... 'sandwhich' technique (includes those who give feed-back the 'executive coach' style), and c) the least done... not only giving feedback, but also helping out by telling as to how to improve, and even going all the way to demonstrating. The 'c' category are the ones who should be allowed while giving functional coaching (especially), and 'facilitating a training' falls under that category. The last step in the entire process is 'review'. If a review is not done, then the entire process falls through the crack, and people tend to revert to doing whatever one was doing, because imbibing new traits makes one uncomfortable, and unknowingly one tends to revert to the same, especially when there is no review mechanism available. The parameters that I had used had a huge contribution from Anand Dewan, the Likert Scale used was an excerpt from Sharon Gander's research, and the operationalising aspect of the tool was jointly done by Rajesh Krishnan and Me. The tool has been applied on ~400 trainers for atleast 6 sessions each and each session had atleast 50 observations parameters observed on the 7-point proficiency scale.

      I agree with many of the comments here, and I would add that I have found feedback is most successful when
      *The observer acts as an event participant. When an observer sits or stands outside the room, walks in and out, behaves as if they are there strictly to observe, or worse yet takes over for the facilitator--it can be distracting to both facilitator and event participants. The point is to get a realistic view of the facilitator skills and help them to improve. The best way to do that is to simply take on the participant role.
      *When providing feedback, be specific and give examples that support your findings. It not enough to say 'event opener', but much more impactful to say ‘using a short story to get your audience engaged was a great way to open the presentation’.
      * Relate information in behavior-based terms. ‘You seemed nervous’ could come across as condescending. Rather, saying ‘I noticed you had a hard time making eye contact with participants. Was that because of nerves?’ This opens a dialogue about how to avoid nervousness.
      * Include suggestions for improvement. ‘try to engage participants more often’ is more impactful when related this way: ‘during the section were you are explaining widgets, you could ask participants about their widget preferences. Asking questions is a great way to get participants involved’
      *Feedback is provided immediately. The sooner feedback is given, the better it can be applied. The event and behaviors are still fresh in both the observer and facilitators minds! I hope this helps
      Dawn (Mancour) Wagner

      Trainers - what one tip do you have for new practitioners to the industry?

      Andrew Calvert posed the above mentioned question on LinkedIn, to which the note mentioned below was my response

      Over a period of time, trainers stop doing the following, hence they need to be reiterated, as they are the only ones that would keep them alive & growing as time goes by
      > Over Prepare
      > Listen all the time
      > Ask if you don't know
      > Respect Learners
      > Keep Learning
      > Over Prepare
      > Enjoy the Moment
      > Keep your heart alive... speak from your heart

      In call centres (esp., dealing with emergency) how do u prevent/mitigate "emotional calluses" associates develop after some time

      Andrew Calvert posed the above mentioned question on LinkedIn, to which the note mentioned below was my response________________________________________________First let us understand why "emotional exhaustion" happens in the first place. Emotional exhaustion happens when staff are conditioned to express emotions that they don't feel, which results in staff feeling "emotionally exhausted," typically sapped out and completely "zoned-out" as it were. though there are various ways people would express and manage such emotions. There are many conventional "methods / processes" that work for specific situations and people. one thing that used to work for me again and again is that is used to take time out for such group of people. (you can find them out by talking to their superiors / colleagues / and by watching them in between calls - stoned, pretty "phased out" facial and verbal expressions.) used to give them cue-cards (easily available outside; consists of cards very much like playcards, with different expressions in them in terms of colours / pictures / paintings / sceneries etc.), and ask them to talk abt something that happened during their calls that they can relate to by looking at the card/s they picked up randomly. So people will talk mostly on emotionally charged (both sad and happy) calls (what the caller said and what they had in mind but cudnt say because company regulations didnt warrant that, and what they "actually" said). Talking about all these in front of everybody else is very akin to "group therapy" and, of course, has to be handled in a very mature manner, as ppl can be crying, angry, and express a clutch of other emotions. Once done and over with, it is like "cleansing" of the mind of "disrupting emotions." mostly everybody is "emotionally happy" and cheerful as a heavy load gets lifted off.

