Many QA /HR Training Managers have the responsibility for providing a train-the-trainer course for their designated trainers. While some companies send their folks to public workshop offerings, many chose to keep the program in-house. And then an interesting phenomenon occurs. The course content grows with an exciting and overwhelming list of learning objectives.
The supervisors of these SMEs struggle with the loss of productivity for the 2 – 3 day duration and quickly develop a “one and done” mindset. Given the invitation to “train” newly identified SMEs as Trainers, the QA Trainer gets one opportunity to teach them how to be trainers. So s/he tends to add “a lot of really cool stuff” to the course in the genuine spirit of sharing, all justifiable in the eyes of the designer. However, there is no hope in breaking this adversarial cycle if the Training Manager doesn’t know how to cut his/her own content.
From 16 to 8 to two 4hr blocks of time
I used to deliver a two-day (16 hour) workshop for OJT Trainers. I included all my favorite topics. Yes, the workshop was long. Yes, I loved teaching these concepts. I honestly believed that knowing these “extra” learning theory concepts would make my OJT SMEs better trainers. Yes, I was in love with own my content. And then one day, all that changed.
Do they really need to know Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?
During a rapid design session I was leading, I got questioned on the need to know Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. As I began to deliver my auto-explanation, I stopped mid-sentence. I had an epiphany. My challenger was right. Before I continued with my response, I feverishly racked my brain thinking about the training Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) we revised, the forms we created, and reminded myself of the overall goal of the S-OJT Program. I was searching for that one moment during an OJT session when Maslow was really needed. When would an OJT Qualified Trainer use this information back on the job, if ever I asked myself?
It belongs in the Intermediate Qualified Trainers Curriculum, I said out loud. In that moment, that one-question exercise was like a laser beam cutting out all nice-to-know content. I eventually removed up to 50% of the content from the workshop!
Oh, but what content do we keep?
Begin with the overall goal of the training program, not just the TTT course: a defendable and reproducible methodology for OJT. The process is captured in the redesigned SOPs and does not need to be repeated in the workshop.
Seek agreement with key stakeholders on what the OJT QTs are expected to do after the workshop is completed. If these responsibilities are not strategic or high priority, then the course will not add any business value. Participation remains simply a means to check the compliance box. Capture these expectations as performance outcomes.
Once there is an agreement with the stated performance outcomes, align the learning objectives to match these.
Performance outcomes are not the same thing as learning objectives
Some folks might say that I’m mincing words, but I beg to differ. The expectations for training delivery are that participants learn the content, aka learning objectives, and then use or apply them back on the job thus improving departmental /organizational performance. Are you providing the training and then keeping your fingers crossed that they can deliver on their performance outcomes? Are you including practice activities within the workshop? This ensures that learners have an opportunity to begin the transfer process. And the facilitator is able to complete formative assessments in real-time while providing immediate feedback where needed.
Yes, there is still ample room in the course for learning theory, but it is tailored for the need to know only topics. When challenged to add certain topics, the instructional designer now refers to the performance objectives and ranks the consequences of not including the content in the workshop against the objectives and business goals for the overall program.
What happens when the Instructor is over-ruled by their boss? Read Robert’s learning journey here.
What is the value of the written assessment?
With the growing demand for training effectiveness, the addition of a written test was supposed to illustrate the commitment to compliance expectations around effectiveness and evaluation. To meet this client’s need, I put on my former teacher hat and created a 10 question open book written assessment. This addition resulted in needing additional time to execute and hence, more content was cut to accommodate the classroom duration.
My second epiphany occurred during the same rapid design project, albeit a few weeks later. What is the purpose of the classroom written assessment when back on the job the OJT QTs are expected to deliver (perform) OJT; not just know it from memory?
The true measure of effectiveness for the workshop is whether they can deliver OJT according to the methodology, not whether they retained 100% of the course content! So I removed the knowledge test and created a qualification activity for the OJT QTs to demonstrate their retained knowledge in a simulated demonstration using their newly redesigned OJT checklist. If I’m asking for 8 hours of time to deliver a workshop, it must be value-added. -VB
When Rapid Design for eLearning found its way into my vocabulary, I loved it and all the derivatives like rapid prototyping, etc. And soon, I started seeing agile this and agile that. It seemed that agile was everywhere I looked. When Michael Allen published his book, LEAVING ADDIE for SAM, I was intrigued and participated in an ATD sponsored webinar. It made a lot of sense to me and “I bought into the concept”. Or so I thought …
I joined a project that was already in-progress and had to “hit the ground running to get caught up to speed”. The element of urgency was the anticipation of a post FDA visit following a consent decree. If you’ve experienced this “scene” before, you can relate to the notion of expedited time. As part of remediation efforts, training events needed to be conducted. I learned during a meeting sometime my first week, I was to be the trainer. Okay, given my instructional design background and classroom facilitation experience, that made sense. Sure, in a few weeks when we have the new procedure in place, I’d be happy to put the training materials together, is what I was thinking. Wait, what, in two weeks? Are you kidding me? I’m not the SME and I don’t even have the software loaded on my laptop yet. Well, some cleaned up version of those words was my response.
