If training is the solution,
what is the problem?

by Ger Driesen
17 February 2017


eople who are good at their job usually have one thing in common: They have passion for the things they do. Although it’s no surprise that passion can be a major contributor to success,  it can also work against you. How do we prevent our passion for learning from working against us when we develop blended learning?

As a Learning & Development professional, you probably love to create learning interventions—that’s where you shine. However, before you start developing a learning intervention, you need to ask yourself a question: Why create this learning intervention in the first place?

If the learning intervention is the solution, what is the problem?

No learning intervention is created for the sake of creating it. It’s created to achieve something. To ensure we’re creating the right intervention we need to identify what the result of our learning intervention will be.

No learning intervention is created for the sake of creating it.
It’s created to achieve something.

A while ago, you probably studied to pass your drivers license test. Why? Perhaps because you wanted to drive legally and independently. When you sign up for a management training programme you want to learn what it means to be a manager or supervisor. The programmer who took a training course learned smarter ways to write code.

This train of thought is logical, but it’s not complete. Why drive, manage or create software in the first place?

How to use use the impact map to answer the ‘why’?

To take this train of thought to the next level, we can use the work of Robert O. Brinkerhoff, who developed the impact map. 

The impact map shows you how additional knowledge and skills (should) lead to a change in behaviour at the workplace. It also shows how the change in behaviour improves work processes, leading to better organisational performance.

You can’t create an impact map that makes sense? Then, you might have to ask yourself if creating a learning intervention is the right solution. Perhaps there are other solutions to the problem.

Case 1: How the Swedish ambulance service couldn’t meet the required ambulance response time

For ambulances, response time is usually set as ‘arriving within x minutes of an accident being reported’. In one of Sweden’s counties, the ambulance service was not able to meet the required response time in many cases. To meet the response time the manager in charge asked a learning provider to come over to review the e-learning module the hospital had created on topography some years ago. In those days, everybody was enthusiastic about that cool new e-learning approach. The management thought that updating the e-learning course and incorporating the latest e-learning technology, such as creating personalised learning paths, should be a great help and solve the problem. They planned to relaunch the course and ask everyone to go through it. The impact map looked like this:

When you look at the impact map, it does seem to make sense. However, it raises a question on whether equipping all ambulances with the newest GPS unit would have been more effective! Perhaps it would have been better to start an analysis to find out the root causes for not meeting the response times.

Create effective learning journeys by using the impact map

Besides identifying whether or not your intended learning journey is the solution for the problem the impact map can also help people learn better. Brinkerhoff calls this ‘learner intentionality’. A person will be much more successful going through a learning journey if he/she has the right intention, focus and understanding of the desired outcome. Of course, there is an outcome in terms of learning results, but how are the results used and applied at the workplace? Another question to be pondered is: Do the learning results align with organisational goals?

Knowing how learning something new relates to the bigger picture improves learner intentionality. When you design a learning journey don’t just explain the learning goals but also explain the performance gain the organisation is looking for.

Case 2: Training: How employees at a helpdesk went from ‘ehm’ to ‘yes!’

John, service desk agent at an IT support company called Here2Help, was invited to take a training course on ‘methodical troubleshooting’. John didn’t understand why the company sent him to take the course. He’s fine with using his own problem-solving methodology.
Marissa, who has a similar role as John, is also asked to take the course. She is asked to have a chat with her manager. The manager explains why she was requested to take the training course and what’s expected of her when she comes back.
After speaking with her manager, she understands that the new, ‘standard’ problem-solving methodology will make it easier and faster to solve complex problems. It also makes it easier to inform clients about what is going to happen to solve the issue using a logical, step-by-step approach. This predictability is something that’s directly related to customer satisfaction. By using the standard approach colleagues can easily take over when Marissa’s shift ends. Marissa understands the reasons to use the standard approach. She’s also curious about the methodology and is excited to attend the course.

Obviously, including ‘learning intentionality’ in open enrolment courses is a bit harder than in internal training. However, asking the participant to create an impact map before the learning journey begins can also significantly help create a good ‘learning intentionality’. 

What do you do to improve learning intentionality? Let me know by posting a comment below. Alternately, sign up for my learning notes.


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Ger Driesen

Ger Driesen, Learning Innovation Leader at aNewSpring
Think of connecting people, ideas and inspiration in the global L&D community and you’ve just created the perfect description of Ger Driesen. He focuses on motivating and guiding professionals to build inspiring learning journeys. Keep up with Ger on Twitter and LinkedIn.