- Leandro Herrero - https://leandroherrero.com -

The ‘Training ex Machina’ delusion. Beware of training solutions for all seasons.

In the old Greek tragedies, when the plot became an unsolvable mess, a God (or few of them) came down from the sky, often on a mechanical platform (deus ex machina [1]) and solved the issue, full stop, end of story. Literally. Deus ex machina were like parachuted consultants coming to the rescue, but cheap and fast, unusual features.

There is a fabulous Deus ex Machina system in organizations. It’s called training. Or retraining. ‘You need training, they need retraining, and then they will get it, will know what to do (they forgot) or will solve the problem’. Invest in training; that will do it.

Yes and no.

Yes, skilling needs training, so does education, sensitisation, and awareness creation.

Culture shaping needs behavioural change mechanisms at scale. Behaviours don’t like PowerPoints. It’s social copying; and in Viral Change we will add, peer-to-peer, bottom up,and in the informal organization.

So yes, to Cesar what is Cesar’s, but lets be clear:

  • You would not say about the guys in the BP oil spilling disaster, ‘these people need safety training’. They had the best.
  • You would not say about the Volkswagen fiasco, ‘let’s retrain the engineers’. They are trained and best in class. Or , ‘let’s hire better engineers next time’. There aren’t.
  • You would not have said about the Enron lot, that the problem was that they did not have the appropriate training in values. They had a pretty good one, praised by all at the time, including gurus such as Tom Peters
  • You would not say about the rogue traders in investment banking, or the Libor manipulators, that they needed training in ethics. (Funny enough Barclays is doing just that)

Paraphrasing Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair, on the incorporation of a CRM system to serve customers better (of course! what else would you buy a CRM system for?), when he said: ‘”We’ll be getting people to register and CRMing the hell out of them,” we could say we will create a training system for all, and…

Mmm, it does not look like training. ‘It’s culture, stupid’. And cultures are not created by training, I have said a million times. Also, no revolution has ever been done from a classroom.

Training could be fantastic, we all know when it’s good and refreshing. But it’s not the ex machina solution to the ills of the company. If it looks like descending from heaven, just in time (funnily enough), suspect ex machina. Red lights on, please.


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Dr Leandro Herrero is the CEO and Chief Organization Architect of The Chalfont Project [4], an international firm of organizational architects. He is the pioneer of Viral Change , [5]a people Mobilizing Platform, a methodology that delivers large scale behavioural and cultural change in organizations, which creates lasting capacity for changeability.
Dr Herrero is also an Executive Fellow at the Centre for the Future of Organization, Drucker School of Management. An international speaker, Dr Herrero is regularly invited to speak at global conferences and Corporate events – to invite Dr Herrero to your event you can find out more here: Speaking Bureau [6] or contact us directly at: The Chalfont Project. [7]