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Would You Take Training From This Man?

While drafting a thank you letter this evening to the man who may have saved my life or the lives of my neighbors I happened upon his online resume.

“Bottom-line driven manager supported by progressively responsible experience across 40+ years in the aviation industry.  Possess in-depth understanding of aviation operations acquired through real-world flight experience, professional training and leadership roles with one of world’s leading airlines. “

“Driving force behind development of airline’s first CRM course and presenting course to hundreds of USAirways pilots.  Significantly reduced number of operational incidents and realized reduction in number of altitude deviations. Course focuses on multi-disciplinary approach involving leadership, communication, decision-making and error management – airline went from 5 major accidents to zero. “

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or are far removed from any English speaking news media source you have already read of how Captain Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger, III and his co-pilot miraculously landed their plane on the Hudson River last week, saving the lives of everyone on board.  Since I live in the direct flight pattern of New Jersey’s Teterboro airport, which might on someone else’s watch have been a possible landing or crash scenario for the engineless plane, Captain Sullenberger’s expert decisions and performance had a very personal positive impact on my own well-being. 

So you can imagine that I read his resume on his Safety Reliability Website with much interest and what struck me was the fact that not only was he very experienced, very professional, very certified, but he was also very instrumental in training others.

What Does All of This Have to do With SAP training and the Certification Debate?

As many of you have been following, there is a very lively conversation over on a post by Dennis Howlett, called: “Should you be certified?“.   Some of the most articulate folks in our community are engaging in this conversation so I highly recommend if you haven’t already done so, to read all the comments.  One comment in particular triggered a number of synaptic connections for me about how to maximize knowledge transfer and enhance performance.  James Governor wrote:

 “I am thinking of SAP knowledge as a kind of apprenticeship scheme”.

 He was referring of course to the ability of SAP mentors to “tutor” or train others.

This reminded me of something I learned while providing training content to thousands of ABAP developers while I worked for SAP education.  The best students were usually the ones who could turn around and teach their peers or were tasked with creating internal training and successfully delivered it to others.

Which reminded me of something else not yet discussed fully in the comments to Dennis’ blog (or at least not during my final reading this evening).  How do we set about measuring the success of the training?

For although the blog comments in Dennis’ provocative blog contain a number of great suggestions for what makes for meaningful certification and folks like  Darren Hague and Martin English write extensively about this and speak as do others about assessment and accreditation and testing, the question still remains:  How is training evaluated?

So How IS Training Evaluated?

According to Donald Kirkpatrik,  considered the father of the learning and training evaluation theory , there is a model of evaluation.   On the Businessballs.com website there is also a downloadable excel sheet which could be used as a useful training evaluation template. (as an aside, I spoke with Kirkpatrick, during his workshop at the  annual American Society for Training & Development conference a few years ago and heard him describe his model directly)

To summarize Kirkpatrick and quote the website, evaluation is the sum of 4 (some say 5) parts:

  • Reaction – what the student thought and felt about the training
  • Learning – the resulting increase in knowledge or capability
  • Behaviour – the extent of behaviour and capability improvement and implementation/application
  • Result – the effects on the business or environment resulting from the trainee’s performance

In later amendments Kirkpatrick spoke of a 5th level which includes ROI, but some maintain that this level is inherent in the Result Level.

From a performance or business perspective this is obviously the level that is of most interest and the hardest to validate in most cases.

So Back to the Near Disaster Scenario of the Plane in the Hudson River

I’m glad that the pilot had all the experience he had (a boomer, hurrah), and all the certifications that he had acquired over time, and all the training he had absorbed, and had the intelligence he had (there are some links to his school records but I believe that is an invasion of his privacy and I hope they are already removed.)  But I think what really stands out in my mind is that he also had the capacity to train others.   Yep, he is a safety and flight instructor and a certified glider according to Popular Mechanics.

So he has multiple certifications which just might have saved my life as well as the lives of all 155 people aboard that flight.

But interestingly, at 57 years of age,  he had to perform and be evaluated under a condition he had never experienced before, that of an experimental test pilot.

Would you take a training from that kind of person or enjoy having someone like him on your implementation team, or evaluate his training as successful on all levels of the model or invite him to be your business process expert?

I know I would.

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9 Comments

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  1. Luis Felipe Lanz
    Hi Marilyn,

    Some years ago i got a certification in SAP to perform OS/DB Migrations, it was (and is) mandatory to move an SAP ERP between platforms, this was one of the most interesting training i ever participated on , and of course it was delivered in Walldorf.

    I was dealing before that training with several issues related this critical process, but in the training i really learned how to perform it, how to avoid known issues and what is the best practices recommended by “experts” to perform this delicate operation successfully; at the end I become certified in this process and from SAP point of view I’ll be responsible of any customer data during a migration under my control.

    Also, a formal training is a point that must be considered together with the experience, none of one will give success without the other, so a great formula is formal training + experience.

    Just one topic that I want to add to the Certification discussion, just imagine that you are in the street with a son/daughter that require immediate medical assistance and two persons came to you at the same, one of them say “ I’m an expert with this, i’ve several years working on similar cases but never took a training about”  and the other say “I’m a doctor, specialist in the assistance that you need” to whom you will accept the help ?

