As a matter of policy, we want a well trained and highly educated workforce to carry out the agency’s business. One of the great military-as-management-philosophy aphorisms is that an organization should “train as it fights.” That is to say, it should build its training program based on situations and circumstances it will encounter in the real world. Of course that’s not the standard we train against.
Our training is driven by a “points” system. Each of several hundred real world and online courses are valued as a specific number of training points. Once you reach the prescribed number of points for the year, you are, by definition, “well trained.” This is great if your objective is to be well trained in as short a time as possible; not so much if you actually want to learn something. Then again, learning something isn’t actually part of the training requirement so if it happens, that’s mostly just a bonus.
On a recent morning I had a few hours of unplanned free time, I racked up more than half of my required yearly points after about three hours of clicking through various PowerPoint slides and Flash presentations… while also having discussions with other staffers, answering the phone, sending email, and monitoring breaking news on Charlie Sheen. I don’t think that was necessarily the kind of quality learning the training office hoped to achieve, but that’s what happens when you base the requirement on earning a fixed number of points rather than on actual knowledge gained or skills needed to stay current in your career field. This is doubly true when you write off professional pride as a motivating factor.
Fortunately, I’m now officially “well trained” for 2011… so I can put this sad, sad experience out of my mind for another 11 months.
Editorial Note: This is part of a continuing series of previously unattributed posts appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.