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Channel Matters Blog > July 2011 > Don't Waste Time on Comprehensive Learning!

Don't Waste Time on Comprehensive Learning!

by William Vanderbilt
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It is possible to spend a lifetime learning and only scratch the surface of all the learning that is available. The amount of information that is available is mind boggling and growing exponentially.  When it comes to learning, the key to success is not to train on or learn everything.  It is just the opposite: knowing what to NOT learn or what training to NOT provide is critical.  That way, the learning that is most important can receive the proper attention.

Boardrooms and corporate executives are driven by bullet points.  There isn’t time for all of the details about any project.  In contrast, many organizations and professionals pride themselves on their thoroughness.  Much of the training industry likes to demonstrate how it can address a wide variety of needs in a wide variety of formats.  Sadly, the comprehensive style of the training industry clashes with the brevity requirements of boardrooms and executives.

Certainly, corporate executives want to know that a detailed plan exists.  They need to be confident that contingencies have been considered and resources allocated to address a variety of needs.  But these same corporate executives want bullets.  Success in communication and training is often driven by weeding out the details and narrowing focus to the one or two bullets that boardrooms demand.  To some it may seem that important details are left out.  But corporate boardrooms reward leaders that are able to articulate strategy succinctly.

The concept applies in a macroscopic view as well.  Prioritization is more important than identifying all of the potential training modules and resources that can be created.  Knowing what training to not develop or deliver is often more valuable than trying to cover all bases.  Leaders embrace the Pareto Principle.  They ruthlessly narrow focus onto the twenty percent of the training that produces eighty percent of the results.  Elite organizations change the game.  Instead of investing heavily to ensure 100% coverage, they mercilessly cut training programs and resources to get down the few gems…the key bullets to success.

The lesson for leaders tasked with educating themselves and their staff is to change focus from inclusivity to exclusivity.  Instead of brainstorming, purge!  Don’t solicit comprehensiveness.  Seek and reward narrow focus and simplicity.  Learn to speak the language of boardrooms: bullets.

Of course, there will be times when comprehensive backup is required.  But those gaps can often be filled rather easily by having clearly articulated strategic bullets defined properly.

One way to start this effort is to investigate the limited number of tasks that are seen as the “most important” to do the job.  Ideally, this list of most important tasks should be no more than 20% of all of the tasks that need to be completed.   Then narrow the list of tasks for which training should be provided further by asking, “Of these ‘important tasks’, which ones are done to a ‘below average’ level?  In other words, of the important tasks, which ones are staff least competent to perform?”  Then focus any training on those “critical tasks”.  This approach ensures that training focuses on areas where the greatest impact can be realized.

What ways have you seen training content narrowed?  What have you found to be successful when it comes to providing training?

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