Training doesn’t change lives. Here’s what does.

by Mandy Grant, President / Managing Member

I always thought training could solve my clients’ problems. All of them. It was only after two decades of running my own training company that I realized I had made a mistake.

Training does not change lives.

There. I said it. There’s no taking it back now.

Let me give you a little bit of context. I’m a seasoned instructional designer and lifelong teacher. For years, I was laser-focused on creating winning, active training programs for my clients—the kind that won awards and brought clients back, project after project.

“Great! Active! Engaging,” my clients would tell me, raving about the products I was creating for them. I thought I was making a difference.

So, what went wrong? A few years ago, I began to suspect that training was not really what my clients thought it was. When I was developing their training programs, I was not starting with a stakeholder analysis. I was not following up on the project to make sure it had a real-world impact. I was not starting with the end in mind.

A business dinner with one of my clients confirmed it. Over some great wine and food, she broke the news to me. The award-winning training program that I had spent a year dreaming into existence, then delivering, tying to assessment, and implementing, was a failure. The project did not meet the client’s ultimate goal—to make its beneficiaries bankable. In the twelve months that I had spent working on this project, I had not known this was the client’s goal. As a result, I had not designed the project to meet that goal.

I had some soul-searching and research to do. What changed lives, if not training? Eventually, I came to understand the following. Training is a part of the solution, but it’s not the whole picture. The excitement and newness of a training program’s lessons quickly become dull. The fresh knowledge becomes buried under newer information and the training materials collect dust on workplace shelves. Without follow-up, accountability, refreshers, and targeted action, training’s impact can fizzle out by the time the evaluation sheets are passed around.

It’s not training that changes lives—it is capacity building. Capacity building is a long-term solution that changes behaviors sustainably. It is built on creating measurable impact. It integrates assessment of the capacity building recipient, training, and coaching centered around strategic action planning for measurable results.

Things needed to change. After 17 years of helping lead FedEx in sales and quality, my husband Jason joined me at my company. With his help, our training company transformed into a capacity building company. We no longer blindly hope that our projects will build capacity—we plan for it. Today, our solutions are impactful, inclusive, scalable, and sustainable. I still develop great training. The difference is that now, I take a step back to look at the bigger picture. I know my training works, because we look at capacity building holistically and integrate it with blended quality methodologies.

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