Wednesday 17 April 2013

Just-In-Time Training (Teach Job Skills Like I Taught Monopoly)

It’s quiet time at the cottage (that’s a cabin for my American friends and colleagues). Our youngest is in bed, pretending to sleep (he’s a sly one). The dogs are curled up on the floor or stretched out on the couch. My wife is reading her book (her eyes may or may not be open). I’m catching up on some of the blogs I follow (courtesy of RSS – there’s no phone or internet here, but I synched up when we went into town for supplies). Our older kids are looking for something to do.
“Hey,” says our oldest, scanning the bookshelf of board games “how about we play Monopoly?”
There may have been a grumble from my wife’s direction. I chalk it up to post-traumatic stress. Been there, done that.
I briefly entertain the thought of warning the kids about the evils of Monopoly, particularly when played by siblings, but I hold my tongue. This could be entertaining, watching an “innocent” game devolve into arguments and accusations (I bet every game of Monopoly ends with a flipped playing board). Besides, if somehow the game doesn’t turn sour, it’ll keep the kids occupied for fifty or sixty hours.
The kids open the box and set up the board when they realise there are no playing instructions. At this point, they figure they can turn to a trusted elder to explain the rules to them. Finding none, they decide to ask me instead.
It’s probably been twenty years since I played Monopoly. I set about explaining (as best I could) how to play. Here are the key points I covered:
  • How many dice to roll and how far to move on a roll
  • Moving again after you roll doubles
  • Going to jail if you roll 3 doubles in a row
  • Getting money when you pass “Go” (and the bonus for landing directly on “Go”)
Property Management:
  • Buying properties
  • Charging rent
  • Buying houses and hotels
  • Mortgaging properties
Odds & Ends:
  • Landing on “Go to Jail”
  • Landing on “Just Visiting”
  • Bankruptcy

Did you notice how that was laid out like topic headings for a training session? That, friends and colleagues, is no coincidence.
I think we can all agree I managed to cover everything there is to know about Monopoly. No? How about 80% of everything there is to know about Monopoly? Probably. How about everything someone needs to know to get started with a game? I’d say so.
That’s the point I’m making today.
Do you really need to cover every possible scenario in your course? Maybe there are situations that don’t come up every day, or things that your learners will only need to use once in a while, or perhaps only after they’ve been on the job for some time. Don’t clutter your training with those things. Focus instead on what your learners need right now.
There are many ways to cover those uncommon cases outside of your training. A manual or knowledge management solution would be great. An expert or support person your trainees can consult is good too. You can even have them come back for expert level training once they’ve mastered the basics.
Back to that game of Monopoly. You probably believe I forgot some of the rules. You are very astute (which doesn’t surprise me – all of my readers are above average). I bet you’re thinking that my kids suffered because I didn’t tell them about the Chance, Community Chest or Free Parking spaces. You are, of course, wrong. The first time someone landed on one of those squares, we had a quick confab to discuss how they work.
My challenge to you is this: have a careful look at one of your training programs and see what you can cut. Depending on what documentation you have for your courses, you could look at course objectives, topics in a facilitator’s guide or even the table of contents of a manual. Be ruthless as you go through. When you’re developing a new course, apply the same scrutiny to the objectives that come from your subject matter expert or the training sponsor.
Here are some examples to get you thinking in the right direction:
  • “We need to all customer service reps to know in the case of administrate seizure of assets. We had a complaint from a caller because the person they spoke to didn’t know what to do.”
    One complaint? Out of how many calls?
    What if we made this information available on the intranet instead? Reps could look it up if and when they need it.
  • “All tellers need to be able to process wire transfers to foreign banks.”
    That doesn’t sound like something that happens every day.
    What if we made sure that someone in the branch (such as branch managers and shift supervisors) can do this, but not every teller? If a teller ever gets a client who wants to wire funds to a foreign bank, they can call the supervisor for help.
  • “Every plant employee must know the proper procedure to follow in the event of a nuclear meltdown.”
    You got it!
    This might not happen often (I certainly hope it doesn’t), but it’s critical nonetheless. Also, I don’t think it’s a good idea to have plant employees spend precious minutes looking the information up in a manual or asking their supervisor what to do. An extra minute or two won’t kill the telephone rep or the bank teller above, but they just might be the difference between life and death for our  nuclear plant employee.
Now get out there and get cutting!

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