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Telling Training's Story

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You know it in your gut—training and development is valuable and worthwhile. But as a trainer, you need to prove this fact over and over to clients focused on bottom-line results. While most training evaluation methods are too elaborate, too complex, too costly, too difficult to explain, or worse, produce data that nobody believes, Telling Training's Story offers a simple, compelling way of evaluating training's impact: The Success Case Method (SCM).

Based on careful analysis of participants' first-person accounts of their experiences in a training initiative, SCM doesn't just measure the impact of training, but pinpoints the very factors that make or break training success. Filled with examples, illustrations, tools, and checklists, Telling Training's Story not only shares the power of the Success Case Method to evaluate training, it also offers practical step-by-step guidelines for increasing the ROI of future learning and performance initiatives.

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15 Chapters

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Chapter One: Getting to the Heart of Training Impact

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Chapter One

Getting to the Heart of

Training Impact

J

an Westbourne had a lot going for her—she was attractive, energetic, bright, and an MBA from the University of Massachusetts. To top it off, she drove an old 60’s Porsche Speedster during the Maine summers, switching to a newer SUV for the long winter. Just two years out of her graduate program, she worked in the thriving American Express Financial Advisors office in Portland. All in all, life should have been pretty good for Jan.

But things were not going well. Jan was ranked at the bottom of the 32 fellow advisors in her office. Here she sat in last place, with low performance metrics and a productivity record that put her in the bottom ranks of advisors nationally with her tenure in the company.

It was not for lack of trying. Like others in the office, Jan made telephone

“cold calls,” trying to land initial appointments from the long list of prospects the office head provided. But she struggled. The lengthy list of names in front of her would swim in her vision and seem to grow interminably longer in front of her eyes. She would hear echoing voices even before the call of the rejection she was certain she would get. Sometimes, her confidence would flag so much that

 

Chapter Two: How the Success Case Method Works: Two Basic Steps

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Telling Training’s Story

Similarly, the SCM looks for those people with whom the training has been the least successful—those who have not used their learning at all, or those who have tried it but achieved no worthwhile results. There is much to learn from these people. Some of them are not successful because they did not really learn from the training, due to low motivation, a mismatch of their needs with the training goals, and so forth. But the far greater number of non-successes have typically encountered performance system factors (ill-timed scheduling, a non-supportive manager, lack of incentives, inadequate measurement and feedback, for instance) that have prevented them from using their training in an effective way. In fact, when we compare the experience of the most and least successful, we almost always find out that the very same factors are at work in the successes and non-successes. Non-success, for example, may be explained in many instance, by the lack of support of a manager, while high success will likewise be explained by a very supportive manager.

 

Chapter Three: Success Case Method Strategy—Building Organizational Learning Capacity

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Chapter Three

Success Case Method

Strategy—Building

Organizational Learning

Capacity

W

al-Mart and K-Mart are in the same business of selling consumer goods at discount prices. Both organizations also use information technology tools (i.e., computers, servers, etc.) in their operations. They each have essentially the same technical tools and capability. Their stores are highly similar, located in similar neighborhoods (sometimes adjacent to one another), they carry many of the same products, and they use virtually the same floor layouts and configurations. Yet one organization—Wal-Mart—is entirely dominant in its industry and has established superior competitive advantage. How?

Wal-Mart uses its information technology differently, creating systems and processes for inventory, purchasing, distribution, and merchandising that lend it great competitive advantage, enabling it to sell goods at lower prices and stock stores more quickly and with less cost. The difference in the success of these two organizations lies not in the nature of the technology they use, but in how they make use of it.

 

Chapter Four: Focusing and Planning a Success Case Method Study

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4. Who the program’s participants are and how many of them should

be included in the study

5. How soon after the training the follow-up survey should be

conducted

6. The schedule for the study

7. The resources that are available for completing the study

8. The overall strategy for the study that will work best

These decision areas are not necessarily pursued in a stepwise, linear fashion. But it is important to note that these decisions interact with each other. Practitioners will find that decisions in one area affect the understanding of and decisions in another area. For example, the initial understanding of purpose may need to be limited to accommodate the resources that are available for the study. Or, likewise, discussions with stakeholders may surface a time limitation that the study must accommodate, which will in turn limit the scope of the study to a particular portion of the program being investigated, unless an increase in resources can be negotiated.

