L&D: The Sins of Our Past Poor Practices Haunt Us Still

The Sins of L&D Past Bite Us Today

Too much L&D Content has been on Topics and not on Tasks. Driven by client requests for Content applicable to many/all – but then impactful to few/none. Typically it’s been more communications or education and not skills building training.

It is seldom that I even see the word “Analysis” – let alone the phrase “Performance Analysis” in articles, posts, conference programs related to L&D. The past practices regarding the conduct of such doomed us. Clients don’t want to continue to hear that you don’t know when you’ll be done with your analysis or discovery or detective work.

Overly long and Underly short sets of Content – or a ridiculous 2-hour standard was magically the appropriate length of a module. This example Path from 1986 has 15 minute max modular Events leading to an 8-day Event in the 1000 Series.

Somehow every e-learning module became 2 hours in length. One client of mine found 28 version of “Active Listening” in their current (uncontrolled) inventory – when conducting part 4 of my Analysis methods (Existing T&D Assessments – ETA). And all 28 versions were 2 hours in length.


Seldom is there enough Practice w/ Feedback on authentic Performance that incrementally gets as difficult as the real world job. The mode/media of choice limits that and then we don’t provide for & measure supervisors follow-up/ coaching.

Most L&D and the T&D before that – lacked authentic practice. E-learning has limits on its ability to pose such practice in the first place and then give meaningful feedback to reinforce and/or correct for the next practice opportunity.

Next practice opportunity? Don’t hold your breath.

Too often the Analysis is on Topics/not Tasks. But if on Tasks, there is too much reliance on the input of 1 SME, or a few, but in an async, series, vs a sync, collaborative approach where an SME can miss up to 70% of what a novice needs.

It pains me to see L&D guidance on how to get started with how to conduct a Content Analysis. Or how to work with your SME. Research shows us that that any SME, even if they work at it, can miss up to 70% of what a novice performer will need. Their knowledge is parked in a non-conscious state – to manage their own cognitive overload – and it takes a lot more that asking them to state “how is this done” to get everything needed.

I use a Group Process for conducting a structured Analysis effort of Performance and of the enabling Knowledge/Skills. Others use some form of Cognitive Task Analysis.

But in any event – Pilot Testing and authentic Application Exercises will help you see if your content is adequate or not. And doing Real Work is the best Application Exercise.

Too often the language of the Accomplishments taught in L&D have been converted to noun-verbs, when the Target Audiences doesn’t talk like that. Keep their language and drop your need to conform things to some silly inauthentic standard.

Use the language of Business and of the Performers. Quit your conversions! Be authentic.

Learners/Performers have experienced too much junk from their L&D sources. Dents their motivation and willingness to work at learning IMO. So they demand quick & easy & fun – when meaningful L&D might be longer, hard and not-so-much fun.

You will need to establish your ability and credibility one client at a time, one project at a time. For the reputation of those sins of our collective past precede you.

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