My biggest challenge was to get out of my own design way
I’m classically schooled in *ADDIE with 30+ years as an instructional designer and very comfortable with how to design, develop and deliver training. All I needed was more time; more than two weeks, for a process that was changing daily! And then I found myself thinking about all the buzz for rapid design and prototyping I had been reading about.
*ADDIE = Analysis, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate: a project management approach to training projects.
In theory, I totally bought into it. But this is different I argued with myself. This is compliance with a quality system for a company that is undergoing transformative change as a result of a consent decree! Furthermore, I teach GMP Basics and conduct Annual GMP Refreshers several times a year. My GMP dilemma challenged the very essence of my “learned” compliance beliefs about following the 1st basic GMP Work Habit – “thou shall follow written procedures” otherwise, it’s a deviation.
Are we really planning to deviate from the SOP while under a consent decree?
While it was the intention of the business unit leader to deviate from the approved set of work instructions, a planned deviation would not be appropriate in this case. I mean we were talking about a corrective action for a consent decree item. Were we really considering a PLANNED DEVIATION to intentionally teach unapproved procedures and then submit the documentation as a completed corrective action for the CAPA to the agency? I was truly baffled by how I was going to pull this off in two weeks. I’m not a magician, I can’t pull this rabbit out of my laptop is what I was thinking when I left the VP’s office.
Yet on the other hand, how could I teach a work instruction that was known to be broken; was being re-designed and not yet finalized? The instructional designer side of me screamed – how can you teach flawed content? That’s wasted training that results in scrap learning. How is that training going to be effective not to mention having to explain a failed effectiveness check during the post inspection?
And then, it hit me! I was so focused on WHAT I NEEDED, that I was missing the urgency of the learners’ needs. Julia Lewis Satov refers to this situation as ‘agility by fire’ – “the ability to move quickly but not easily, and still excel”, (p. 50, 2020). It was time to put theory into practice and take the agile learning plunge into the realm of the unknown. If I could come up with a way to document what we were doing and get it approved, then I could reconcile my GMP dilemma and satisfy my instructional designer.
With a little help from my validation colleagues – the training implementation plan
Validation engineers use protocols to capture their “change in process” work. Whether it’s experimental batches, 3 batches for process validation or **IQ-OQ-PQ protocols for equipment qualifications. They are validating the procedure or the new process before it can become the standard operating procedure by developing the plan, developing acceptance criteria, managing deviations and capturing the results. So why couldn’t I borrow the concept and adapt it to my situation?
The purpose of the initial training session was to test the new sequence of steps and confirm the robustness of the software responses for each field entry and then make correct decisions where needed. The learners were still in compliance with the quality policy for complaint handling and were still meeting the intention for Medical Device Reporting requirements. They were essentially testing the future “how-to steps” for the proposed new work instructions.
I did not copy and paste the validation protocol template. I did, however, include a “please pardon our appearance while we are under construction”paragraph in the training plan to document the departure from the current set of work instructions. This protocol-like section also included our intentions for the outcomes of the sessions. We also stipulated that required SOP training of all affected users including the Qualified Trainers, would be mandatory once the finalized set of work instructions were approved.
Anybody want to play in the sand-box?
By shifting the prioritization away from perfectly designed classes with pristine training materials, I was able to diagnose that the need was to get the learners into a live classroom. But first I needed a small group of super users who wanted to see the database software in action and “play in the sandbox”; the training materials could follow afterwards.
It didn’t take long for them to find me. These “learning-agile individuals” wanted the challenge of not only learning something new but seemed to thrive on the idea that they would be managing their part of the training implementation plan. They were not at all worried about the lack of available training materials for themselves. They allowed the learning experience to occur spontaneously. Their ability to learn new knowledge and skills did not get in the way of previously learned skills. They embraced the changes rather than resist them.
A new breed of SMEs as Agile Qualified Trainers?
