In our article on readiness, we showed how difficult it is to develop and sustain organizational readiness. When I visit business’, state and local government’s emergency exercises to look at how they approach training, I find they really lack understanding of how to establish a training pipeline that sustains organizational competence.
A training pipeline is a training program that aligns individual competency development with larger organizational capabilities and provides a solid progression of more difficult exercises. The result of the pipeline should be a highly capable organization that produces verifiable results.
The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) published Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) guidelines years ago, to help organizations understand the different types of training and how to organize training. But they really don’t describe how to nest training in a manner that promotes the maximum level of readiness.
Training pipelines should generally flow from the individual skills level, to the team or functional level to the organizational capability level. Sometimes I observe individual skills being trained during a functional or full-scale level exercise – that is not the optimal time for that level of training.
Below is how we recommend you should set up your pipeline:
- Document your pipeline from the individual, through the functional (team) level, to the capabilities (organizational) level. This will give you a skills audit trail. Individual skills come together to form team level or functional collective skills. For example, an individual may know how to fill out a logistics request form and know where to send it (individual skills). Several individuals who collaborate and prioritize logistics requests and make recommendations to a leader would be a collective skill. A set of collective skills come together to create a capability. When a staff works together to prepare a logistics plan, prepare requests, track procurement items, provide in-transit visibility they are performing collective skills that add up to a capability, such as “Provide Logistics Function in an Incident Command Post.”
- Train individuals to do individual things. Before throwing somebody into a collective event, ensure they are competent in their job. Competency can be developed and evaluated in a variety of ways, such as through computer based training and testing. Once a staff is individually competent, then move on to providing training venues that support collective training.
- When individuals are competent – provide collective training venues that support team or crew-level training. Drills and functional exercises effectively provide situations for the crew or team to assess, prioritize and act in a manner that fulfills their function. A drill would provide a situation, for example, where a fire truck pulls up to a scene and the crew receives a stimulus that drives their skills to provide fire suppression and life-saving. The drill also provides leaders with opportunities to assess the situation, determine priorities, give direction and coordinate follow-on support.
- Use functional exercises drive decision-making and staff functions. We prefer using computer-aided simulations to drive functional exercises, because it gives a staff and leaders emergent information that causes them to adapt the plan to the situation. Functional exercises, when combined with computer-aided simulations can be used to affordably drive operational and logistical decision-making and can be arrayed in a way to test a plan.
- Save Full-scale exercises for last. They are expensive, difficult to organize and sometimes only achieve limited results. Full-scale exercises are great relationship builders and can be used to test actual communications capabilities, common operating pictures and validate the use of space (such as a staging area). However, their ability to test functional capacity and capability are limited, because it is difficult and expensive to deploy assets and achieve the necessary scale to really stress a system. Use the right tool for the question you want to answer – capacity questions are better answered in a computer simulation.
- Schedule training over multiple years and use a maturity model. Many organization’s do not want to spend the time necessary for proper training investments. Try not to bite off too much in one year. Focus on achievable results and progress to the next step when the organization is ready.
We recommend using a multi-year plan that starts with individual skills development, which is easily tracked using a common database. When you achieve a certain pre-determined individual competency threshold, then you will know it is time for collective training.
- Evaluate properly. Don’t cut this corner. Adults are reluctant to evaluate others, because nobody wants to look bad. But think of the investment in training time and get past the feel-good back slapping that goes on in hot wash after-action reviews. Insist on disciplined evaluation using training and evaluation outlines (T&EO). T&EOs list observable behaviors that evaluators can check-off. This level of detail will effectively drive your analysis to specific skills-gaps that must be corrected.
Developing organizational competence is extremely difficult and we don’t spend near enough time at it. If you want a good litmus test of your efforts, look at what the military spends on training and you will see what it really takes. Use the right training venue for needed skills. Training beginners individually and progress to collective training when they are ready.
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