Reviewing Neil Rackham’s 10 Training Design Criteria – #03

Is there a low threat learning environment?

If the learner feels threatened in any way – their learning will most likely suffer.


What can cause a threat to an individual is as varied as individuals.

And as Neil points out – it is not the new person who is necessarily the most threatened. Check out the video.

The 10 Training Design Criteria

  • #1- Is what you are teaching, based on a valid success model?
  • #2- Is your emphasis on “basic” behaviors/ skills?
  • #3- Is there a low threat learning environment?
  • #4- Is there an incremental building of skills?
  • #5- Is the design a learner-centric approach?
  • #6- Are there frequent and objective progress checks?
  • #7- Are there maximum practice opportunities?
  • #8- Are the behaviors/ skills taught based on a specific performance model?
  • #9- Is it exciting to teach/ learn?
  • #10- Are there reinforcements back on the job for what is being taught/ learned?

A Tool to Help You Take Notes

Print this off (Adopt) – or Mash it up (Adapt) – as needed.

Rackham 10 Training Design Criteria Notes Template

The Video

Note: the video is 57 minutes in length. From Neil Rackham at MTEC in 1981. That was the Motorola Training & Education Center. I was in the audience.

Guy’s Further Comments on Criteria #03

I tend to start APPOs – application exercises – for tough task-sets – in 2 or 3 or 4 person groups – where part of the job of one, the observer, is to provide feedback within the safer arena of that APPO Team, to the key practioners, and not their foils – the other actors needed to give the thing being practiced – authenticity.

One always needs to look at who gets paired or joined with whom. I keep people away from their bosses – and if need be promise that the intact team will eventually get a chance to put it all together – after safe practice outside the intact team (or the full intact team).

I “get” the need for the team to learn to work together. But perhaps not to start. Not if we’re going to be involved in a little unlearning first. That can be a shock to those who thought they could do it but can’t.

If there is high risk of individual failure – as learning the new knowledge or skill often requires giving up what one knew prior – the unlearning that needs to occur. So if the audience is seasoned pros, versus newbies, I often design the 1st APPO to really really impress (quickly) upon the learner that their current strategies, tactics, behaviors, verbal communications, etc., ISN’T THE BEST, even before the first INFO or DEMO of the best approach or approaches is given.

And for those that model the right stuff immediately – they will serve me in others ways as I think on my feet how to best leverage those that shine early, and help others with a steeper climb. Later.

Because I intend to fail most. Let’s get that out of the way. That you don’t really know it or have that skill already – and that’s why we are here today.

And that could be threatening. Very.

But when I told the client that that was what I would probably do – at the Analysis Phase Gate Review Meeting – they liked it. Many knew that current practices might be difficult to give up.

I’ve watched Neil explain this coupled with the need for a coach/the feedback to reinforce the correct behavior/thinking – despite negative results.

Ever have a coach change your grip on a tennis racket or a golf club or baseball bat? Etc.?

Yeah. Messes you up.

Loss of ball control. You’re likely to revert.

But the coach focuses on the correct behavior – grip, etc. – and reinforces THAT – until the eventual, new results begin to reward and reinforce that behavior. And the coach moves on to the next area or person.

Apply that to Sales Call skills. Or interviewing skills.

Neil Rackham

I’ve know Neil since 1981 when I had opportunity to work with him on starting a Negotiations program at MTEC based on work he and others (John Carlisle) in his firm were doing in that area at the time. Neil was working with MTEC on sales skills training for sales managers, and later for sales people – as his model was primarily focused on coaches – for reasons I’ve just shared.

I’ve posted on this topic/video – and about Neil – many times before – herehere and here.

While Neil is primarily known in the world of Sales – due to his SPIN Selling book – he began in the 1960s in the Performance Improvement arena with the likes of Geary Rummler, Joe Harless, Bob Mager and many of the others involved in NSPI that later became ISPI.

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