Hey, here’s a brilliantly stupid idea:
Let’s put children in charge of their own meals. What we can do is issue surveys after every meal and ask for their agreement to the following five statements on a 5-point scale:
- This meal seemed nutritious.
- The chef appeared to know what s/he was doing.
- I feel full.
- I feel energized and ready to tackle my next activity.
- I would recommend this meal to a friend.
Then we could score each meal, and serve the highest scoring ones.
Until our kids are eating nothing but donuts.
Then, when kids complain that they have no energy and feel like a bunch of fat crapbags, we food strategists can wring our hands, crying, “But the feedback on donuts was great… and those vegetables scored horribly on the smile sheets… Oh, what to do!”
Now make these subsitutions:
employees for kids
training managers for food strategists
development programs for donuts
quality training for vegetables
You know what you get? You get corporate America’s standard operating procedure for designing training programs, that’s what you get.
Sure, I know many smart individuals who design training programs. But the group’s collective failure to stand up for what they know is right has created a mess where each individual thinks s/he is a Howard Roark-like oasis of goodness.
By they way, here’s what’s right:
- Development programs that result in actual performance improvements are right. Smile sheets, as used, are jokes. Sure, I prefer food that tastes good, but you know what I prefer even more? Stuff that makes me healthy. I get it that a spoonful of sugar really does make the medicine go down, but let’s not kid ourselves: taste should be a separate measure we take after we’ve measured the impact of the food… it should never be used as a proxy for the impact of the food. Not that you’ve ever assessed the impact of an entire training program based on smile sheet feedback… I hope?
- Building programs that people need as opposed to what they want is right. “Our managers say they don’t want this.” And? That’s your cue to push back. To say, “So let me understand… the business issue you’re trying to solve is…?” Your managers are not experts in soft-skills, they are experts in their jobs. They are going to tell you about a presenting problem that may or may not be a root cause. Use the data, your observations, and your professional judgment to steer them to the proper course of action. They make speak in absolute terms, but you’re the expert. Stand your ground.
- Training that puts managers at every level in the same room together is right. You know the difference between executive training and manager training? Nothing. That’s why muckity-mucks like having their own programs—to hide that fact. And if they balk at sitting with their underlings? Call their bluff. A strong executive should jump at the chance to spend a day with subordinates where s/he can see them in action. By the way, mixing your people up is the cheapest and easiest way to figure out who your high potentials, because they will tend to congregate together, irrespective of titles.
Expect people to push back on you. Don’t complain, don’t cry, and don’t give up on feeding them the vegetables you know they need. Grow a spine and make the case for what you know is right.
Think you can swing that?
Or should I order you a dozen chocolate glazed?
Jason Seiden is CEO of Ajax Workforce Marketing. Ajax amplifies brands by aligning employees' online messaging.