I find that our client’s tendency to jump to instant solutions is one of the major reasons for ineffective L&D solutions. They do not do this maliciously but because of hidden pressures on them. I think there are 6 pressures on clients to jump to solutions and would be very interested to hear your views?  The first question I have for you is what % of client requests for L&D start with a presumed solution e.g. “We need a course on...”? (My figure is 60%)

Then why do they do this?  My first reason is that we all try and move from fluid to concrete and saying, “we need a sales course” is more concrete and acceptable than admitting that we have a problem with our sales performance.  We do whatever we can to move from the anxiety around ambiguity and uncertainty and this forms a pressure to come up with solutions before we have investigated the problem.  Do you have any more hidden pressures which encourage solutionering?

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Hi Nigel,

I think a lot of the problem starts with us. When we are seen to offer training or elearning "courses" - that's what we'll be asked for.

Instead, I think we should start by offering services that can scope out their requirements and possible solutions - which may or may not include training.

I posted about training not (always) being the answer on my blog recently, based on the following:

... most performance deficiencies in the workplace are due to environmental factors such as vague expectations, insufficient and untimely feedback, limited access to required information, inadequate tools, resources and procedures, inappropriate and counterproductive incentives, etc. Yet, when a performance gap occurs, the default intervention is all too often training – although it is much easier to fix the environment then people. To put it in simple terms – if the gap is not due to a lack of skills and knowledge, don't train!

Moreover, even when you determine that training is necessary, is it sufficient? A one-shot training injection rarely works if it is not part of a total performance system.

From: http://www.bnhexpertsoft.com/english/resources/wpaperpi.pdf


Exactly, so another pressure on clients to "solutioneer" is that L&D are offering solutions and make it easy for them to think solution not performance problems.
I think there are two sides to this particular problem, the client and the training industry, my personal discussion starters would be:


- If I offer you £1000 now or £10 000 pounds in ten years which are you likely to take? Our brains have a default position to take what we can now and we are very bad at strategising or thinking of future needs.
- As Kaplan and Norton of Balanced Scorecard fame put it, we measure too much, we measure the wrong things and we only measure lag indicators. Too much training is based on bad metrics and a fundamental lack of understanding of basic statistics. We also measure training impact badly
- Lack of innovation, who was the last great British innovator, James Dyson? The lack of dynamic culture which is willing to try things out.
- As Mark said, the desperate need to look to individuals when things go wrong, rather than looking at the group and the system.

The Training Industry:

- It is easier to sell an out of the box solution rather than a come up with bespoke solutions.
- Failure to keep up with modern research, I know all organisations are naturally conservative, but seriously motivational theory has moved on since Maslow.
- Too many hucksters and snake oil salesman - NLP, learning styles etc etc
- Making money is important, but better relationships and higher quality mean you will make money not the other way around.

I have plenty more but I'm getting depressed thinking about it.


As usual, there are many different problems here, in different arenas, and I find it helpful to think about those different arenas first. For example:

1. In the e-learning industry, the predominant culture is one of product manufacturing; it's just not part of the fundamental belief set to think about performance problems. "If the only tool you've got is a hammer/e-learning, then every problem is a nail/e-learning course"

2. In the workshop/live training business what I've found - and please understand that this is just a personal observation - is that most of the really good trainers do their jobs because they love the activity of training; they're "people people" who get a buzz from relating to real people and performing in front of them. This has two outcomes: i) of course they'll propose training because that's what they love and ii) they're often not of a particularly analytical mindset outside of the live training domain

I guess it's helpful to distinguish training/learning-specific problems from generic ones. I've worked in a few industries (marketing, mainstream new media, school teaching) and in all of these, people who are under pressure, who fear uncertainty...they/we jump at solutions. It's probably worth just working with this and not getting too worked up about it (says Patrick...he with the shortest fuse in the business...)
Hi Nigel,

I think it's laziness on the part of clients (who often just want a quick fix) combined with a lack of appreciation of what a REAL learning function can deliver for a business and in some instances genuine lack of ability in L&D/Training functions to be responsive to requirements.

We have implemented Performance Consulting as a way of getting the business to articulate what they are looking to get out of the 'intervention' and it's really helping us to avoid leaping to the presumed solution. It's now happens much less than 60% of the time.




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