Contributed by Tom Jenkins & Susan Morris of Advanced Business Learning.

What is sheep-dip training? It is training that is planned and administered to everyone in the target group without consideration of any other changes in policies, procedures, or management of the organization. It’s the classic model of putting people in a classroom, training them, albeit on some great concepts, and then sending them back to work. The logic is if you’re a sheep and we dip you in this here training then all problems will either be cured or prevented – end of story. (Of course the ranch hands don’t ever want to get any sheep dip on themselves.) Go forth and be happy and productive! Return on investment, zero!

An illustrative example: Recently we were invited in to discuss what to do to help a very successful .com company who had just completed a series of supervisory training courses with a well-known training supplier. Management was very disappointed that the sheep dipping just completed had not produced ANY changes. We quickly reviewed what was done and determined the cause of the lack of results. There was no follow up, no reinforcement, no accountability to actually apply the new skills learned, and last but certainly not least, no tie from what was taught in the classroom to what was required on the job.

Our intervention addressed the same skill sets but, as integral to our process, the application of the skills and concepts to the job was much more thorough. After each module the supervisors selected one to three skills and/or behaviors from the workshop that needed to be implemented on the job. Next, they determined what metrics would be improved as a result of these changes to track ROI.

But that’s not all. The supervisors were asked to identify their role and their managers’ role in the implementation in order to ensure good clear communication and setting of expectations on who does what activities. The entire collection of activities and role changes was presented to executive management who made the final decisions on what activities and roles would be changed, taking into account their own unique perspective of the big picture for the organization. In essence we created a “cascading up” process with identified roles, responsibilities and expectations at every level of management in the organization.

Here’s how it works:

  • High impact activities are selected, prioritized and validated
  • These activities are grouped into categories, assigned to teams and analysis/synthesis is
  • Relevant metrics are determined
  • The Leadership Team’s role in execution of the activities is determined
  • An “organizational memory” of best practices is created and maintained

A few months into this project the results were very positive. Participants went from skepticism to excited commitment to the whole process of learning and applying the new knowledge and skills. Continuous improvement teams of supervisors, managers, directors and vice presidents (all voluntary) are underway and internal assessments just completed have shown an increase in the supervisors’ upward feedback scores.

The sheep-dipping factory is closed!