Tip #332: Just -In-Time Training in Group Facilitation

“Ideas can be life-changing. Sometimes all you need to open the door is just one more good idea.” Jim Rohn

In the past, whenever I heard about “just-in-time training,” I assumed that it only pertained to specific technical job skills. A web search for “just-in-time training” uncovered a number of e-learning and computer software offerings.

However, a recent classroom training experience showed me that my perception of “just-in-time training” was very short sighted and incomplete.

All of the training programs that I design and deliver are intended to build or strengthen practical skills. The programs are always highly interactive and participant-centered.

Unfortunately, it is often the case that the participant employees learn the skills, but their supervisors and managers are not there learning along with them. As a result, the participants leave the training without any guarantee that their new skills will be valued and supported. As a matter of fact, it is fairly typical to hear participants comment that they like what they have learned, but they won’t be allowed to use it when they get back to their worksites.

So imagine what can happen when an entire intact work team that includes both supervisor and employees not only learns new skills but also actively incorporates them into their team goals and work relationships!

You might attribute the effectiveness of the training to the reality that the entire work team was present and participated. But this is not the first intact work team that I have facilitated, so I know that this is a necessary but not sufficient element for success.

What made the difference in this case was the fact that each member of the team was truly committed to learning and applying what they had learned- and their supervisor was incredibly thoughtful and focused on the immediate significance of every concept and tool.

As a result, they took the training content and ran with it, applying it in deeper and more complex ways than I had ever planned or imagined.

Let me give an example.

The training focus was group facilitation skills. Because the team members were already relatively experienced facilitators, the training challenge was to introduce and model specific facilitation tools that would be new to them.

One of these tools was an affinity diagram. It was introduced in an early training module as a way for the team to identify different facilitation challenges. Later in the program, I planned for them to apply other facilitation tools to determine how to meet or manage those challenges.

The participants were asked to write down current and/or anticipated facilitation challenges on large post- it notes, one challenge per note. The group was then supposed to create an affinity diagram, working together to identify categories of like challenges on a flip chart laid out on a table.

I had intended for them to create and label the categories based on the type of facilitation challenge, such as “interpersonal conflict” or “time management.” But gradually, as I watched in awe, the team recreated and relabeled the categories on the basis of what would solve the issues!

The previous day, during a team building workshop, the group had learned the importance of establishing team operating principles that set guidelines for how the team members participate and interact with each other.

When they worked with the affinity diagram, they placed the following four challenges: “all bosses on the team,” “positional power interfering with process,” “group wants decisions made but does not present decision options,” and “participants are not forthcoming with comments nor actively participating” under a category titled: “Operating Principles.”

Talk about “just-in-time training!” They were able to take their new knowledge of team operating principles to solve real pressing facilitation challenges.

What a thrill to have every single participant eagerly absorb the content, seriously discuss its implications, and then intently apply newly learned knowledge and skills to work through real work issues.

That is the best gift that trainers can receive: to actually watch their training make a visible, significant and positive difference in the attitudes, capabilities and actions of their participants.

May your learning be sweet.


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