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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

How Much Do You Pay
Your Spectators?

don't pay me to watch your figure out what I'm going to do

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

When you hire outside help to develop training and communication tools for you, you naturally want to get a good return on your investment. Unfortunately, many companies act as if hiring a professional content writer, instructional designer, or training developer means that the job is largely done. They can just hand things over to the freelancer, provide some materials and hold some meetings, and their communication problem is solved.

Outsourcing content and training development is just another form of delegation, and delegation takes preparation. Turning over even the simplest task to another person and getting results instead of headaches means investing a little time to figure out what another person could do, what kind of person could do it, what information and support that person will need, how to get started, and how to manage the project once it has been delegated.

It means doing your homework before you hand things off to someone else.

Contrast that with a situation every freelance developer knows well. The company is in a hurry to get something done, probably because it has become a "hot button" for some executive all of a sudden. Without much careful thought, a "team" is assembled, a freelancer is located, and an initial meeting is held.

In that meeting, the project leaders thinks that he or she is going to pass along a lot of information to the consultant or developer, with the help of other team members. But because there has been little or no work done on the project before outsourced resources are brought in, what really happens is a lot of groping, crawling, and meandering toward a definition of the project in the first place.

In short, someone like me sits through a few hours of a meeting in which different players exchange confused views about what we are supposed to be doing. Perhaps legal and marketing have wildly different ideas about how a product can be promoted. Perhaps IT and HR have sharply different opinions on what is appropriate in systems for monitoring e-mail and browsing activity.

Whatever the case, much as I enjoy the fees, I really would rather you didn't pay me consulting rates to watch you figure out what it is you're supposed to tell me so I can get started.

And later in the process, you could have your team review the drafts of the content and return feedback, corrections, and suggestions . . . or you could call another meeting, in which your team members will confess that they have been too busy to read the drafts, and will skim the documents right there for the first time, firing off knee-jerk reactions to phrases that catch their eye.

And, finally, after that, we can schedule a little more work (and fees) into the project because shoddy review early in the process left gaps and other problems that need to be corrected much later, and much more expensively, when the project is almost done.

Invest your time, your staff's time, and your internal resources before you start the clock on your external resources. Being paid to be a spectator may be convenient for the freelancers you hire, but it's a silly way to spend your money.

Do your homework, check to make sure you are ready before every meeting you schedule that's on a consultant's clock, and you'll be surprised at how much easier it is to complete your training project on budget!

© 2007 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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