Questions astronauts and trainers ask

Trainers can size up what’s needed in an intervention, just like a rocketship mission does.

I received a one-line email recently from an L&D manager. It said “Our senior managers need Quantitative Analysis training. Please revert with contents and costs”. I scrolled down to view further information, but there was none.

Granted, this one-liner probably was meant to be a conversation starter; and the sender didn’t really expect a full-fledged training proposal based on such meagre information. But it certainly gives us a chance to ponder over this question: What must the training team know, before it designs an intervention?

Effective training is like a moon-rocket: it may “look” clean and shiny, but the process that forges it is messy and iterative. It involves putting several pieces of information together, to craft something that flies straight and true, despite its complexity. I present here 7 pieces of information, that I have found most useful in my work. Allow me to continue using the moon-rocket analogy as a memory-peg.

1 – Moon-landing site (The Objective)
What should the learners know, think or do after the intervention? Often, the changes involve 3 aspects: new knowledge, attitude conducive to work and relevant skills. The answer needs to move beyond broad descriptions like “take ownership” or “inspire the department”; and include a (really short) list of visible behaviors/abilities. This provides a clear vision of where we’re headed.

2 – Launch Site (The Starting point)
What is the learners’ current level of ability? What are examples of behaviour currently observed? What are their current beliefs? What is the broader business context at the moment: organisational priorities, key initiatives, state of the business. This is important because a trainer often starts his interaction with learners by connecting at this level, acknowledging the current state and making a pact to move ahead from here.

3 – Moonwalkers (Learner profiles)
Who are the learners, exactly? What are their roles, experience, significant recent events in their careers, their place in the org-structure? How heterogeneous is the learner group? This allows the training team to give a context to the training and connect with learners in their own language.

4 – Flight parameters (Success metrics)
What will constitute a successful intervention? Are there measures, either quantitative (“number of client escalations”) or quasi-quantitative (“customer satisfaction”) that can be tracked all through the intervention? Such a measure may already exist, or be developed for the purposes of the intervention. This serves 2 purposes: assessing intervention success and providing credibility to claims about such success, when asking for additional budgets for additional interventions.

5 – Life support (Resources)
Trainers want to know what will sustain the intervention, and what are the constraints. We’re talking budgets, geographical spread of learners, timelines to be adhered to and availability of learners & stakeholders (for feedback).

6 – Launch team (Stakeholders)
Who will be impacted by the success (or failure) of this intervention? And how exactly? Based on this, the trainer will want to interview these stakeholders and get their expectations.

7 – Prior missions (History of previous attempts)
What has been attempted so far, in pursuit of this training objective? It includes both training and other interventions, those that worked and those that didn’t. Why did previous attempts falter? All this information makes the trainer aware of any ‘minefields’ to avoid.

I’ve found that answers to the above depend on who I ask. The L&D manager, the participants and stakeholders have versions that differ slightly, if not widely! So it may take some effort to meet several people, identify who the “main” customer is or create a consensus in a joint meeting. This tends to be an iterative process in practice. Yet, I’ve always felt that the extra effort to find out and document answers to the above 7 questions pays off handsomely.

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Disasters of my own making

Mistakes I made during some of my interventions. And what you can learn from them.

I can hear the branding/marketing folk say, “Why would you blog about days when you bombed? Why not just highlight the good stuff?”

Well, simply because they did happen, in full view of everyone. Can’t deny them… they’re part of my portfolio now!

And also because some of the preparation I do for interventions owes itself to what I learnt from these disasters.

So here goes…

The training workshop disaster

It was a workshop on critical thinking. That morning, there were early signs that trouble was afoot. At the designated start time, the training hall had me, an HR staffer on the client side and just 3 of the 20 people who were supposed to attend. The HR staffer worked her phone and part-begged, part-threatened a few people; in 15 minutes, we had a full room (with a couple of extra people thrown in).

The day felt never-ending. When I asked them questions, I got averted eyes. If I spoke about opportunities for critical thinking at work, I got blank looks. Throughout the day, enthusiasm or any sense of purposeful learning eluded us. When this was over, everyone was relieved, me included.

On a post-program feedback call, the story tumbled out. This workshop wasn’t specifically requested by any team. Rather, it was deemed ‘generally useful’, marked ‘open to all’ and scheduled on the training calendar. As it turns out, very few learners applied till 1 day prior to the workshop. After frantic calls by L&D, department heads caught hold of some people (presumably the less-busy ones?) and told them to attend the next day. The result was 22 people who looked like they’d been woken up and thrust in front of arc lights!

