Those dedicated to the training function work energetically to help people develop and improve skills for the purpose of optimizing performance. However, no matter how hard anyone works at training, very often, the expectation of viewing significant behavior change and improved performance is not met, leaving everyone scratching their heads seeking the answer.
Although the goal of training is improved performance, there are many factors not normally considered that have a major influence on the success or failure of any training effort. These factors are easily identifiable, and if any are of a negative or unproductive nature, you can be certain that motivation to learn something new will be severely affected.
Too often, trainers and training management are so focused on technique that they may fail to recognize the importance of the other influences that can negatively affect their efforts. The expression, "You can't see the forest for the trees," applies here and implies that while many training details are covered, the big picture may be missed. So what are these other influences, and how do we go about seeing the forest?
The THINK model
There are seven primary factors that influence people's mental readiness for training and improved performance. The sum total of these represents learning's big picture, of which training is only one piece. We could develop the world's greatest training program, only to discover that six of seven key factors have been left unaddressed, creating diminished motivation and therefore, diminished performance.
If a training department wants to serve the organization well and develop meaningful results, it needs to understand and consider all seven factors. Incidentally, while this rule is always important, it is most crucial in occupational training, where the job descriptions are alike.
- Expectations. The job or mission objective (not necessarily the training objective) is the first element when considering how to accomplish any goal. If the job performance objectives are unknown or inappropriate, people can't very well achieve that which does not exist or is unattainable. This would be a major reason for worker confusion and diminished motivation - not the healthiest mental state coming into training.
- Processes. It could be that objectives are planned perfectly, but if effective processes are lacking, people may be working in a somewhat helter-skelter manner, which does nothing for confidence and producing reliable results. This means that motivation to perform might erode and have a negative influence on training results. In other words, objectives as well as processes need to be well planned and completed before developing a program. The terms "processes," "procedures," "routines," and "systems" are frequently used interchangeably.
- Resources. If objectives and processes are planned perfectly, but adequate resources are lacking to accomplish the job or mission objective, it means that some or all of the resources (such as equipment, tools, people, environment, and budget) may be deficient. If this is the case, motivation to perform may break down significantly and negatively influence training results.
- Incentives. It could be that objectives, processes, and resources are all flawless, but if the incentive mechanisms for optimizing motivation are not well thought out and understood, motivation to perform may erode, producing another barrier to attaining the training goal. To succeed, objectives, processes, resources, and incentives all need to be in place prior to program development. Types of incentives include compensation, communication, recognition, attainable objectives, and adequate control over one's work. Matching the right incentive to any given job or operating area is crucial to experiencing desired results. By now, you're probably getting the general idea of how these elements work together.
- Training. Training is just one of the seven dynamics, but if all of the previously mentioned elements are perfectly planned, and training is not, it is likely that trainees may be less than motivated by the end of the experience.
- Feedback. If feedback is nonexistent or poorly planned, people may not be getting the right guidance and have a blurred vision of what it takes to attain their objectives. This can also have an erosive effect on motivation, making it far more difficult to attain the training goal.
- Motivation. Finally, if an individual's personal goals have changed or are in conflict with the goals of the job, team, department, or organization, chances are, the individual will place a higher priority on her personal plans than on the organization's goals. It is worth reinforcing the difference between incentive and motivation. Incentive represents what management does to generate motivation. Motivation is the internal driver unique to every individual.
Although a trainer might not have direct control over the engineering of a job, when any of the seven factors discussed are lacking, the quality of training is affected. So it is vital that trainers have a sense for what it takes to optimize motivation and performance in any job within an organization.
Providing department heads with practical ideas on how they can improve operations can earn trainers more respect and influence with management throughout the hierarchy. To start, it might be as simple as having a preliminary questionnaire be completed by trainees before attending a session. By the time you complete the next segment of this article, you may well have all you need for collecting pretraining information and data.
The value of THINK
The value and source of understanding the previous seven elements goes far beyond the training function. The model shown is referred to as "THINK." We have seen how each of these elements can have a negative effect on training if they are ignored or poorly planned by management prior to developing a training program.
