Zombie L an D

Image from Pixabay

Image from Pixabay

It all started in a quiet suburban street on a typical Monday evening. My wife was telling me about a course she had been on that day. An education consultant who is paid to deliver training to teaching staff had delivered a 2 hour session to my wife and a group of colleagues. A quick and dirty 2 hour session to frame some literacy content which this consultant used 91 sides to deliver.

Take a moment to think about that.

91 slides.

45 slides in an hour.

22 slides per half hour.

79 seconds per slide.

That’s almost ignite presentation pace.

If the content was engaging and interesting it might have been acceptable. If the content had been images and 3 words per slide it might have been acceptable. If the trainer handed the slides out and then talked round them it might have been acceptable.

This was PowerPoint. This was bullet points. This was wordy slides with lots of information. One slide contained 143 words. It described a classroom activity which the people in the session could try out. They didn’t practice the exercise – they didn’t see the resources for the exercise mentioned on the slide. They had the exercise explained to them while they read it on the slide.

I posted this on twitter and for almost a day the conversation has been maintained with people highlighting bad practice and their similar experience.

Think for a moment you are one of the people on that session. Imagine you don’t know what L&D can be like. Imagine that the last course you went on was similar in nature. Imagine you can’t speak to a L&D professional outside of that environment.

The consultant in that session is representing our profession. The experience they create will form perceptions and expectations of L&D.

They walk among us.

Massive thanks to Doug Shaw for the title of this blog post. Simple story – creativity in moments. What do you think…should we be calling this practice out? Can we? Who to?

Please add your comments below.

11 responses to “Zombie L an D

  1. Great post Andrew. My first thought was, it might not be their fault. They might have been expected, by the powers that be, to deliver that volume of content in that short amount of time – I’m very aware of the squeeze that goes on during a learning design project where, at inception, budget & time are more bountiful and by the end budgets are cut and ‘oh no we can’t release people for THAT long!’. But then that comes back to the trainer’s – ability to influence those things, ability to explain the impact on learning & that it’s either less content or more sessions, ability to re-form the content creatively to cover what’s needed – and yes the fundamental ability to design content which isn’t like this!


  2. Helen’s point is fair … up to a point. But clearly this delivery method is ineffective. It doesn’t do the client organisation any good. It doesn’t do the delegates any good. And it doesn’t do the consultant any good in the long term to be associated with this.

    And I would disagree that it comes down to the ability to design content. There was clearly too much information for the time available, no matter how good the design.

    Rather than content design skills being crucial, it seems to me that the key element here is the ability to communicate and negotiate. The consultant should have been able (and willing) to move the buyer from wanting an activity (“deliver this content in this time”) to wanting an explicit outcome (“change behaviour A from state X to state Y”).

    Given that specification, the consultant could have made much of the content available online and used the face-to-face time for what it does best – emotional engagement, scene setting, immediate feedback, cohort bonding etc.

    I am left with these questions: why didn’t anyone say anything? Why didn’t the consultant explain that this approach would be ineffective? Why didn’t the delegates rebel? There is one, depressingly familiar, answer: because we learn the classroom model as children, and our adult life teaches us to expect nothing more.

    It’s time things changed.


  3. I hate to say it Andrew but I told you so. I had a twitter convo recently with a colleague on the state of play with eLearning and stated that we have not really changed much in our eLearning approach as it is vendor driven. I am afraid I see L&D in the same vein – there are a few of us who want to make a difference and are pushing the envelope but that is only a tenth of us. The rest are happy doing it the same way and getting away with it because they are not brought to account, keep getting paid and because their superiors know not better!
    Be afraid be very afraid: The Zombies are amongst us!


  4. Its a common theme amongst subject matter experts that have to deliver training, which isn’t neccessarily their ‘day job’. We recently finished a high profile government training programme where the materials had been created by subject matter experts and were given to us to deliver. Slide after slide of text and legislation, made for a very uninspiring training course.

    We were given free reign to develop a session around these materials and made it interactive and engaging, getting learners out of their seats and away from the watch and listen delivery method.

    Here is the interesting thing though, the learners thought it was brilliant and so different from what they were used to, but they didn’t realise that type of learning really existed as their expectations where to sit and be lectured at along with slide after slide of technical info. It was a real game changer (their words, not ours).


  5. Thanks for your great post once again Andrew and for calling out the bad behaviour in our industry. It’s a sad state of affairs if consultants cannot work collaboratively with their clients to develop an engaging and focussed piece of training (in whatever format) to close performance gaps if there was some knowledge or skill limitations. Too often reverting to the PowerPoint slide pack lecture format is a quick win for the consultant (easy to create, easy to roll out, quick payment). I’m also curious as to why the client may have thought this acceptable – however, many clients may be none the wiser.

    I wrote a post about my negative experience last year on a course I attended (rather than call it training they called it an ‘awareness program’ as there was no budget to roll out the entire team across the full training program and instead we got 3 days of the program into 3 hours).

    Added to that the way the program was communicated (mandatory attendance with no reasons provided as to why) and the confusion that participants felt and how there was no opportunity to work with the vendor to develop something more suitable for us and the vendor, created a lot of friction.

    The result was I was asked to delete my blog; and performance managed negatively, no opportunity for discussion in team meetings as any negative feedback about the program was shut down and the matter closed.

    Reflecting on this negative experience in my work and how I felt that our team was not allowed to participate or voice their feedback individually or as a team, disheartened and it gutted me. It was at this point I began to think about my place in this team and questioned the values of the organisation I was working for. I also reflected on what I could have done to support my colleagues who were working with this vendor to come up with a more suitable development program if we had known that we were working with this vendor earlier on.

    Maybe I mistakenly thought that we could have worked together with this vendor to try and devise alternatives so that he wasn’t put in a difficult position, nor us as participants.

    The reason we were given by L&D department was that (and I REALLY hate when people say that is), “we are learning and development and we are the harshest critics – let’s leave it at that.”

    Let’s not leave it at that. Time for harsh criticism aside. Why couldn’t we collaborate and provide some feedback and come up with something that was a joint effort that not only helps the vendor with his future work and relationships with other clients but also the organisation?

    I wrote about my experience here: http://wp.me/p44cZK-jb and then soon after I wrote about how our L&D department could have supported both the vendor and ourselves to create a more suitable approach here http://wp.me/p44cZK-js but ultimately, Learning and Development sometimes make a rod for their own back.


  6. Fabulous comments all – thank you for sharing.

    Helen – this was a consultant who had designed the content which was being delivered. They had complete editorial control – what would be covered and how.

    Don – I agree. It suggests the consultant didn’t agree an appropriate brief or schedule. Is that a lack of business sense, a provision mentality, or wanting to protect a successful business model?

    Con – if we’re only 10%, how do we influence the remaining 90%? Is it a case of calling them out?

    Lou – they designed the conetnt and have a consultancy delivering this material across the country. They’re in your town – they walk among us.

    Helen – thank you for your honesty and candour in sharing what was a horrendous experience. And how awful is it that we are able to compare similar experiences, halfway round the world, within 18 months of each other. Is this style of delivery so pervasive that it’s infected more people than we care to admit?


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