I shifted my role to facilitator and allowed these learning agile SMEs to navigate the software screens and then work out the explanation of how to complete field transactions. In the Center for Creative Leadership “Learning Agility” white paper, authors Adam Mitchinson and Robert Morris explain that “learning-agile individuals understand that experience alone does not guarantee learning; they take time to reflect, seeking to understand why things happen, in addition to what happened”, p. 2.
“SMEs are true front-line and onsite educators” says Satov. Every organization has employees who are brimming with intelligent and diverse ideas and are eager to share their talent producing work deliverables. “[…] Our focus must shift to finding and developing individuals who are continually able to give up skills, perspectives, and ideas that are no longer relevant, and learn new ones that are”, (Mitchinson and Morris, 2014, p.1).
We documented these sessions as training because we all learned how to navigate the screens; albeit it was learning on the fly. We recognized that learning the software was the goal. Developing the process steps and eventually the work instructions was the secondary goal. This training documentation became the qualifying evidence for their train-the-trainer knowledge transfer. And collectively they decided what choices end users were to pick from the drop down tables.
Is this “learning on the fly” or agile learning in practice? You decide.
1 + 1+ 1 is more than 3
I shifted my role again to become a scribe and worked on sequencing these pages for the next round of end-users. To my surprise and delight, my new breed of Agile QTs volunteered to paste screen shots into participant worksheets so their “students” could take additional notes. Together, we all collaborated to meet the urgent need of the end-users. Each of us in our niche roles experienced first-hand the value the others brought with them to that room. And in that time away from our regular job tasks, we became more valuable to the organization.
The learners were paired up with their Agile QT for guided instruction of real entry into the live system. The following week, the department was able to go live with a project plan that focused on a series of interim roles, changed roles and transitioning responsibilities within established roles. The project launched on time to meet commitments promised to the agency.
Why are they thanking me?
It was an energizing and empowering learning experience for the super-users. A truly collaborative experience for the SMEs and the biggest surprise of all was that they thanked me. Me? I did not deliver the training; I was not the SME, nor did I provide perfect training materials. If I had pursued my classically trained ADDIE approach, we would have waited for the perfect SOP to deliver those sessions and woefully miss FDA committed timelines. While I’m not ready to throw ADDIE overboard yet, Satov makes a compelling plea, “move aside elite and long-standing establishments of formal education”.
My lesson learned was this: when the demand is for speed and the content design is not the key focus, I need to give up control to the true onsite educators and focus on facilitating the best learning experience given the daily change challenges and system constraints. Satov would agree, “the role of learning is to capitalize and create the architecture of the hybrid-mind”. Is this “learning on the fly” or agile learning in practice? You decide. But agile instructional design is here to stay if QA L&D is going to keep up with the fast-paced, often reactive, and regulated world of the Life Sciences Industries. – VB
Allen, M. Leaving ADDIE for SAM: An Agile Model for Developing the Best Learning Experiences. ASTD, 2012.
Mitchinson, A & Morris, R. Learning Agility. Center for Creative Leadership white paper, 2014.
Satov, JML. “Agile by Fire”, Chief Learning Office, July/ August, 2020, p. 50.
Need to expedite a CAPA remediation project? |Looking for a facilitator/ quality systems project manager to align your SMEs for collaborative deliverables?
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.
For years, this distinction was clearly practiced where I worked. Trainers were in the classroom and SMEs delivered OJT. Occasionally a “fulltime” trainer would consult with an SME on content or request his/her presence in the room during delivery as a back-up or for the Q & A portion of a “presentation”. It seemed that the boundaries at the time, were so well understood, that one could determine the type of training simply by where it was delivered.
Training boundaries are limitless today
Today, that’s all changed. No longer confined to location or delivery methods, full-time trainers can be found on the shop floor fully gowned delivering GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) content for example. And SMEs are now in the classroom more each day with some of the very tools used by full-time trainers! What defines a full-time trainer from an SME is less important, what is necessary however is what defines effective instruction.
Your title might have the word trainer in it. One of your responsibilities might be a qualified trainer. And you know how to use PowerPoint (PPT). Does this make you an Instructional Designer as well? Some say yes and others cry foul as they cling to their certificates and advanced degrees. So, forgive me when I say, not every Trainer or Training Manager has the skill set or ID competency embedded in his/her toolbox. It’s analogous to the toy box on the shelf at Toys R Us – “NOTE: Batteries Not Included”. Except in our case, the note may be missing from the resume, but definitely embedded into the job description if you are QA L&D or HR Training and Development.
