Confessions of an average student.
I remember many years ago driving up John Glenn Boulevard in New Concord Ohio for freshman orientation at Muskingum College. I thought going to college was the answer to my quest to find better teachers who would excite me and teach me all sorts of interesting, even useful things. I knew I would be a better student for it.
Economics, Psychology, World Civilization, Computer Science, Art, French: all exciting stuff. By the first days of Spring, after hours and hours of mind-numbing monotone lectures and mimeographed notes read to the class by the professors, I was slipping out the back window whenever the professor turned his back. Thank goodness there were no PowerPoints back then; I'd have died of PowerPoint Poisoning!
With guidance from my parents and others, I decided not to return. Although Dad insisted that while I figured out what I wanted to be that I take a few classes at the local college. That's where I met him. The Chairman of the Civil Engineering, Math and Physics departments: Mario Marcopoli from Turkey. I think in a past life he was a general, or at least he believed he was. He was as tough as the country he grew up in, and he taught most of the engineering, math and physics classes. There was no avoiding him if you wanted to be an engineer. To the sixty of us assembled he bellowed, "In my classes you will work hard. I will constantly challenge you and your thinking. Only three of you will graduate, but those who do will know something and know it well!"
He was right. Only three of us graduated and we three did know our stuff. He wasn't easy, but I did graduate second in my class and I can't remember missing a single class. Before I finished my senior year I put my new skills and tools to work designing houses and chemical plants. To this day, with a small refresher, I believe I could pass the engineering portions of the PE exam.
What was the difference that made the difference?
In this month's Managing Safety Performance News™ Paul begins the first of several newsletters that will examine what makes great teachers, like Mario Marcopoli, great. I'm walking proof that great teaching matters.
~ V. Scott Pignolet
by Paul Balmert
Principal, Balmert Consulting
"Training is probably the least effective management tool in industry
~William McGehee and
A few weeks ago, I listened to a presentation on a proposal
for an Environmental, Health and Safety management system. As a management
consultant with a great deal of interest in the application of management
processes to things safety, that topic is guaranteed to get me to sit up and
pay attention. It was only a matter
of time before another subject that I’ve become fond of came up in the course
of the presentation.
You know, training.
It’s not really possible to have an intelligent discussion
about a management system and leave out the important matter of its
execution. Knowledge is critical to
execution: you can’t expect people to follow a management system if they don’t
understand how it’s supposed to work - and how they’re supposed to do their
work under that system.
Sure enough: “A management system must ensure that
employees, supervisors, and managers have the knowledge and skills needed to
perform their roles properly. There also needs to be periodic checks to show
that the training they receive is effective.”
Who could argue with that?
In order for the organization to follow a system, accomplish
its goals, and be truly safe, there are important things employees, supervisors
and executives need to not just know, but to understand. As far as checking goes, suppose there were periodic
checks to see how well the training being delivered measured up: how many
organizations do you know of that would pass that audit with flying colors?
Not many. That’s a problem.
Writing the rules that lay out the management system is
easy. A paper and pencil will do the trick. Turning that paper into practice is
what really matters. That’s execution, and execution is bound to require
“We do a lot of our
training in our safety meetings. How well do you think that works?”
In my classes, I get that question a lot. You probably do
training that way a lot. On this subject, your opinion counts more than mine.
They’re your people, it’s your time, it’s your stuff, and it’s your meetings. Honestly,
I doubt someone would be asking me that question if they didn’t already know
the answer. But if you wanted to know, you could always stand in the back of
the room and watch what’s going on. The answer would be obvious.
Suppose you did. What are the odds you’d find students not paying
the least bit of attention to what’s being taught, while some teacher drones
on? Reminds you of tenth grade, first period, economics class: “Bueller?
If your goal is simply to check the box “trained” I suppose
this approach works as well as any. It might even pass an audit, as long as the
auditors stick to measuring warm bodies in seats. On the other hand, if you think
that understanding important things that bear on safety
matters more than some high school math class, that approach isn’t doing anyone any good. Them - or you.
But you know that.
CHANGING THE STATUS QUO
If the subject matters, why keep training that way? Because we’ve always done it that way? Because we can’t think of a better way?
Let’s start with simple proposition: your people are not adverse to learning new things. If you’re tempted to snicker at that, show up at a new hire orientation class. On day one, brand new people are always eager to learn.
Given that the content is important – it is - isn’t it time to start working on delivery? In a dozen years of teaching, I’ve learned that delivery counts more than anything else. In the scope of delivery is the physical setting for the training, the means of delivery of the training, and everything the person running the class is doing while standing in front... (Continues)