Case Study 2 – How a training course is not the solution to every problem

annFollowing Monday’s post, How to break out of the “course is the solution to every problem” mindset: make courses the exception rather than the rule, this is the second of three case studies that shows how courses are not the solution to every learning or performance problem. These case studies have been adapted from posts that first appeared on my blog in 2010.

A senior manager of an organisation approached the L&D department because his new PA, Ann, was struggling with producing the documentation for the Strategy Committee.  He thought she needed some further training.

L&D’s response might once have been to look at the schedule of a training provider and tell Ann she could have a place on the next 3-day Word course in a few weeks time, but instead the L&D Director asked Helen, one of his team members, to pay Ann a a visit.

Ann was a hard-working and efficient PA with considerable experience in using Word, the word processing software.  However, she admitted she was struggling with the “track changes” functionality.

Helen asked Ann what she was trying to achieve, and Ann explained that she had to send out papers to the members of the Strategy Committee to create a number of strategy documents.  She emailed them a first draft, then each member of the Strategy Committee was asked to make amendments and additions on the document (using track changes) and send the amended document back to her.  She then had to put all the amendments onto one master document for final review at the Strategy meeting.  It was taking her ages to do this, and her boss was getting quite alarmed at how much time she was spending on it.  She asked if she was “missing” something in the track changes function; and wondered if some further training might help.

Helen explained that it wasn’t a fault of the “track changes” functionality nor her lack of training, but rather that the process itself was causing the problems.  She suggested it would be a much better idea just to create one master document that all the members of the Strategy Committee could have access to and amend themselves.  Ann sighed with relief, as she realised this would solve all her problems in one go.

Helen then discussed the different software options available; their pros and cons and ease of use, and before finally agreeing on the use of Google Docs as the preferred solution, they ran the idea past Ann’s boss.  He was delighted with the suggestion and immediately could see a number of possibilities for using it for other work. With respect to the strategic documents they were creating, he said he could start them off himself by entering some notes, then Ann could take over and work them up into something more professional.  Then they would invite the members of the Strategy Committee to make their amendments directly on the document.

Helen then showed both Ann and her boss how to set up a Google Docs account, how to create a document and share it with others.   Once the first document was ready for the Committee, Ann sent out instructions on how to access the document as well as edit it. Helen remained on call to help with and questions they might have.

The use of Google Docs proved to be very successful, and freed up Ann to work on some other more interesting and exciting projects. Ann’s boss was very appreciative of Helen’s work  and asked her to spend more time in his department to try and improve the productivity of all the members of his team.  He also recommended to the Senior IT Director that they use Google Apps throughout the company, and this is likely to take place very shortly.

Key take-aways

  • Understanding the root cause of the problem – not the symptoms – helped to identify the solution
  • A solution might sometimes be best achieved by changing work practices rather than training on existing, flawed ones.
  • The learning professional can support those adapting to new working practices; not just tell them what to do.

More Case Studies

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