The Business of Learning

I hear this occasionally from potential clients here at Fredrickson and I think it’s worth exploring. Usually, it’s in relation to a mission-critical (or career-critical!) business initiative where the training component really needs to be both smooth and effective.

Although we actually are a big firm as far as developers of custom learning experiences go, there may be a grain of truth in terms of a “bigger” firm occasionally being able to do something what we can’t. But far more often, I find that the barrier isn’t really size. For me, it comes down to some factors that the size question doesn’t really address:

  • Size can’t overcome a lack of planning. This is similar to the old saying in project management: “Fast, good, or cheap. Pick any two.” A larger firm may be able to throw more bodies at a problem, but that won’t guarantee a successful outcome or a smooth ride along the way.I always ask potential and current clients to talk to us—early and often! If you have the nagging feeling that you might be behind the 8 ball in terms of a learning initiative, just pick up the phone. We’ll be happy to listen to your situation and give you our take on what a timeline and budget looks like for similar initiatives. If nothing else, you’ll sleep better knowing you’re ahead of the curve. But if this isn’t the case, the earlier you know, the more options you have.
  • Logistics can make even “simple” programs complicated. It’s easy to look at a training initiative and see things only in terms of the deliverables. It’s just a one-day training session. How complicated can it be?Well, it depends. For locally-based learners, where you have the ability to get them all in the same place, at the same time, it could be just that easy. But if the audience is a group of salespeople that have to fly in from all over the country, and there are so many of them that they can’t all be trained in one session, and they can’t all be in training at the same time, and therefore sending trainers on the road to deliver regional sessions is the only viable option. . . See how quickly things can get complicated? Even for a “simple” program.

    Having a command of the logistics of training and being able to plan, estimate, and execute is as critical to a program’s success as the training itself. We work with clients all the time where figuring out the logistics—who gets trained, when, by whom, where, and with what arrangements—requires as much of an effort as developing the training itself.

A firm’s size has no correlation to their experience and command of the logistics of running a successful initiative. The combination of getting involved at the right time and having a command of the detailed logistics are two factors that “bigger” doesn’t overcome.

Now that I’m thinking of it, there are a lot of things that a firm’s size doesn’t guarantee. Like quality, a positive working experience, or business results. I know that it’s easy (and sometimes comforting) to think that bigger equals better. Hey, this is America after all! But in the cold light of day, I think the test is to ask yourself if you can define exactly what it is that “bigger” is guaranteed to deliver? If not, then “bigger” isn’t what you need. You need “better.”

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