Change Management is not Training Supersized

Training is only one tool in your change management tool kit

Leaders who expect training to carry the adoption of the new environment/state are often frustrated, confused and disappointed when it fails to deliver.  Expecting your training program to carry your change effort is like a marathon runner relying on the spaghetti dinner the night before the race to carry her across the finish line when she hasn’t done any other preparation.

Skilled change leaders view training,not as an outcome but as simply one more tool in their change management tool kit.  This subtle but powerful shift in thinking allows you to:

  1. Increase the impact training has on the adoption of your intended outcome
  2. Use your training resources more effectively and efficiently
  3. Decrease resistance to the change
  4. Decrease the need for re-training

Preparing people for training is a critical change management milestone

Prepare for the training

Like the marathon runner must be physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared long before that spaghetti dinner, your change recipients must be chan

ge ready. Research has shown that when people are not adequately prepared for the change before training, the result is d

enial and resistance.[1]   Therefore preparing people for training is a critical change management milestone. Preparing people goes beyond just informing them about the schedule, location, and nature of the training. It is about ensuring they have had sufficient exposure, time, and involvement to internalize the change and move along the continuum of change.

Two areas to consider when preparing people for training:

  1. Internalization of the change. Internalization is the process we use to connect intellectually and emotionally with the change event. Anyone who has delivered training has probably encountered the person who doesn’t know why she is there, or who is more focused on challenging the change event than on learning.  I have certainly heard comments like, “I don’t know why I am here — my boss just told me to come”.  Or,  “I am not sure who thought this would work in my department”. These kinds of statements may indicate a lack of internalization of the change event.  If people have not internalized the change before they come to training, the training will not be retained.
  2. Experience with the new environment or state. I was involved in a large organizational transformation that would require people to fundamentally change the way they worked. In addition to new technology, they would need to adopt and integrate very different work processes.  To facilitate this adoption, the change recipients were provided several opportunities to talk about the impact the change would have on their current work, to walk through the new processes, and to experience the change through a model environment before training.

These activities resulted in two significant benefits. First, most people arrived for training ready to learn. Second, (and perhaps an even greater benefit) was that during the training the change recipients moved beyond just learning the new knowledge, skills and processes to integrating and adopting them.

Training may be necessary for adoption, but it is not sufficient.

[1] Armenakis, 1999

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