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The Problem

The purpose of this paper and presentation is to define how a well-conducted needs assessment coupled with a well-conceived training plan can improve training and, indeed, total organizational wellness. As organizations change size, usually in a negative direction, complexion, and structure, it becomes crucial to survival and competitive stature that training resources be "spent" in a way which brings the greatest return. This return must be realized on two fronts: one organizational and the other individual. The organization is interested since it is in an often global battle with fewer people doing more complex tasks. The individual wants and needs the "tools" to help the organi­zation and the "knowledge" to feel a sense of self-progres­sion and accomplishment. So, what we want to determine is whether your organization is "fit" and ready to compete or out of shape and using band aids and stopgap measures.

The usual approach to training has been "Uh-oh, I need XYZ class (or skill) and I'll just call the 'training guys' and they'll provide something by noon tomorrow!" The good news is that we can't do that any more, we need to get more bang for our buck. The bad news is that we, often, don't have any idea of how to go about getting the "right stuff to the right people at the right time under the right condi­tions." Thus, within this article I hope to provide at least a framework for "getting it all right" (the first time)! Training requirements have been driven by a number of factors in the past, some good and some a bit suspect. When new equipment or a new process was adopted, there was usually training which accompanied the new arrival. This type of training is absolutely necessary and gets the orga­nization "up to speed" rapidly and with a minimum, we hope, of fuss and bother. We sometimes didn't train the right people or in the correct sequence but, that aside, we did provide good, necessary training. A great deal of training effort and resource has been spent lately in getting the organization ready for TQM, work teams, cross-func­tional communication, and the like and, even with the false starts, this was usually training resource well spent. The not-well-spent resource was used chasing whatever the latest acronym happened to be or whatever fell out of the latest seminar management attended or the last book or article someone read or, and this is probably the worst of the lot, whatever snake oil the last silver tongued vendor who passed through the organization was selling. None of these "sources" is bad in and of itself, although some really only work to the acronym level, the proof of the pudding is what the training will do to and for the organization and the individuals in it.

How Can We Approach the Problem?

Conceptually, providing training is not much different than providing any other product or service. First the demand or what is needed must be defined by the customer, perhaps with help from the provider who is, after all, the
product "expert." Then, a check must be made of the current status of the trainees; that is, what is the level of knowledge of the students. This is much like a bill of materials, in that it defines what is needed to make the proposed training most useful to the organization and to the individuals receiving it. Now its time to manage the inventory and see how much of the required training the identified students have had and how long ago; always check shelf life. We are now in a position to net out what they've had against what they need and making a make-buy decision on the requirements. I suppose one could make a case for calling what we've done Training Require­ments Planning or TRP but that would just add to our acronym overload so let's not do that.
What follows are some brief "thought provokers" about getting the organization on the road to training wellness by looking at it as one would look at any other product or service offering.

Part 1  Part 2   Part 3  Part 4  Part 5  Part 6 

Knowledge and implementation know-how you'll not find in the
books at neither in the APICS Package 
nor the Harvard Business School Press.  

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