The SAC® Release
November 7, 2007


Training and Development are Not Love and Marriage

The Society for Advancement of Consulting® (SAC®) has determined that training and development in organizations, often used as synonyms or a pairing, are not necessarily related and may even be antithetical. “Our global membership has pretty much concluded that organizations are using these terms inappropriately and consequently undermining their own efforts,” notes Alan Weiss, Ph.D. CEO of SAC, about this anecdotal survey.

Dr. Maynard Brusman, consulting psychologist and executive coach and president of Working Resources in San Francisco, CA works with law and accounting professional service firms. He offers a couple of insights. “Training has evolved into performance management. The word training has the unfortunate connotation of being associated in the minds of a number of people with bringing your dog to obedience class or animal tricks at the circus. A number of clients view training as an event that occurs for a brief period of time, and that few participants remember a week later. On the other hand, leadership development and coaching are currently so popular because they are ongoing learning processes incorporating in the moment help with live issues people are facing in the workplace. Multi-rater 360-degree feedback is often incorporated so that development of leaders is aligned with the organization’s strategy, culture and values. The improvement in the client’s condition can be measured and are supported by research.”

The difference between training and developing people can be summarized in a single word: coaching. “Years ago we stopped recommending organization-wide training programs to close skill gaps because they simply weren’t effective. However, when we started designing organizations in a way which encouraged ongoing feedback on real-life case studies (i.e., coaching), we saw companies flourish,” notes David Fields of Ascendant Consulting in Ridgefield, CT.

“Eighty-three percent of companies who rate their people as best at what they do meet or exceed their growth goals. In contrast, 75% of companies staffed with mediocre personnel miss their goals completely. Coaching, not training, can raise mediocre performers to best-in-class and is critical to achieving better results.”

Weiss indicates that organizational “training departments” are not the best place to lodge true consulting, coaching, or development responsibilities because they tend to be commodity and task oriented, while true development is about results.

“There is a significant difference between training and developing people: results. Training is typically an educational event outside of the employee’s day-to-day responsibilities. It can be effective as a part of a development plan, but it will pale in comparison, as a singular event. On the other hand, developing employees can yield substantial results, as this approach reaches into the daily work life of the employee, focusing on experiences, behaviors, and skills and is accompanied by immediate feedback and practice/ trial runs,” reported Lisa Anderson, President of LMA Consulting Group, Inc. of Claremont California.

Gayle Lantz is President of WorkMatters, Inc., an organizational development consulting firm based in Birmingham, Alabama. She finds: Training and development can be complementary, however, there are differences that many organizations don’t acknowledge. Training implies something needs “fixing” or something is missing, whereas development also encompasses building on strengths. Training is easier to check off on the “to-do” list, however, development is ongoing. Real development is about building personal capability versus teaching specific skills or knowledge which may or may not lead to desired change or growth. Progressive companies are placing more ownership for development on employees themselves.

Weiss has cited Maya Angelou as the source of the observation that “we train animals, but educate people.” Ross Mitchel, president of Implementations, Inc, a consulting firm in Austin, TX concurs more pragmatically: “Training and development is a common phrase, but one which perpetuates a dangerous lack of distinction between the two. Driven by its content, training is an essential tool for conveying information and elevating workers to an acceptable level of proficiency in a particular area. By far the loftier ambition, development is about the individual and his or her potential. Workers are trained; innovators and leaders are developed.”

These principles apply to the very “hot” area of IT consulting, as well, says Wayne McKinnon, president of in Ottawa. “IT shops are notorious for subscribing to the ‘training vs. developing’ model. In other business areas future leaders are groomed through moves within the organization to gain a broader perspective and better decision making ability. This doesn’t happen in many IT shops. Instead, specialists are encouraged to become even more specialized, and generalists are not valued. It is no wonder then that when IT based initiatives such as ‘security awareness’ are launched on the business population, they generally fail to produce meaningful results.”

Linda Popky is President of Leverage2Market Associates, Inc., a Redwood-City, CA-based strategic marketing consulting firm that helps organizations improve their return on marketing programs, processes, and people. “Training is only one component of professional development,” she noted, “and often not the most important one.”

“Development tends to be more forward looking than training, which is often focused on acquiring specific skills or knowledge,” she said “Development requires articulating future goals and objectives, identifying the individual’s current capabilities, then creating a plan to close the gap between these two points.”

“A full development program may include new and expanded work experiences, as well as a focus on opportunities where others within the organization can be exposed to an individual’s capabilities. Other important tools within the professional development framework are job rotation and mentorship,” she concluded.

Weiss notes the congruency of the feedback as an indication that too many organizations believe training can be delegated or outsourced and that development will magically occur. “If that were the case,” he notes, “no one would need consultants, and last year this was a multi-billion-dollar profession.”

SAC is an international association of consulting professionals who subscribe to an industry code of ethics and have provided evidence of significant consulting results among their clients. For more information, please go to, write to, or call 800/825-6153 (401/886-4097).

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