The golden rule that one size fits one is key to designing high-impact training and development. The modern-day team performance acceleration efforts often fail, with no lasting value, due to the overly programmatic nature of the training effort. By design, “programs” have a pre-defined “one size fits all” outcome and rarely consider the unique challenges of individual teams. By using established “programs” to accelerate team performance and address specific training problems, the impact guarantees that teams and leaders receive little value.
To design high-impact training that delivers immediate and lasting value, team leaders should avoid programmatic solutions and instead use a discovery methodology addressing the uniqueness of each dysfunction and quantifying the opportunity clearly. The methodology needs to involve three important aspects: diagnosis, change leadership, and myopia.
The Birth of a Training Program
A training program is a pre-defined set of future steps or planned events aimed at delivering a predictable learning outcome. Most often, a training program is created once a set of practices have demonstrated an ability to consistently deliver a learning objective.
After multiple experiments and iterations, the refined practice shapes into a repeatable process that can be taught and operationalized to create a predictable learning outcome. However, over time they become more generalized when unique instances of the process are discarded as program efficiency, replicability, repeatability and profitability take precedent over learner impact.
In the corporate world, this process of creating a training program normally takes four to eight quarters. Along the way, the originality of the training program slowly dies. The program can be considered outdated early on because the original reason for starting the training effort is already old, and most likely no longer a critical factor to delivering training objectives.
The result is a program with a pre-defined set of outcomes, not aimed toward solving unique challenges of individual teams. This creates a “one size fits all” solution. When a new challenge is identified today, choosing a programmatic solution will at best yield methods that are a few quarters old, and were created for solving challenges that no longer exist.
Consider the following: “My stomach hurts,” says Caleb to his doctor. Later in the day, “My stomach hurts,” says Drake to the same doctor. Both have similar symptoms, but probably have vastly different geneses. The doctor goes through a methodology of discovery diagnosis, only to determine that both symptoms are caused by different reasons, thus recommending completely different courses of action to solve the symptoms that presented similarly. A programmatic approach would have been to prescribe the same medicine to both patients, unlikely resulting in relief.
Organizations have similar scenarios. Common “symptoms” of team dysfunction can be lack of employee engagement, team conflict, or lack of productivity. When assuming the lack of employee engagement within the company’s engineering team in San Jose and the sales team in Berlin are caused by the exact same reasons, the efforts aimed at solving the underlying problem may be unsuccessful.
The team member who’s responsible for solving these challenges may look toward an established internal training program, maybe one titled “Increase Engagement Within Your Team” conducted by human resources. Based off the stomachache scenario, it’s clear to see why going the programmatic “one size fits all” approach would be a mistake.
The proper method for high-impact results is to fully diagnose the opportunity, via a discovery process. The following method, developed by Psyndesis, has been validated in over 20 countries within Fortune 50 organizations and at the highest levels of the federal government.
Structured Interviews for the Team and Team Leader. Quantifying the issue is the first step in performance acceleration. Getting the confidential viewpoints from each team member ensures that the talent consultant can start framing the upcoming opportunity correctly. The team leader most likely initiated the request based on his or her view of the team dysfunction, and the structured interviews from the rest of the team will either validate the request or modify the opportunity.
Structured individual interviews for the team and leader give the full picture of underlying causes, and serve as the foundation of the upcoming team acceleration and training program. The interviews must possess a few key elements to be successful. This includes:
- confidentiality to all participants
- a detailed interview guide asking the same questions to each participant
- a coding system that will determine response patterns over many interviews
- a generalized debrief to the team leader once the interviews are complete
Debriefing the team leader helps secure buy-in for the upcoming change management and high-impact effort that will be designed. It shows immediate progress, creating vital short-term wins that are necessary to keep the effort funded and interest high. The team leader debrief must occur even if the initial interview results provide unfavorable feedback about the team leader, because candor will drive change management efforts.
Develop a Stakeholder Power/Interest Grid. The second step in the organizational diagnosis is to know who the players are, and the landscape of power and politics within the team. It is vital to understand the positive or negative level of power and interest that each team member possesses. Plotting each team member based off the interviews will give the consultant a good idea of the organizational readiness to change, the power landscape, and who the change-champions will be.
Choose an Assessment that Will Give Objective Data. The interviews provide qualitative analysis of the opportunity, but psychometric assessments that have proven reliability and validity can yield quantitative data that enables pattern analysis and a deeper dive into possible correlations and/or causalities.
Depending on the symptoms that are presented, assessments that measure personality, emotional intelligence and team conflict are common and effective choices. These three steps will exhume the unique opportunity, and a solution can start to be crafted. Typical solutions crafted after initial diagnosis often include: executive coaching for team members, recommendations to reorganize assets on the team to align to strengths, communication enhancement methods, a team in-person off-site with a specific development agenda, or additional psychometric assessment.
After the interviews, power/interest grids and assessment results, a clear issue that is the origin of the team dysfunction will begin to emerge. Crafting a change management plan and leading the team through the change will be key to delivering high-impact development and training. As the solution is being crafted, a change management plan helps guide communications of the effort to stakeholders (identified on the power/interest grid) and operationalize the effort. A common change model used in organizational change is Kotter’s 8- Step Model, a key component in successfully managing change and making sure that change sticks. This model ensures the team feels that the change is being made with them, rather than to them.
Nearsightedness is necessary when designing high-impact training for the team and team leader. Every team challenge is unique and every team is distinct. The goal of the diagnosis cannot be to create a future program that solves every team challenge that resembles a similar symptom for the entire company. The acceleration of the team must be the lone priority and remain in near sight to ensure specific diagnosis.
Best practices and lessons learned can obviously be retained for future efforts, but each opportunity needs to be viewed with nearsightedness to ensure that all efforts are aimed at correcting the training or development issue at hand. Looking toward the distant future will dilute the effectiveness of the team acceleration plan that has been created.
One Size Fits One
Once a set of best practices becomes programmatic, it becomes “one size fits all,” and impact is minimized. The elements of team acceleration and designing high-impact training and development includes full diagnosis, a custom change management plan, and a promise to see only what is near.
To maximize impact, organizations need training development efforts to be unique and distinct, rather than programmatic and repeatable. Emphasis should be on impact over replication, uniqueness over reiteration. The talent development practitioner should have a consultant mindset, as opposed to a program manager mentality. Ideally possessing soft skills such as emotional intelligence and interviewing techniques, an ability to manage and lead change, and an analytical ability to decipher assessment results and translate them into actionable insights.
High impact comes from an ability to solve unique and previously unsolvable challenges. Approaching team acceleration efforts with the idea of unique diagnosis ensures that the talent development consultant starts with impact in mind, rather than fitting the symptoms into a pre-defined programmatic outcome.