Monday, August 26, 2013

But is it the right training for your organization?

In the August 2013 View from the Q, Paul Borawski reports on the Global State of Quality research and their analysis of the teaching of quality concepts in work organizations. He is cheered about the pervasiveness of this type of training in organizations but is disappointed in that it is directed only to those individuals working traditional quality functions.   There have been a number of responses from the Influential Voices (IV) group.  Some talk about what their organizations do for teaching quality concepts.  An interesting post came from new IV member Babette Ten Haken which discusses small and mid-sized organizations and the difficulty they face in providing training for quality concepts for their employees.  This post and a side project that I am doing for ASQ’s Learning Institute drove me to think about this follow-on question: How do we know that the quality concepts training that you are receiving is the right training for your needs?
There are two aspects to this question.  Most training given by consultants is usually based on subject matter experts (SMEs) and their idea and approach to concepts.  For example, there are a plethora of training courses in Lean concepts, Six Sigma concepts, quality auditing concepts, etc. and the most popular are the ones based on a manager’s preference based on a website, marketing material, or someone’s recommendation. Hardly a scientific way to choose what the best training is or what is needed for an organization.  Fear not, there is help.  There is a professional society for training, the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD).  There are loads of resources on their website to not only develop training but also to determine what is needed. This group concentrates determining the training product quality.
But organizations should not train for the sake of training. Fellow IV Jimena Calfa blogs this month about the power of training. Training is an investment of scarce resources so how do we that the training is actually performing its purpose—to increase performance? There is a professional group very concerned about that as well—the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI).  Although ISPI likes to say that they encompass performance improvement as it relates to process the group really shines on evaluating how training improves the performance of organizations. Measuring organizational performance improvement is a labor of love. Often organizations rely on anecdotal information and “smiley sheets” (those post session surveys on how well you thought of the training performance) that we often fail to realize the benefit of talking to managers after the fact to see if the training contributed anything to the organization’s performance.  In my mind, post training performance needs more emphasis. 
I agree with Paul that it is good that organizations are investing in training quality professionals the real interest is whether this training benefits the organization.  An indicator is training availability outside the quality group and that is where we get a bad indicator that training may be good for quality professionals it isn’t as good for operations, financial, or logistics managers as indicated by the low numbers of people outside quality getting training. How do we reverse this trend?  We as quality professionals need to show that the training is critical to individual AND organizational success.  I strongly suggest looking into ISPI to help with this task.