I’ve Fired My Vendor. Can you help me instead?

Part 1 of a two part impact story about how to truly align a training program to achieve business worthy success.

As Pam sent her last email, she glanced at her watch and determined that she could stop by the Qualified Trainers (QT) workshop to check-in and catch the final qualifying activity.  As Director of Quality Systems, compliance training was part of her responsibilities.  Since qualifying SMEs has a strong connection to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), it was given to her group to manage. 

Her training vendor had a long standing service agreement to deliver a Train-the-Trainer class 2 – 3 times a year upon request from Pam.  Session evaluations were usually favorable.  The length of the course was the only notable comment.  Since one of her staff was always present during the delivery, Pam had no need to sit in the course and observe since the content was finalized over three years ago.

Pam quietly walked in and sat at the back of the room.  Not long after, she is alarmed by what she observed.  “Uhh, excuse me, but where are the SOPs?” she asked.  A few participants who were engaged in the activity pointed to their printed copy of the SOP-in-use.  It was sitting on the table in front of them.  Looking directly at the vendor, she asked “Why isn’t the procedure being used during the demonstrations?”

How long has this been going on?

Pam patiently waited for the vendor to clarify that he included this requirement during the lesson on OJT (On-the-Job-Training) steps.  Not convinced by his response, she stayed until the end of the course to ensure that all of the demos occurred with “equipment SOP in hand”.  “This is our process and the whole point of the workshop”, she extoled aloud.  Immediately after, Pam contacted the vendor’s employer to terminate the contract.  Then she phoned her Performance Consultant (PC) and retold the story.  “Do you think you can coach us?” Pam inquired.

Hindsight is 20-20 vision

The PC concluded that over time, participants including staff, got lax with the demonstration requirements and lost sight of the importance of mimicking the same conditions for qualifying an employee at the workstation as in the workshop.  In a classroom setting, some of the steps need to be simulated or explained rather than actually performed. This is a reasonable constraint given the limitations of the classroom setting and logistics with time, travel, and gowning if in a sterile lab or GMP zone.

The PC continued with her diagnosis.  Each time the workshop was delivered, it appeared that participants were “explaining” more and more of their procedure and not demonstrating the steps.  As a result, the importance of the procedure being in hand to refer to got left behind on the table as more of an item to bring to class.   In addition, the course was three days with demonstrations being the last activity.  It was only natural that the energy, commitment and integrity to course design would wane.  As a result, the final exercise which was supposed to be the overarching outcome of the course, got short changed.  Folks were just too tired to fully comply and merely went through the motions including the vendor so they could end the course and go home.

Don’t tell me I have to start all over again?

Pam had already conducted an exhaustive search for a suitable vendor when she contracted with this agency.  Before she reached out to her PC, she decided that it might be time to develop their own course internally. 

Can you maybe coach us along the way and provide an objective review of content at the end?”  Pam requested.  “We’ve already generated a course outline.  Unfortunately our ever-increasing workload keeps bumping this project from our calendars.  With your nudging us along, I really think we can work together to get this done.  Do you agree?” she added.

What about starting from a completely different perspective?

The PC agreed and decided to take a different approach.  Rather than build a course around suggested content, she asked the team to begin with the end in mind, literally.  Recalling that training initiatives were now being tracked for effectiveness and “Return-On-Investment” from the Executive Leadership Team, the PC reminded them that this course would not be exempt from the same set of requirements.

Using a business analysis focus, the PC probed Pam for the goals and objectives that were linked to the OJT Workshop.  Initially, the response was broad and vague.  When the PC pressed further for measuring the goal alignment connection, Pam stopped trying to explain and returned to the room with a few documents she had prepared the week before.  Hidden in these documents, were the very business drivers the PC was looking for.  Pam also shared the corporate quality objective given to all directors.   With this information, the PC plugged it into her Performance Improvement Worksheet and announced the next assignment was to be completed in two weeks.

Using the brainstormed outline of suggested content, Pam and Robert, the QA Training Supervisor, were to rank each item on a scale of 1 – 7; the criticality of consequences if not performed correctly with 1 being none and 7 being dire.  To combat the tendency to mark everything “important to organization”, the PC instructed them to use the business drivers and corporate quality objective as the criteria. 

Seriously, why can’t she just tell us what the content should be!

Being unfamiliar with quality instructional design, Robert fussed about the assigment and complained to Pam about it being a waste of everybody’s time after the session with the PC was over.  “Why can’t your PC just tell us what content to include and be done with it?” he vented.  But Pam recognized the beauty of the assignment and whole heartedly embraced it. 

“Well,” she began, “since we started with the proposed content, we need to learn how to cut our own content and be comfortable with the why.”  She also emphasized how strategic the rankings would be.  As a department, they could finally justify why the course was really needed and how it would benefit all involved.  Reluctantly, Robert completed the assignment.  But was not in agreement that the benefits would outweigh his time spent for the “stupid” assignment.

At their next team meeting, the PC shared the compiled rankings.  For items that ranked low, the team discussed alternative methods for providing the content either before or after the workshop.  Items ranked higher got a second round of discussion that included why it should be included in the workshop.  During the meeting, Robert made a lot of comments for keeping certain content in the course, but his justification was weak.  Pam over ruled him many times.  Annoyed that his comments weren’t winning favor with his boss, Robert began to withdraw from the discussion.  He was not convinced that the highly ranked content would change behavior after the course was over so why not include some of “his” content, he muttered to himself.

Part Two Continues next time.

Can’t wait to finish the story?

Who is the Author, Vivian Bringslimark?

Do you have a similar situation?

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(c) HPIS Consulting, Inc.

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