The eighth decision area, the overall strategy for the study, may be an exception to the non-linear nature of study planning. The decision must be made last, as it is shaped by decisions in the other six areas. Once practitioners have addressed this eighth decision area, they have achieved the overall goal of Step 1.

 

Chapter Five: Constructing a Simple Training Impact Model

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Chapter Five

Constructing a Simple

Training Impact Model

P

robably all readers, either as a child or perhaps as a parent, have been on a long family automobile trip when, from the backseat, comes the infamous and recurring question, “Are we there yet?” The word “there,” of course, stands for the destination of the trip. In reference to the Success Case Method, the destination of the training’s trip is the business results the training is intended to achieve. The route to this business impact is through the on-the-job application of learning that we hope participants will make as a result of their training. That is, the training is successful when trainees use their learning in key on-job application behaviors, and these then help them produce results that benefit the business. With a clear understanding of the intended outcomes, behaviors, and skills of a training program—the

“route” to impact—we have the information we need to build the SCM survey and interview tools needed to conduct an SCM study..

 

Chapter Six: Fishing for Success Conducting the SCM Survey

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The survey net we cast is also meant to give us an estimate of the proportion of successful users of training and the proportion of less-thansuccessful users of training. Putting these information elements together with the in-depth data from the interview phase of the study lets us make reliable estimates of the overall success of a training venture, explaining and documenting the value it produces when it is used, how often and broadly it is used successfully, and the value it could have produced had it been used by more trainees in more successful applications.

In this chapter, we explain in greater detail exactly how to plan, design, administer, and analyze SCM surveys. We begin with an explanation of the general nature of a SCM survey, then proceed to explain the steps involved in planning and survey design, providing several examples of SCM survey formats. In the latter portion of the chapter, we explain how survey data are analyzed to pinpoint the most and least likely success candidates. We also discuss the process for analyzing survey data to make estimates of the range and scope of impact.

 

Chapter Seven: Sorting the “Catch”—Analyzing Survey Results

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Scoring and Sorting the Survey Response

First we need, systematically and objectively, to sort the participants into three groups: high successes, low successes, and the “in-betweens” who likely experienced some, but limited, positive impacts from the training.

Once the sorting is complete, the next step is to select the interviewees from among the high and low success candidates, and perhaps from the middle categories.

The initial projected scoring scheme now has to be revisited in light of the actual survey response patterns. We might have set an initially projected very high cut-off score for what we assumed would be our highest category of success, but find from the response pattern that very few if any respondents landed in that category. Now it is incumbent on us to conduct interviews from the highest score group that we did achieve, and

find out what the actual nature of their experience was, and whether it still represents some worthwhile level of positive impact. Or, on the other hand, we may find that no one responded in the lowest category, and thus we will have to explore via interviews the next-to-lowest category to

 

Chapter Eight: Digging Out and Telling the Stories—the SCM Interviews

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The following pages of this chapter expand on and illustrate each of these steps. Prior to discussing these steps in detail, we first turn to the issue of making a claim that training was the “cause” of the impact reported. A training success story is not a success story if it is likely that the behaviors and resultant outcomes that followed a training intervention cannot be causally linked to the training itself. Thus, a discussion of this issue must precede our further explanation of the interview steps themselves.

Resolving Causal Questions

The notion of causation and causal claims for events is especially problematic. It is quite simple, for instance, to make the claim that

flipping on a light switch causes the light to go on. But on more consideration, one can see that there are other causes behind this apparently proximate act of flipping the switch. The cause of the light going on could be viewed as the electrical impedance that takes place in the tungsten filament inside the bulb (or the excitement of a gas in the case of a fluorescent lamp). Likewise the cause of the light going on could be attributed to the electrical generation activity that occurs at the power plant, thus enabling a flow of electrons through the wires that feed the switch. In some respects, the cause of the light going on could be the invention of the light bulb itself by Mr. Edison, as surely without this work there would be no light or electrical power plant.

 

Chapter Nine: Drawing Compelling Conclusions

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The eight major types of Success Case study analysis conclusions are:

1. What if any impact was achieved? What worthwhile on-thejob applications or learning, if any, have been made by training participants? This simplest of SC purposes allows the quick gathering of evidence about the most poignant and compelling results that a training initiative is producing and provides rich illustrations of these

“best-case” outcomes.