Just as there is more to training than training, the THINK model represents something quite in-depth. It applies to every job, in any organization, anywhere - from the senior executive, to middle manager, to the entry-level employee. It represents the rules for everything that takes place in any workplace and in any job, regardless of level. It also encompasses the rules for attaining success in any effort - whether planning, executing, troubleshooting, coaching, or managing a project; leading an individual, team, department, or division; or self-managing.
It also makes the job of managing oneself or others a far less challenging task than it has been in the past, and makes the job of managing training simpler and more efficient as well. Given its universal description, one could view it as a kind of "silver bullet." And if by some chance it is not, it sure is close.
Because the model is universal, it can be seen as a template or framework for generating any job or mission description. One can take any job and fill in the specific job details under each primary and subordinate element in the model, and what we get is the most complete job description on the planet. When the model is studied closely, it isn't difficult to see that every job in any organization is identical in terms of its basic framework.
Whether we are referring to an individual, team, department, or organization, all of the elements in the model must be in place to optimize effectiveness and results on the job. If even one of the elements is lacking, deficiencies in performance can result. Whenever a decision is made for how to accomplish something, all of the model's elements need to have been weighed.
As for the sequencing of the elements in the model, they are arranged based on the steps for accomplishing something. However, there is always the possibility of variations in the arrangement, depending on individual circumstances and preferences.
The model elements and cost effectiveness
THINK sequences the elements in rough order of what will produce the most cost-effective solutions. As a general rule, the elements toward the top of the model are the most cost effective, and those toward the bottom are less cost effective.
There is an exception with respect to feedback. Although feedback is logically next-to-last in the planning process, when troubleshooting, coaching, and seeking ways to improve performance, it is best considered second, following objectives. This is the case because objectives and feedback happen to be the easiest and least costly elements to develop and implement, and they are highly reliable contributors to top performance.
On the other hand, the items at the bottom (excluding feedback in this case) tend to be relatively more complicated and costly with respect to how consistently they produce significant positive change and bottom-line results. This in no way is meant to imply that they are not important. Every element is important. It's just that some are economically higher in order of priority. For example, if the assessment and hiring process is successful in hiring great talent (resources), it provides a healthy return-on-investment that reduces the pressure on skills training and its relatively higher development and execution costs.
This is also a clear indication that the better the relationship between training and assessment and hiring, the more effective both functions will be. It also indicates the importance of considering all of the elements in the model when creating any plan, no matter the job. All of this confirms that no one element is an island unto itself.
The model and forecasting improvement (ROI)
We have seen how the elements are arranged based on cost effectiveness. ROI follows hand in hand with cost effectiveness. If we don't have a clear means of demonstrating how the model delivers ROI, what value is improving something without knowing how much improvement has taken place?
The following is a rough procedure for estimating a target or level of improvement before attempting to improve anything. Although there are numerous ways to forecast productivity and profit improvement, here is one way of estimating that also explains the relationship between the model elements and estimating potential improvement in units or dollars.
Start by calculating the difference between the performance of the very best performer(s) and the average performer (total performance divided by the number of people in the job, mission, group, etc.). The difference between the two represents how much the average person needs to improve to reach the levels of the best. This difference is commonly referred to as the PIP ("potential for improving performance," as coined by Thomas Gilbert in the 1978 book, Human Performance). This is the first step toward generating the ROI.
Next, multiply the difference by the number of people in the group, and the result is the total PIP, assuming everyone was able to perform at the levels of the best. The PIP represents a target for increasing the performance of average workers, which would mean everyone would be performing at the highest levels, or as close to that as possible. And since those high levels have been achieved by the best, they represent an attainable target.
For purposes of demonstration, an easy example is a salesforce of 100. Assume that the few top salesperson(s) produce $1 million per year. If all 100 salespeople sold at the same rate as the best, the yearly production would be $100 million. If actual total sales were $70 million, then the difference between the best and the average people would be $30 million, or the total amount of potential sales improvement proven to be humanly possible.
