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How “Mature” is Your Training Program?

Danielle Duran recently shared a framework – a training program maturity model – to help L&D professionals (and their key stakeholders) determine how “mature” their training programs are. It also offers structure for those same L&D professionals (and their key stakeholders) to identify how mature they’d like to be. Here is a conversation about that maturity model.

Introduction 

Brian Washburn: Welcome, everyone, to another episode of Train Like You Listen, a podcast about all things learning and development in bite-sized chunks. I’m Brian Washburn. I’m your host, and I’m also the Co-founder of an instructional design firm called Endurance Learning. Today I’m joined by Danielle Duran who is the director of GXP Learning at Aimmune Therapeutics, which is a Nestle Health Science company. Today’s podcast is actually going to focus around a concept that Danielle shared with the training world. It’s a training program maturity model, and we’ll talk about that in just a second. 

But before we get into any of that, I need to let you know that today’s podcast is brought to you by Endurance Learning’s new L&D Professionals Academy. It’s an eight-week-long cohort-based program for people looking to break into L&D or maybe people who’ve been in L&D for a while but have never formally been exposed to all the theories and fundamentals. It’s a combination of self-guided elearning and live virtual sessions. We’ll focus on building skills, begin to create a portfolio, and making connections. If you want more information, go ahead and visit www.endurancelearning.com/academy.  

So Danielle, how are you? 

Danielle Duran: Great. Thanks, Brian. 

Six-Word Biography

Brian Washburn: We are going to talk about this training program maturity model, but before we do that, and I know that you’ve been on the podcast before, so people who have subscribed, who regularly listen, they probably know who you are. But for those who might be new or maybe have forgotten who you are, why don’t you introduce yourself to us in six words?

Danielle Duran: Sure, and thanks again for having me back. I’m very excited to be here. I think the six words that are most accurate would be to say that I am a “life sciences learning and capability expert.” And before I say anything else, I will also add a caveat that anything I say during this time is representing my own opinions and not that of my employer. So just– I’m a compliance person, so gotta say it. 

Brian Washburn: Fair enough. I love it. And it’s in regular time. I’ve been watching a number of political commercials recently, and they have kind of a fine print at the end to speed that up.

Danielle Duran: Oh, okay.

Brian Washburn: So I’m glad that you gave us just the disclaimer in regular time, which is great. So we’re talking about this idea of a training program maturity model that you have developed and you’ve shared with the world. We have a link for those who are reading the transcript here. Can you just talk us through initially what is this training program maturity model? How is it organized? Why did you take the time to put it together? How can organizations use it? Why would organizations use it? So lots of questions. But first of all, just kind of what is it? 

What is a Training Program Maturity Model?

Danielle Duran: Sure. So a maturity model is a way to think about a concept in a few different key elements and how that can change from an early stage to a later stage way. So there’s lots of different ways to use maturity models and in every different industry, and I think they’re becoming more and more common as a tool. And so that’s what we’re talking about here. 

Brian Washburn: And so when you talk about basically being able to assess your training programs in several different areas, what are some of the areas that you’ve focused on here? Like, how is this model organized?  

How is the Training Program Maturity Model Organized?

Those four key elements for this model include: 
To what extent is this program strategic? 
To what extent is it outcome-oriented? 
To what extent is it governed? 
To what extent is it sustainable?

Danielle Duran: Sure. So for the training program maturity model, I focused on four key elements, and each of those could be broken down much, much more deeply with many details. But I wanted to give something high enough level that it could be applied pretty broadly so that it could be useful to as many people as possible. And so those four key elements for this model include: to what extent is this program strategic? And we say that’s aligned with business needs and goals. To what extent is it outcome-oriented? So that there’s a defined scope, clear objectives, and success metrics, and some type of review of progress. To what extent is it governed? So to what extent are there defined processes and standards for engagement? And then finally, to what extent is it sustainable? That’s a little bit more straightforward.  

Brian Washburn: And this is– it’s pretty interesting to take a look at this. So my background, I’m an instructional designer, and when I take a look at this model, the idea of strategic, right? You want to make sure that any training program that you’re putting together is aligned with a business need or business goals. The outcome-oriented idea of training programs and goes into learning objectives and success metrics and things like that. One of the things that I think is really interesting, and I think it may be influenced by the lens through which you just look at life, right? So you’re a compliance person, and so the idea of “govern,” I think is really interesting. And now it’s having a conversation about this particular model with some other people, and that was an area where they also pointed out, “Huh, I haven’t thought too much about this governed piece before.” So I think that’s a really interesting thing. 

And for those who are listening, who are like me, right? So either fell into the world of learning and development because you were good at a specific area. And then you started to just put lesson plans together and instructional design. The idea of governed is interesting. Can you talk a little bit more about why that specific area is of interest or of importance for people that work on training programs in general? 

Why is Governance Important in Training Programs? 

