T&D: Our Language Is a Mess


What’s In a Name?

“That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Romeo and Juliet – William Shakespeare

KISS – Keep It Simple Silly

There is a time and place for the use of Jargon. And a time and place to not use Jargon.

Jargon can help professionals discuss nuances about their professional stuff.

But the world outside of the Profession – whatever that profession be – including the direct customers/users of the Professions Outputs/Deliverables/Solutions – do not need (very often) those nuances. It only confuses the uninitiated. They don’t have the foundation to understand those nuances.


A Word Cloud of Confusion

A Partial List of Confused Terms in L&D/T&D

Training, Learning, Group-Paced, Self-Paced, Coached, Mentored, Formal Learning, Informal Learning, Experience, Exposure, Education, Development, Workflow Learning, Classroom Learning, Webinars, Podcasts, Video, Reading Assignments, Observations, Trial and Error Learning, Challenging Assignments Learning, Conferences, Seminars, Workshops, Courses, Resources, MOOCs, OJT – On the Job Training, Structured OJT, Un-Structured OJT, 70-20-10, 10-20-70, Performance-based T&D, Job Aids, Guidance, Performance Support, QRGs – Quick Reference Guides, Performance Aids … etc., etc., etc.

Emphasis on the Etc.

It even starts with L&D vs T&D. Thanks to Peter Senge IMO!

Although Senge isn’t directly responsible for that Learning Organization Bandwagon that almost everyone in the T&D Biz jumped upon back in the early-to-mid 1990s. I think it was due to those T&D hipsters thinking that they were the Learning Organization. Or that they saw that moniker as a brass ring to grab. Or they needed that alias in lieu of a Witness Protection Program as they ran from their guilt of producing T&D that had no value – or in reality – had a negative value – and ran to something the C Suite was reading and liking.

But It Ain’t Nuthin’ New

I heard these complaints when I entered the field in 1979. About the language used in T&D.

Or in HRD. Or in Training. Or in Training & Education.

Etc. With Emphasis. On the inconsistencies.

Consistency serves the learners/Performers – ESPECIALLY when they are new to the Learning Curve.

Later, midway up their Learning Curve – they are better able to deal with and learn from the nuances of Inconsistent Language. But only if the different, inconsistent language is nuanced in its contribution – and isn’t simply a Marketing Nuance/Difference.

Guilty As Charged

Me? Yes – I’ve added to the list above. To the Word Cloud of Confusion.

As I developed my own ISD methods (PACT) starting in 1982 in conjunction with a broader set of Performance Improvement methods (that eventually became EPPI) I needed to settle on some language/labels that had staying power. That allowed me to more easily, simply broaden out from T&D to PI – Performance Improvement.

Or to HPT – Human Performance Technology. Or HPI – Human Performance Improvement. Etc. Etc.

While I attempt to be one of those hobgoblins of consistency – although as I tell many, I am consistently inconsistent – as one should never take their serious work too seriously.

But I wished to develop Performance Competence (a.k.a: Performance Capability) in T&D in my staff and the staffs of my clients – and then easily segue to PI.

Because clients want PI even if they ask for T&D. Or L&D.

Help – I Need Somebody (With Apologies to The Beatles)

Look in the Corporate Directory – as your internal/external clients might – for HELP in developing people or solving performance problems – and unless you come across Quality before Training – you’ll end up with their pleas for HELP – with or without your formal Request for Services form completed.

Hey, did I just stumble upon another reason to change the name from Training to Learning?

For those land grabbers, empire builder, wanting to raise their profiles, budgets and staffing levels? L before T?

It’s Too Late Baby (With Apologies to Carole King)

Is it too late, baby? Have we gone past the PONR – Point of No Return?

Is it too difficult – at this point in time – so far down the Road to Confusion – to grab this issue by the proverbial horns and address it, wrestle it to ground, tie it up, off and head into the sunset?

Blow It Up Start All Over Again (With Apologies to John D. Loudermilk and His Song “Tobacco Road”)

Does all of this give you The Blues?

The proliferation of terms? All seemingly in the name Improvement. Improvement in Communications? Communications for better understanding?

Are all of these labels adding value, or subtracting value?

Should we Blow It Up and Start All Over Again? Like Tobacco Road?

Note the song, Tobacco Road, has Many Variations. Many.

By The Nashville Teens. Edgar and Johnny Winter. Bobby Gentry. The Jefferson Airplane. War. Ramsey Lewis. The Blues Magoos. Spooky Tooth. Hank Williams Jr. Dan Seals. Lou Rawls. Etc. Etc. Emphasis on the Etc.

Check them out via Google – here.

Here’s the John D Loudermilk version of: Tobacco Road.

You can decide if the later versions were “improvements” or not.

Could we fix this? Or is it too late? Baby.

Maybe I should just quit worrying about the Word Cloud of Confusion across this profession.

And stop to smell the roses. And then get back to work.


Focus on the Performance Requirements – and Enable Them.

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