Instructional Design is a recognized profession
Instructional Design (ID) as a field of study has been offered by many prominent universities for quite some time and is now more known as Instructional Technology. Underlying the design of a course or a learning event, is a methodology for “good” instructional design and really good instructional designers will confess that there is a bit of an art form to it as well. Unfortunately, with shrinking budgets and downsized L&D staff, there are less resources available to develop traditional course materials of the past. Not to mention, shrinking timelines for the deliverables. So, it makes sense to tap SMEs for more training opportunities since many are already involved in training at their site. But, pasting their expert content into a PPT slide deck is not instructional design.
What is effective design?
To me, effective design is when learners not only meet the learning objectives during training but also transfer that learning experience back on the job and achieve performance objectives / outcomes. That’s a tall order for an SME, even for fulltime trainers who have not had course design training.
The methodology a course designer follows be that ADDIE, Agile, SAM (Successive Approximation Model), Gagne’s 9 Conditions of Learning, etc., provides a process with steps for the design rationale and then development of content including implementation and evaluation of effectiveness. It ensures that key elements are not unintentionally left out or forgotten about until after the fact like evaluation/ effectiveness or needs assessment. In an attempt to expedite training, these methodology driven elements are easily skipped without fully understanding the impact of leaving them out can have on the overall training effectiveness. There is a science to instructional design.
PowerPoint Slides are only a visual tool
Using PowerPoint slides by themselves does not make the training successful. It’s one of the main tools a trainer uses to meet the objectives of the learning event, albeit the main one. The “art form” occurs when a designer creates visually appealing slides / eLearning scenes as well as aligned activities and engaging exercises designed to provide exploration, practice, and proficiency for the performance task back on the job. But there is a difference between a course that is created to help the Trainer achieve his/her agenda and one that successfully engages learners to participate, learn and then transfer their insights back home to the job where changed behavior improves the department’s metrics.
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.
As you move along the Learner Participation Continuum, the learner is required to participate more, and the trainer does less “talking”. The learner acquires knowledge and skills through activities that s/he experiences with the assistance of a “facilitator”. The facilitator is focused on helping the learners meet their needs and interests. It is through these firsthand experiences and facilitated dialogue with other learners that thoughtful analysis and interpretation can become the focus of the instruction. The end result is that learners take full responsibility for decisions, actions and consequences.
Moving from Presenter Controlled Training to Learner Focused Facilitation
Moving to a more Learner Focused approach shifts the effort of the design from “deliver this content” to facilitate learning transfer for performance back on the job; which is after all the end goal for a training event. The new design includes opportunities for group participation, utilization of participants’ expertise, and real-life problem solving; key principles of adult learning.
On the one end of the continuum is the lecture which is one-way communication and requires very little participation. At the other end, we have experiential learning and now immersive learning environments with the introduction of 3D graphics, virtual simulations, and augmented reality.
Most Trainers and SMEs tend to suffer from the “curse of too much knowledge” and find it difficult to separate the need-to-know from the nice-to-know content. As a result, it shows up in the slide deck with overburdened slides filled with a lot of “stuff”. Training for them takes on a lecture-style format. The thought of facilitating an activity gives most SME a case of jitters and anxiety.
So, in the “SME as Facilitator” workshop, nominated SMEs as Facilitators are encouraged to step away from the podium and use their eyes, hands, and voice to engage with their audience. Easier said than done, yes. That’s why the course is designed to allow them to take small steps within the safety of a workshop environment.
But rather than trying to pull off a fully immersive session, SMEs as Facilitators are introduced to techniques that “liven up” the lecture. They are shown how to move back and forth from passive listening (sit, hear, see) to active involvement (write, construct, discuss, move, speak). This requires the ability to:
follow a well-organized design plan
capture and hold the attention of learners
use relevant examples and deviations if possible
show authentic enthusiasm
involve audience both directly and indirectly
respond to questions with patience and respect.
While lecture has its merits, today’s learners want engaging content; that is timely, relevant and meaningful. And while virtual reality and simulations are engaging and very immersive, courses and learning events using these techniques rely on well-funded budgets. Most Training Departments are not that fortunate. In the middle of the range are “lively lectures” and alternate methods such as:
Read and Discuss
Take the 1st shift right.
It’s really about starting with the learners’ expectations and the current organizational culture and then moving one step to the right. If they are used to lectures from SMEs, then work on delivering effective lectures before experimenting with alternate training methods. The overnight shift may be too big of a change for the attendees to adjust to despite their desire for no more boring lectures. Small incremental steps are the key.
