The PM Chronicles #2: First Steps, by Fred Parker

The Phone Call

Players in this episode:

  • PM (Performance Manager)
  • HG (Hired Gun Consultant)
  • OJT (On-the-Job Trainer) mentioned

HG is sitting in a lounge area waiting for a meeting to conclude when the phone rings.

PM is on the phone, and they exchange pleasantries, and recall the Train-the-Trainer course PM was in a few years before.

PM         But that’s not what I am calling about. I may need your help. Are you available?

HG         Yes, I am in town for a couple of weeks in between assignments. How can I help?

PM         I will send you an invitation for later this week so we can talk in my office.

               In the meantime, please send me a copy of your resume.

A Few Days Later In the PM’s Office

PM         Our company is about to reorganize. Nothing has been made public yet, but In a few months, I expect to be named the Performance Manager along with some other duties. I will be responsible for workforce performance, learning, and talent development, hiring at least one more person, and producing various training materials.

HG         How many people do you have now?

PM         For the moment we have myself, a Training Coordinator, and an OJT Instructor. I am hoping to hire someone we can groom to become the Learning and Talent Development Coordinator.

Who Do You Work For?

HG         As Performance Manager, who will you be working for?

PM         You sure hit a hot button with that one.

               I am already a manager here, so I report to BOSS. There have been heated discussions between HR and OPS. Each of them wants to hire a new PM that will work for them.

               HR argues that in most companies PM works for HR because HR is responsible for all of the human interaction training required by various laws.

               OPS generally hates training. OPS claims that training driven by HR not only rarely deals with the problems in OPS, it takes time away from production and reduces company profits. OPS claims to be left, as usual, with doing their own employee development, which costs even more time.

               Do you have any suggestions?

HG         Sure. In the top organizations I have worked with, the ones with the best PM programs, PM always works directly for OPS or for BOSS.

               That does not reduce the legal requirements of HR, but it ties PM directly to the operational capabilities of the organization.

               You might think of it this way, “If we are not helping this company make widgets, we are not doing our jobs.”

               Does that help?

PM         Yes. Thanks.

How Large is This Company?

HG         How large is this company?

PM         We have about 450 employees right now and expect to have somewhere around 500 in the next six months.

HG         Interesting. In my experience you are right at the size when a company needs to have a formal training effort.

               Will you be doing mostly operator / technical training, or will you be interested in soft skills or supervisory / leadership development as well.?

PM         Our immediate concern is operator training in two or three key areas. However, once we get that started, we also want to discuss soft skills and leadership development. Boss is very interested in that also.

HG         What are you concerns about your operator training?

PM         We know that different shifts produce different quality. We often start new employees out on the evening or night shift so they can be trained by OJT. The results have not been what we hoped. With our current growth rate we need to bring the quality up on all shifts.

On-the-Job Training?

HG         Are you aware that OJT is generally the MOST expensive and LEAST effective way to do training?

PM         No, we thought it would save us time and money, but now you are saying just the opposite. Why is that?

HG         First, a couple more questions. Tell me more about OJT. Is OJT highly proficient?

PM         OJT is qualified, but not our best operator. We have problems getting anyone to work OJT evenings and nights, but the current OJT is a pretty good operator who is willing to work those shifts.

HG         What does OJT have for training materials?

PM         Well, we have lots of procedures, but we are not completely happy with them either.

HG         More on that later. You have just named the conditions that usually make OJT expensive and inefficient. Basically, you have told me that OJT is a marginal trainer working with barely adequate materials because they are the only one willing to work those shifts.

               Is that pretty close?

PM         Gosh, when you put it like that it sounds pretty bleak.

               How hard will it be to fix all this?

HG         Not as hard as you might imagine. I think you will find that performance solutions are often quite simple but require a fair amount of discipline and hard work to carry them out.

               Think about your experience in athletics. The process is easy to understand, but hard to follow. Once we get started, I think you will see real progress within a few weeks. It is really not all that complicated.

PM         I have a few other questions.

More Technology?

PM          First, software. We use the standard Microsoft Office. Do I need to get budget for new software or other technology?

HG         Probably not. Training should never be dependent on the technology. As we go forward you will learn how technology can enhance effective training, but if you start with the technology, the training will always suffer.

PM         Ok, good.


PM          Also, I have been seeing a lot of articles about elearning, online training, or computer-based training. Will that be what we need to do?

HG         Again, for what you are doing, elearning is not the right choice. As things progress, we may find some ways to enhance the training with computers.

               I recommend, however, that you buy several sets of The Mager Six Pack, by Robert F. Mager. Mager is a primary player in the training world. He published in the 1970s so his stuff is a bit dated, and he doesn’t go into detail about everything you will need, but that is about the best place to start.

PM         Ok, Thanks.


Please add your comments to each blog post as you see fit. If you have personal comments or questions for us, you may email me at

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Thank you.

Fred Parker is the Director of Course Design and Development at Fred has half a century as a Performance Management Consultant designing, developing, and delivering performance-based training including all manner of technical training, individual development soft skills, and basic leadership. Clients include all sizes from a local sandwich shop to the military to fortune 500 multinationals. Now Fred is converting previous ILT courses to remote delivery courses available on our web site.

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