It’s a common belief that training managers are not thought of as strategic players on corporate leadership teams.

One reason is because we tend to think somewhat myopically or even tactically when seeking ways to improve the performance of the business. Our approach to solving business problems is all too often focused on creating a course or an event, with the hope and intention that behaviors will change and the business will ultimately improve.

For us to move from this type of thinking, we must change how we approach problem solving for training and begin looking at the practices and behaviors associated with diagnostics.

Training diagnostics may be one of the most important capabilities of a training manager and one of the least developed and understood skills among training professionals. Think of it as what a doctor does when evaluating a patient. Doctors are taught from the early days of medical school to diagnose patient’s problems. They first look at the symptoms, evaluate the data they have related to important vital signs and determine the cause(s) of the problem. They then make objective and well thought out recommendations on how to treat the issue.

Strategically, one of the most important capabilities a training manager should possess is the ability to look at a training organization and understand how well it is performing. Not based on the volume of activity, but how it is impacting the performance of the business.

We must be able to evaluate vital signs, such as the key metrics of the organization, determine what is working and what is not and evaluate the root causes while making recommendations and improvements to enhance performance for both the training organization and its clients.

Over the past few years, has been studying what makes training organizations perform at high levels.

We found that one of the most important capabilities an organization must possess is the ability to be great at diagnostics. Now, we all understand that organizations don’t do diagnosis, no more than a hospital does. It is the professionals within the organization. And, what they do have to possess are the processes associated with how to do diagnostics.

Our study found there are five best practices associated with diagnostics in a training organization:

  1. Listen to uncover real needs – the training leader must openly listen to the vital signs to understand what the real needs are from the business.
  2. Collect data in a variety of ways – they must collect data to measure ongoing performance. This means more than level one data. It means process metrics.
  3. Conduct a systematic analysis – the leader must be able to objectively and systematically analyze the businesses issues to determine alternatives.
  4. Leverage experience with clients – successful learning leaders leverage the relationships they have with clients by talking to them frequently about what is working and what isn’t.
  5. Recommend solutions beyond training – a leader must be able to make recommendations on true solutions that go beyond the training program.