Choosing the right training course

June 15, 2016

 

I've come across so many great people and organizations that have stated in some form "I need to find some training!". This is always great to hear, because so many people are genuinely interested in learning something new be it a skill, an instrument, a language, anything really.

 

As professionals start searching for training they start to ask questions, like "Where do I start looking for training?" or "What type training do I need?". Sometimes they are seeking out training for others, and ask "What type of training does my organization need?"

 

This is where things start to go off the rails. I often get asked my thoughts on what class or certification someone should look into, normally followed by asking my opinion on what I think of that class. Through these types of conversations I've heard some interesting statements and questions, some of which I figured I would share with you along with some of my thoughts.

 

"I don't know what training I should get, where should I start?"

This happens a LOT of time time and is a great start! Very often have a bit of a discussion with the individual about what they are looking for. Very often I point them to the various recognized agile organizations as a starting point. In my particular market, certified training often takes the priority over non-certified offerings but I'd rather present more options so someone could make a better choice for themselves, as well as their organizations., 

 

"What certification is the most valuable?"

Ah, this one. This comes up -all- the time in my area, be it in classes I teach or during coaching / consulting discussions. My personal take is that I recommend that a person determine which certifications their organization values the most, and look at options in that realm. If a company has a significant investment in specific technologies or frameworks, seek those out if that allows them as individuals to get onto exciting projects or as a part of their professional development. It's certainly not my place to bash any organization stating "oh, this is so much better than that". 

 

"I want to take the (insert butchered certification name)"

This seems to happen a lot, with several variations. People often are aware of some sort of class and go into mad-libs mode when trying to talk about a class, jumbling all the words together. Even worse with the acronyms. While the intent might be there, this tips me off that they haven't done much legwork in seeking out the course, learning what the curriculum entails, details of the certification, and most importantly what the ideal candidate for the class is. Do some homework first folks!

 

"Tell me about the (insert certification) I heard I need it"

Along the lines of 'what's most valuable', people are often heard they need to get some training or a particular certification. I often ask them why they think they need it, and explore the conversation from there. They might be coming from a place where all of their peers have a certain certification and they want to keep up, or maybe they are looking to differentiate or find a new job. I'm personally never a fan of an approach where I heard I need it so I better run out and get it without doing any legwork, research or having discussions about the particular offering. 

 

"I took some (insert certification) EQUIVALENT training"

Oh boy, is this always a doozy. I've met a lot of professionals where they work for a company that has crafted their own brand of training. I commend organizations that want to spend the resources to craft something, but when I see the word 'equivalent' that often gives me pause. What you are normally looking at is someone's interpretation of another course they may have taken, with enough 'minor adjustments' to get it further and further away from the course they were basing it on. People say equivalent, and while sometimes it may be the case more of then than not, it isn't.

 

"Should we recommend (insert course) to our customer?"

I've had many occasions where as a part of a proposal some training is included as sort of a value-prop, or the proposal itself is for a course. Far too often it seems that the proposal doesn't even come close to matching customer need. Why should we be pitching an advanced scaling course when the customer is having issues with the agile mindset on one team? Try to find the time to have conversations about the customer need before hitting "send", preferably with someone who provides the course that is being proposed. 

 

"(Insert course) is cheaper should we just get that?"

Cost is a real thing, and I get that organizations only have a

limited amount of time and dollars available to invest in their people. However, if cost is the only driver for decision making around what course to take I'd recommend taking a look at the overall training strategy and budget before buying anything. It's like buying a product because it happened to be on sale, regardless of quality (think of that cheap knock off TV from a wholesaler for example). Identify what the needs really are and make the right choice, while keeping an eye on the cost. Don't just approach it where you are looking for training courses costing less than X dollars.

 

"We don't need (insert course), we've already got that stuff licked"

I stated earlier that I enjoy learning new things. Reading about a new technique, learning a new weight lifting technique, practicing a new instrument, all of these things get my brain engaged and I get a lot of enjoyment from learning something new. While this applies to most people, I've encountered some teams that make statements similar to those right above. "We've got this particular technique down pat. We have nothing left to learn, nothing to improve upon". That right there goes against the spirit of always trying to grow, develop and learn that so many of us teach. So often the folks that claim they have it down pat have MISSED on some key, fundamental concepts and are so accustomed to doing things a certain way they miss an opportunity to sharpen their skills. Don't think you can't learn something new. Don't think you can't get better. There's always a chance to move the ball forward, and taking some courses can help introduce other points of view and innovative techniques you can then bring back to your teams.

 

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