What I learnt: I learnt that an intervention which doesn’t have a pressing need tends to be nobody’s baby. Participation tends to be mildly coercive. Interest level borders on tolerance. On this occasion, I failed to anticipate all this. As a practice now, I quiz clients on the reason for a workshop and who the stakeholders are. Through communication or pre-work, I ensure learners are prepped in advance, so they know what’s coming and why they’re part of it.

The coaching disaster

This one is from an intervention for salespeople. They were accustomed to serving impulsive buyers. But recently, a new wave of well-read, articulate and slow-to-act customers had flummoxed them. The intervention started with a workshop where I spoke about making conversation, finding out customer needs etc. And then, we switched to coaching, where I supported their efforts to implement concepts learnt in the earlier workshop. We would agree on specific actions during a meeting (“In the next week, pick 5 customers, and answer their questions patiently, rather than push them to close the deal”). They were supposed to report back in a week’s time.
I remember being surprised at how many of them did very little, or even ignored their commitment totally. With lack of practice, any hope of change waned quickly. I recall discussing with the Head of sales later, that out of 11 salespeople, just 2 showed any progress. His diagnosis was straight-forward: Most salespeople were too deeply invested in an older way of selling; and this intervention was too feeble to pull them out of it.

What I learnt: I now see that I didn’t ensure adequate buy-in, before I moved to skill-building. The workshop was supposed to have done that, but I did not verify if it indeed had. I had fallen prey to a rigid intervention structure (frozen during talks with the client). I had forgotten that design is based on assumptions about how quickly learners will move ahead; and assumptions often do go wrong. Nowadays, I keep a finger on the learner’s pulse and do a status check before moving on. In an earlier blog post, I’ve detailed out this approach.

The facilitation disaster

It was the annual progress review of a large R&D outfit. The HOD and his 7 deputies were in attendance. I was supposed to facilitate a full day of discussions, so that things went smoothly.
It so happened that the discussion proceeded very systematically. There was fair and civil debate when the occasion demanded it. And we ended right on time. But here’s the rub: it would have made no difference if I were absent! On the contrary, I may have been an impediment. Sample this: this very capable group would occasionally pause mid-stride, and look at me, expecting directions / course correction, and I would state the obvious,”Go on, you’re doing well”.
I call this a disaster because as the facilitator, I added no value. This was an easy-to-structure event, where 7 people had to take turns to present their work, answer some questions and go back to being the audience. The facilitator was an expensive indulgence: totally unnecessary.
What I do now: When faced with a facilitation request, I now ask,”Why don’t you do this yourselves?” When the reasons for seeking external help are valid, only then do i take up the job. Examples of valid reasons are:
– ensuring that mild voices are also heard
– preventing the discussion from veering off-course
– forging consensus from disparate opinions
– providing structure to an open-ended agenda

So those were stories of disasters from the 3 lines of my work. While in these instances, I regret not doing right by my client, I’m thankful these occurred because of what they taught me.

Preventive Intervention Trilogy: Part 3

What are the ways in which a preventive intervention is different from a curative one? In this third and final part of the trilogy, I examine this issue.

First, I want to state a key distinction that we L&D folks make. Inputs to learners are broadly of 3 types:
– New beliefs (create a certain attitude towards something)
– New knowledge (create awareness about something)
– New skills (create capability to DO something)

When we CURE a problem, we attempt to provide all 3, in the above sequence. New beliefs create the fertile ground, an open-mindedness about learning new stuff. Next, the seeds of knowledge are sown. Then this newfound knowledge flowers as new skills, through sustained practice.

Now, when we try to PREVENT a problem, should we do it the same way? I’m going to inspect 3 common preventive interventions, and figure out the answer. You may recall from the previous article, that the following 3 situations are best prevented, due to their high certainty and high severity.

1. Preparing for leadership roles

Newly minted leaders are often like deer in the headlights. They face new challenges which were absent in their earlier roles. So they react in unpredictable ways: fight, flight or freeze! Over time, these reactive / knee-jerk responses can get hardened into habits. Flexibility is lost, causing much damage and frustration to the people they lead.

So we will conduct a preventive intervention BEFORE they become team leaders. Six to ten months before a slated promotion is a good time to begin.

