are we forgetting the forklifts?

9 11 2006

in a comment on the home post to the learning circuits blog’s the big
, tom haskins raises  an interesting and compelling point
regarding the two radically different ends of training/learning.  as he states it:

The hardware/brick & mortar parts of the economy don’t mess around.
There is one rig
Orange_no_drawer_1ht answer for every detail. There are costly mistakes.
Experts provide accurate content to port into instructiona
l designs.
Compliance training needs to get results. Procedures are linear and
need to be followed
in sequence.


The software/Web 2.0 part of the economy does mess around like
crazy. There are so many right answers that a great search engine
cannot find them all even if they are tagged and aggregated at one
address. Mistakes are easily forgiven and forgotten by bloggers,
subscribers and serial entrepreneurs. Everything is in flux and rapid
evolution. SME’s become learners and learners generate new content.

definitely is the more amorphous, change oriented learning that is
happening.  leadership and innovation may well be best served by
learner-centered Web 2.0 approaches.  It seems that in discussions of learning and development, this area is the major focus. 

but what about mechanical training?  legal compliance training?  the
learners cannot control the content of sarbanes-oxley training.  if you think about it, sox is, in part, is about saying there is no choice here.  you do it this way or you go to jail.   giving
learners control over how to use a metal press or freedom to experiment
with ideas on how to dock a river barge would result in deaths and loss
of property. (although our friends in the simulation and gaming world will say we can let learners have trial and error learning in these areas as well.)

i always found it both humorous and sad that at a large retail company I’ve done work for
that has over a dozen warehouses in the u.s., there was no one in the
corporate training group that knew that the company conducted training
on how to drive a forklift.

why is it that our conversations regarding  training often leave out
procedural training.  do we assume that it’s being done correctly?  have we outsourced it so we don’t have to worry about it?  is it not sexy enough?

worse yet, have we in-sourced it?  Have we left it to the business unit
to handle this educaton because we in "learning and development" don’t
get our hands dirty doing that sort of training?

tom has raised issues that we need to think about.  are we thinking about all the employees in our companies?  do we need different models for different types of training?



4 responses

10 11 2006
Dennis D. McDonald in Alexandria, Virginia USA

I think this is a great topic. Since delving back into the “knowledge management” literature and blogosphere over the past year I have been amazed at the focus of so much writing and development effort on “knowledge workers,” as if the rest of the economy doesn’t exist. The fact is, even “knowledge oriented” enterprises manage many internal processes that are repetitive, trainable, shareable, and (perhaps most important) opportunities for collaboration. Not evryone is interested in social bookmarking! As I have written elsewhere in “Let’s Get Real about Web 2.0″(

1. Not all knowledge workers are motivated to collaborate.
2. Not all corporate workers are knowledge workers.
3. You don’t have to be a knowledge worker to understand the value of collaboration.

16 11 2006
Tom Haskins

I’m expecting the models for training “forklift operators” will change as a result of the culture shift implicit in the Web 2.0 tools. It’s true that skilled and unskilled trades perform different kinds of tasks than knowledge workers. It’s also true that most are not subscribing to blogs, bookmarking sites and contributing to wiki knowledge bases. But the predispositions for getting taught are changing for all learners. The advent of interactivity, mass customization, and 24/7 access is part of this change. I suspect that trades people are getting exposed to the changes by shopping online, playing games on their computer or keeping up with the box scores of their favorite teams. So speaking (out of turn) for all “culturally shifted” forklift operators in training:

When are you going to ask me how much of this I already know?
When do I get to choose which approach you take to getting me to understand this?
Can we start where I’m at — instead of at the beginning? Because I already know how to operate a different model of forklift from the last place I worked.
When can I describe the problems I having understanding this policy for keeping the drive train lubricated?
I already know how to operate this equipment, but I’m not very good at troubleshooting problems with the hydraulics. How can I get help on that without taking the whole program again?
Why isn’t this on a simulation where I can crash the forklift 8 times before I get it figured out how to not over-steer this new model?

17 11 2006
dave lee

i agree that we will be developing better, more learner focused learning opportunities in the future. but i still don’t see where it will necessarily require new design models.

to quickly answer your questions:
…i already know? during assessment
…choose which approach… during implementation if options were designed based on needs assessment feedback.
…start where i’m at… sure, we’ve designed an assessment that will figure out where you should start. (or you can start where ever you, if you guess wrong, you can go backwards – the design is modular)
…understanding this policy… we’ve built in discussion forums and a wiki for you to raise your concerns, share your expertise, or get answers.
…troubleshooting problems… all of the material you’ve already studied is in the database for you to review if you ever need to do so. but from what we know, you shouldn’t be worrying about the hydraulics, it’s not in your job description. use the mechanic requistion form found in the database.
…no simulation… we’re working on it, the needs assessment showed that you would like to have a simulation, we got the budget and are working on it. care to beta test it? (ps-evaluations from benchmarking companies say simulations will really help you learn this.)

everyone of your questions can be answered by the addie model. i could have done the same with hpt. sure, the content and nature of the needs assessment will shift, but it’s still needs assessment.

designing multi-layed and multi-tracked learning programs using modules and discrete learning objects will place demands on learning designers that may be new, but it’s still design – just bigger.

sure simulations call for a different skill set for development than procedural guidelines for real-life driver training, but it’s still designing to fulfill the needs identified in the needs assessment.

granted also, we’ll need fewer classroom facilitators for implementation, but that changes the budgeting, not he design model.

do we currently now how to evaluate for these varying tracks and new delivery approaches? yes and no. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have to worry about evaluating for effectiveness, transfer to the work environment, impact on the business, and/or customer satisfaction.

in this discussion i’ve come to a stronger feeling that the models we have today will be able to support our work in the future. as i said in my first post, my concern is will we as a field be ready to execute what the model calls for.

18 11 2006
Tom Haskins

Great answer to each question. I’m sold on what you’re saying about continuing to use the existing models — now that you’ve walked me through all the challenges I posed to customize and respond to each learner. Nice job!

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