      Contributed by Mallar Chakraborti

      From a trainer’s perspective, what r d most imp factors to consider when designing or delivering trg to adult learners from Asia

      Andrew Calvert posed the above mentioned question on LinkedIn, to which the note mentioned below was my response
      My experience has been in training all across the Asian population, but I would like to restrict my expertise to the Indian Sub-Continent. The following are the points that I would like to keep in mind... 1. Deep understanding of the culture 2. Use of simple lingo 3. Use of tools & aids that help in learning 4. Staying away from theory (you mentioned training and not teaching) 5. Tools that help Self-Efficacy 6. Constant reiteration of WIIFM (what's in it for me) 7. Include a lot of formative evaluation sessions like holding 'rapid-fire quizzes' during the session. 8. Have a certificate sent after a few days acknowledging their effort. 9. Conduct a session-ending test bases the objectives; keep it tough to the extent that participants find it logical yet tough. 10. Be simple and speak with clarity. 11. Expect digression and hence keep time for it. 12. Encourage asking questions. 13. Expect questions that may set you off-track, and hence the trainer should prepare well. 14. Stay away from technology (e-based learning) to the extent possible. 15. Be cognizant of the learning style, ensure you have all aids required to all the 3 types. 16. Be formally attired, unless one is training in neo-economic companies like BPOs, where less formal atire is acceptable (still depends on the company's policy) 17. Donot have two diverse level of participants, i.e., do not have the General Manager sitting with a Junior Executive. 18. Participants' current expertise levels, education levels, responsibility levels, and maturity levels. I have kept in mind both 'designing and delivering of training'. This is not a comprehensive list, but a list that one could start with

      There is this historic chip on the shoulder between Asians and Americans and American models. Since everyone's TV has lots of American content and since American TV has absolutely no content from other nations, you get Americans going around the world utterly oblivious to how things work and differ while the people they meet know everything about how Americans live and work and think. This imbalance has created the conviction, in Asians, that Americans are genetically boorish, culturally clumsy, arrogant, and barbarian (approximately). In literal terms this a highly accurate assessment, confirmed at least every 2 minutes in the conversations I observe in random places in 4 Seasons and Ritz Carltons all over Asia. Therefore, training such persons, if done by a Western non-American, by an American, by a Western-aping Asian, or by a Western-disliking Asian will have rather different issues to attend to. I get around this by going to recent brain research--we all have brains and research has confirmed astonishingly little that is different between Chinese and American and Vietnamese and Indonesian etc. brains. fMRI studies have moved us well along towards understanding lots of brain constraints of all sorts of learning. Fischer's The Brain and Learning by Jossey-Bass, for example, lays out 250 particular brain subsystems core to 28 types of learning and what learning and teaching systems have to do to conform to those brain subsystem contraints. By talking about the brain dessiderata, I bypass wasteful, overly emotive, and imperialism history conversations that do not get business done. Brain research confirms the powerful role of emotion in fixing memories of many kinds, the powerful role of sleep in fixing emotional memories, and the powerful role of muscle memory, associative memory, conceptual memory, and procedural memory--all four interacting--in learning and teaching. All culture effects can readily be transcribed into different emphases and weightings among these brain subsystems, taking a lot of the heat out of arguments and making learning effects much more precise and less "us versus them"y. The banal commonsense of East West training mixes: 1) east sees whole scene and context factors; west see main figure and deed factors 2) east is concretist; west is abstractionist 3) east wants steps; west wants reasons and explanations 4) east adjusts all to feelings of others; west runs roughshod over feelings 5) east is rather feminine overall; west is rather testicular overall etc. These cultural shibboleths do not do me a lot of good anymore and I have moved to brain science to get beyond them. Nizbet et al found that Japanese did see and think differently than Westerners BUT he also found that 1hour of training two days earlier sufficed to change Japanese thinking habits into Western and vice versa. Culture is there, it is powerful, but it is shallowly rooted and easily supplanted--if you credit Nizbet's recent research with Matsumoto. I forgot to mention there are 64 dimensions to any culture, each of which helps us distinguish one culture from another. The model of it is in free articles you can download from the scribd link below and is given near book length treatment in A Science of Excellence a book purchasable at the youpublish link below. Those 64 dimensions tell you what you must change when transplanting leadership practices from west to east or vice versa, when transplanting training from west to east and vice versa, or when making other similar transplants.

      What would you expect from your soft skills when facing a major managerial crisis?