New beliefs: If you want to have a conversation about how a leader “should” be, this is the best time. That’s because in this position, the learner is the affected party; his team leader’s attitude and actions affect him directly. So he will fully empathise with his own situation. We can expect easy buy-in for concepts like sensitivity to team members situation, need for appreciation, guidance, honest communication, autonomy and support.

New knowledge: Information about what a team leader’s role entails will also be imbibed eagerly, as the learner finds the feeling of preparedness very comforting. So it is an opportune time to talk about task allocation, conflict handling, conducting meetings, turning goals into plans and schedules, keeping stakeholders informed.

New skills: Skills of supervision cannot be practised yet. Of course, role playing in simulated environments can be done, but its not realistic enough. So, it may be prudent to simply omit skill building for now, and take it up again AFTER the learner gets promoted to a leader’s role.

2. Preparing for teamwork

Lets say a new team is being formed, for a new project or a business unit. A preventive intervention will aim to avoid misunderstanding, unproductive conflicts, personality clashes that are all too common when people come together and work closely. What will be the format of such an intervention?

New beliefs: An attitude of trust comes from feeling safe with another person. Getting to know someone better is one way of doing that. So people can share personal histories, explore common interests, state one’s own preferences and discover how others like to work. And there is no dearth of tools to do that. Given below, for example, is a snapshot from a personality assessment called CB5. Each row is a personality sub-trait, and the little square and circle show where 2 people of a team lie on a continuum.

Imagine the value of knowing someone so deeply. It would reduce the element of surprise when the team really starts work, allow people to explain their preferences. The ‘circle’ could say to the ‘square’ (see last row in the graphic), “I resist being pulled into multiple projects due to my preference for single-minded focus on one thing. I don’t mean to shirk work”.

New knowledge: Team norms can be discussed or announced. How decisions will be made, disagreements taken up, communication ensured; roles allocated… the list of things to know is long. Knowing this in advance ensures that waters aren’t sullied by misunderstanding. That prevents petty conflicts and much offense-taking.

New skills: What are examples of team skills? Exchanging feedback, conducting efficient meetings, resolving conflicts, brainstorming for ideas, making decisions, co-ordinating actions. Note that each of these is most meaningfully practised in real-life settings. So we may want to postpone practice till the team’s work gets underway. At that time, practice supported by coaching or revisiting of concepts will be most useful.

3. Preparing for an organisation’s journey

If we want to prevent a midlife crisis (lack of direction) in an organisation’s journey, a preventive intervention can help. It is akin to calibrating the compass correctly before a journey, something that will prove its value later on.

New beliefs: The founding team’s attitude comprises things like: how much do I want to invest psychologically, how long-term is my outlook, what am I expecting in return, which aspects of the organisation’s purpose am I most attached to. Obviously, the best time to explore these issues is BEFORE the organisation’s long march starts.

New knowledge: Here, we are talking about clarity about the organisation’s purpose, values, vision and goals. If these are known in advance, they will act like guiding stars during difficult times (uncertainty, financial duress and opportunity evaluation).

New skills: Organisational skills are abilities like continuous learning & innovation, responsiveness to market changes and inter-departmental coordination. Its simply not possible to practice these in an intervention format. These have to be practised in a live scenario, and course corrections done on the fly. So a preventive intervention isn’t the right time to do that.

And therefore…

The consistency in the above 3 examples suggests this to me: Preventive and curative interventions do have common aspects: both can have inputs on the belief and knowledge front. But skill inputs shouldn’t be part of preventive interventions. It is best to defer that till a ‘live action’ opportunity arises. This opportunity will arise when a new role arrives or when external conditions change. At that time, the learner must pick up the threads of her ‘in-progress’ learning journey and start implementation practice.

The Trilogy summarised

This article brings the trilogy to an end. The 3 lessons from it are:
– Prevention (rather than cure) is easier and less costly.
– Prevent when the problem is highly likely to occur and have severe consequences. Else, we must either act selectively or wait till things become clearer.
– Preventive interventions should focus on beliefs and knowledge. Up-skilling is best done during ‘live action’.


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Preventive Intervention Trilogy: Part 2

Is it really true that all interventions can and must be done in preventive mode?  Rather than as cures for problems that have already occurred? If not, how do we decide which ones to tackle proactively?

