Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 5, Issue 47;   November 23, 2005: Training Bounceback

Training Bounceback

by

Within a week after we've learned some new tool or technique, sometimes even less, we're back to doing things the old way. It's as if the training never even happened. Why? And what can we do to change this?

Management by Design, Reengineering, Management by Wandering Around, TQM, Excellence, Chaos Theory, Balanced Scorecard, Lean and Mean, Management by Objectives, Empowerment, High-Performance Teams, T-Groups, Quality Circles, and on and on.

Artist's conception of the Mars Pathfinder landing by bouncing on its airbags

Artist's conception of the Mars Pathfinder landing by bouncing on its airbags. Photo courtesy U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

One change follows another. One training program follows another. And from each training program, we bounce back to the old ways — or something pretty close. We spend big money to bring in a consultant or training company, we spend a day or two or more learning whatever they're teaching, and then weeks, or months, or a year later, all is forgiven and it's back to business as usual.

Why does this happen? Here are four causes of this pattern and four strategies for achieving lasting results.

This too shall pass
When leaders believe in their own credibility, and expect the organization to follow unquestioningly, almost any change is doomed. The most aware among the staff know the futility of embracing enthusiastically anything that will be forgotten within a year.
We've been down this path so many times that "management fad" is now a legitimate buzz phrase. Acknowledge the failures of the past and deal with skepticism directly.
Education isn't Change
When we believe change comes from learning a few facts or skills or theories, change efforts tend to consist of training. But if education were change, with all the diet books in print, by now we would all be the perfect weight.
Lasting change requires much more than training. One essential item that's usually missing from change efforts is practice. Practice isn't part of training — it's part of doing.
Resistance comes — in part — from the organization
We often assume that people choose to stay in Old Status Quo — that if they would just "buy in," all would be well. But culture, policies, procedures, the performance evaluation program, and the actions of others can all cause old behaviors to persist.
Plan to transform all organizational components that interact with the change. Recognize that you might have to educate some people even though their actual jobs might not be changing.
To practice, people need slack
When leaders expect
the organization to
follow unquestioningly,
almost any change
is doomed
We often expect the newly trained to use what they've learned, at or above the old level of performance, immediately. Worse, we relax the workflow neither for the training nor the practice.
As we learn new ways, we need to practice them. At first, we might even be less effective than when we do things the old way. Relax the flow of work temporarily to allow people to try the new methods in a less pressured environment.

If you adopt any of these strategies, and if that constitutes change, you'll probably run into a little bounceback. Keep at it. Let yourself practice. Expect others to expect your old ways. And give yourself slack. Go to top Top  Next issue: Nine Project Management Fallacies: I  Next Issue

101 Tips for Managing ChangeIs your organization embroiled in Change? Are you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt? Read 101 Tips for Managing Change to learn how to survive, how to plan and how to execute change efforts to inspire real, passionate support. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenHoIfoSaTGgAjgGtSner@ChacFofJYrnxipOVONgLoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Organizational Change:

European UnionNow We're in Chaos
Among models of Change, the Satir Change Model has been especially useful for me. It describes how people and systems respond to change, and handles well situations like the one that affected us all on September Eleventh.
FeedbackHe's No Longer Here
Sometimes we adopt inappropriate technologies, or we deploy unworkable processes, largely because of the political power of their advocates, and despite widespread doubts about the wisdom of the moves. Strangely, though, the decisions often stick long after the advocates move on. Why? And what can we do about it?
The robotic explorer OpportunityDefinitions of Insanity
When leaders try to motivate organizational change, they often resort to clever sloganeering. One of the most commonly used slogans is a definition of insanity. Unfortunately, that definition doesn't pass the sanity test.
R.M.S. Lusitania coming into port, possibly in New York.Obstacles to Finding the Reasons Why
When we investigate what went wrong, we sometimes encounter obstacles. Interviewing witnesses and participants doesn't always uncover the reasons why. What are these obstacles?
Lake Chaubunagungamaug signDeciding to Change: Trusting
When organizations change by choice, people who are included in the decision process understand the issues. Whether they agree with the decision or not, they participate in the decision in some way. But not everyone is included in the process. What about those who are excluded?

See also Organizational Change for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Jeffrey Skilling, in a mug shot taken in 2004 by the United States Marshals ServiceComing May 23: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: IX
An arrogant demeanor is widely viewed as a hallmark of the narcissist. But truly narcissistic arrogance is off the charts. It's something beyond the merely annoying arrogance of a sometimes-obnoxious individual. What is narcissistic arrogance and how can we cope with it? Available here and by RSS on May 23.
The end of the line for a railroad trackAnd on May 30: Chronic Peer Interrupters: I
When making contributions to meeting discussions, we're sometimes interrupted. Often, the interruption is beneficial and saves time. But some people constantly interrupt their peers or near peers, disrespectfully, in a pattern that compromises meeting outcomes. How can we deal with chronic peer interrupters? Available here and by RSS on May 30.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenLjMnBGzXbvwMbXaoner@ChacxGmhfewQglqRHldVoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

Technical Debt Management: Making the Business Case
This Technical Debt Management: Making the Business Caseprogram outlines the steps necessary for deploying a program for rational management of technical debt. For many organizations, adopting a program for rationally managing technical debt entails organizational change. And unlike some organizational changes, this one touches almost everyone in the organization, because technical debt isn't merely a technical problem. Technical debt manifests itself in technological assets, to be sure, but its causes are rarely isolated to the behavior and decisions of engineers. We can't resolve the problem of chronically excessive levels of technical debt by changing the behavior of engineers alone. Technical debt is the symptom, not the problem. In this program we outline the essential elements of an effective business case for adopting a rational technical debt management program. But this business case, unlike many business cases, cannot be captured in a document. We must make the case not only at the leadership level of the organization, but also at the level of the individual contributor. Everyone must understand. Everyone must contribute. We explore five issues that make technical debt so difficult to manage, and develop five guidelines for designing technical debt management strategies for the modern enterprise. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

The Race to the South Pole: The Power of Agile Development
On 14The Race to the Pole: An Application of Agile Development December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough. Lessons abound. Among the more important lessons are those that demonstrate the power of the agile approach to project management and product development. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
101 Tips for Managing ConflictFed up with tense, explosive meetings? Are you the target of a bully? Learn how to make peace with conflict.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.