Thoroughness in the preparation reflects care and thoughtfulness. Learners appreciate the personal desire to deliver a livelier lecture. Stepping away from the podium forces the Trainer/SME to take action and allow the learners to “get up close” with the SME as Facilitator. This in turn is reflected in the learner’s desire to respond to questions and dialogue during a facilitated discussion. The rule of thumb for lecturing is approximately 8-10 minutes max. For virtual sessions, the rule of thumb is approximately 5 minutes.
Take the 2nd Shift: Cut Content to Add Interactivity
How is this done? Upfront in the design of the course materials. The course designers have spent time and budget to prepare a leader’s guide that captures their vision for delivering the course. SMEs as Facilitators (Classroom SMEs) need to study the leader’s guide and pay attention to the icons and notes provided there. These cues indicate the differentiation from lecture, to an activity whether that be self, small group, or large group. While it may be tempting to skip exercises to make up for lost time, it is better for learner participation to skip lecture and modify an activity if possible.
“STOP TALKING and get learners engaged in some form of activity, practice or reflection exercise”, Vivian Bringslimark, HPIS Consulting, Inc.
One of the benefits of shifting to this learner focused design is the opportunity for learners to process the content, to make it meaningful for themselves and then associate memory links to it for later recall when the moment of need is upon them. This can’t happen while the trainer is lecturing. It happens during activities and reflection exercises designed to generate their own ideas during small group interactions and link it back to the course content/objectives. Learners are prompted to openly discuss issues and problems within a “learning lab” style environment. Trainers become empathetic listeners as they create a climate of trust and safety. They become a Facilitator.
Of course, this shift also requires that site leadership and local management not only support the facilitated learning lab concept but follow through on issues and concerns that surface. Failure to do so undermines not only the facilitator’s credibility but the entire training program.
Wow, won’t this take longer to design, you ask? Yes, in the sense that the design is now from the learner’s point of view. This means that the designer will need to research examples, collect data, and might have to develop a story from an incident, a deviation or significant CAPA, etc. The reward is that the Trainer/ Classroom SME stops talking and gives employees more engaging learning sessions. So learners become more accountable for participating and guess what – the SME’s session is no longer a boring podium speech.
Silberman, M. (1990). Active Training: A Handbook of Techniques, Designs, Case Examples, and Tips. Lexington Books, New York.
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”.
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.
While lecture has its merits, today’s learners want engaging content that is timely, relevant and meaningful. Yet, most SMEs tend to suffer from the “curse of too much knowledge” and find it difficult to separate the need-to- know from the nice-to-know content.
This blog has been merged with “Batteries Not Included: Not All Trainers are Instructional Designer or Classroom Facilitators”.
You might also want to get up to speed with the current trend for SMEs – check out the blog post – Are all your SMEs Qualified? Comments welcomed.
I got a phone call from my Lead SME’s boss one morning. “How many more sessions do you need”, I asked him. I had already delivered 4 back-to-back workshops with class sizes of 25-30 SMEs; which was beyond optimal. So I asked him why. I needed to find out what was driving the surge in identified Qualified Trainers (QTs). I learned that a retrospective qualification needed to take place in order to close out an inspection observation. The total number of SMEs needing “proper paperwork” was well over 700. Since the redesigned training system was now in effect, these undocumented SMEs as Trainers would have to follow the new procedure. Or would they? Our discussion shifted to what type of training these SMEs will be delivering.
I then shared a related story with him. Several years prior, I got entangled with a “CAPA crisis” that involved QTs. No sooner did we launched the QT program and put the new procedure into effect, the CAPA quality system temporarily shut down shipping over a weekend. Upon return to the site, I was summoned to an emergency meeting from the security gate. Amazingly, a new practice/rule that only a Qualified Trainer can conduct training evolved from “only OJT QT’s can deliver OJT and perform Qualification Events” as per the SOP! This was clearly a case of misunderstood scope.
Does every SME need to be qualified as a Trainer?
In the Life Sciences arena, there are 5 recurring situations that require training: Self, Corrective Actions, Classroom (ILT), Structured OJT, and Qualification Events (Final Performance Demos).
Self can be achieved by the individual reading the procedure and signing the training record. This is also known as Read & Understand (R & U) for SOPs. I personally don’t think of it as training, it is reading. Yet, in some situations, reading is all that is required to gather the SOP information. If on the other hand, you need to execute the steps of the SOP and complete required forms, then additional training with the SOP Author or a QT is the appropriate next level of training.
