Crucial Skills®

A Blog by Crucial Learning

Trainer Insights

Maps, Paths, and Destinations: How to Plan for a Successful Learning Journey

Many years ago, my husband and I set out on a spontaneous weekend trip: no hotel reservations, no agenda, no destination. Our plan was simply to see where the road would take us.

As we began our journey, we decided not to go very far from home, opting to spend more time enjoying whatever destination we chose. Along the way we spotted a billboard for a highly recommended restaurant about 30 miles away. We decided to splurge on dinner and use that as the anchor for our getaway.

Destination decided, we had a great day adventuring in the area, finding shops in small rural communities and making discoveries close enough to home to be enjoyed again. At the end of the day, we drove up to the entrance to the rustic but elegant dining room, excited about sampling an eclectic and upscale menu.

The restaurant was closed for remodeling.

Our entire day had been planned around this location and this end goal. We sat for a minute looking at the darkened windows and the rather cheerful “See you soon” sign, wondering what to do next. What to do now that our plans (poorly laid as they were) had radically changed?

The short end of that story is that we got dinner—at the local Dairy Queen. While filling, it was not the glorious ending to our day we had envisioned.

Rolling out high-impact training and realizing effective behavior change in an organization is a journey. Planning carefully and having a clear goal in mind at the outset will give you not only improved performance but will also help you reach those destinations most important to your organization.

The first step is to understand your why. Knowing that you have made a difference in your organization is what drives good trainers to become great facilitators—and that often starts with understanding the answer to these four questions:

  • Why are you bringing the content to your organization?
  • What business outcomes do you want to achieve?
  • How does the course tie into your organization’s initiatives?
  • What are your organization’s biggest needs?

As you evaluate the answers to these questions, chances are your responses will relate to skill acquisition, organization initiatives, or culture change.

Once you have determined your why, it’s time to create an action plan. The strategic decisions in your plan are very likely the most important and should be centered around people (the who), marketing (the how), and course delivery (the where).

We often get excited about taking off on that proverbial road trip without a clear map or having verified the destination. Be patient at the decision-making step! This is your map.

When my husband and I started on our trip, we chose a very haphazard approach. While this sounded fun at the time, the lack of clear decision making and strategic planning left us scratching our heads at the end of the day. For training programs to be effective, you need to make careful, thoughtful decisions with a clear end in mind. This will provide a return on expectations to savor at the end of the journey.

Once you’ve made decisions (with support from your key stakeholders), you’re ready to make it happen.

This is the fun part! This is standing in the classroom and greeting your participants. This is watching people engaged in a virtual poll or come back from a breakout session saying that they wished they had more time to talk. This is the part that gives every trainer I know that “fizz.”

But as enjoyable as this part is, it too requires thoughtful preparation.

Whether you are facilitating in person or virtually, it is important to have a checklist and to practice. Even very experienced trainers sometimes forget their clicker or misplace their laptop charger. Having a tried-and-true checklist and running through your presentation at least three times will give you the foundation to confidently deliver your course, whether you have taught once or hundreds of times.

You have created a great map, you know your destination, you have made it happen—your participants have carried you out of the room on their shoulders as the hero of the day. Now what? How do you make it stick?

Without follow up, sustaining the skills learned can be like the restaurant closed for remodeling. You were hoping for high-end cuisine and got a burger and fries instead.

Ensure that your investment of time, energy, and training dollars achieves the desired impact with after-training resources, engaging mini-learning sessions, and effective measurement. Measurement is where you can connect outcomes back to your purpose. Did the map you created get you to your destination? Were all the lights on when you arrived? Did you get to savor the product of all your hard work?

The end of that spontaneous road trip with my husband, while comical, was not what we had hoped for—but it was a direct reflection of what we had planned. Learning and development professionals have enormous influence in organizations. It is in carefully and thoughtfully planning a high-impact learning journey that we move from good courses to great training experiences with the power to change lives.

For additional help planning your learning journey, check out our implementation guide.

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