    For our customers is exactly the same, they are trusting their core business in some partners that offer them expertise and knowledge ….

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    1. Marilyn Pratt Post author
      Your example is of course both dramatic and convincing and …potentially explosive.  As for me it also raises core questions touched on in the certification debate in Dennis’ Blog Should you be certified? such as: “Who is auditing the doctor’s credentials?” and perhaps further “Who is responsible for misdiagnosis”?.  As an adhoc patient needing help in an emergency street situation, I mightn’t have the luxury to explore the certification and would need to trust at face value the declared doctor.  As an emergency room admission patient, I might have the right to sue, if the doctor misdiagnosed and my well-being was compromised.
      In our new economy we have less and less room for malpractice cases and less risk tolerance for IT failure.
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  2. Mark Yolton
    I’m putting this on my list of “favorite blogs of 2009” … really insightful, with a timely example.  Training and certification (formal) is one important step in the learning process; it needs to augmented and extended with experience.  I think both were at work for Captain Sully, and to the benefit of his “customers” (passengers) and his broader ecosystem (family members of passengers, people living in the path of the crippled plane, shareholders in USAir…).  Since delivery quality is such an important topic for SAP customers, SAP certification will be strongly emphasized in ’09.  That impacts our partners (especially Systems Integrators) and their employees, as well as individuals (all the 1.5 million members of the SAP Community Network) who wish to advance their careers and serve their customers/employers more effectively.

    Regards,
    Mark Yolton 

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  3. Nathan Genez
    i don’t know who said this or exactly how it was originally phrased…  but if you can’t explain it to someone else then you don’t really know it yourself.  I’ve taught SAP courseson a few ocassions and spent more time stressing over delivering the course than I ever did on a certification exam.
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    1. Marilyn Pratt Post author
      I share your experiences about the stress over prep.  And talking about stress, I chose stressing the parts of the curriculum that I had the most personal stress and difficulty in understanding while learning the material. I also knew those could potentially be places  where I got the most difficult questions.  My experience was that the topics I had covered the least clearly and understood the least usually got the most questions.  Observing others (and, alas experimenting on occasion myself), I saw that glossing over something was often symptomatic of a lack of deep understanding, hence confusion.  In addition, most of us adopted a classroom habit of having developers work in pairs and tag teach during the exercise breaks.  I picked this up from an excellent ABAP mentor instructor, Garry Carson, who maintained that having the students reiterate the teachings to each other reinforced the learning and clarified the topic.  Lastly, and this is kind of “ Malcolm Glanwellian” but one could generally tell in the first few minutes of a class how good it would be, regardless of material, and very closely associated to the teaching skills of the instructor.  Those first few minutes were often the indicator for the ensuing training week.
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  4. Anbazhagan Sam Venkatesan
    Marilyn,
    As soon as evaluation of training becomes a subject in a company, it becomes necessary to know what is meant by ‘training’. This may differ from company to company.
    It may mean attendance of employees in conferences, workshops, seminars, one day programmes, week long programmes, month long or year long programmes and even sabbaticals.
    The programmes may be internally organized or at an external institute.
    The participants may be from any level of employees of the company.

    The nature of the training may be all of the following:
    –     statutory training, such as that for safety officer, product inspector etc.,
    –     technical training essential for operation and maintenance, research etc.
    –     executive development programmes as per the policy of the company
    –     functional, managerial and behavioural training.

    It was found that evaluation is possible and useful when
    –     an objective for the training programme was well articulated;
    –     a work or a project is assigned to the individual upon return from the training and
    –     a reasonable time frame is fixed for evaluation.
    Evaluation in other cases appeared to become mere ‘form filling’.

    If a ‘pie chart’ of the total expenditure for training is drawn, it would show which programme may be evaluated, if one is concerned only about the quantum of money spent.

    But most of the time the training provided though may be for a small amount of money, it is at a critical point in the career of an employee and hence needs an evaluation more for a reason of putting the person on the right track than for ROI. It was for ensuring a future for the individual and the company. This stand taken by the management was seen to work well!

    Sam Anbazhagan

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    1. Marilyn Pratt Post author
      Those elements you mention in the title would be prerequisite to determining ROI.  If a training is meant to fulfill a legal compliance issue (as in: all employees must be apprised of company, state, federal policies concerning harassment), then averting lawsuits might be a big ROI win for the company.
      But I think we have diverted the topic a bit from certification to training.
      Certification implies a truly access-able and evaluate-able outcome, one that should be auditable and should have attached to it a form of accountability.  That is what Luis seems to have meant when he raised his comments about doctors.  It’s what you would care about when accessing the skills of a pilot steering your jet.  And might very well be the way you would “call to order” a consultant working on your very important and high profile implementation.
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      1. Anbazhagan Sam Venkatesan
        Hi,

        This subject ‘ Certification versus experience’ was raised by Santosh during June 2008 too; may like to visit Certification versus Experience
        by Santosh, “Certification versus experience”

        When seen from employer’s angle both are required; when seen from employee point, experience must be real,it appeared and from certfier point of view certification must be value adding to both employer and employee. It is not an either-or situation, it was felt.

        As for evaluation of a certification by an employer, it certainly would be based on the contribution by the employee who holds certfication./sam

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