“Hey you facilitator! Did you ever think about what you want to learn yourself?”

agile, blog, management30

Any of you perhaps recognize the following? “Hi all and welcome to this training/workshop, my name is Clause Santa and before we start, I would really like all of you to write down your learning goals/challenges/what you expect to learn/what you want to take home with you/etc.”  When you are lucky, the trainer will come back to these notes further on in the training. I also attended some training where the trainer did not even come back to these notes. More important though, I often questioned myself “why does this trainer doesn’t write down his own learning goals/challenges/what you expect to learn/what you want to take home with you/etc.?”

One of my values is to treat other people like I want to be treated. Is it fair that you, as a trainer/facilitator/coach, ask the attendees to think about what they want to learn and you don’t have to think about it yourself?

I had an interview with a potential customer a few weeks ago. It was for the role of interim manager. They immediately scheduled several interviews, which I really liked. You can’t hire someone based on one interview, not even a contractor. During one of the interviews, someone asked me the question: “What do you want to learn here?” As an interim or a consultant you can present yourself as the one-who-knows-everything, but I don’t believe in this strategy. I believe most organizations hire professionals; well-educated people with relevant experience. Will you as an interim be able to solve all their challenges in just a few months? Challenges a group of smart people has been facing for years? I believe not, you can help get the show on the road again, but so there are always many things that you as consultant/interim/coach/facilitator can learn from the other. There also will be many learning opportunities for you and the people around you because of the situation you are in and finding out about the place where you want to get. Learning how to start solving complex challenges in the exact environment of a customer. I really liked the question and I explained to her the things I was seeking to learn. So next time you are invited to a potential customer, ask yourself the question: what can I learn here. Or simply ask the potential customer: what can I learn here?


A few weeks ago, we did a talk at the XPDays 2015. We defined the goal of the session and what we wanted the audience to learn. We were challenging people to use different thinking models outside of their normal business to help solve challenges. However, during  the preparation, we also asked ourselves the question: “What are we going to learn from this?” Note that exploring some nice pubs in Mechelen was not the main goal ;). Our goal was to learn from the audience, how they solved issues that we encountered in the past as well. And man did we achieve that! Many companies are trying to find ways to make their people learn, to instill innovation in their processes, to teach the outside world why things are not as easy as they seem in the agile world and how to review people fairly. I believe it even should be a standard question in every Call for papers document “What will you learn from this talk/session yourself?”


Andrea and I facilitated a Management 3.0 training last week in Amsterdam. It went quite well and we got some good feedback from the attendees. The first day, we asked them to write down some of their challenges (and we sure did come back to those challenges 😉 ). However, I forgot to set explicit learning goals or challenges for myself this time. It would have been easy, as this was one of the first workshops in a range as a facilitator: I want to find out if I am really able to share the Management 3.0 vision with passion and energy. Next time you facilitate a workshop, share your learning goals or challenges as a facilitator with the attendees as well. It puts you on the same stage. The people in the group can help you as well by reaching those learning goals and providing feedback to you during those days together.

At the XPDays 2015, I was talking to a friend and he told me that his team is now defining a Definition of Done (DoD) when they start with a consultancy project. I liked that idea, to make it transparent in an agile way what the customer can expect. I believe that part of the DoD should be what you will learn. You could argue that the customer doesn’t want to pay you for your learning but why not make it explicit? As I described above, you should (and will) also learn from the project. Try to make it explicit what you would like to learn.

Shakespeare play being performed at Court

Maybe you could argue that at one moment you did a training/challenge so often that you can’t learn anymore. As you already could guess… I disagree. Actors sometimes perform plays or musicals for months or even years. In the beginning, it is all about finding each other, getting used to each other and finetuning the play. However, at one moment they start focusing on small items and every performance gets a different focus. For example, the group agrees to focus on intonation and diction one evening, the next evening they focus on emphasizing talking soft and loud and the next day they focus on how they move around on the stage. They keep learning and improving themselves in details and specific aspects.

I believe that every professional should keep on learning. You should always be able to answer the question “What did you do to become a better professional“? So next time you facilitate training or get a new assignment, think upfront and share what you want to learn. It will gain you respect and people will help you to achieve what you would like to learn.


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