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Corporate Training Lessons from Central Park

Central Park - Training ConsultingI recently went on a trip to New York City. As with any good trip to New York it included a few Broadway shows, a white-knuckle cab ride, delicious cheesecake, and a trip to Central Park. While in Central Park it isn’t unusual to overhear a visitor say (or have the thought yourself) that “the original New York City founders/planners were brilliant! Setting aside the land for Central Park, not allowing anything to be built there and leaving it in its natural condition showed a great amount of foresight.” As nice of a thought as that is, it isn’t 100% true.

A quick history of Central Park goes something like this: The desire for the park came as New Yorkers felt they needed something on par with the beautiful public parks and gardens in other major cities like London and Paris. Before the park was created people were actually living on the site—there were farmers, gardeners, churches, homes, and a school. Those living on the site were each paid several hundred dollars to relocate.  City leaders called for proposals for a park plan; while many competing ideas were submitted, city leaders selected a plan that focused on pastoral landscapes with a very natural look and feel. This plan differed from the grand promenades and structured gardens that were extremely popular at the time.  Once the design was set, the land had to be considered—it was extremely swampy and rocky. They ended up moving several million cubic yards of dirt and gravel; it also required the planting of more than 250,000 trees and shrubs.

So why am I sharing a long list of facts about central park on a training consulting blog? I think all too often we may think good behavior, best practices, and effective training naturally happen, much like tourists being unaware of the planning and effort that went into creating Central Park. When it comes to effective training and changing behavior we need to first have a desire to change and a vision of the end result. If you don’t have that vision, you’ll never know if you get there. This is why at Allen when we first meet with clients we focus on learning about (and sometimes helping create) their business goals. The goals and objectives help drive the plan. As with Central Park, our plan might not be what people expect or what is most popular at the time. One thing I’ve learned while working at Allen is that when we begin the training consulting process we should always go in with an open mind, and often the best solutions aren’t what we or our clients originally envisioned. There is a temptation for management to simply provide new web-based training for employees when they see a problem, but sometimes job-aides, mobile apps, on-the-job training or a number of other options are better solutions.

To carry out our plan and achieve our goals and objectives, we need to be willing to pay a price, and not just monetarily. It’s not enough to be willing to throw money at our goals. Making changes will often take time and patience. Habits and business culture might have to change, and management and team members will need to work closely together to ensure the best results. To help us determine what challenges learners will face, we use the ANSWER analysis in our training consulting.

Design-Jot-Capture - Training Consulting

As we learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the learners and what drives their motivation, we are able to build on existing strengths and focus on specific areas of concern. Finally, just like Central Park requires continual upkeep, once training has been implemented and behavioral changes have begun to happen, it is important to frequently  follow up and ensure you continue to meet your goals and objectives.

So what helps you gain the desire to improve and change? What “prices” do you feel need to be paid in order to meet business goals? And what helps you “move” those problems that seem as daunting as several million cubic yards of dirt and gravel?