Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 5, Issue 47;   November 23, 2005: Training Bounceback

Training Bounceback

by

Within a week after we've learned some new tool or technique, sometimes even less, we're back to doing things the old way. It's as if the training never even happened. Why? And what can we do to change this?

Management by Design, Reengineering, Management by Wandering Around, TQM, Excellence, Chaos Theory, Balanced Scorecard, Lean and Mean, Management by Objectives, Empowerment, High-Performance Teams, T-Groups, Quality Circles, and on and on.

Artist's conception of the Mars Pathfinder landing by bouncing on its airbags

Artist's conception of the Mars Pathfinder landing by bouncing on its airbags. Photo courtesy US National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

One change follows another. One training program follows another. And from each training program, we bounce back to the old ways — or something pretty close. We spend big money to bring in a consultant or training company, we spend a day or two or more learning whatever they're teaching, and then weeks, or months, or a year later, all is forgiven and it's back to business as usual.

Why does this happen? Here are four causes of this pattern and four strategies for achieving lasting results.

This too shall pass
When leaders believe in their own credibility, and expect the organization to follow unquestioningly, almost any change is doomed. The most aware among the staff know the futility of embracing enthusiastically anything that will be forgotten within a year.
We've been down this path so many times that "management fad" is now a legitimate buzz phrase. Acknowledge the failures of the past and deal with skepticism directly.
Education isn't Change
When we believe change comes from learning a few facts or skills or theories, change efforts tend to consist of training. But if education were change, with all the diet books in print, by now we would all be the perfect weight.
Lasting change requires much more than training. One essential item that's usually missing from change efforts is practice. Practice isn't part of training — it's part of doing.
Resistance comes — in part — from the organization
We often assume that people choose to stay in Old Status Quo — that if they would just "buy in," all would be well. But culture, policies, procedures, the performance evaluation program, and the actions of others can all cause old behaviors to persist.
Plan to transform all organizational components that interact with the change. Recognize that you might have to educate some people even though their actual jobs might not be changing.
To practice, people need slack
When leaders expect
the organization to
follow unquestioningly,
almost any change
is doomed
We often expect the newly trained to use what they've learned, at or above the old level of performance, immediately. Worse, we relax the workflow neither for the training nor the practice.
As we learn new ways, we need to practice them. At first, we might even be less effective than when we do things the old way. Relax the flow of work temporarily to allow people to try the new methods in a less pressured environment.

If you adopt any of these strategies, and if that constitutes change, you'll probably run into a little bounceback. Keep at it. Let yourself practice. Expect others to expect your old ways. And give yourself slack. Go to top Top  Next issue: Nine Project Management Fallacies: I  Next Issue

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When organizations decide to change what they do, the change sometimes requires that they change how they make decisions, too. That part of the change is sometimes overlooked, in part, because it affects most the people who make decisions. What can we do about this?

See also Organizational Change for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Srinivasa RamanujanComing August 2: Linear Thinking Bias
When assessing the validity of problem solutions, we regard them as more valid if their discovery stories are logical, than we would if they're less than logical. This can lead to erroneous assessments, because the discovery story is not the solution. Available here and by RSS on August 2.
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In knowledge-oriented workplaces, counterproductive work behavior takes on forms that can be rare or unseen in other workplaces. Here's Part II of a growing catalog. Available here and by RSS on August 9.

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Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

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The Race to the South Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers
On 14The Race to the Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough, but to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. Lessons abound. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

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