2. How widespread is success? This sort of SC study provides estimates about what numbers and proportions of program participants are using their learning. For example, this study might conclude that

“60% of the participants used the program to accomplish worthwhile results that are either helping to drive more new sales, retain customers, or increase revenues-per-customer.”

3. Did the training work better in some parts of the organization or with some kinds of participants than in other parts or with other people? Here we explore whether participants’ roles and backgrounds appear to be a factor in explaining success, or what parts of the organization realized the greatest value from the training.

 

Chapter Ten: Sales Training at Grundfos

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Since 2001 the PDJ Academy has developed courses and trained more than 800 internal participants a year in 2 main categories: a global sales, service and marketing training program (3 modules), and product training. The PDJ Academy reflects that Grundfos believes in creating a deeper sense of belonging and understanding with each individual employee. “We do what we do because we believe that employees who understand the organization in its context are good for business,” says

Kim Hansen, CEO of the PDJ Academy.

In addition to measuring immediate participant satisfaction after every course the PDJ Academy measures increases in knowledge by testing the knowledge of each participant before, immediately after, and again three months after courses are completed. The PDJ Academy also conducts an annual internal customer satisfaction survey.

Still, none of the metrics used so far had been able to disclose the impact of the training to the organization, nor did any of the metrics answer the questions: How is the training transferred to the job situation?

 

Chapter Eleven: Service Technician Training at the Compaq Computer Corporation

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of training participants did not fully achieve the expected results, and further, how the causes for this partial lack of impact were isolated and addressed with the SCM.

Other Important Factors

At the time of our study, the company was a major global computer equipment and service provider. The business model was fairly simple, though the organization, because it had grown rapidly through a number of mergers and acquisitions, was fairly complex. Readers, however, need not have a full understanding of all of the organizational complexities in order to understand and learn from this case. The company developed computer products and technology; sold hardware equipment, associated operating and supporting software; and provided service contracts to customers to maintain and upgrade computer installations. The organization in which the evaluation was conducted was a part of the division that both sold large computer server systems to customers, as well as provided service on a contracted basis to maintain the servers and assure their effective and efficient performance to customers. This area of the company was highly important, as it both generated substantial revenues and profits, serving a number of large, high-profile and important customers. Several major airlines, for example, relied on their computer server equipment that enabled their company’s reservation system to operate. One of America’s largest stock exchanges was another key customer. In short, customers in this division were highly visible and important; they required and expected flawless service.

 

Chapter Twelve: Coaching and Training at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf®

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C h a p t e r Tw e l v e

Coaching and Training at

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

®

Scott Blanchard and Dennis Dressler

T

he Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf® is a chain of coffee shops located in the Southern California and Phoenix, Arizona, areas. When the training in this scenario was offered, the company had just over 100 retail outlets. The company originated in 1963 and grew somewhat slowly during its early history. It was one of the earliest “coffee shop” chains, starting well before the current coffee shop chain phenomenon in the United States. The company, however, has undergone very rapid growth in the past several years.

The company utilizes a fully integrated operational model. It purchases coffees beans and tea leaves globally, blends, flavors, and roasts those products in a Southern California processing operation, and makes fresh baked products and sandwiches in a commissary operation to provide the retail stores. (Because the current Arizona operation is a new, expansion market, baked goods and sandwiches are produced under contract in that area.)

 

Chapter Thirteen: Executive Development at Allstate Insurance

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One of the important development programs for leaders is the

Allstate Business Simulation (ABS). The Allstate Business Simulation is a two-month executive development program that gives high potential leaders the opportunity to:

• Use strategic planning and fact-based decision-making skills;

• Run a 100 million dollar company through the use of a computer-based simulation;

• Make marketing, finance, human resources, and operations decisions;

• Create an action plan for an Allstate project that links to a strategic goal; and

• Network with key business leaders.

The course is designed to give the managers exposure to business issues and challenges beyond their immediate functional area. It addresses many of the topics covered in most MBA curricula. The course is for high-potential managers and directors with at least five years of experience with Allstate, and requires nomination by an officer to participate.

Evaluation Purposes

This comprehensive course was a significant investment of time and money for the organization. It made good business sense to get answers to the following questions:

 

Success Case Method Assistance and Resources

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