Training Triage – Pick One

One of the things The Training Doctor specializes in is TRAINING TRIAGE – that is – why doesn’t training work? Throughout our 20+ years in business, we’ve discovered the answers to this question. This month, we share with you one of the reasons:


Very often, especially when teaching a psychomotor skill (how to manipulate something) there is more than one way to complete the task. For instance, when copying text from a Word document in order to insert it somewhere else – one can use the keyboard (Ctrl+C), the ribbon (Home>Copy) or right click and choose from the drop-down-menu. While the variety of options makes for a very user-friendly software it does NOT make it learner-friendly. When something is new to an individual, it must be taught in one way and one way only; offering multiple techniques only leads to confusion and a lack of mastery of any one.

Two solutions for solving this common problem are:

  1. Officially choose the ONE way to be taught and
  2. Document the one way in your learning materials – both facilitator materials and participant materials.

The latter solution is particularly important because we all have our “favorite way” of doing something, so it is imperative that all trainers understand, that for the sake of learning, the ONLY way that can be taught is the documented way. It is OK for the trainer to say “There is another way of completing this task, and once you have mastered THIS way, we can teach you the others,” but do NOT allow them to say “I know it says XYZ in your participant guide, but let me show you an easier way.”

Imagine that you had three driver’s ed instructors when you were learning to drive – one in the front seat and two in the back seat all shouting out different ways to approach an intersection. Would you have mastered any of them? Would you have remembered any one of them? The key to efficient learning is to teach only one way. The others will come on-the-job through informal learning, or can be documented in an appendix for the ‘advanced’ learner.