Deviations/ Corrective Actions stemming from a Corrective Action Preventive Action incident. Minimally an SME or the SOP Author is needed to ensure the credibility of the content. These types of training sessions have become known as Corrective Actions “Awareness” Training. And more and more SMEs are now being required to deliver this training in a classroom setting. They need to be qualified to deliver classroom sessions especially if the event is related to a significant CAPA or regulatory inspection observation.
Classroom (Instructor-Led Training) is preferred for knowledge-based content affecting a wide range of employees. The skillset needed is facilitation / managing the classroom and delivering content as designed by the instructional designer. Think of GMP Refresher sessions in the Training Room.
Years ago, it was a lot clearer to distinguish between classroom trainers and SMEs as OJT Trainers. OJT was delivered 1-1 by “following Joe/Jane” around. Classroom Trainers delivered their content in a classroom of many learners using slides, flipcharts, and handouts. They were usually full-time dedicated training staff. Instructor-led training requires training in learning theory design and practice in what used to be referred to as platform skills. Today, it is more commonly known as “Running a Classroom” or “Basic Facilitation Skills”.
Many of today’s OJT QTs are also being requested to deliver “Group Training” sessions on content found within their SOPs. While the target audience may be the same set of peers, the scope, objectives, and tools used to deliver instructor-led training is vastly different from the OJT train the trainer course.
Structured OJT is On the Job Training delivered by a Qualified OJT SME using the approved OJT Methodology. OJT QT’s attend the Qualified Trainers Workshop which focuses on the OJT Steps Model, how to perform the equipment, and complex SOPs via hands-on and the challenges of Life as a Trainer. Should every seasoned employee become a QT based on their seniority and subject matter expertise? No, not necessarily. Because there are some SMEs that don’t want to share their knowledge and therefore, may not make an effective OJT Trainer. Establishing a set of nominating criteria provides an objective rationale for additional interpersonal qualities that help define a more well- rounded SME.
Qualification Events (the Final Performance Demonstration) are formally documented observations of learners performing the procedure/task at hand in front of a Qualified OJT SME using an approved SOJT Checklist or rubric. It is these events that set apart a Technical SME from a Qualified Trainer. The QT workshop includes a dedicated lesson on what to look for during Q-Events and what the QT signature means for the integrity of the Employee Qualification Program.
Can having too many QTs be a problem?
It can be when there is no one else to train; to deliver OJT steps. While many of you may be wishing for this situation, it can eventually happen if staffing levels are adequate, shifts are normalized and SOPs revisions are managed via R & U only with the LMS. How do you keep your QTs engaged and fresh if there are no opportunities for OJT sessions? I have some ideas for you to explore.
Re-examine the practice of online R & U only for SOP revisions. I bet some of those revisions were significant enough for a face to face discussion (aka Group Training) and there is probably at least one SOP revision in the past year that should have required a demonstration of task for optimum transfer of learning back on the job. *Just because all employees are now qualified, doesn’t mean the program sits in hiatus waiting for new hires to join the company.
When you have too many QTs who may be underutilized, it is also an appropriate time to administer the Trainer Mojo Assessment. Based on the QTs scores, it might be time to say thank you for a job well done for the low scoring QTs. You may be pleasantly surprised by who is ready to walk away from the training role? Or you may have a cadre of QTs who legitimately need more training and hence, the need for some new modules is now justified.
Many of your excess SMEs were identified long before criteria were put into a place or the SOP was established. If the Trainer Mojo Assessment doesn’t bring any discussion, perhaps it’s time to “re-nominate” them using the criteria within the SOP and offer a refresher series on the QT Workshop content. Or arrange for developmental assignments that expand their subject matter expertise or advances their training repertoire into classroom facilitators?
What is exciting for me is that many OJT-QTs are stepping up and volunteering to attend the SMEs as Classroom Facilitators workshop as part of expanding their QT’s toolkit. Many of them want to learn more about teaching peers and working with adults. A few have now become promoted to full-time trainer for L&D /QA departments. Which of your OJT QTS are ready to step up and move into the classroom? It’s time to find out and be part of the current trend. -VB
Many QA/ L&D Training Managers are tasked with improving their “training program”. An integral component of a robust quality training system is the Qualified Trainers (QT). Having a cadre of existing department Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) as Trainers can be very helpful when implementing the rollout of the new quality redesign to meet regulatory commitments and expected timelines. But, sometimes it can also lead to sustainability issues after the launch is over and the next big project becomes the new site priority.
