The Training Question Manifesto for 2018

Training-Question-Manifesto2017 has flown by, many a training program has been created and many people have been needlessly participating in said training programs. The question at hand is, “How can we make a better impact in 2018”?


In most cases, it boils down to better questioning. Do we understand what problem training is trying to solve? Is the problem really a training issue. Most times the simple answer is no. Most problems cannot be solved by training alone. Training should be part of a larger, more holistic solution. One training program does not change behaviors, and it’s only the beginning of improving skills.


Toward this end, before we agree to develop any training program – it’s time to ask some meaningful, relevant questions. I have broken the questions into four groups:


Understanding Context
Understand the People
Understand the Challenge around the Problem
Understand the Results


Understand Context
Here’s an example: “For Christmas, Sally received a bracelet.”
What happens if we phrase the question this way? “For Christmas, Sally received a bracelet from her dying grandmother.”
Now, we want to know the story. What is the grandmother dying from? How long does she have to be with us? Does the bracelet have a history?
When thinking about context, think these questions:
  1. What root-cause problem are we trying to solve?
  2. How is this problem impacting business?
  3. Where is the problem happening?
  4. Who is involved?
  5. What is the situation around the problem?
  6. What is happening when the problem presents itself?
  7. Is this a training, process, procedure, cultural or management issue?
Understand the People
Typically we think of the people who are participating in training as “learners”. What would happen if we thought of learners as simply humans. Humans who are having training targeted at them, for more or less the right reasons. In order for training to stand a chance of success, we must target the training to the right people. The blanket approach simply does not work.
Ask questions about the humans who are potential participants:
  1. Who is the exact target audience?
  2. Why does this training matter to the people?
  3. Where/How will they be expected to use any training resources on the job?
  4. Do they have the needed knowledge prerequisites to make this training successful?
  5. How will this training help this particular group of people do their jobs better, faster and more efficiently?
Understand the Challenge around the Problem
Many times we get a training request and we smile and nod, run off and develop a solution. Not only do we not fully realize the scope of the problem, but the effect the problem is having on the business. Do we know the barriers to success? Why isn’t good happening NOW.
Example: We need sales training to improve revenue.
That great – but the question at hand is…why aren’t salespeople producing revenue according to the budget NOW? What is the barrier to success? I guarantee it ain’t all training.
Ask these questions to uncover the challenges:
  1. What will good performance look like?
  2. Why aren’t people behaving the way we need them behave or performing at the levels required?
  3. How will success manifest itself?
  4. What are the environmental issues surrounding the problem?
  5. What are the organizational issues that preventing success from happening?
Know the Expected Results
Begin with the end in mind. Know what success is supposed to look like. Understand the consequences of failure to the business.
These questions will help guide you.
  1. What are the consequences if this problem isn’t solved?
    1. How do those consequences impact people?
    2. How do those consequences impact the business?
    3. Are the consequences big enough to warrant a training intervention?
  2. What are success indicators?
    1. What will be happening if training is successful?
    2. How will people start (or stop) behaving?
    3. What demonstrative skills will be observable?
Write these four types of questions down. It is your manifesto…make a promise that in the year 2018 you will strive to ask better questions and be more of an advocate for the humans in your organization.


Just “say no” to training that doesn’t solve a problem.


This post is not saying you need meet with leadership and present them with 20 questions. Pick the questions that will help you get the answers you need — answers that will help you provide training that matters.