      Octavio Ballesta posed the above mentioned question on LinkedIn, to which the note mentioned below was my response. I have mentioned the best answer later as well.Octavio had also appended the following with his question...Let us imagine the following nightmarish scenario: The competitive positioning of your company is seriously menaced due to the entrance of aggressive competitors; the most important project from a financial standpoint has failed; your most valuable talent has gone; employee morale is being adversely affected and you feel like you are burned out and depleted when you don’t know exactly what do, how to do it, with whom do it and when to do it. When hard skills seem to have vanished you can rely on your soft skills because you have distinctive personality traits, social elegance, easiness with language, contagious passion, courage, friendliness, and optimism in a kind of delicate mix that could signify a shift point to solve positively a major managerial crisis. Based in your experience how have helped your soft skills in overcoming the detrimental repercussions of a managerial crisis?________________________________________________

      I guess you've put everyone in a fix, for one could infer some bit of dichotmy in the explanation that you've provided for your question (the person with traits mentioned in the 2nd para, should've been able to forsee and plan in order to avert the situation mentioned in para 1). Having said that let us look at the question once again, '... when facing a managerial crisis?'; so, the crisis has happened already! The biggest problem of a crisis is that it is usually a downward spiral. the first step is to ensure that the spiral doesnot drown the person, for which the first step to be taken is control over all forms of inter-personal communication, patience, emotions and logic. If one loses these, then it becomes extremely difficult to take a step out of the sprial. Once it has been ensured that these are intact, the person could now start looking at the situation afresh with innovation. The person would have lost key talent, that means (usually the case) that the person is not aware of the potential of the talent that lies in other people. so, it becomes important to take an inventory of talent available. While doing this, it is important that the ship is kept afloat, and that could be done by ensuring that all attempts have to be made to optimise resources that will help keep the ship afloat. In our case, once the new talent has been identified, one would need to identify key functions that need the throttle and mobilise people. Many a times, people forget 'old hands' who have not grown the corporate ladder but are a wealth of experience and many a times available in nooks & corners of the organization. These resources could be used as coaches and it is important that the person has the ability to spot. So, now with people in place, the basic life support system is put in place. let's not forget that this is the time when the new talent needs to be given all of the motivation, and one of the key elements of doing that is to reflect upon where the person stands on JoHari Window; the person would have to expose some of the 'unknown to others' and jointly discover elements pertaining to 'unknown to self & others'; so, lots of feedback 'give & take'... mostly 'take feedback'. Every organization has certain basic revenue sources that one needs to rejuvenate and ensure that there is a steady supply of fodder to sustain these times. Everyone needs to go out and ensure that the two square meals are organised, and this include our leader too. The task right now is to win back customers (if one has lost them) and consolidate. With these basic steps the organization is back in 'basic' order. The next step before looking at growth is mending perceptions in the market (if that's been affected). Many a times, as organizations become large, people at the top forget two important things; a) the customers who made them big & those who sustained them, and b) the basics (hard to believe, but true in many a cases). Once you've gone through the above, the softer skills that come out strongly are... 1. Inter-personal communication 2. Listening 3. Patience 4. Emotions 5. Logic 6. Innovation 7. Identify talent 8. Optimise resources 9. Networking 10. Coaching 11. Identify opportunities 12. Motivation 13. Feedback ‘Give & Take’ 14. Influencing & persuasion 15. Passion 16. Perseverence ... they are not in any specific order; its just a list

      To summarise my understanding of the situation before i express my own opinion. The situation has gone into a tailspin, your best talent is walking out the door, you have to get the firm out of it and you don't know how to do it. I assume that leaving the company is not an option. In terms of soft skills (I hate that term, I prefer "Comunication skills" since the word "soft" implies that they are in some way less important that the hard skills.) I would pull together a meeting of the remaining department heads or their replacements, explain the crisis and that we need to pull together a plan to get the situation under control. In this meeting i would brainstorm the different perceptions of the crisis to get as much information in one plave which everone could see and then send the departmental heads away to give me their individual draft plans in an hour. When they re-assembled, we would then work together to weave these plans together, i would give them another hour. the plan most certainly wouldn't b pretty, but i think it would be workable. In terms of the soft skills elements of handling this first day, the important things would be as follows; * no individual/group is to blame - we are all in trouble and we all have to get ourselves out of it. * as leader, i have to be open with my team about how serious the situation is, there is no point in covering anything up. * the idea that we have to get out of the situation must be emphasised from the very beginning, if people are focussed on that point, then there is less chance for defeatism to set in. * the initial discussion and the following one afterwards must result in a tangible outcome - a plan of action. * there must be buy in at that meeting. * the initial discussions and subsequent discussions must be focussed on recovery - where individuals need individual coaching to discuss/allay their fears, this needs to be conducted off line to restrict the spread. As the leader, however scared you may be, the most important soft skill you have is not to let it affect your own behaviour. To use a naval metaphor, if a ship is in a storm, the passengers and crew will often look at the captain to see how scared he is before they decide how scared they should be. If they see the captainputting on his lifejacket and running for the boats, then it's pretty obvious what they are going to do.

