Check your analogies at the door

English: I think I had to stand in a rushing s...

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This is a guest blog by Kyle Moran. Kyle Moran, CFA is a senior finance professional with expertise in financial analysis and metric reporting.  He was the senior financial resource in building out a training process outsourcing line of business for Franklin Covey in 2002.  Since then he has provided consultation and guidance on multiple training process projects for firms such as ACS and NIIT.  For more bad analogies check this out.  Enjoy – J

Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.
Jennifer Hart, Arlington, VA

Having read, reviewed, written and given hundreds of presentations, I understand the power of a good analogy to get the crux of your point across with a minimum of words.  I also, however, have plenty of experience with analogies that are poorly thought through, misapplied or (like the one above) just taken too far.

It was this last case that also came to mind as I recently read through the June 2011 Talent Development Reporting Principals White Paper written by Kent Barnet and Dave Vance.  The paper starts with the premise that the talent development profession would benefit from Talent Development Reporting Principals (“TDRP”) that are analogous to Generally Accepted Accounting Principals (“GAAP”).  From there, the analogy quickly spins out of control as references back to the analogy get mixed in with comparisons between accounting reports and talent development reports and with references to actual accounting data.

But, I’m not even sure the premise is right in the first place.  The introduction states:

Our inspiration is the set of Generally Accepted Accounting Principals (GAAP), which have been used by the accounting profession in the United States since 1973 to provide consistency, clarity and uniformity in the analysis of the financial well being of organizations.

This struck me as odd, since the term Generally Accepted Accounting Principals was first used during a period of financial accounting regulation from 1936-1938 in which the Committee on Accounting Procedure (CAP) was formed to establish accounting standards.  (The CAP was replaced by the ABP in 1959 which was replaced by the FASB in 1973)

This may seem like nit picking, but this period was a reaction to the Great Depression and was an effort to rein in the Wild West aspects of the stock market of that time.  A consistent structure was necessary for investors and analysts to build the apples-to-apples comparisons needed to make investment decisions and regain confidence in the financial markets.

Is there a similar burning platform that is driving the need for consistent training development reporting?  As a CEO, is one of my priorities making sure I report the effectiveness of my instructor led training in the same manner as my competitors?

I’m not saying that metric formation and reporting isn’t important.  But, consistency may need to take a back seat to serving the needs of the organization.  PWC’s 15th Annual Global CEO Survey 2012 reports that CEO’s believe there is a significant information gap in “talent-related areas”; defined as the difference between the percent of CEO’s that see certain information as important and the percent that are receiving that information.  This gap ranges from about 43% to 70%.  How’s that for a burning platform?

Training departments used to aspire to be like I.T. Departments.  Now they aspire to be accountants?  It’s possible in the midst of this identity crisis that training organizations have lost sight of their customer.

As evidence, I reference assumption number three of the TDRP Whitepaper, “Whenever possible, learning will be aligned to the goals of the organization.”  This statement leaves me with so many questions.  Is it sometimes not possible? In those cases do you create the course anyway?  But, I digress.

Training organizations have long lamented that they don’t have a seat at the executive table.  Well that is changing. One in four CEO’s in the PWC survey said they were unable to pursue a market opportunity or have had to cancel or delay a strategic initiative because of talent.  78% said they were planning on changing the way that they manage talent in 2012.

If an analogy is really necessary, how about investment management; with CEO and their executive teams as the portfolio managers, managing a portfolio of talent to extract the greatest performance, productivity and return on investment.  In this analogy training departments become the investment analysts, using all the tools at their disposal across the fields of accounting, economics, data analysis to provide the “analyst reports” that deliver the information executives need to hire, develop and retain the best teams possible.

One Response to “Check your analogies at the door”
  1. Edward Trolley says:

    Kyle, you are the man! I love this.

    Ed Trolley

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