What do they really really want?

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Written by Paul Matthews on 16 April 2014
When people come knocking at the L&D door, what do they want? Usually it is training, or perhaps eLearning, or perhaps coaching.
 
Who are they, the people who come knocking? Operations people. Let's call them 'the business'.
 
Why do they want what they are asking for? Because they think it will solve some kind of performance problem they have right now, or anticipate they will have as the result of impending change.
 
When do they want what they are asking for? Usually right now, or if possible, yesterday!
 
How well do they specify what they want? Not well. It is often at an overview level only, and often without reference to the actual performance problem they are trying to solve.
 
How does L&D respond? Although this is changing, the response is still too frequently something like 'how many people do you want on the course, and when does it need to be done?
 
How does L&D prioritise these requests? First come first served, or if someone with enough seniority does the asking, they get to jump the queue.
 
What do they actually need when they come knocking on the L&D door? Almost certainly not what they are asking for.
 
Who gets the blame when what they ask for does not solve their problem because it is not what they actually need? Almost certainly L&D.
 
The scenarios above are depressingly still all too common in the L&D world.
There is a better way. A way where L&D is not just an order taker for training and eLearning. A way where L&D can have a much greater impact by getting involved in discovering the real need that has arisen as a result of the performance problem.
 
If you can uncover the real need, and make this visible to 'the business' then they will let go of what they thought they wanted and instead they will want what they actually need. Now you are in a position where you can deliver a viable solution and do so with the support of the business.
 
So how do you uncover the real need?
Go back to the presenting problem. Remember, this will be a performance problem. And any performance problem is the result of someone, or a whole team, not delivering or executing the task they have been asked to do. For some reason, when they are supposed to do the task, they cannot, or cannot do it up to a required standard.
 
Why?
The answer will fall into one or more of these categories
1.       Knowledge
2.       Skill
3.       Mind-set
4.       Physiology
5.       Environment
 
A useful tool you can use to drill down into these factors that are causing the lack of performance is the cause-effect diagram, often called the Fishbone or Ishikawa diagram.
 
In my experience, the barrier to performance is more often a factor within the environment that surrounds the performer when they are asked to perform, rather than something missing within the performer.
 
What is your experience?
I suggest you do this cause-effect exercise with the person from the business who came knocking on your door asking for training. As you drill down into the root cause of the lack of acceptable performance, it will become apparent to you both whether training would be a viable solution, or whether something else is needed.
 
Well done. You have begun to uncover and make visible to the business the real need. When they can see this, they will want what they really need, rather than just want what they erroneously thought they needed.
About the author
Paul Matthews is the founder of People Alchemy. He can be contacted via www.peoplealchemy.co.uk
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