When deciding whether to buy insurance, we face a similar choice. To resolve the dilemma, we use 2 criteria
– the CERTAINTY of occurrence of the unfortunate event (injury, loss, death, cancellation, theft etc.)
– the SEVERITY of impact, if it does occur (financial stress, cost of replacement)

For events which are certain to occur and will have severe effects, we opt for insurance, the most obvious example being death of the bread-winner and its effect on the rest of the family. A famous performing artist may insure her vocal chords (sudden damage is improbable, but has huge impact on earnings). And we don’t usually insure our house plants (their death is certain, but impact on us isn’t much).

So how about using CERTAINTY and SEVERITY of expected problems, as the criteria to decide whether to prevent problems or cure them post fact? To make this discussion concrete, I will pick up 11 situations from my past work. Incidentally, all of which were done in curative mode, after problems occurred. The situations are plotted on the diagram below.



The top-right quadrant has problems which occur very commonly (high CERTAINTY) and have serious impacts on individuals, performance and financials (high SEVERITY). Naturally, it makes sense to prevent these problems.

Take situation #3 as an example: I’ve witnessed how an automobile major selects its managers for future leadership roles. A year before the role change, high potentials go through a 3-day workshop, where the purpose is simply to expose them to what life will be like if they move up to leadership roles. It’s like immersing them in the challenges, expectations and roles that future positions involve. They are given a choice later, whether they wish to bid for these roles, or move laterally and continue to contribute in specialised functional roles. The net effect of this would be that people who are able and willing to fill leadership roles will do so; those disinclined to do so after the ‘preview’ will make a similar informed choice. The Peter Principle, which predicts inept leaders, is thus avoided.


The top-left quadrant is for problems that will most likely occur, but will have limited impact. Circle #4 in the diagram represents an early-career PR executive, who is shy about voicing opinions even in small groups. In future, as this person rises to a more public role, he is quite likely to feel challenged when he has to address large audiences in town halls or press conferences. On the other hand, the problem is of relatively low severity… public speaking is just one of the aspects of his role. So we may be picky about acting on the problem, given budget and bandwidth constraints. So the principle here is: selectively conduct preventive interventions for problems in this quadrant.


The bottom-right quadrant: These cases have severe impacts on the organisation. But it is hard to predict when they will occur (next quarter? five years later?). Also in what form they will occur. That’s why a pro-active intervention may not find takers. As an example, in situation #6, its hard to say exactly when innovation will peter out. So a wait-n-watch is recommended, so that at the first signs of trouble, more informed action can be taken.

In situation #5, a luxury-motorcycle dealership noticed that the first wave of customers was ebbing (these were people who walked into the showroom, pointed to the shiniest & biggest bike and laid a bag full of cash on the counter). They noticed a simultaneous rise of a different breed of customer, who read up everything about the bikes on the internet, enjoyed talking bike-stuff for hours, took a lot of time to decide and wanted to pay in installments. That’s when they decide to act, and prepare their sales-force to engage this new type of customer, before the situation changed completely. They waited for some certainty about the new type of customer, and then built a training program for salespeople based on that knowledge.


Finally, the bottom-left quadrant has low-impact, low predictability situations. They are best cured as and when they occur. It will hard to financially justify and effectively prepare people for an event that’s not only uncertain, but also limited in breadth/severity of impact.

The end-of-post lament!

When I inspect data from my own L&D work, I am dismayed to find that it is mostly curative. That’s such a loss of opportunity. Look at all the low-hanging fruit in the top-right quadrant: the chance to proactively ensure that organisations start out with well considered guiding principles; that teams have a robust processes to handle conflicts, decisions and coordination; that executives don’t become bad bosses later.

I feel that there are very few preventive interventions occurring in our industry. A probable reason is that organisations face a long list of ‘urgent, must cure now’ problems; so prevention gets consigned to the ‘not now, later’ bin! But I could be wrong. Is your organisation any different?

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Preventive Intervention Trilogy: Part 1

Prevention is better than cure, they say. How does that work in the L&D context?

In this trilogy of articles, I examine various facets of this issue. In this (1st) article, I examine why exactly preventive interventions score over curative ones. I take up 3 examples of curative interventions from my own L&D work, list the problems they faced, and deduce how prevention would have avoided these problems.

Leaders in soup

The first example: an intervention carried out in ‘curative’ mode (post-problem) with a group a team leaders. The norm amongst them was to rule with iron fists, transmit downwards any pressure received from bosses and fixate solely on end-results. Not surprisingly, of the fresh recruits who joined, a staggering 55% quit within the first 6 months. My objective was to infuse their repertoire of management methods with situational leadership principles and a healthy concern for the well being and development of the team members.

