But Have They Really Learned

My father used to get on my case on a regular basis for having to tell me to do, or how to do something, over and over again. Many times, I could only chalk it up to the fact that I forgot (brain injury at 13 will do some things to you in that space), and other times I’d be mere ignorance. While preparing for another SharePoint Training session, I began to get the thought that has come to mind in other places before when I’ve been asked to pass on knowledge to other folks – have they really learned anything?

Now, I do admit that this is in part because of the methodology of teaching that I espouse to. I am deliberately detailed, quite lecture-based, and want people to understand the scope before they push a tool into their context. In most cases, that method has gone well. In the times that it hasn’t, its usually because I was asked to train but what was really needed was emergency surgery.

But, I am having this question come up now. A point where I’m basically settled into asking things like “hey, I’ve trained over 100 of your people, are you guys talking about what you’ve learned with one another yet,” and “are we able to move past the basic items towards the truly advanced topics that prevent surgeons from needing to come in?” I know this feeling and moment – its usually at that point where I know that I’m wearing thin on talking about the same thing and am not seeing any discernible change in the culture. That’s harder when you aren’t inside of a company of course, but it does make you question whether training sessions are merely “control points” or actually being used to advance an organization forward in time-noticeable manners.

Before I started working for myself, I was able to literally see this kind of question be put to the best test. I put in a signifiant amount of work to overhaul a SharePoint (Services) intranet and then on the day that it was announced, I also announced that I would be leaving the company in two weeks time. That left me less than 10 business days to take all of my knowledge of the previous and new intranet and train just about the entire company on how to use it. That was fun (stressful) and taxing (beautifully challenging). I literally got only three questions about the system or past processes after I left. That’s it. Everything else was to the point that if it broke, that it was because people didn’t take accountability over the aspects of the intranet they were assigned to (and in that system, everyone had some accountable practice, it was great – in thought at least). That kind of enablement or empowerment to move forward is how I see training in enterprise areas. When trainings are dragged out longer than they need to be, or there’s not a clear means for the client, company, or trainer to see the effectiveness of what was taught, then I think we throw a wrench into the forward progress of a company or initiative.

Yes, there are surveys, feedback forms, and such that are designed to test aspects of what was really learned. But, in what I do – at least with mobile, SharePoint, and religious studies – if you aren’t turning people into able teachers and evangelists, motivated by their own points of relevancy, then you are nothing more than an anchor to something that should be moving much faster forward.