Team Building Debunked!

Recently I had a request for a management team get together to motivate and inspire the team.

When I met with the prospective client, it clearly turned out that there was absolutely no reason to run the training event other than as a reward. Now, that can be a valid reason for an event to run, but if that’s the case, what you want is a different solution than training.

Personally the feedback I receive from clients and participants is centred around being inspirational. It’s not that I set out to be that. It’s just how I operate as a trainer. I certainly don’t jump around the front of the room and get people standing on chairs and shouting out. I leave that to far more capable “edu-tainers”.

I have no doubt that the prospective client found someone who would take his budget funds and run a motivational event. It’s just not my gig. I also believe training is about development of skills, knowledge and attitudes – not making people feel good for a short while and have a warm memory to reflect upon.

Which brings me to the point I wanted to make – training is often not the solution!

Heresy from a trainer, perhaps. Yet well argued in this article about the team-building culture around training.

In my book, I’m happy to train anyone – where I believe there is a training need and I can add value by working the solution.

team building

ASTD Confidence in Learning for 2011

The American economy may be still bleak but the American Learning Executive’s confidence seems to be at an all-time high.

The ASTD  conducts an annual survey (The Learning Executives Confidence Index)  to assess expectations in the learning functions, specifically:

  • impact on corporate performance
  • ability to meet learning needs
  • status as a key strategic component
  • availability of resources

Overall, the growing optimism sees that the forecast for the next six months positive.  That’s a good sign.  Key findings in the report are demonstrated in this graph:

ASTD Learning Executives Confidence Index.

There is concern that the second lowest measure is an ability to meet the anticipated learning needs. Perhaps by using some external resources to make up the shortfall, the actual outcome could be a higher result. But then, that’s a consultant talking!

Read the full report:

State Government Conference

IPAA NSW (Institute of Public Administration) is hosting a one-day conference on THURSDAY July 22.

The conference is expected to provide an exciting and topical program including keynote addresses from notable politicians, as well as national and international speakers.

If you are interested in

  • the cost of delivering services
  • improving community views and service delivery outcomes
  • improving transparency and accountability
  • exploring the what happens if we have a change in government
  • state and federal relationships

then there is likely to be some useful and actionable information for you , not to mention the networking with colleagues in other departments and agencies.

Share ideas, listen in … the early bird pricing closes soon.

Find out more at

I may even see you there!


Retention or Transfer of Learning – What’s up?


Do people retain what they learn?


It’s a continual struggle to prove the value of learning let alone validate whether someone not only learned from training but are actually applying it. In my personal and professional experience of courses, workshops, seminars and other learning odes, most people learn but few actually do anything with the learning.


So retention of learning is one thing. What’s more important is transfer of learning to create change in behaviour, values, attitudes, skills, competency.


Matt Moore, cites the figures at around 10% transfer of knowledge and refers to a seminal work (Ford, J.K. & Weissbein, D.A. (1997). Transfer of training: an updated review and analysis. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 10(2), 22?41. doi:10.1111/j.1937-8327.1997.tb00047.x). Matt also suggests the following references to expand knowledge in this area:


Vanessa Lynne actually covered this topic off in her thesis for her Master in Adult Ed research. She states:

In a workplace setting, transfer of knowledge to the job is notoriously poor (Tennant, 1997; Lim and Morris, 2006). Proving it is also very difficult with the main measures of effectiveness being return on investment (Kopp, 2006). Through his research Kopp (2006) estimates that about 30% of new knowledge is transferred to the job. Lim and Morris (2006) are even less optimistic about the transfer of knowledge citing Georgenson, 1982, Holton & Baldwin, 2000 and Kuprits, 2002 in estimating that only about 10% of knowledge is transferred to the workplace. According to Buckley and Caple (1994) transfer will increase if participants are involved in all aspects of the planning of their training." (Lynne, V, 2008. Teaching and Learning Together – Emergent Learning in a Workplace Setting).

Vanessa’s main finding overall is contained in that last sentence. If people are engaged in the process, what they learn is relevant to them and they will both retain it and use it. There are other factors of course – the amount of support they get once back in the workplace, their degree of attachment to the "old way" and so forth. The closest Vanessa could get to a theory that underpins the notion that engagement = retention and application is the work that Stuart Hase and others are doing around what they call "heutagogy". New thinking around adult learning is very refreshing.


As learning professional we are often so concerned with the front-end from a process and content point of view that it serves us well to remember involving learners as much as possible throughout the entire learning experience  from planning to post delivery and beyond.  When we can truly engage and demonstrate clear specific outcomes then we are in a stronger negotiating position and have served our learners well.

Using Powerpoint Better

Death by PowerPoint

View more documents from Alexei Kapterev.

Have to say I, like many trainers, am guilty of using ppt as a prompt as much as a learning tool. Alexai and others serve to remind us that less can be more. It’s quick to knock up a ppt presentation. It’s more time consuming to put together a learner-focussed package using PowerPoint. Expediency isn’t everything. I’ll make a commitment to making my slide presentations more learner focussed next year.

Live and learn

Live life as if you will die tomorrow, learn, as if you will live forever

                                                                                   Mahatma Gandhi

In these times of negativity, it is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.  Under threat, our natural tendency is to withdraw, go quiet, protect. It’s like hiding from the dragon until it has passed. That’s no way to live if the dragon takes up residence nearby for a while!


In times of threat a better response may be to continue to live life fully, continue business fully, keep working fully … just in a different way. One that is less expensive, more productive and just as beneficial if not moreso.


Just as importantly is to use the time to learn so you are better positioned when the  threat passes and you’ll find you’re streets ahead of those who just ‘retired’ until the threat passed.

Action Learning

Wow! Dr Michael Marquardt is an undisputed king of Action Learning

Recently he took a group of us through the process and theory behind conducting Action Learning and it was brilliant. I learned even more about the technique and found my skills grew over the time we spent together.

Action Learning is a deceptively simple technique that is way more than just asking questions. It comprises a methodology which underpins the learning content and application of the learning. 

When do you use Action Learning? Ideally when there is a problem to solve which has some immediacy or import.

What’s so special about it? It’s real-time learning and skill enhancement. The use of a Coach through the process is critical to ensure the session doesn’t turn into a general discussion or head straight into solution mode without exploring the possibilities and the process as well as individual and team development.

Michael utilises Action Learning for almost all of his leadership development work these days.

Personally, I have used Action Learning in a limited way up to now but will be embedding it into more of my consulting and development work in future. Give me a hoy if you would like to practice the technique or apply it in your own organisation.

Learning and Quality

On a networking site I belong to there was a great question recently so I thought I’d post the question as well as one of the top answers.


Anyone with experience applying quality principles to the learning process?

Looking for ideas on how quality can be used to reduce time, waste and variability in how people learn.

What I’m looking for are more specific examples such as used Kaizen to reduce classroom time by 20%. Used six sigma to measure learning outcomes. Used lean principles … Continue reading

Action Learning

In my role as President of the NSW Division of the Australian Institute of Training & Development, I am involved in the wide array of learning that takes lace in the adult world, especially at work. I stumbled upon this short paper by Bob Dick and have reproduced it here as it makes quite clear what Action Learning / Research is about. It’s an area which is gaining favour these days especially after the visit by Michael Marquardt.  Continue reading