Because this intervention was curative, not preventive, it faced 3 problems.

1. There was resistance to new learning. The participants’ experiences of working in a certain fashion had hardened their attitudes. “This is not how we work here” was a constant refrain. Some felt that the flexibility inherent in situational leadership would be seen as a sign of weakness/shiftiness. Other feared loss of control, whenever we talked about delegation. To some, the idea that a manager is responsible for team members’ development felt alien (“Isn’t that HR’s job?”).

2. The intervention came too late. Learners had already caused much damage before they came to the intervention. Each of them had presumably experimented with several ‘flavor of the month’ management syles over the years, frustrated their team members and caused people to leave the organisation.

3. Shame barred the way to change. Participant felt that changing their leadership style midway tantamounted to admitting that they had been wrong all along. That shame prevented them from going back to their teams and promising change. Some wished they could start with a fresh slate, unencumbered by guilt.

Notice how all 3 problems arose because the situation was allowed to get bad before someone thought of intervening.

A Team in Conflict

The second example is from my work with an R&D team, which had been formed a year before I met them. During this past year, the 8 team members had constantly quarrelled about priorities and approaches and let their professional differences become personal grudges. The workshop I was conducting with them aimed at getting them to start cooperating again. The same 3 challenges appeared here too.
1. Resistance to the idea of a rapproachment, given the history of bitterness in the team (“Let him apologise first”)
2. The damage of lost opportunity and stalled projects so far
3. Individual shame about admitting an error, which prompted some to dig in their heels
Although we did manage to make some headway by the end of the workshop, I couldn’t help wonder: a preventive intervention 1 year ago would have helped so much, prevented so much damage.

An organisation at crossroads

A third example is from a small organisation, which grew quickly because it grabbed whatever opportunities came its way, as cash-strapped startups feel compelled to do. A few years later, it found itself in a funny spot. It was unable to define itself clearly because of its diverse offerings, unable to define priorities because of the discordant business units. So we had to struggle through multiple sessions of ‘discovering purpose’ and identifying some unifying theme amoungst business units. Our now familiar trinity of problems appeared again:
Resistance: To narrowing focus, because each BU feared loss of importance in the new setup
Damage: Wasted effort put into businesses they would now close down
Shame: About pivoting in a new direction now (“What will we tell our partners and customers? Even our families will wonder why we didn’t realise this sooner”)
It’s easy to see that agreeing on a new organisation’s founding principles early on would have prevented the above problems.

The prevention alternative

Now imagine what would happen if the same people attended a similar intervention, BEFORE assuming charge of their teams.
1. Eagerness to learn would replace resistance. People always welcome an opportunity to ready themselves for the ‘next level’.
2. So much damage would be avoided. Since forewarned is forearmed, managers would have dealt with issues with more awareness and care, reducing damage caused by knee-jerk reactions.
3. There would be no question of shame associated with a course-correction later on.

So that’s it, then. The 3 advantages of preventively tackling a future problem are: Less resistance. Less damage. Less shame about change.

The thought of preventive interventions raises more questions: How early on should one do it? Which interventions can be done preventively and which ones not? How exactly is a preventive intervention structured? Answers to these in the next 2 parts of this trilogy.


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Kolb’s theory in action

The story of an experiment I conducted, to apply Kolb’s theory to a practical context.

For over 3 decades now, David Kolb’s experiential learning theory has been well known. What he said is this: “Immediate or concrete experiences are the basis for observations and reflections. These reflections are assimilated and distilled into abstract concepts from which new implications for action can be drawn. These implications can be actively tested and serve as guides in creating new experiences”

An experiment

A few years ago, a couple of us got together and thought “Why not apply the Kolb’s learning cycle to help trainers de-bottleneck stubborn issues in their training style?” When we asked people we knew, several agreed to be subjects for our experiment. Here’s how a typical engagement went.

We met the trainer and asked him (they all just happened to be male), “Which area of your training work do you struggle with the most?” The answers were all different, but let me pick one for the sake of this blog post: “I get very good feedback for my knowledge, but my sessions end up being very dull. I’d like to engage my audience better”. Then over the next hour, we worked with him to identify what he would do differently, in order to solve the problem. This particular trainer chose:

Behavior 1 (B1): I will engage learners individually rather than treat them as a homogeneous group. For example, asking a question to someone in particular rather than throwing it at the entire audience.
Behavior 2 (B2): I will vary my style very frequently during the session, to reduce the monotony. For example, I may stand still in front of the group for a while and then start moving about, interrogate for a while and then switch to answering readily, be directive sometimes and then accommodative after a while.