During my on-site response to an urgent performance problem, the Head of Operations expressed deep concerns about inconsistent OJT being delivered by his trainers. A series of significant non-conformances occurred in his area. As part of the CAPA (Corrective Action Preventive Action) investigation, trainers were interviewed to uncover how they trained the identified employee(s) and what was said specifically for each step of the procedure. Their responses revealed a lack of consistent process and the use of varied content; despite having an OJT checklist, the procedure, and approved Training SOPs.
Once a Trainer; Forever a Trainer
I was then invited into a conversation with the Training Operations Manager (My Performer), regarding her desire to upgrade the existing department SMEs as Trainers. Responsible for the effectiveness check of the CAPA corrective action and the overall quality of Operations OJT sessions, she complained that many of the trainers should no longer be considered Dept. Trainers. While she had position title influence, she was frustrated by the lack of support for her “improvement suggestion”. I became her catalyst to help her push through the fixed barrier regarding SMEs.
The site followed a cultural assumption regarding department SMEs: once a Trainer; always a Trainer; regardless of feedback and informal impressions of their ability. Without any tangible criteria and lack of assessment tools, my Performer had no authority to remove the underperforming Dept. Trainers. Granted these SMEs were long ago chosen when the widely accepted practice of being proficient as a technician after a year earned them the designation of subject matter expert and automatically, a Dept. Trainer. Today, the Life Sciences Industry, with FDA investigators’ observations, has evolved their understanding that it takes more than seniority and R & U SOP training to become an OJT QT. Unfortunately, the environment where my Performer worked, the mindset about acquired expertise still held.
Significant CAPAs can be Drivers for Change
Undaunted, my Performer seized the CAPA as an opportunity for change. Leveraging suggested criteria and the use a form to document justification for each Dept. Trainer, she now had a process (SOP with form) that she could “educate” her colleagues on what it takes to become a Qualified Trainer. The focus of her message dramatically changed. She became strategic in her communications, using the effectiveness check portion of the CAPA as her “Why / WIIFM for Operations Managers”. In order to close out the CAPA, Managers had to complete their portion of the form.
The long-term success of my Performer depended on her owning her solution. She never lost of her original desire; she was patient and waited for her colleagues to accept today’s best practices for OJT QTs. In the meantime, we brainstormed on a variety of feedback options that could be used to evaluate the current status of each SME at the same time the Managers completed the new form. My Performer chose a rating system and arranged for a 1-1 sessions with Operations Managers to discuss what rating they would use for each criteria if they got challenged during a CAPA investigation or a regulatory inspection.
While the results were not formally documented, my Performer was effective with the assessment rating exercise. The Managers reconsidered who they wanted to nominate based on the new formal criteria and the informal ratings discussions. They did not automatically submit the form for all existing Dept. Trainers. A constructive dialogue then ensued regarding skills remediation support for those SMEs deemed as potentials. At last, my Performer achieved her desired outcome. “As catalysts, we build a bridge, light the path, and give [ ] our hand to help [ ] demolish or jump over obstacles”, (Haneberg, 2010, p.96). I was privileged to be part of a dramatic shift in their training culture.
An alternate alignment exercise
For many, adding ratings suggests a formal performance assessment and this can raise HR issues if not fully supported by the organization. In addition, many Operations Managers do not have the luxury of “weeding out undesirables”. They simply do not have enough SMEs to complete the training curricula generated requirements. Yet, there needs to be mutual consent between manager and identified SME in order to effectively deliver the OJT Methodology and to ensure a successful learner experience.
For those situations where automatically re-nominating existing SMEs is raising a red flag, I created the Trainer Mojo Assessment. Nominated SMEs and existing SMEs as Trainers rate themselves on 10 attributes that align with the characteristics of an effective OJT Trainer. Low scoring SMEs/QTs are encouraged to have a discussion with their management regarding continuation in the program and possible action steps. For SMEs/QT’s that score in the On-Target range, this is both validation of the nomination and confirmation that manager and QT are in sync. For high scoring QTs, this is also confirmation and an early indicator for potential QT Rock Stars!
Haneberg, L. Coaching up and down the generations. Alexandria, Virgina:ASTD, 2010.
You might be interested in the Impact Story – From Dept. SME to QT.
The Client Request –”Can you help us upgrade our Trainer Qualification process?”
In Part 1, we find Cara, a performance consultant has been hired to help a former client with implementing a robust training system. After waiting 3 months for the executive leadership group to get aligned around the priority for Miguel’s RTS project, Cara finally got to debrief her assessment findings. But a new development surfaced that was unexpected.
In part 2, we observe how Cara brings her inexperienced design team up to speed on how to be a team.
