Reframing a Training Request

When you hear we need a training course on … pay attention!  It is by far the most opportune time a Performance Consultant (PC) has to get an HPI (Human Performance Improvement) project going.  But a word of caution is in order.  Please don’t launch into a 15-minute dissertation on the HPI methodology if all they want is a training fix. 

A Typical Training Request

Begins with an assumption that a lack of knowledge is somehow missing, and that “training” is the right solution.  Next, the requestor launches into a list of “required content” and without taking a breath, asks when can you complete the classroom training. Rather than attempting to explain when training is the right answer, stay calm and in your best professional tone use the following phrases:

  • Okay, have they been trained before?
  • What was that like?
  • I see.  So more of the “same” training will change the results? In what way?

If they continue to insist, then use my favorite one: Okay, but what will they be doing differently as a result of this training session? 

Say Yes and …

Never say no to a training request until you know more.  The key is to get more time without actually saying you need more time!  You do this by conducting a performance cause analysis to determine the nature of the discrepancy.  Evidence can be collected from document review examples, deviations, audit observations, and follow-up “interviews”.   Even if a solution begins to form in your mind, stay on the HPI methodology path and let the data show you the proper answer.  It’s this data that grants a PC a little bit more time.

Analyses Du Jour: Isn’t It Really All The Same Things?

There’s root cause analysis and gap analysis and now performance cause analysis? 

Is there a difference?

Do they use different tools? 

It can be overwhelming to decipher through the jargon, no doubt.  I think it depends on which industry you come from and whether your focus is a regulatory/quality system point of view or performance consulting perspective.  To me, it doesn’t change the outcome.  I still want to know why the deviation occurred, how the mistake was made, and /or what allowed the discrepancy to happen.  Mix and matching the tools allows me to leverage the best techniques from all.

Why We Love Root Cause Analysis

For starters, it’s FDA friendly and we get to document our compliance with CAPA requirements.  It allows us to use tools and feel confident that our “data doesn’t lie”.  This bodes well for our credibility with management.  And it provides the strategic connection between our solution (as a corrective action) and site quality initiatives thus elevating the importance and quite possibly the priority for completing the corrective action on time.

But You Have To Ask The Right Questions

The consequence?  Jumping to the wrong conclusion that automatic re-training or refresher training is the needed solution.  Done, checkmark.  On to the next problem that needs a root cause analysis. But when the problem repeats or returns with a more serious consequence, management questions why the training did not transfer, or we wonder what’s wrong with the employee – why is s/he not getting this yet?

Given the constant pressure to shrink budgets and improve the bottom line, managers don’t usually allow themselves the luxury of being proactive especially when it comes to knowledge transfer and performance gaps. 

So, they tend to fall back on quick-fix solutions that give them a checkmark and “clear their desk” momentarily.  For the few times this strategy works, there are twice as many times when those fixes backfire and the unintended consequences are worse. 

No Time To Do It Right, But Time To Do It Twice!

Solving the problem quickly and rapidly closing the CAPA allows us to get back to our other pressing tasks.  Unfortunately, “band-aids” fall off.  The symptom was only “covered up and temporarily put out of sight”, but the original problem wasn’t solved.  So now, we must investigate again (spend more time) and dig a little deeper.  We have no time to do it right but, we find the time to do it twice.  Madness!

Tired Of Repeat Errors – Ask A Performance Consultant To Help You Design A Better Corrective Action

In the article, “Why the Band-Aids Keep Falling Off”, I provide an alternate strategy that emphasizes moving away from events-only focus to exploring the three levels of interaction that influence performance: individual performer, task/process, organizational quality systems.  These same three levels are where performance consultants can carry out their best work when supported by their internal customers.  The good news is that the first step is the same; it begins with a cause analysis. 

The difference is that the corrective action is not a reactive quick fix but a systems approach to correcting the issue and preventing it from showing up again.  System-based solutions are the foundation of many HPI/HPT projects that require cross-functional support and collaborative participation across the site/organization.  And this is where a PC needs support from senior leaders and/or a sponsor.

I Need Training for 800 Employees ASAP

A corporate auditor discovered a lack of training records for newly developed Job Aids during a Mock Inspection.  So, the easy fix would be to re-train everyone and then produce the records, right? Notice, however, that the solution is biased towards retraining without discovering why the training was missed in the first place.  Reframing the request allowed the Performance Consultant to not only find the root cause but to provide both immediate resolution and long-term prevention.  The PC never said no to the training request, only that they “wanted to provide the most effective training possible”.   The PC’s part was to expedite a Cause Analysis and solution recommendations as quickly as possible. 