      How do you ensure that retail sales persons demonstrate skills and behaviours learned during training in the store?

      Dalreen Da Costa posed the above mentioned question on LinkedIn, to which the note mentioned below was my response.Dalreen had also appended the following with his question...We run a 4-5 day sales and customer experience training for all new recruits in our sales team. This is an exhaustive program that transfers knowledge and skill on consultative selling of high ticket merchandise. What I've noticed is that for about a month after the training, they demonstrate these skills on the floor and then it starts to wane. I would like to know of processes/ methodologies/ technologies or any other experience you have had in dealing with a similar situation.


      You have posted a question which is of interest to anyone in this field of operations. Having worked in a retail organisation, I offer you the following insights, which are a combination of clinicality of training and clinicality of the domain. Your simple question has an influence from beyond 'training' as well. Challenges vis-a-vis Solutions... 1. Usually training in retail organizations is unscientifically done, that is to say that people are trained mostly superficially due to a) paucity of time, b) improper instructional analysis and c)untrained trainers & instructional designers. The solution... Point 'a' can't be negated and considering the attrition rate, the 'time to competency' has to be kept at the minimum. Having said that a proper instructional analysis needs to be done; and this is a dynamic document as as time goes by and there is more competition, we would get lesser people with the kind of attributes that we need, hence there would be a dip in the potency of entry parameters, and to couple it we would have changing customer requirements as the organization & customers mature. Hence, the analysis done at any point of time will / may never be the same in a particular time in future (depending upon the speed of change & time-to-maturity of the organization). If the analysis changes, which is the base on which the instructional designer builds one's conviction on the type & form of instruction and the domain expert provides the content, how could we ever have the same training content on which we can continue to train. To top it, we have trainers who refuse to change a) their ways of training, b) update their knowledge, and c) refer to changes in the training content. Flexibility and adaptability to change is the key to handling this challenge. Once we have these two, then we need to have the right skill-sets in content writers/instructional designer/trainers to deliver what is required. Let's ask ourselves... leaving aside changes in the process, how many times do we actually sit back and visit the bases of the original training content written. Let's not fool ourselves and blame the kid whom we train and expect to manage our customers. 2. Training is never the focus (heart of hearts) with most of the business leaders in retail, although not all business leaders do not work this way. The solution... Training is never the focus with most business leaders is a farce; it just tells us as to how 'off' we are from our customer's (read business leader) needs. Training needs to speak the same language as that of the business (and not just the business leader). Once that is done, one would find a lot of buy-in. I believe in a simple fact... there would be no business leader who would not want one's stores to do well. 3. Training is usually thought of a one-time activity, rather than a support mechanism which needs to have an element of continuity. The solution... It took me about two years to learn the 'art of peeing in the right place'; and my mother tells me that she not only told (read 'trained') me once, but both my dad n mom reiterated the 5W+1H+1C (why, what, when, who, where, how & consequences of ...) using a variety of tools (explaining, cajoling, scolding, telling...) over these two years (or so) period. Can someone explain to me as to how the heck do you think, we would be able to impact behaviors through 1 mighty intervention?What we need to do is to build an instructional system which incorporates a support system to help the customer service providers move up the proficiency scale (refer to explanation on OPIS by Sharon Gandor, CPT, ISPI) over a period of time. This could only be done when one builds a 'development' solution with the operational managers. Trainees are bound to forget over a period of time (atrophy; bell-curve), the support is required to engage the learner through informal & formal means to help build the habit. 4. Statements which become hindrances... 4.a) "I was trained in 'so & so' way, and I am successful, so that's the way it needs to be done". 4.b) "This is the way it has always worked... and this is the way it will always work". The solution... Work with your business leaders to build a continuity of engagement beyond training to ensure that atrophy of learning doesnot occur till such time (at least) the skill doesnot become a habit. Dalreen, I have given an exhaustive response, as most of the times the problem lies within than with learners. Evolved organizations such as yours may not be facing these challenges in the same potency, but the learning from these challenges may provide you some insight.