Moving from Presenter Controlled Training to Learner Focused Facilitation

The more trainer/instructor driven the course is, the less participation is required from the learner. For example, the instructor makes all the decisions about the course objectives and content, develops the course, delivers the course and conducts the assessment.

This blog has been merged with “Batteries Not Included: Not All Trainers are Instructional Designer or Classroom Facilitators”.

(c) HPIS Consulting, Inc.

Instructional Design: Not Just for Full Time Trainers Anymore

When I left the manufacturing shop floor and moved into training, full-time trainers presented in the classroom using a host of techniques, tools and relied on their platform skills to present content. Subject matter experts (or the most senior person) conducted technical training on the shop floor in front of a piece of equipment, at a laboratory station or a workbench.

This blog post has been merged with “Batteries Not Included: Not All Trainers are Instructional Designer or Classroom Facilitators.

(c) HPIS Consulting, Inc.

The Silver Bullet for Performance Problems Doesn’t Exist

Oh but if it did, life for a supervisor would be easier, right? Let’s face it, “people” problems are a big deal for management. Working with humans does present its challenges, such as miscommunications between staff, data entry errors, or rushing verification checks. Sometimes, the task at hand is so repetitive that the result is assumed to be okay and gets “a pass”.  Add constant interruptions to the list and it becomes even harder not to get distracted and lose focus or attention to the detail.

Actual behavior vs. performing as expected

In their book, Performance Consulting: Moving Beyond Training, Dana Gaines Robinson and James C. Robinson describe performance as what the performer should be able to do. A performance problem occurs when the actual behavior does not meet expectation (as in should have been able to do).   Why don’t employees perform as expected? Root cause analysis helps problem solvers and investigators uncover a myriad of possible reasons.   For Life Sciences companies, correcting mistakes and preventing them from occurring again is at the heart of CAPA systems (Corrective Actions Preventive Actions).

A closer look at performance gaps

Dana and James Robinson conducted research regarding performer actions and sorted their results into three categories of obstacles:

  • Conditions of performers
  • Conditions of the immediate managers
  • Conditions of the organization

A checklist for common Performance Causes  – scroll down for the Tool.

But, weren’t they trained and qualified?

Hopefully, employees are trained using an approved OJT (On the Job Training) Methodology in which they are shown how to execute the task and then given opportunities to practice multiple times to become proficient. During these sessions, they are coached by Qualified Trainers and given feedback on what’s right (as expected) and given specific instructions to correct what’s not right with suggestions for tweaking their performance so that their final performance demonstration is on par with their peer group. At the conclusion of the qualification event, employees must accept that they now own their deviations (mistakes) from this point forward. So what gets in the way of performing “as they should” or in compliance speak – according to the procedure?

Is it a lack of knowledge, skill or is it something else?

The Robinson’s explain that performance is more than the training event. It’s combination of the overall learning experience and the workplace environment that yields performance results. Breaking that down into a formula per se, they suggest the following: learning experience x workplace environment = performance results.

The root cause investigation will include a review of training and the qualification event as well as a discussion with the performer.

  • Is it a lack of frequency; not a task often performed?
  • Is it a lack of feedback or delayed feedback in which the deviation occurred without their awareness?
  • Is it task interference?

The work environment includes organizational systems and business unit processes that together enable the performer to produce the outcomes as “expected”.   These workplace factors don’t always work in perfect harmony resulting in obstacles that get in the way of “expected” performance:

  • Lack of authority – unclear roles, confusing responsibilities?
  • Lack of time – schedule conflicts; multi-tasking faux pas?
  • Lack of tools – reduced budgets?
  • Lack of poorly stored equipment/tools – lost time searching?

Isn’t it just human nature?

Once the root cause investigation takes on a human element attention, it’s easy to focus on the performer and stop there.   If it’s the first time for the performer or first instance related to the task, it’s tempting to label the event as an isolated incident. But when it comes back around again, it becomes apparent there was a “failure to conduct an in-depth investigation” to correct and prevent. Not surprisingly, a push back of “Operator Error as Root Cause” has forced organizations to look deeper into the root causes involving Humans.

Who’s human nature?

Recall that one of the categories of the researched obstacles was “conditions of the immediate managers”. This makes managers uncomfortable. With so much on their plates, managing a people performance problem is not what they want to see. A silver bullet like a re-training event is a nice activity that gets a big red check mark on their to-do list. However, Robert Mager and Peter Pipe, in their book, Analyzing Performance Problems, provide insights to managing direct reports that may lead to unintended consequences. A brief list can be found here – scroll to Tool: Performance Causes.  (It’s not always the performer’s fault.)