Short Term Value vs. Bottom Line Impact

This situation presented a very real dilemma for the PC.  Provide short term value for the VP of Quality (Requestor) and satisfy the goal to close out the audit observation or find the real root cause to determine what the appropriate solution SHOULD be. In theory, there is no dilemma. The choice is obvious. But in practice, for organizations under intense pressure to take immediate action, short term value can be quite attractive.

This is exactly where performance analysis provides a balanced approach.  If the PC proceeded as requested (directed), the training for 800 employees would not have prevented the deviation from occurring again, leaving the possibility of an FDA investigator discovering the same discrepancy! In the end, the HPI approach delivered the solution far quicker than the traditional training approach was originally planned for and the audit observation was closed before the due date.

Isn’t this what HPI is all about – impacting the bottom line? – VB

Like this blog?

READ: “Just Get the Audit Observation Closed Already, Will You?” to learn what the PC discovered, how she was able to calculate the wasted cost of continuing with the request for training, and what steps were recommended to prevent a recurrence. 

Performance Analysis: the lean approach to solving performance problems

Who is Vivian Bringslimark?

Interested in learning how to flip a training request into a performance consulting project?

(c) HPIS Consulting, Inc.

Retraining and Refresher Training: Aren’t they one in the same?

I say no, not at all. Ask an Operations Manager and he’ll acknowledge that what it’s called is less important than getting the “assignment” done and entered into the LMS. He’s usually more concerned about the loss of productivity during the training than the effectiveness of the training at that time. It isn’t until later when the training may have to be delivered again (repeated), that the comment “training doesn’t really work” is heard.

Retraining is typically delivered as repeat training. Corrective Actions from *CAPAs usually trigger these types of required training events. In the context of the specific CAPA, we uncover the error, mistake, non-conformance, or what I like to call performance discrepancy from the expected outcome. It is believed that by delivering the training again, the cause of the discrepancy will be resolved. That is if the root cause was determined to be a lack of knowledge, skill, or not enough practice.

Retraining Quote

Some folks believe that more is better and that with several repeated training sessions, employees will eventually get it right. It always amazes me that we find time to do repeat training over and over again but complain very loudly for refresher training, significant **SOP revision training or even new content training.   (*Corrective Actions Preventive Actions, **Standard Operating Procedures).

Refresher Training implies that training was already provided at least once. The intention here is to review on that content.   A lot of regulatory training requirements are generated to satisfy this need. Common examples are Annual GMP Refreshers and several OSHA standards such as Blood Borne Pathogens training. While the aim is to refresh on the content, it is not necessarily meant to just repeat the training. Also included is the part – “so as to remain current” with current practice, trends and new updates. Hence, refresher training needs to include new material based on familiar content.

Upon Biennial SOP Review

There are some folks who would like to use this required SOP activity to coincide with the need to “refresh” on SOPs already read and/or trained. The rationale being that if the SOP hasn’t revved in 2 or 3 years time, more than likely the training hasn’t been repeated either. So, it sounds like a good idea to require that SOPs be “refreshed” upon using the same SOP cycle. One could argue for the prevention of errors; thus, in theory, this sounds very proactive.

But donning my Instructional Designer Hat, I ask you, what is the definition of training – to close a knowledge gap or skill gap. What value is there for forcing a mandatory “refresher reading” on SOPs just because the procedure is due for technical review? In practice, this becomes one huge check mark exercise leading to a paper work /LMS backlog and might actually increase errors due to “information overload”! Again, what gap are you trying to solve? In the above refresher scenario, we are avoiding a compliance gap by satisfying regulatory requirements.

Refresher Retraining

Defending Your Training Process

For those of you who have fielded questions from regulators, you can appreciate how the very training record produced generates follow up questions.   How you describe the conditions under which the training occurred or is “labeled” can impact the message you are sending as well. Calling it retraining instead of refresher training implies that training had to be repeated as a result of a performance problem not meeting expectations or standards. Whereas refresher training occurs at a defined cycle to ensure that the forgetting curve or lack of practice is not a factor of poor performance. It is a routine activity for satisfying regulatory expectations.

For end-users, clarifying the difference between refresher training and “repeat” training in your Policy/SOP not only defines the purpose of the training session but also provides the proper sequence of steps to follow to ensure maximum effectiveness of the training. There’s a difference between training content that is new /updated vs. delivered as a repeat of the same materials.   Yes, a new and/or updated design takes resources and time.   How many times do you want to sit through the same old same old and get nothing new from it? Recall the definition of insanity – doing more of the same while hoping for change.   You just might want to review your Training SOP right about now. – VB

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Analyses du jour: Isn’t it really all the same thing?

So there’s root cause analysis and gap analysis and now performance cause analysis?  Is there a difference? Do they use different tools?  It can be overwhelming to decipher through the jargon, no doubt! 

This blog has now been merged with Reframing a Training Request.

Analyses du jour direct link.

(c) HPIS Consulting, Inc.