Diagnose Before You Prescribe – For L&D and OD Professionals

Diagnose Before You Prescribe – For L&D and OD Professionals

Roy Shapira

Imagine coming to your doctor and telling them, “My son has mycoplasma pneumonia.” While it might be tempting for the doctor to say, “Great—no need for a diagnosis; I’ll just prescribe the medicine,” no professional would do that. Instead, they ask a series of probing questions and perform a comprehensive diagnosis.

I recommend adopting a similar approach for L&D or OD professionals conducting a needs analysis to determine which training and development programs will benefit their teams.

People don’t always know what training and development program they need. They often focus on the problem they’re facing or their desired outcome.
The role of L&D professionals, much like that of a doctor, is to diagnose before prescribing.

Let’s use collaboration as an example. A client recently mentioned that several of their mid-level managers were looking to improve collaboration within the company. While better collaboration benefits everyone, it was clear from my conversation with the client that before seeking collaboration training from a vendor, a deeper discovery phase was necessary to understand what the program aims to change, solve, or improve.

Here are three questions designed to uncover what these managers sought regarding collaboration. These questions can also be adapted to identify other skill gaps:

  1. Can you help me understand what doesn’t work with the current collaboration between the teams/your groups?
  2. Has anything specific happened that made you realize your teams need to improve their collaboration?
  3. Once we improve collaboration, what changes do you expect to see? Or can you visualize how things will be different from today?

These questions can reveal much more than anticipated. For instance, the desire for better collaboration might actually be expressing a need to break down silos, build more meaningful relationships, or improve knowledge sharing.
This could lead to initiatives like organizing regular lessons-learned presentations, discussing common challenges, or encouraging social interactions to foster better acquaintance among colleagues.
Alternatively, creating a Slack or Teams group for sharing tips, success or failure stories, and asking for peer support could also be beneficial.

Furthermore, these inquiries might uncover collaboration or trust issues between teams that hinder goal achievement and have contributed to recent staff departures. Such situations require a tailored approach and different interventions.

Strategically managing these conversations can help L&D professionals by:

  1. Designing solutions that address the real problem.
  2. Managing the budget more effectively, as some needs may be met internally without external vendors.
  3. Enhancing their internal brand and reputation as trusted partners by delivering impactful solutions.

Especially for L&D professionals who are less experienced or new to a company, there may be hesitation to probe deeper or involve executives in these discussions due to concerns about their busy schedules.
However, failing to fully understand the training needs could lead to ineffective training sessions that waste valuable time and resources.

So, the next time you’re discussing training needs within your company, remember to think like a doctor: make a thorough diagnosis before prescribing a solution.

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