Danielle Duran: Sure. So I think the importance of governance is something that I learned about in working in the life sciences, where, especially on the technical side, so whether you’re in– well, you know, I’m sure it exists all over the place across the entire business. But when– back lifetimes ago, when I was working in K-12 education or when I was working in nonprofits, I think there’s a lot of structures within businesses that you don’t notice or you don’t realize are happening. but because things tend to be organized in a certain type of way, you get to take that governance for granted and you don’t always have to think about it. 

You have to decide what your rules are so that you have guardrails...
So the ‘governance’ is that touchstone. It's that structure that allows you to operate more efficiently and predictably.

But in different kinds of businesses, that governance has to be very clearly defined and people have to be onboarded to what the various ways of doing business are. And the way that you define those various ways of doing business are by defining processes or procedures for people to follow. And it was something that I learned actually as a teacher that you have to decide what your rules are so that you have guardrails because you can’t enter your classroom and then start trying to manage your classroom when you have no rules as your touchstones. So the governance is that touchstone. It’s that structure that allows you to operate more efficiently and predictably. 

And when you have a training program, you always have to be partnering with the business, right? But the business has to also know what to expect, and they need to know how to engage. And so– because they need to engage, but they don’t always think about it. So when you set up those structures for governance, those are your ways of working, and that can really support the strong partnership. And I think that’s– that’s one way you’re highlighting– there’s a lot of interdependency here. 

Brian Washburn: It’s really interesting because– and then you have this idea of sustainable and adaptive, right? So governed is structures, but then you also have adaptive so that you’re open to– you know, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution as well.

Danielle Duran: Yeah. 

Brian Washburn: And then you take– so you have strategic, outcome-oriented, governed, and sustainable and adaptable—as categories to take a look at. And then you almost have– I don’t know if a grading or scoring system is the right term, maybe you have a better term– but basically, you have a range of maturity levels, I guess, that go from limited to emerging to responsive, supportive, and optimized. And so when you take a look at the whole model, why did you take the time to put something like this together? 

Why is a Maturity Model Useful?

I think that it's very difficult to do any kind of business without shared understandings and shared language because that's how you interact.

Danielle Duran: I needed it very badly. I think that it’s very difficult to do any kind of business without shared understandings and shared language because that’s how you interact. And I think one of the challenges that I have come across regularly when it comes to understanding training programs within the life sciences is there is no one way to do it. And so every different person around the business that you’re supposed to be partnering with has had all different types of experiences in the past. And training, just like the education experiences we have, everyone thinks that they know about it because they’ve gone through it, but it doesn’t really mean that we have gone through it the same way or have the same expectations or even have the same understanding of what it’s capable of.

I think it's important to look at it as a tool for alignment before any kind of evaluation. Let's make sure we're talking about the same things, let's make sure that we believe the same things are priorities, and then from there you can say, “Well, to what extent is something a priority?” And you can have this tool to get you on the same page. 

And so I created this maturity model so that there’s a shared understanding of what’s possible along with where can you start. And I know earlier you said this is a tool perhaps for evaluation and you absolutely can evaluate, but I think it’s important to look at it as a tool for alignment before any kind of evaluation. Let’s make sure we’re talking about the same things, let’s make sure that we believe the same things are priorities, and then from there you can say, “Well, to what extent is something a priority?” And you can have this tool to get you on the same page. 

Brian Washburn: So– and you’re getting into the “why”—why would an organization find this helpful? Let’s get into that “how” a little bit. How have you used this or how would you envision an organization using this to help kind of set their training programs on the right path? 

How Would an Organization Use the Training Program Maturity Model?

Danielle Duran: Yep. I think– so as soon as I had written this, I felt a sense of relief because I knew that I was going to have a structured– again, this goes back to the governed bit of the governing, even being outcome-oriented, you know, having some structure to be able to come from a common ground. And so I think how to use it, other than really internalizing what it means and how the language either aligns or needs to be adjusted for your own business, but really looking at where are you now? And where might you want to go? 

I think the best first use of this tool is to understand, What do I want to accomplish? What do I know is possible? Where are we as a business? And what does the need of the business demand in terms of maturity? And then where are we?

And again, I think it opens, the article opens, in talking about that strategic place of meeting the business where they’re at and really understanding where they want to go. Because those of us in L&D with an L&D background, learning background, you know, what’s possible. And we’re all full of all these ideas of possibility and potential. And we know all the great things that can happen from continuous improvement. And the business does too, but they see how much other work there is to be done, and I think the best first use of this tool is to understand, What do I want to accomplish? What do I know is possible? Where are we as a business? And what does the need of the business demand in terms of maturity? And then where are we? And then from there, you know, start– when you get to there, you’re going to have ideas of what you want to do next.

Brian Washburn: I think it’s a really helpful tool to identify your current state. 

