One of the most common excuses I hear about software projects failure is the “lack of training” excuse. We didn’t get trained, the training sucked, we forgot everything we learned in training, the instructor sucked, there is no documentation, the documentation sucks. I hate the term training. Dogs get trained. People learn. When I hear training all I hear is, “someone else was responsible for providing me everything I need to do my job.” I say it’s your job to learn. If it were ten years ago, I would have more sympathy but today you can learn just about anything with self-motivation, time, and internet access.
I do agree, a lot of software projects fail because people don’t know how to use the solution, I guess I’m disagreeing with the solution being “more training.” Many vendors say; the customer refused to send people to our 4-day intensive off-site class; no wonder they don’t know how to use the system. I’m not sure they would be any better off after 4-days of hearing about stuff they don’t understand why they need to know yet. The problem with front loading all the training is that we don’t know what we need to know yet to make the software work at our print business, yet we’re getting a fire hose download of everything about the software, without context not much if it sticks.
I learn by doing, I learn by seeing how the pieces fit together. I didn’t know how to use WordPress (blogging platform) when I first started blogging. I didn’t take a class, I didn’t read a manual. I just started trying to do what I wanted to do on the platform and when I got stuck I reached out to the global community of WordPress users and like eight thousand other people had already had my issue and took the time to tell me how to accomplish it. Same thing happened to me when I started working in the computer services department at Kinko’s back in 1992. I didn’t know anything about computers, software products, or troubleshooting printing issues to laser printers (there were so many printing issues back then). Customers asked me questions, we figured it out together – back then I looked things up in software manuals and just experimented a lot. I restarted computers and printers a lot! I learned so fast in that environment – when you’re troubleshooting in public under a time constraint, it is incredibly powerful on your memory. I only had to figure things out once, after that it was emblazoned in my brain so I wouldn’t have to go through that struggle again.
You learn by doing, when you’re doing you’re taking control of your learning. I don’t believe you can outsource learning. I believe when people say “I haven’t been trained” they are simply saying, I don’t want to do the work of learning – can someone spoon feed me? Software takes some time to learn. The learning process can’t be done in five minute spurts between customer fire drills. This is probably the most common mistake printers make as it pertains to learning. They have willing and able self-learners who are motivated but they lack dedicated, quiet time to accomplish the task. Try giving people one hour a day, use Toggl to track it – see what they can learn by dedicating five hours a week of uninterrupted time. Tracking the time is important because we are much more conscious of being productive when the timer is on.
Make a bet with your people, here’s a fun bet. Guess the date when you’re people will surpass the knowledge of the resources from the software vendor! This is a challenge that should inspire your people to rise to the challenge. Once you buy the software, it’s yours; you need to adopt it like it’s another member of your team/family, the best way to do that is to learn it.
Want to learn more?
Pick up our new book: Make Great Software Decisions: A Guide for Printers at the Xerox booth at Print 13, come to the EDSF Give Back at Print 13 Scholarship Night and get a printed copy of the book. The eBook version can be downloaded now from EDSF for a small donation to a great organization.
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