Capability growth · Observations · Reflection

I thought training was easy – what is going on here?

I spend a lot of my time training people in areas such as agile project delivery, business and product innovation and business analysis. Allegedly I spend around 50% of my time running training sessions, while I also spend time consulting or providing “transition management” to help an organisation through change.But against all expectation I have been seeing an increase in demand for training over the last year and seem to be spending 90% of my time running training or facilitating workshops. This is great because I am getting a steady and interesting supply of work.  But it also led me to start wondering how the training landscape is shifting.

My world is a very isolated microcosm but this is what I have been finding

  • Business analysis seems to be an area of strong demand, but it seems sporadic. I am encountering more BA’s who don’t really know the basics of their calling, or who are part-BA and part-something.
    • Interestingly (for me) these part-something analysis are NOT part-subject-matter-expert or part-project-manager, or even part-tester.
    • There seems to be a shift where BA is a complementary add-on to roles such as product owner, scrum master, producer, development lead or even semi-UX person
    • Even more so there seems to be a shift away from analysing problems to facilitating groups of people to come to a conclusion without detailed analysis or root cause analysis.
  • Business model innovation was my tip for the next big thing but it seems to have been absorbed into several next big things. So I still think it is a core growth area for training but not on its own:
    • Big players such as Delloite, Mckinsey and others are training senior executives in design thinking and innovation while others are training start-ups in “lean start-up”. Both these ends of the spectrum include business model innovation but both seem to be focussed on product innovation and exploring a new idea through collaboration and prototyping, rather than on evolving the supporting business model or business capabilities needed to support the innovation.
    • There seems to be a lot of appetite for quick innovations and speeding up the launch of a single new product but less appetite for strategically moving an organisation from consistent execution of existing processes to design based change across the organisation. The notable exception is the Enterprise Architecture groups who seem to be moving rapidly away from detailed strategic analysis of an organisation to developing an ongoing and evolving business ability to be simultaneously product driven, responsive and resilient at the same time.
    • There is a lot of pain being exposed between
      1. Design thinking and product (or project) delivery;
      2. Product delivery and ongoing service support and innovation.
    • In particular, businesses seem to be better at launching a Minimum Viable Product as an offering to clients on delivering IT change through agile projects, but don’t seem to be improving at the same rate in the delivery of holistic and sustainable solutions that continue to grow and evolve beyond their initial release.
  • Agile adoption is moving forward. Agile now seems to be an expected part of the organisational toolkit. This is a shift from either “Yuck – agile is a scam”, or “there is this new way of operating you will be amazed by – Agile”.  So demand for training is moving away from learning the hype to learning sustainable and effective ways for cross-functional teams to deliver value.  The cross-functional teams includes web and mobile but also business change and enterprise systems.

What about training itself though?

So much for my market place – what about the nature of training?Fortunately few of my clients seem to realise how powerful MOOCs such as Coursera are.  I assumed that there would be a shift from facilitated learning to on-line learning but it has not been as seismic as I feared. However I think this is more of an issue with packaging that quality.

But there has been a shift

  1. I think people are looking to trainers to help them find their way through the material that exists rather than having secret knowledge that can only be revealed in proprietary training courses.
  2. There seems to be a maturing of organisations who research and package training (such as Software Education, or, who I often work with) who are consolidating training pathways that others are now delivering in different parts of the world. I don’t think this is so much about unique IP as it is about having someone maintain a watch on what is happening out there and consolidating the bits that you should be training your staff in.
  3. There seem to be more students in my courses who have done their own learning outside the classroom – either on Youtube, in a MOOC, through reading or through attending a local community gathering of people interested in their development area.
  4. There is increasing demand to measure the value of training beyond mere attendance at a course and there seems to be some appetite for extending training beyond a single session. This is often expressed as a desire for coaching but I think it is shifting to wanting follow-up exercises as well as support
  5. People expect games and experiential learning rather than lectures now. They don’t seem to want a big dump of information as much as time to explore and play with new approaches and ideas.

What about the content of the training courses as opposed to the delivery?

For product development and project delivery I think we are also entering a new world. We used to train people to prepare them for new paradigms and technologies (eg functional programing, agile development, BI) but the changes to what we are delivering are about to change faster than we can learn.  People are just getting used to mobile first, but now we will have wear-able tech; drones, virtual reality, 3-D printing, big-little data, secretly toxic soils and climate change and even crowd sourced who-knows what.  So there is little point in a trainer trying to keep up with all the hype or trying to help others stay on top of any one area.  It will be better to focus on the core trends that others need to learn about for them to manage all the hype.

So what does it mean for us- humble trainers?

The days when you can fire up a set of power-point slides and “present” training are numbered. Even the days of the celebrity presenter who makes the material interesting seem to be fading away.

  1. Training courses are slowly starting to become part of the learning experience rather than being a stand-alone undertaking. This might present consulting opportunities but also means that trainers need to stay current in training delivery options as well as the material they are teaching.
  2. There will probably not be many static training courses anymore – where you can spend a lot to build good material because you can reuse it for several years.
  3. There might be a future evolution where some organisations specialise in combining knowledge research (eg “what is agile”) and experience creation, while others specialise in packaging and delivering multiple training experiences.
  4. There are significant gaps arising between new ideas (data science, design thinking) and the ability to execute on those ideas (agile, lean, UX driven projects) and the ability to sustain a customer experience beyond the first awesome experience (managing the transition from agile projects to service design, or matching customer based design to lean process optimisation).
  5. There might be a role for people to guide students through a MOOC, to lead a multi-week game or even to lead a book-club rather than run an onsite training course.

And for James King?

So this year I plan on:

  1. Running several experiments with my own training material – such as looking at ways to extend the training beyond a single training session
  2. Integrating any presentations I do with my blog and my training material to build a bit of a catalogue to use in “mass-customisation” or “building as I deliver”
  3. Looking at ways to integrate my own delivery with others to create a shared delivery of value rather than isolated pieces of value.
  4. Working through partners (primarily Software Education and The Growth Faculty) for delivery of quality content to large groups rather than isolated consulting or training engagements that do not create significant reach or value creation
  5. Looking carefully at the organisational capability gaps that I think I see emerging:
    • Integrating analysis into other work through rapid and effective analysis rather than seeing analysis as a stand-alone exercise
    • Integrated Production support and service management beyond small pockets of improvement such as “Devops” or “ITIL”. Service management and lean agile operations seem to be well understood in theory but not implemented in practice
    • Combining soft skills (conflict management, brand management, leadership) into effective project and service delivery rather than as stand-alone training. For example I see an increasing need to lead virtual teams across organisations and time zones rather than management 101.

But don’t share these secrets with any other trainers as these are all secret strategic thoughts – and let me know if you have any tips for me as I adopt my secret strategy during the coming year.




One thought on “I thought training was easy – what is going on here?

  1. Thanks for the entry James, really interesting.

    A trend I am seeing within my organisation is the use of internal facilitation skills to help accelerate conversations and problem solving – something I’m really enjoying being a part of. The business case for an internal faciliation team is growing, especially as we are leading into a major change initiative which will require rapid decision making.


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