Let’s take the fright out of ‘lite’

What’s the least amount of time people need to spend each month to effectively lead/manage one employee?

Wander down the aisle of your local supermarket, and you won’t fail to notice how many of the products you’ve long known and loved are now available as ‘lite’ versions of themselves.

In food retail, lite products aren’t totally new, but thanks to our desire to be more health conscious, they are increasingly gobbling up market share - after all, ‘lite’ does actually mean something. It’s officially a foodstuff that contains at least a third fewer calories or half the fat of the normal product. That alone (for most people), is a good thing. And while the introduction of ‘lite’ versions can sometimes be hard to sell to those who love and enjoy the ‘original’ (it may mean extra additives to maintain the same taste people are used to), on the whole, consumers don’t seem to mind. As long as manufacturers can answer a couple of basic questions – like “Will I get the same flavour with less calories?’ and ‘will I get the same enjoyment for less ingredients or cost?’ – they’re normally ‘in’.

This has got me thinking though.

With food the Holy Grail is for manufacturers is to discover what they can take out without compromising the taste, the nutritional value or massively increasing the price. And yet how often do you hear the training and development sector ask a similar question – ‘What can we take out, to make things better?’ After all, one only has to recall the LEAN manufacturing concept to understand you don’t need to be afraid of less.

The fact is, in learning, the ‘lite’ style of thinking simply hasn’t been applied to the way people need to be taught to lead and manage employees. I mean, you just don’thear people talking about ‘Lite Leadership’ or ‘Lite Management’, do you?

And I think there is a very simply reason why this “leap” in thinking has not yet taken place.

In learning and development, conventional thinking is still, just that: conventional. It tells us that to improve leadership and management you must put more stuff in. It’s all about giving learning more books, more theories, more concepts, more data, more skills, and more new ideas. Why? Because that’s what justifies the expensive price tag of the trainer, the big thud of the learners’ folders, or the plush hotel everyone convenes at to consume this learning.

Yet, I don’t think things need to be like this. I think the training sector needs to think more like the food sector: where the smart thinking is all about ‘what can we take out?’ I would suggest the new place to start is to clearly work out how can we all remove, de-clutter, simplify and streamline our learning processes.

For people who have followed or even promoted conventional thinking, I admit this is truly frightening territory. Why? Because for too long, most leadership and management development courses have all been about “putting stuff in” rather than taking stuff out, and having a model based on daily rates (days which they have to fill to give customers the perception that they are getting value for money).

This old-way of thinking must change – for the sake of the reputation of the L&D training industry if nothing else. At Smarter Not Harder we’ve spent years analysing exactly what works, and what is only essential, so that learners get the most from their time and the most meaningful learning from it. The question we are always preoccupied with is, “what’s the least amount of time people need to spend each month to effectively lead/manage one employee?” We answer that by supplying only the learning employees need to achieve this. It means our clients are able to lead and manage effectively in a third of the learning time. How many other suppliers – who all bill on a daily basis – will promote themselves this way?

We do it, because we feel we’re doing what the rest of the industry urgently needs to do – follow the ‘lite’ model. Just like in food – which was originally full of stuff you didn’t need – it is perfectly possible to create learning that is also ‘lite’ and which also has none of the unwanted, unnecessary ingredients. And remember, with us, ‘lite’ doesn’t mean ‘less’ or ‘lazy’ or anything that is less than satisfactory. When you give people back time, and when you enable them to operate using just the best bits of management theory, they understand that all the extraneous stuff they were consuming before just wasn’t giving them any nutritional value. So, let’s all go lite, and see how transformative it can really be.