A week later, as this trainer went about his usual work (conducting a daylong workshop for a roomful of people), we unobtrusively took up our places at the back of the room. For the next 90 minutes, as the trainer immersed himself in the “concrete experience” of conducting that session, we (the observers) wrote down everything that the trainer did, paying close attention to the 2 behaviors which the trainer wanted to implement. We had about 25 observations in 90 minutes.

As the group took a coffee break, we had a 5-minute chat with the trainer. We summarised our observations, letting him know how often and in what way he stuck to his promised behavior. We discussed the effect this had had on the engagement level of the audience. That was the “observation and reflection”. The trainer developed a sense of what was working and what wasn’t (forming “abstract concepts”) and said something like “Okay, during the next session, I’m going to concentrate more on B2. Watch me do that, and then let’s speak again during the next break” (which was the intent to “actively test”)

This cycle was done a total of 4 times during the day, each time taking about 90 minutes. And we can’t rule out that the trainer was conducting his own “mini cycles” every few minutes… trying out something, watching it succeed or fail, drawing lessons from it and trying it again: all on the fly.

To summarise, the Kolb’s cycle was implemented as follows:
Concrete Experience: 90-minutes of conducting a workshop
Reflective Observation: 5-minute chat with observers, looking at data
Abstract Conceptualisation: Articulating lessons about what worked or didn’t
Active Experimentation: Next 90-minutes of trying out ‘tweaked’ behaviors to see if they worked


We ran a total of 8 such experiments. In 6 of them, by the end of a single day positive behaviors were being consistently repeated. To us, this was the making of new habits… the start of unconscious competence. (In the balance 2 cases, the trainer displayed the desired behaviors right from the start, and we didn’t have much to report during the feedback chats. It was unclear to us whether there really was any bottleneck to start with!)

Why did this work?

Based on what the trainers told us, we think there are 3 reasons:

1. Focus on very few things
Human capacity to learn several things at a time is limited. That’s why complex skills, which consists of several simpler skills, take time to learn. For example, the complex skill of driving a car comprises skills of judging distance, calibrating the responses of the steering, brakes and accelerator, coordinating gear shift and clutch pedal movements etc. So, in a training context, if the time available to us is limited, we must curtail the number of things to be learnt. In our experiment, our learner was focussing on building only 2 “new” habits throughout the entire day.

2. Continuous and Conscious effort
The learner in this case was constantly aware of our presence at the back of the room. He knew that he was part of an experiment. That kept reminding him to try out stuff repeatedly. It is common experience that without such constant reminders we tend to lose ourselves in whatever is happening around us, and our change agendas frequently go nowhere. Think of the trouble you had when you decided to start exercising regularly or to take a deep breath when anger strikes.

3. Support
Our contribution was to be unbiased observers. We kept our “opinions” to ourselves, and stuck to feedback about the trainer’s behavior and its impact on the audience. This enabled him to reflect objectively upon his recent experience, and plan course corrections. Without our support, it would have been hard for him to collect this data. (We typically had about a 100 observations during a 1-day workshop).

We might add that the experiment was conducted NOT under laboratory conditions, but in a real workshop. That adds to the credibility of results in the learners’ mind. It makes redundant, the question “Will I be able to do this in a real situation?”

Is such success common?

Sure it is. Everywhere.

The application of the Kolb’s learning cycle is very common in sport. Sprinters will regularly sprint, check what went right or wrong, decide to make adjustments and again sprint. The sharp focus on just one measure (clock time), conscious effort (“Today is practice day, so I will practice”) and the coach’s support deliver results. The same occurs in countless other situations: learning to cook, swim, sing, operate on a patient, paint, weld, play the flute, give a speech, soothe a child, argue a case in court…

In organisations

In an organisational development setting, how can these enablers be used?
– Maintain focus by deciding NOT to cover too much content during training programs.
– To enable continuous and conscious effort, have some mechanism for regular reminders or followup.
– Support during implementation can be given through feedback from key stakeholders who interact with the program participant.

A recognition of how people actually learn and supporting them enough in their change journey will pay dividends. And the Kolb’s learning cycle shows us exactly how to do that.


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