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Start With the End in Mind

October 15, 2014

According to Steven Covey, one of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is that they start with the end in mind.  That is, they are always clear about what they want to accomplish before they embark on a project or initiative.


It turns out that is also true for highly-effective training programs and training departments.  They always start with the end in mind.  They are clear about how the training is expected to contribute to the company’s and individual’s success.  We don’t mean the learning objectives. We mean performance objectives: what business or organizational goal is the training designed to support?


Learning objectives are essential to design and develop training—but they are not the “end in mind”—they are the means to achieve an end.  And that end is better performance (Figure 1).


Figure 1: Organizations invest in training and development in order to improve performance.


When we compared highly-effective training to less-effective training, the first of the six key differences (the 6Ds®) we found was that the most effective organizations had clearly defined the business outcomes for training before they conducted a task analysis or defined learning objectives.


The difference seems subtle, but the effect is profound.  Writing in the Field Guide to the 6Ds (Wiley, 2014) Pat Gregory and Steve Akram of Oracle explained: “We changed our approach so that we start with the business needs. As training directors, we are now viewed much more as business partners than simply training providers.  We are brought into discussions earlier, we receive greater management support for training, and our opinions are more highly valued.” 


Cheryl Ong, of Global Trainers in Singapore reported a similar experience “Too often, training departments ‘fill the order’ for training, without first understanding what the business managers needs to accomplish.   Business leaders appreciate our focus on their needs rather than our solutions. The 6Ds have allowed us to move from a training provider to a strategic business partner and trusted advisor.” 


If you want to enhance the effectiveness of training in your organization and be recognized as a valued contributor to business success: start with the end in mind.  Before you agree to provide training, be sure to:

  • Confirm that the performance challenge is really due to a knowledge or skill gap and not some other impediment.

  • Interview key stakeholders using a structured process to identify the expected business outcomes and what trainees are expected to do better and differently afterward.

  • Clarify the criteria for success for the training in terms of on-the-job performance.


Starting with the end in mind—the business and organizational goals for training—is one of the most important and powerful steps you can take to positively transform your programs and your reputation. 


About the Author



Dr. Roy Pollock is the Chief Learning Officer and co-founder of The 6Ds® Company. He is co‐author of the best‐selling Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning: How to Turn Training and Development into Business Results as well as Getting Your Money’s Worth from Training and Development. Prior to founding The 6Ds Company, Roy served as Chief learning Officer for the Fort Hill Company, as Assistant Dean for Curriculum Development, Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine; Vice President, Global Strategic Product Development for SmithKline Beecham Animal Health; Vice President, Companion Animal Division for Pfizer; President, IDEXX Informatics; and President, VetConnect Systems, Inc. Dr. Pollock received his B.A. magna cum laude from Williams College, and his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree with highest honors as well as his Ph.D. degree from Cornell University. He studied education at the Center for Educational Development at the University of Illinois Medical School and has authored more than 70 articles and book chapters. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and a Fellow of the Kellogg Foundation National Leadership Program.

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