It takes all three to correct a performance problem

soln-people-performance-problemThe third category of researched obstacles clustered around “conditions of the organization”.  I’ve already discussed task interference above. To suggest that organizations are setting up their employees to fail is pushing it just a bit too far.   So I won’t go there, but it is painful for some leaders to come to terms with the implication. In order to prevent issues from reoccurring, an examination of the incidents and quite possibly a restructuring of systems have to occur, because automatic re-training is not the only solution to a “people performance problem”. –VB

Robinson DG, Robinson JC. Performance Consulting: Moving beyond training. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler; 1995.

Mager R, Pipe P. Analyzing performance problems. Belmont: Lake Publishing; 1984.

Using Neuroscience to Maximize Learning: Why we should start paying attention to the Research

In October 2015, I had the privilege to have a discussion with Anne-Maree Hawkesworth, Technical Training Manager of AstraZeneca, Australia before the 2015 GMPTEA Biennial Conference kicked off. Anne-Maree was in Orlando, Florida to present her concurrent session entitled Insights from ‘Inside Out’ – Employing lessons in neuroscience to facilitate successful learning” during the conference. As an avid fan and follower of the neuroscience literature being published, I was hungry to learn more and she generously gave up a few hours of her time to meet me with over a latte and a nibble of delicious chocolate from Australia.   What follows is a snippet of the exchanged dialogue.

Q: Why has neuroscience become so popular all of a sudden?

Actually it’s been around for a while. It’s not new, even though it sometimes seems that way. For example, look at Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve that is so frequently referenced. It was first introduced 1885. And there are other classic research studies available if you conduct a good search.

Q: Why do trainers need to pay attention to neuroscience and the recent literature?

Quite frankly, they need to start learning how to design their training using these principles. They have to stop lecturing from the slides and speaker notes.

Q: Okay, then what do they need to know?

Concepts like chunking, memory techniques, and the effects of multitasking. Multitasking is very bad for learning. You end up learning nothing. It becomes a waste and yet we are multi tasking now more than ever. For example, management is expecting us to do more. For example, take an e learning course and answer their emails while taking the course!

V- this means the design has to change.  AMH- exactly!

Q: We need help. What should trainers tell Management about neuroscience?

That less is actually more. Stop requiring us to dump more content in slides. We end up remembering less. If you won’t believe us, there’s scientific evidence to back up what we are saying! And don’t dictate how we use the classroom. For example, I have my learners standing for most of the sessions involving activities that I facilitate. In one of my sessions, I had removed the chairs from the room and used ZERO slides.   Imagine that! Oh and I love flip charts!

Bonus Tip: AMH shared a little secret with me. She revealed that Production folks like to do flip chart work. They just don’t want to be the spokesperson. So if you can get them past that, they’ll love being busy writing on the chart.

Q: I noticed that you didn’t include motivation in your slide deck. Was that intentional? How are they related?

I only had 60 minutes, but yes motivation is so very important. We have to keep them motivated to learn. We have to continually grab their attention.   It should be one of the 12 principles.

Q: Earlier you mentioned Chunking. What trends are you seeing in micro learning? Are you implementing any of it?

I am looking at small chunks of learning at the time you require the learning as opposed to “Just in Case” learning that tends to occur months in advance.  Micro-learning is great for follow-up to formal class room or eLearning to boost memory. I like micro-learning in the form of case studies and in particular branching scenarios. Cathy Moore has some great material on her blog and webinars on branching scenarios.

I also like to chunk information within my training and use lots of white space to help separate pieces of information, this helps in facilitating learning.

Q: I work with a lot of Qualified SME Trainers from Production.   How do you get past the brain lingo when you explain neuroscience?

You explain that there are parts of the brain that do different things at different times. There is no need to turn the session into brain science 101. I show them a slide or two and them move on.

Q: Earlier you mentioned “principles”. Can you elaborate on that?

I’d love to but we are near the end of our time together. I can recommend trainers look up John Medina’s 12 Brain Rules.  Briefly they are,

  1. Survival
  2. Stress
  3. Attention
  4. Sensory Integration
  5. Vision
  6. Exploration
  7. Exercise
  8. Sleep
  9. Wiring
  10. Memory
  11. Music
  12. Gender

Alas, I could have dialogued with her for the entire conference albeit, she was jet jagged and the latte was wearing off.   Thank you Anne-Maree for sharing your thoughts and effective classroom delivery techniques with us.   Together, we will shift the classroom design mindset.   -VB