Unknown…and unknowable

so much more than a bagSo it’s the beginning of an ‘Improvement through Systems Thinking’ course that I facilitate and I am asked a question from one of the attendees:

“What is the value, as in ‘return on investment’ (ROI), in me attending this training?”

Now, that’s a (sadly) all too common a question when someone working within a command-and-control environment has to guarantee a short term payback BEFORE they are authorised to spend time towards studying and improving their system.

Here’s my response:

1) It isn’t a training course. It is education, aimed at making you curious. No more and no less; and

2) The ‘value’ is unknown….and unknowable!!!

Sure, I can (and will) do my best in designing and delivering this course against its purpose but:

  • I cannot know (let alone dictate) which of you will speak to who during and afterwards, and about which bits. I cannot know when such conversation(s) will occur (tomorrow, next week, next month…or even after someone leaves for another organisation!) and I cannot know how the system will enable (or constrain) as and when these conversations eventuate; 
  • and perhaps the nub of it is that the ‘value’ is in YOUR hands to decide, not mine! YOU decide whether you will explore or ignore. YOU decide whether you are too comfortable in your current state or whether you desire growth. Not I.

…BUT that doesn’t make this a problem. It’s just ‘how it is’, whether you like it or not.

There is massive ‘organisation-changing’ value to be had…but it is for you to decide whether you pursue it.

The ‘ROI as permission to act’ view of the world is such a poor way to seek, and achieve, improvement.

I am reminded of a fabulous scene in the classic ‘Love Actually’ film between Rowan Atkinson and the late Alan Rickman: How much is that necklace there? (It’s only 3 mins. long and well worth watching 🙂 )

A course can be ‘so much more than a bag’…but that depends on you.

3 thoughts on “Unknown…and unknowable

  1. i’m doing a thing VERY SOON, possibly today, on how i dislike training at work, IT WAS WRITTEN BEFORE I READ THIS so don’t take offence, i’ve never been to australia, so it’s not about any training you may have given.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! I look forward to reading it and I fully expect no offence to be taken 🙂 Two slight clarifications on your comment: I’m over in New Zealand rather than Oz and I don’t ‘give training’: I (attempt to) facilitate stimulating education sessions where these may yield some future use towards a clear customer purpose. Such education sessions are a small part of what I do – the rest is currently about providing coaching, support (and therapy) when this is pulled from me…and professional provocation when it is not.


  2. Love the Rowan Atkinson clip. It also makes me think about nominal value and standardisation. Alan Rickman’s nominal value is ‘do it quickly’ while Rowan Atkinson insists on following the standard procedure for gift wrapping. Maybe he’d get in trouble with his boss if he didn’t?

    Liked by 1 person

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