So what is the relationship between the total PIP, the difference, and the model elements, and how do they relate? Theoretically, the arithmetic difference is represented by, or is equal to, those primary and subordinate model elements that are deficient and in need of upgrading. If we can improve the function of those deficient elements, then the performance of the average people should be raised from average, up to the levels of the best, or, to be more reasonable, as close to it as possible. And since we know there is nothing else that influences work other than one or more of those primary and subordinate elements in the model, the answer to any difference must lie someplace within them. The point is that the PIP represents a clear target.
In time, after the elements are upgraded and implemented, the same calculation can be made again using real figures vs. the estimated forecast to see how much performance was actually improved.
The bottom line: there is a methodical process for determining ROI. If training makes a habit of calculating the PIP and analyzing the model elements before developing a training program, the actual improvement that later takes place equals the ROI of the training effort and job or mission. Otherwise, training remains in the vague and debatable area of "how-do-we-measure-training?" If the role of training is measured by working only within a budget, this does not represent ROI.
By performing a periodic analysis of the model elements and the ROI calculation, it becomes an automatic and highly reliable continuous improvement process. In the event an operating area is searching for an answer to a deficiency, training or human resources can support the effort by coaching or training them in using the model for resolving their concerns or contributing to the effort directly in a consulting role. By doing so, it increases the value of the training function and ensures that future trainees are better mentally prepared for experiencing any management or leadership program.
Finally, the process provides an opportunity for documenting and storing performance improvement data by individual, team, and department. This means the data will be available for assessing organizational as well as individual career progress, opening the door to making rational business and career decisions throughout an organization.
The model and workplace applications
The model controls a range of workplace applications:
- standard template for building high performing job descriptions
- leading self, an individual, team, or entity
- planning a job, mission, or project
- troubleshooting a job, plan, mission, or project.
- making decisions
- coaching any level job and/or team
- improving performance
- determining which elements to fix first, second, etc., in order of cost-effectiveness
- motivating people, teams, or departments
- estimating improvement potential prior to any effort, leading to improved ROI
- documenting results, which produce a source for career and organizational decisions
- using the model as the basis to a one-day introduction to any management curriculum.
The model as an introduction to executive and management training
In addition to the model helping make training more effective, it is the perfect one-day introduction to any management and executive development or employee effectiveness curriculum. This is the case because the many courses organizations offer have their roots from within the universal job model, which provides the big picture before experiencing the detailed courses. As an introduction, there are a variety of experiential strategies offered for a workshop environment. It is also easily and economically executed as a one-on-one or group distance learning experience.
The THINK model
- offers a single universal model that delivers the rules for performing every job or mission from CEO, senior executive, middle manager, down through entry-level people
- provides the fundamental rationale for all the applications or tasks that operate in the workplace at every level in a manner that optimizes performance in a near scientific manner
- presents an orderly arrangement of model elements, prioritizing which to focus on first, second, and so on, based on a planning process and cost effectiveness
- represents a rational approach to forecasting estimated improvement (in units or dollars) before attempting any planning or improvement effort
- gives users the opportunity to record and track performance data, producing an ongoing record of achievements by individual, team, department, etc., which delivers a documented source of making career or organizational decisions
- embodies the perfect introduction to management, executive, or employee effectiveness courses (due to the fact that it is universal)
- increases the value of training and human resources by providing consulting tools for aiding departments to resolve performance problems.
Putting it all together
No matter the job or mission, or no matter the daily task, the overriding answers to resolving any issue are in the THINK universal model. If we're talking about how to get from Earth to Mars, the model is the checklist for making it happen. If we're talking about troubleshooting the results of a football game, the model is the path to follow. If we're talking about coaching some individual (or team) to help with improving performance, we start at the top of the model and work our way down. If we're talking about opening and managing a lemonade stand, the answers lie in the model. It's simply the way we think when baking a cake, winning a baseball game, managing a nuclear power plant, or making decisions on international relations.T+D