“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough…”
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 6
Google CEO Larry Page isn’t content with taking his company somewhere or falling down the rabbit hole on the way to his destination. He’s focused on improving Google’s position against competition from companies such as Facebook and Apple. His efforts include a learning and leadership development training program that illustrates the key elements – Map, Vision, Performance – in my MVP System.
Google EDU applies the same type of data analytics to its in-house school as it does to the service it provides customers. Just as Google users can continually monitor search engine rankings and advertising response, the company’s top executives regularly grade the effectiveness of its training program.
Karen May, Google’s vice president of leadership and talent, is in charge of revamping the classes it provides for about a third of its more than 33,000 workers. Classes that don’t work are eliminated from the program. Classes that prove partially successful are retooled to make them better, according to a July article by Joseph Walker in The Wall Street Journal.
Measure Twice Cut Once
U.S. companies spend more than $170 billion annually on learning and development, according to the American Society for Training and Development. But that money may be largely – or entirely – wasted if training programs aren’t well-received, integrated with daily operations or aligned with a company’s objectives. And the only way to know what training efforts works and what doesn’t is to measure them.
Google, not surprisingly given its data-centric thinking, uses statistics to identify areas in which training is necessary and tailors courses to fit very specific needs. There is, for example, no single management training program. Managers are offered courses based on particular circumstances, such as a change in team members, a transfer or feedback from people who work for them.
Bonuses and Bagels
If you’ve ever been forced to take a university “core” course that taught you nothing or sat through an employee seminar completely unrelated to your job or skill set, you understand the time and money that can be wasted on training programs. Similar wastefulness can apply to all areas of a business – from compensation for underperforming executives to unneeded capital expenditures to uneaten bagels for Friday morning breakfast meetings. You may be spending too much for bad stuff and not enough on good stuff.
Unless you regularly measure expenses against their value, you can’t determine if your money is wisely or poorly spent. It’s unlikely that your company’s future depends on whether you order two or three dozen bagels every week. The point is, everything can – and should be – measured. Maybe the bagels are more costly than you think – the cream cheese people slather on them may contribute to employee weight gain and higher health insurance costs. Or maybe the cost of the wasted bagels is more than offset by the goodwill they generate – employees look forward to meetings that include free food and are, therefore, more receptive listeners.
One of the companies I worked for spent $100,000 a year on free drinks for employees. We didn’t think this was necessarily wasteful, but believed the gesture wasn’t as appreciated as much as bonuses and other benefits. So, when we updated our healthcare/welfare program, we eliminated the free drinks to encourage workers to drink water instead of sugary soda. As part of our healthy approach, we also replaced our weekly doughnuts with bagels. We saved money without depriving workers by making the changes health-conscious rather than penny-pinching efforts.
If you want to know the value of something, measure it. Measuring starts with your current position. You can’t know if you if you are making meaningful improvements without calculating your current circumstances. Even if your destination is better defined than Alice’s, even if you have a clearly defined vision for your company, you’ll have trouble achieving your goals if you don’t fully identify your starting point. And frequent measuring helps you stay on track. Just as measuring helped Google know what courses to keep and which ones to remove from its training program, measuring makes it possible for you to correct small missteps before they become serious miscalculations.
“Off With Their Heads!”
Alice failed to map or measure her surroundings in Wonderland, nearly drowning in her oversized tears and almost getting her head chopped off by a cardboard queen during her aimless journey.
A storybook ending saved Alice from disaster. Unless Lewis Carroll is writing your company’s story, you can’t dream your way to success. Map and measure your way to your desired destination with my MVP System.