Monday, May 31, 2004

Problem-Solving Training

I have been working with Kepner-Tregoe for a number of years, designing and implementing a 'blended' approach to imbedding their problem-solving and decision-making methodologies in corporate environments. KT has been doing this kind of analytical skills training for decades, and has had significant success – partly because the methodologies make sense, and partly because they focus on real-world learner-specific applications and business results. We did a joint presentation on this with KT and Honda, one of their clients, at ASTD's conference last week.

The blended approach has further added to the speed with which the skills are assimilated into each learner's real-world operations. In essence we `blend' online learning with each learner's actual problems and priorities, using both an online instructor and the learner's manager to define situations that would benefit from an analytical approach. Those `applications' are the reference points throughout the first online phase of learning, and provide the focus once the learner gets together with the instructor in a classroom session. The training has not been `passed' till each learner provides a number of documented applications of the skills back at work, which case studies seek to quantify the real business value attained by solving the problem or making the right decision.

The blend brings managers into a mentoring role, makes the classroom sessions highly productive, and makes for a protracted period, post formal training, in which learners work on personally relevant applications of the skills. Instead of one concentrated 4-day classroom session, learners have a month of pre-class online work, two days in class and up to twelve weeks of post-class work. It's tougher on the instructor, but the benefits are significant.

Having a culture that embraces a particular approach to analytical thinking clearly helps with the transfer – clients like Honda describe KT methodologies as part of their world-wide corporate DNA, and the training is considered fundamental to all employees across the organization. When everybody in a company speaks the same vocabulary when discussing a problem, the processes tend to become second nature.

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