Danielle Duran: Mhm.

Brian Washburn: Like how is the organization? How are the training programs currently running? And how does the organization kind of, support successful training programs? Now, the model itself, like I mentioned before, kind of runs on this continuum from limited to emerging to responsive, supportive, and optimized. When one takes a look at a chart like this, one probably assumes that anything on the right side– the far right, the optimized column is the best, right? That’s the best thing. Is that a good way to look at this? You know, should every organization strive to be optimized in all four of these categories?  

Should Every Organization Strive to Be Optimized in All Areas of the Model?

Danielle Duran: I would say that’s a very difficult question without understanding what the business needs. And I think, again, those of us that are coming from our backgrounds, those of us that are interested in this type of thing, we also tend to be people who want to get an A or who are used to getting A’s. And when you look at a chart like this, you think, “Oh, optimized is the ‘A,’ I need to go get optimized.” 

Brian Washburn: Mhm.

That's the criticality of having that strategic line in there and being super clear and very tightly partnered with the business on what is the need because there isn't usually a need to be optimized in every area for every program.

Danielle Duran: But I think that’s where– that’s the criticality of having that strategic line in there and being super clear and very tightly partnered with the business on what is the need because there isn’t usually a need to be optimized in every area for every program. And the business itself might not be at a maturity level that would support that. Sometimes the business itself is pretty low maturity in some areas, or even in a lot of areas. And when the business itself is in a low level of maturity, you can’t be at a super high level of maturity in your training programs because there the– broadly there are not company structures that support that.

Brian Washburn: That makes a lot of sense to me. I know that sometimes, like, I’m with you. I want to get the A, right? 

Danielle Duran: Yep.

Brian Washburn: And sometimes, whether it’s time constraints or priorities, whatever an organization may say, “You know what? Emerging is where we want to be, that is going to be good enough for us to make it through, and so that’s where we want to be.” Although sometimes an organization may say, “Nope, zero defects and everything needs to be exactly the right way, and we need to make sure this is optimized.” Now, if you are in a position where you’re like, “Okay, I can see where we are. We are not optimized. And. I think there’s value, there’s a fit. We have purpose to be moving toward the more mature level.” Are there some specific things that an organization or training leaders within the organization can do to move from left to right on this continuum from less mature to more mature?  

What Can an Organization Do to Grow Their Training Program Maturity?

Danielle Duran: Sure. I think my recommendations, again, I’m always going to be coming back to partnering with the business and understanding your customer because that’s your–a learning group is a support group. So you can only be as good as what the business needs. And so the first thing to do after doing your evaluation and understanding your current state might be to go and learn more about the business and learn more about where are we right now as a business? What do we want to do? What’s our competitive advantage currently? What do we want our competitive advantage to be? Where are there gaps? Because you have to be coming at your business partners with some type of value proposition, right? That’s part of what you have to do in a position, especially as a leader of a learning organization.

I think it's important to understand that not each of those key factors also has the same weight. And you can think about: what are the benefits and drawbacks on focusing on this one versus this other one?

But I think it’s important to understand that not each of those key factors also has the same weight. And you can think about: what are the benefits and drawbacks on focusing on this one versus this other one? And if I go really far over here, but I don’t bring along, for example, sustainable and adaptive, what’s going to happen to my team, what’s going to happen to my credibility, etc.? So I think it’s always a balancing act and really understanding if I take certain actions, for example, oftentimes governance is on the lower end. So if I were to focus on governance, then what does that mean? It becomes an enabler for where I can move other things up at the same time. And I think those are the conversations to have with your manager or whoever that key stakeholder is in the business to say, “Here’s what I’m thinking for a plan how to, you know–” and then working together to prioritize. 

Brian Washburn: Danielle, I love this conversation and I love this tool and I would love to talk more. We are out of time. If people want to find you to talk a little bit more about this and learn a little bit more about this, how can people find you? 

Danielle Duran: I think LinkedIn is the easiest way. 

Brian Washburn: Perfect. And there’s an article that you had published through “L10” called Fit for Purpose Training Program Maturity. Again, we’ll have the link in the notes for this particular episode. But Danielle, thank you so much for giving us some time here to come back to Train Like You Listen–

Danielle Duran: Thank you. 

Brian Washburn:  –and talk a little bit more about this, really, I think, helpful, useful training program maturity model. If those of you who are listening think you know somebody else who might find today’s topic on the training program maturity model to be important, go ahead and pass a link along for this transcript of the podcast. If you want to make sure that you are notified of a new podcast, whenever it’s hot off the press, go ahead and subscribe at Apple or Spotify, wherever you get your podcasts. And if you’re interested in learning about a broad range of learning and development strategies, you can pick up my book What’s Your Formula? Combine Learning Elements For Impactful Training at www.amazon.com. 

Until next time, happy training, everyone. 

Danielle Duran: Thank you.

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