Or does it?
Last week I attended a facilitator-led workshop.
It was one of the worst training experiences I’ve had in a long time.
I also didn’t like how my post was overly critical of the workshop.
I realise that there are many vendors in the market who are experts in their content and who sell it to the corporate market but who may not be as experienced in the facilitation or the delivery of their content. (If anything, it makes me think that they too, are a potential target market or partnership for learning services).
So it’s one thing to be negative about the workshop as my last post but in this one, I want to make it right. I’m going to turn it around and make it into a positive.
I’m going to write on “What could have been done if we had a collaborative relationship with the vendor to roll out Trusted Business Advisor learning into our business?
First things first I would have conducted a needs analysis to speak to all the stakeholders involved and find out the following as a start:
- Senior leaders in our support services division: what’s their budget? How will they support this? Are they open to vendor arrangements/partnerships? Do they already have an arrangement with a vendor that I’m unaware of (you never know what deals are arranged informally. Some obstacles in my career were due to unspoken deals or relationships that I was unaware of the time that impeded directly to my work – it does happen). What was the performance gap they saw in this skill? How did they come up with this? What do they aim to achieve? Why do they think that this skill is critical? What’s their vision of the ‘future business’? What analysis was undertaken with the business?
- Business: How do they want to work or relate with the support services? (How do they see them – as service providers or business advisors?) What value do they see to get their business from operational (day-to-day) focus to a more strategic (future planning) focus? What’s the core critical issue in their business today and how would support services aid them to solve this?
- Other parts of the organisation: I would have liked to see how this model has worked in other parts of the organisation. Has it worked? What was the outcome? What was achieved? What were the challenges?
After all this information, I would also have done an analysis on vendors. This particular vendor has been running the same content around the world for many years and has a reputation in the market for this content. His company may also be on the preferred supplier panel of our company. This is a great start but I would still also explore other alternatives just to see what else is out in the market.
I may even go outside the preferred panel arrangement – if I could – which at times, is severely limiting (because it predetermines our choices) and seek out vendors who may also offer something more innovative or distinctive – and then put in a business case for sourcing them, if appropriate.
Alternatively, if the vendor with the well-known market name, reputation and content doesn’t have the flexibility to offer their content via different blended means, I’d also explore or renegotiate the terms of the relationship so that we could assist them to deliver their content flexibly. (If they are open to these terms they will see the value in this for their wider business; if they are stalwarts and hold onto their content and dictate the terms of its delivery to their prospects, then I’d be seeking another vendor).
So I also think there’s a level of control on the part of senior management in Human Resources and Learning and Development not to be swayed by external consultants but to work with them in a mutually agreeable working arrangement that meets both their needs.
In my experience, copyright is an important issue when negotiating the contractual relationship to ensure the intellectual property is retained by the owner. But this shouldn’t and mustn’t affect in how the content will be delivered.
Through the analysis, I may even find that we don’t even need an external vendor – we can use the content that the organisation already has! We can customise or develop our own program to instill the behaviours that are relevant and necessary for our own business.
From there, once the solution is decided, I would have set the context to our stakeholders, business and in particularly, the people in support services who need this new skill and relate it in terms on how it would improve our jobs, how we work with our internal clients and what benefits our department and organisation get out of it.
I would have started with the team members individually ‘diagnosing their day’. Tally all the activities they do in one week to divide it up into administrative, high touch service provision, low touch service provision, expert or Trusted Business Adviser – that is, to get a snapshot of where we spend most of our time in each quadrant (say a %)
It will also open a lot of eyes of where each support service is currently working!
We can create action plans and role play scenarios to practice (with our senior managers as our coaches), how to get out of our comfort zone as low or high touch service providers through looking at what tasks we can delegate and honing our effective questioning skills so that we can slowly transition to a Trusted Business Advisor.
Then the support service team members can work in a support service group on a real live business problem with an internal client from the business. That is, a member of each of the teams can work with a team leader from the business unit to solve an issue. Using the issue and the quadrants of where we work, we mindfully put our plans into action and take on the Trusted Business Advisor role with our client while being observed by a senior leader (role model) or the external consultant as our coach. Through an intense process of observation and debriefing with the coach, the business unit client and the team member, the learning would have been real time, real life, real outcomes.
The business unit client would also have had first hand experience of how the support services role has changed and how they work with them as trusted business advisors. They would have provided valuable feedback to us about the effectiveness of the model.
I wouldn’t see this learning program being a ‘quick program’ but more like a process.
You could develop the ‘Trusted Business Advisor Pathway” and set up the tasks that would be required to be achieved but the majority of it can be self-directed: such as, have the support members select their own teams and establish a relationship with their business client.
The feedback and reflection would also be a critical learning piece and this may be conducted via any means back to the wider group (video; blogs; vlogs; presentations) for collaboration and sharing with other teams.
I believe that this approach would have involved all stakeholders: senior managers, team members and internal business clients. It would have opened the doors with understanding what each team does and how they can work together; it would have helped the teams understand the day-to-day operational side of the business – and most important, it would have got the teams talking and having a broader perspective than just their own team blinkers on.
Too often we make our decisions around costs and we design the solution around this. I cannot say how much my solution would have cost the business (and certainly it would have frustrated the vendor I’m sure) but the ultimate aim was to close the performance gap of the current support services in their trusted business advisor skills.
What my framework also results in is that the softer ‘non-tangibles’ such as the relationships and networks into the business will continue to increase over time and this is something a face to face one off workshop will never achieve.
This is how I would have re-designed the Trusted Business Advisor Workshop. Not exactly a face-to-face course anymore but it renews my hope that things can be redesigned in other ways when we put our minds to it and not use costs to drive our decisions.
So there you have it, after my negative experience and post, I feel a lot better by turning it around and voicing the positive.