In part 3 we see how Cara facilitates the design team of SMEs through various stages of being of team.
“Please tell me, how you think YOU are going to train us on OUR procedures when you do not work here nor do you have any background in the science part of what we do here?” she spewed.
“But, who are you? I mean you just can’t walk in here and change our procedures!” she retorted.
“Ah, yes, I have been vetted by Miguel, you know, the VP of Quality and have already met several of his peers during the assessment debriefing meeting. They have all read the assessment report and agreed for these SMEs to be the design team. You can look me up in Linked-In later if you want to. But for now, would you like to take a seat or will you stand for the rest of the lesson?” she asked.
The timing and sequencing for the last lesson, “Foundations of Teamwork” was not accidental. Cara set up the curriculum to build knowledge first with an immediate need to apply in order to close their knowledge and experience gap and prepare them for the much-needed discussions without getting bogged down in terminology. This last lesson introduced them to stages of team development and what to expect as the honeymoon phase of the project faded and the real work began. A key piece of this lesson was to emphasize how to offer a different perspective while maintaining respect to team members (their peers) rather than remaining silent when not in agreement.
(Re)-DESIGNING A SYSTEM: FUTURE STATE VISION
With these 4 lessons delivered, Cara returned to the previous assignment of marked up process flows. Cara anticipated that most of the team might have difficulty envisioning a future state that would be different from their current state.
“Thank you for your time and participation in the last four meetings and special thanks for those of you who have already been trained on these concepts. The temptation to skip it and finish other pressing work was very real and your enthusiasm to show up and attend speaks volumes to your commitment to the team and for the project,” said Cara.
But that’s not how we do it here!
“Before we delve back into these marked-up process flows, I ask that you remain open to ideas and suggestions not only from me but from your colleagues who have come from other similar companies. It may be difficult to envision a future state that looks different from today, but please don’t let that become a barrier for you. If you find yourself thinking or saying ‘that’s not how we do it’, then you need to ‘fess up and ask for patience’ while you recognize what state you’re in. Can you all do this?” Cara asked.
To quiet fears that this was all a big waste of time or that “management will never buy into any of this” Cara initiated a project issues log. She assured them that this list would be on the agenda for each weekly check-in with Miguel. And the updates would be reflected in the weekly project status updates. Teams often stall or lose momentum when issues and concerns go unresolved, so Cara told the team that this was also part of her role as interim project manager.
“Remember, we are not allowed to talk about change control!”
Each week the team met to redesign one process flow at a time from the training policy to curricula management to qualified trainers, training delivery, and effectiveness measures. Cara monitored how the team shared their differing points of view and how receptive they were to work on a joint process that could be implemented across the functions not just for Operations or for the QC lab.
Without fail, the energy and momentum would derail when the discussion found its way to the current state of their change control quality system. Once again, the role of Cara as interim project manager was to get them back on track, future-focused, and not get mired in current barriers. For the most outspoken member of the team, this nearly shut her down. It was a real barrier and nearly threatened to compromise the team’s future success.
“Yes, there is no denying that change control needs to be fixed. That what we are proposing will not fly with how it is defined today,” said Cara.
“But future state is being designed on the assumption that change control will be redesigned first. We still have a lot of preparation work to do before we are even close to submitting these for change control. And that is why change control is out of scope for this team. We will not delay our deliverables because we decided mid-stream to go fix change control first. There are plans for a change control project team to begin and some of you may be tapped to participate.”
And then Cara directed the next question to the member in distress.
“Can you proceed with us knowing that change control is out of scope for us?” she asked.
“No. This is the wrong priority and all this work will have to be redone because it will be rejected by the Change Control Manager when it’s all said and done!” she retorted.
“What if you were to be the Change Control Manager, would this change your viewpoint?” asked Cara.
“No, I don’t want to be the Change Control Manager. I just want change control fixed now,” she snapped and then shared a litany of items that were being delayed because of the backlog in change control.
“Can you proceed with us or shall we find a replacement for you?” Cara asked again.
“Let’s continue and I’ll make a decision before our next meeting,” she mumbled.
The rest of the team sat still and watched the volley back and forth. Apparently, this was not the first time the team experienced their peer’s change control rant. This time, however, the team was mesmerized by how Cara maintained respect while letting their peer air her frustration; truly modeling team rules and getting to the heart of the matter. Cara practiced what she taught in the earlier lessons. After this episode, whenever anyone even said the word change control, they joked and said: “we’re not allowed to discuss change control anymore, remember?”