Two weeks ago I talked about the issue of training gaps created by “silos” in training. I defined a silo as “a system, process, department, etc. that operates in isolation from others.” Silos in an academy or training division are all the different groups of instructors or instructor cadres. Gaps naturally exist between each of these silos and it is those gaps which result in training gaps.
The questions this week are, “How do you fix this issue?”, “How do you eliminate the gaps?”
You start by being honest and identifying the silos. It is too easy to say, “We don’t have silos at our academy. The instructors all get along.” That’s nice that everyone gets along but, silos are generally not created because the trainers do not all get along. Silos are the result of each training instructional unit doing their own thing when it comes to the delivery of training. All you need to do to identify the silos is have a training day with all the training staff and have the training room set up with round tables. Then sit back and watch what happens when everyone walks in. The firearms trainers all sit together, the control tactics people sit together, the EVOC people sit together, the legal studies people all sit together, etc. They will even take a chair from another table to sit with ‘their people’.
Once you identify all the silos begin to ask yourself some questions:
- How much do I really know (as opposed to assume I know) about what each of those other areas teaches?
- What overlaps exist between what I teach and what each of the other areas teach?
- How can I best support each of the other areas through my instruction?
- What problems or issues are the other areas experiencing with regards to the material I teach?
- What can I learn from each of the other areas that may help me better teach my material?
- What can I do to ensure I have a better understanding of what is being taught by the other instructional units?
The next step is to figure out how to bridge the gaps in knowledge and understanding of what everyone else is teaching, how it overlaps with your material and how you can best support them.
Note: It is important to understand that unless you are the training commander you cannot force this to happen so start with what you control, which is you. Take the initiative to bridge these gaps yourself. When others see what you are doing, and the benefits to everyone then they will likely get on board and become part of the culture shift. Culture change always starts with one person who has the courage to be the first. You need to be that person.
Next have a look at the schedule and find times when you are not teaching and go sit in on other trainers classes. They may be suspicious as to why you are there so explain up front that you are trying to gain a better understanding of what they are teaching, and how they are teaching so you can determine how you can best support them through your instruction.
When you are in those classes and spending time with other trainers pay attention to the language they use. Are you using consistent terminology, or is everyone using different language to refer to the same issue? Pay attention to the questions the students ask or where the students may struggle. Outside the classroom ask the other trainers if there are any consistent issues or questions that arise in their class regarding material you teach.
Show up on scenario days being run by other training units and watch and listen. Scenarios are often where training gaps show up. Are there things officers fail to do, or do not seem to know or understand that you expect them to know or do based on what you teach? Be available as a resource if the trainers running the scenario ask for your input during the debriefing. In many cases the legal studies trainers are no where to be seen at scenarios run by the officer safety trainers, there are no control tactics or officer safety instructors present during the criminal law scenarios, the traffic law instructors are not in attendance at the vehicle stop scenarios run by the EVOC or officer safety instructors. You get the point.
The argument I get from trainers is usually, “I don’t have time to be sitting in on other trainers classes.” Is it that you don’t have the time, or is it that you don’t make the time? I understand there are a lot of demands on trainers. I also understand that there is often ‘down time’ where you catch your breath, catch up on e-mails, and decompress a bit. I get that. I also understand that we need to be willing to make the time and to make the investment in order to eliminate the silo mentality and the resulting gaps. Too much is at stake not to.
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