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  • Cipd
  • FSB
  • St Andrews Business Club
  • HR Inner Circle
Lessons Learned
12 April 2017

Every day’s a school day, isn’t it?

Every day’s a school day, isn’t it? Well, for me, recent interactions with a client taught me a lot of things which I thought I’d share with you, readers, as a way of helping you avoid making the same mistakes as me.

The work I agreed to undertake was repeat business for a client with whom I’d worked with about 4 years ago; it was for two pieces of work including an awareness-raising workshop. I submitted my business proposal outlining the details and timescales for both elements of the assignment and then, with the outline workshop drafted, further discussions took place regarding content particularly of case studies to ensure they were relevant for the Company, credible in that culture, and that the language used was appropriate for the organisation. After these discussions, both parties felt it was good to go and we agreed that, after each full day of workshops, there would be some discussion about how they were being received.

The first of the workshops went ahead as scheduled although there was a disappointingly large number of non-attendees for each session - which averaged 37% of the delegate list – including all the senior managers, which made me wonder how the workshops had been promoted within the business.

I sought feedback from delegates after each workshop on what was most helpful/least helpful within the context of the topics covered and, having read the feedback, it appeared that most elements were well received although I recognised there was some tweaking required.

It was unfortunate that the agreed feedback and review sessions with the client didn’t take place at the end of the workshops but when the feedback did ultimately happen I was very taken aback with what was said and how it was delivered by the new L&D Consultant who reminded me that this was not a box ticking exercise and that the workshop hadn’t landed how he wanted it to. On reflection there were a number of problems here which should have prompted me to postpone the workshops, including the widely differing subject knowledge already held by the delegates.

Firstly, the L&D Consultant was new to the Company and had only been in post for 3 weeks when the first workshops took place and we didn’t have time to meet and discuss them once he took over the brief.

Secondly, the L&D Consultant chose to alter one of the case studies – which happened between agreeing it with me and me arriving to deliver the workshop - which changed the whole context of the case study such that some groups didn’t “get” the subtlety of this altered scenario and it just didn’t have the same impact. Given that these cases were either based on actual cases, or situations that I have personal experience of, this was less than satisfactory.

Thirdly, the corporate feedback between day one and day two did not take place; there was no contact from the client whatsoever. Instead the feedback, when it did happen, was sent via email in a bulleted list of negative and general, rather vague and non-pinpointed comments. This made me wonder how this would have been viewed in the business by those who had attended the workshop. What was the leadership’s view of this approach and the revised expectations? Was the L&D Consultant acting in his best interests or the best interests of the organisation by adopting this approach?

Fourthly, it became apparent that the client’s needs had changed which only became obvious after the written feedback submitted by the L&D Consultant just a week before the second series of workshops was due to run. 

Fifthly, if a workshop has been labelled in a derogatory way then I think the client has more of an issue than they originally realised.

In terms of lessons learned:

  1. Be very specific in expectations of business objectives within your business proposal. If and when someone new comes in as your point of contact within the business, take the time to meet up to discuss what the client is seeking to achieve and what their expectations are;
  2. Be clear what the minimum delegate number is and stick to it;
  3. Cancellation fees and cancelled travel arrangements should be specified in your business agreement;
  4. Don’t take it personally when things do go wrong. Be personal and professional and seek to resolve matters as amicably as possible. If your business transaction is cancelled, then invoke your cancellation fees as per your agreed arrangement;
  5. Pause and reflect on how you can personally learn from the experience. I realise this is something that I probably don’t do enough of and will ensure that, in future, I make more time for. A coach or mentor would be particularly beneficial for reflecting on complex situations;
  6. And then blog about it to share with others

I hope this is helpful to you.


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