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Every Second Counts!


Book Review by Dr Sanjeev Chopra

Every second counts! One realises this, the minute one flips through the pages of this extremely nuanced, eminently readable and well-illustrated book on the entire gamut of training. In each of the twenty-one chapters of this book, interspersed with cartoons, anecdotes, illustrations, charts, graphs, diagrams, Manick covers one aspect of training in his unique and inimitable style.

Getting the ‘right trainee’ and placing her in the right ‘slot’ is perhaps the biggest challenge for a training professional. Both, in the government and the corporate sector, nominations are often made for reasons other than the requirement of training. While it is best for a training institution to specify the profile of the trainee for each specific course, one may be saddled with the ‘reluctant, spareable, passenger, tourist, know-all, (knowledge-proof) types’, but a good trainer is one who can engage the ‘critical mass’ and change attitudes because the training environment is certainly in the control of the trainer.

In the chapter on Performance Issues, the author goes on to explain concepts like Goal Visibility, Performance Gap Assessment, the EMB (Environmental, Motivational and Behavioral) triad, as well as role of key factors of Attitude, Skills and Knowledge in getting optimal results. Organisations which invest in people get far superior results, and he cites the example of Konosuke Matsushita, the legendary founder of Panasonic, who said, ‘We make people, and also some electronic goods.’

‘If you believe that training is expensive, it is because you do not know what ignorance costs.’ With this opening statement from Michael Leboeu, he asks: How can we bring life to the ‘ritual’ of training, how can we identify needs, how can we move up the competency ladder from ‘unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence’. He then talks about the ‘why, what, when, where and how’ of training, and suggests that without a comprehensive TNA, the results are likely to be sub-optimal, and give a bad name to the trainer and the institution.

Manick then moves on to andragogy (adult learning) and how it differs from pedagogy. Adults learn only when they feel they need to learn. The context becomes more important than the content, and once they understand how it is good for them, the rest is a cake-walk. In the sixth chapter, he talks about the learning styles of participants – they could be Activists, Reflectors, Theorists or Pragmatists – the only thing common to all is that they hate the ‘lecture mode’.

Understanding ‘Entry Behaviour’ is crucial, and it is best for the trainer to chart the basic characteristics of a cohort (age, gender, education, experience, IT skills, language competency). This also helps in ‘sequencing’: from the known to the unknown, from simple to complex, concrete to abstract, overview to detail and observation to theory. It is also important to decide the vehicle for content delivery (mode of travel) – you can’t fly to the runway, or walk to the next city! There are (some) situations where a lecture may work, but more often than not, in a training situation, we need case studies, role plays, management games, group discussions, fishbowls and simulations, and each of these have to be chosen carefully. Once the mode has been decided, one can choose the ‘medium’ and there is a wide range – from power point to flip charts and white boards to webinars, but there are cardinal rules which must be followed for each. For example, a power point must follow the rule of 7×7 (seven or fewer slides, with seven or fewer words per line and seven or fewer lines per slide). It is not how much you know, but how you convey which makes or mars your communication.

While there is a difference between a hotel and a hostel, there can be no compromise with regard to basic comforts – a clean bed, study table and working /reading space, and even more importantly, a toilet with a functional WC, wash basin and shower. Likewise, the class room has to be clean and airy/properly ventilated or air-conditioned so that the focus is on ‘learning’. These hygiene factors play an important role. Wherever possible, classrooms should be arranged ‘theatre style, horse-shoe, or U shaped with all chairs focused on the speaker/dais, as well as the board/screen. Feedback from participants and assessment of the trainee are both important tools to measure the quality and impact of training, and organisations can ignore these twin aspects at their own peril.

Most people love the sound of their own voice, especially when the audience is ‘captive’ and there is a mike in the hand. Facilitators and trainers must avoid this trap, as also the temptation to use avoidable jargon and show-off their vocabulary. A trainer should never forget that the purpose of language is communication, not to hinder it. She should also encourage a conversation, for as Richard Feynman said, ‘I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.’

Non-verbal communication, posture, body language, eye contact, gestures, hand movement are also important part of a trainer’s repertoire, as also voice modulation, pitch, tone and intonation. Respecting the time of the participant as well as your own is so important, for this is the most important non-renewable resource available to us. As the management guru, Peter Drucker, says, ‘One cannot buy, rent or hire more time …the supply is totally inelastic …yet most people take for granted this unique, irreplaceable and necessary resource.’

‘Every Minute Counts!’ By Manick Maitra will be launched at the Valley of Words Lit Fest at its Kolkata Vertical on the 6th-7thof November, 2021.