Management education and development is a lucrative business.  Training provides us with new skills and concepts (head stuff), but do the things that are learnt result in the behaviour change (heart stuff) necessary to impact the bottom line … and cred stuff?  And if not what does? 

Just think of the range of training and development options available:

  • Courses; both short and long
  • Seminars
  • Conferences
  • Secondments
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • On the job training

I’m pretty sure there are others and many business are prepared to invest significant sums to get talent educated. but the key question is how do you ensure you get value for money and a return on the investment? 

In terms of the behaviour change there is a great model by a guy called Robert Dilts called the Dilts pyramid or neurological levels model.  It’s usually viewed as a triangle with environment at the base of the triangle and identity, vision and spirituality at the peak, the full list of levels being detailed below. 

  • Environment
  • Behaviour
  • Skills
  • Beliefs and values
  • Identity
  • Vision or spirituality

It’s an excellent starting point and can be applied to individuals, teams and companies.  The model seeks to use the different levels in order to unpick your current situation.  Examining the situation using the different levels provides an indication of where changes need to be made if progress is to take place.  In effect, the logical levels are actually levels of change.

Additionally, another key issues to resolve is what are the criteria by which you establish the approach that will deliver the best bang for your buck?

Let’s look at some of the criteria:

Skills versus knowledge

Perhaps one of the best questions to ask at the beginning of any development activity is; is the intervention essentially learning about something or how to do something or both.  If it is skills based, how will it be established that the transfer from teacher to pupil has been made and, most importantly, was it effective?

The teaching talent

Who is the teaching to be undertaken by? What are the educational and experiential qualifications of those teaching? What are their experiences of your industry or sector?  Do they have first-hand knowledge or is the knowledge “just” subject based and therefore academic?

The educational approach

What is the output to the learning or course? Is it “just” a certificate or can a return on investment be established? What is the balance between individual work and group work?  What is the mix of educational methods? (On the job training, video’s, classroom, case studies etc) and what is right for your company or team?

Learning styles

There are significant differences between how people like to learn.  One model, developed by a guy called David Kolb, suggests four types of approach which he called:

  • The Accommodator, who prefer concrete experience and active experimentation.  These people like learning by doing
  • The Converger, likes to understand the theory first and then apply it.  A combination of what’s called abstract conceptualization and then active experimentation
  • The Diverger likes concrete experience followed by reflective observation; this is the “in at the deep end” approach, followed by a chance to discuss and reflect
  • The Assimilator is the thinker who prefers abstract conceptualization and reflective observation.  They are usually strong in (inductive) reasoning and the creation of theories

There is no right and wrong approach to learning, just different approaches.  But the learning approach will significantly impact on the best way to teach.

The delivery method

If it’s a course, let’s say 10 days, is it better to have one day a week for 10 weeks, two weeks each of five days, followed by one another, or is it best to have each of the five days separated by a period of time, or some other approach?

Is some form of homework required?  Or even better (in our opinion) some form of assignment applied to the specific needs of the company?

Course participants

Many people attend courses in order to network.  Indeed, it is often suggested that people learn as much from each other as they do the teachers.  That being the case, typically, who else is on the course? What are the skills and talents they bring to the party?

Embedding the learning

There is a massive difference between simply “enjoying a course” and bringing something back that can be usefully applied in order to deliver a return.  In fact, enjoying a course is often as much about the quality of the refreshments, the environment and any “goodies or giveaway’s” and therefore bears little relation to actually embedding any learning necessary to deliver a return.

Given the above is there an ideal approach?

The ideal approach?

We would suggest there is.  It can certainly account for most of the above issues, but it is specifically designed with the objective delivering a return on investment. 

The approach would be to create an improvement team where your staff all learn together.  The Dilts model can be applied to team members and the problem, and a business case developed for a specific intervention and a team assembled with a view to making a quantifiable improvement.

This approach, with a facilitator, helps:

  • Ensure different people are coached in accordance with their learning styles throughout the intervention
  • Transfer, in a live environment, specific skills, tools, techniques and methods of thinking from teacher to pupil
  • Solve a specific company need or issue

The whole approach is deliberately geared to embedding skills competence and the behaviour change so often lacking from what might be described as “sheep dip” training.

The obvious downside to this approach is the interaction with others.  However, get the right facilitator, who has had experience in your sector, and indeed others, and to a large part this can be offset; The facilitator brings the external experience from previous interventions.

Management systems

The purpose of any management system is to embed processes and procedures that allow a company to deliver on its objectives and targets.  So, unless there is a desire to simply remain the same, there is presumably some gap between where you are now and where you want to be.  The idea behind training and development (and a key requirement of all management systems) is that training and development can help close that gap.


The majority of training exposes people to ideas which they then often have difficulty in implementing and bringing to life in a working environment.  The day job simply gets in the way.

It is this process of ongoing coaching combined with on the job learning that makes the team approach so powerful.  The coaching allows for course correction against the original business case along the way, other benefits include:

  • A problem specific to the company is focused on and resolved
  • The scale of the problem is quantified – so it can be seen to be worth solving
  • A team effort is applied to the solution, so it is owned by all

In order to help you along with the way we have included:

  • A behaviour change generator based on Dilts’ model
  • A “How To” booklet about process improvement

Related tools and ideas

Recommended references

Downloadable resources


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