Practice makes perfect

Soccer ball

Photo Credit: zachstern via Compfight cc

I saw some brilliant football the other week. Being a QPR fan means this doesn’t happen often; the football I’m referring to was my son’s team, whilst in a training session. At this age (under 13) their training is about learning the fundamental skills of playing together and improving the core skills of control. They’re all talented kids with a desire to play football that is infectious. What they don’t always do is play well as a team and rely on individual brilliance to get them out of problem situations. These sessions are fundamentally training; it’s about new skills and relationships. What was great to see was how they translated it onto the pitch for the next game.

I saw more great teamwork over the last few weeks at the Learning Pool Live events in Sheffield, Cardiff and London. The team visibly grew from event to event as they understood the nuances in the way they worked, what likely issues might come up and how they’d be overcome.

Both activities are developmental but very different in how they’re facilitated.  My son’s team’s practice is, for the most, part a blend of training and coaching. The conference events are a blend of coaching and real world practice.

I wrote last time about how I didn’t think there was always a need for formal training.  Some of the comments were clear – training will always be required. Examples of the medical profession were referenced, and, as Costas suggested, a trained doctor will always be preferable to an untrained one.  However, the advancements in technology are exponential across all industries and improved accessibility to this technology will drive future change.

I liked Martin Cousins comment about being inspired by a facilitator on a training course and I agree, our access to a diverse range of inspiring people was limited in the past. However, I can now access 1500+ inspiring people talking about inspiring things at the click of a button. I can now share these with my organisation using Yammer, with a PLN, using Twitter or a blog, or with a wider audience on the site or LinkedIn.

My biggest concern is that we assume a training course should be the default position. For a technical skill such as controlling a football, there are clear benefits in being facilitated in a safe environment. But for learning how to manage?  I asked Lisa at Learning Pool which of the LP team had attended courses or qualified in event management to be able to run such brilliant events. The result? None. They have qualified in associated activities, eg marketing and practiced the events by running them previously.

And there lies the rub – if we continue to assume a training course is the first point of call for learning activity we’ll price ourselves out of a profession. Nick Shackleton-Jones references this in a blog post.

It is, indeed a tragedy.

Please comment, discussion is how we can move this on.

6 responses to “Practice makes perfect

  1. Well once again Mr. Jacobs has stirred some emotions (professional ones trust me as I have never met the fella). I was recently flabbergasted that in the UK that when learning a new software package (e.g. Word for Windows) the training was still conducted in a classroom with a facilitator / trainer up front and yelling out “click on Menu, then click File, then New” etc. As we all now know and I hope all believe that foundational software skills and dare I say it some more advanced software skills can and should be taught via eLearning / video learning aka Anyway I digress and maybe as I move on my point will be clear. I agree with Andrew re a training event seen as the default or first point of call. Training needs careful consideration and face to face training needs even more detailed analysis as to why. I believe foundational knowledge (I use this term loosely) can be learnt from other sources that F2F training. But I also believe that as we move into more complex and behavioural type of learning where the aim of the course is to “move culture” to “alter behaviour” where one needs to embed the knowledge, demonstrate a grasp of the concepts and approach and be apply to apply this in a situation, then role plays, interaction and actual “getting your hands dirty” does necessitate a F2F session. Again it depends on the business goal that needs to be achieved or the capability gap that needs to be addressed but I believe that there will always be a need for social learning / F2F that L&D needs to establish, facilitate and support. Andrew, as owners of the L&D system we all need to listen to what you have to say and appreciate it. As L&D professionals and the “holders of the flame” we need to ensure that training is seen as a performance enhancer and business achiever not a day out of work having someone talk to them for 6 hours. – believing that this will solve all business problems and using it as a first point of call is indeed a tragedy


    • Thanks Costas, I appreciate the time taken to craft your reply.

      In my mind the F2F element needs be differentiated from the idea of a course. By definition, a course is a predicated route. By restricting people to ‘our’ route we’re not allowing space for people to establish their own navigation. Similarly, we’re placing a higher value on our sponsored expert – the trainer we fund – rather than the expertise of the group.


  2. I’m in agreement here. I often think that training should not be the first thought. Quite often it’s about getting people to the resources they need at the point of need rather than sticking them in a classroom. This means we need to make sure the correct resources are available: intranets, guidelines, online communities, online learning etc. It’s the blend and knowing what is needed for people to do their jobs. As a training manager I think it’s my job to help work out the best approach for the situation and that means saying no to someone’s perceived need for ‘training’. As is pointed out classroom/face to face training has it’s place. For me support in the workplace (resources, system experts, social collaboration, manager feedback and training) is vital.


    • Thanks Julian – your last sentence is the most telling because that’s where the learning happens in the most part yet, because we can’t count it well in L&D, we don’t acknowledge it.


  3. I believe it’s a matter of re-education and challenging our own perceptions. In one recent example at a team day, we were placed into small teams to answer the question on how we could improve our training. Note the word ‘training’ was still used on the flip chart. I questioned that first and wanted to change the question.

    When the majority of people in L&D have come from the business or acted as workplace coaches and this is all they know when it comes to learning then how can we change the mentality? We need to support them to see a different view and not jump on the first solution as being a classroom solution.

    I’m seeing the challenge now with the job hunt too. Go for any job interview, the person employing is looking for someone who can design, develop and implement face-to-face or e-learning solutions. They’ve already got that person in mind on what they think they need. When you come to challenge their definition of learning, it’s too hard or they simply don’t understand what you’re talking about.

    I think we still have a way to go for L&D to change their mindset and then having a voice with senior management to be allowed to explore and be allowed to implement other performance options. But the first step is to change ourselves….


    • Thanks Helen – it’s definitely a perception issue, both how L&D perceives itself, and how L&D is perceived. At the Learning Pool Live events I’ve been repeating the same phrase – stop being a shopkeeper, providing a learning solutions and become an engineer or mechanic, servicing, enhancing and designing support that helps the organisation perform. The gasps from some people have been audible.

      Luckily for us, we are growing and people are beginning to understand how this can work – keep the faith.


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