Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die. (Part 1)
Sometime around the mid-point of the last century Tom (Thomas Henry) Delaney wrote the famous blues lyric, “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” Over the years the phrase has been used to describe all kinds of situations where people “say” they want the benefits of something, but are unwilling to do what it takes to realize those benefits. One could also call this the Wishful Thinking perspective.
One of the tell-tale attributes of people who embrace the Wishful Thinking point of view is the tendency to cut out essential pieces of “doing what works” and still expecting to get the desired result. I’ll cop to the fact that I’m particularly guilty of cutting corners in my diet & exercise program and still wondering why I’m not slimmer and fitter.
In my experience, when it comes to the subject of demonstrating results in workplace learning, our profession is laboring under some serious wishful thinking. This is because:
- On one hand, people want to believe that the training they are investing their lives in delivering is making a difference.
- On the other hand, in far too many cases, there is no evidence (using existing measurement tools) that substantiate that this training has a positive impact on performance.
Because of the lack of ability to demonstrate results, several schools of thought are emerging.
- On one end of the continuum there is a school of thought that says, “We believe in our hearts that our training does add value, but it’s too hard to quantify, so why bother trying to measure it at all.”
- At the other end of the continuum, there are people who believe that, in fact, traditional training approaches do not add much value and put 80% to 90% of the focus on informal learning.
I’d like to offer another perspective for consideration. That perspective is this:
Most seasoned workplace learning professionals know what’s needed to design and execute on a learning process that can produce the desired capability development. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons (e.g. resource availability, customer appetite for doing what’s needed, not wanting to rock the boat, lack of leadership support, etc.) we end up compromising and cutting corners on what we know works. When we cut the corners we know we shouldn’t cut, the net result is a training that doesn’t produce the results we want.
Next month, in Part 2, I’ll discuss our experience on the corners not to cut if you do not want to leave the development of new knowledge and skills to chance, and you want to produce real demonstrable results.