Manageable Chunks

Jeff McLanahan
Contributing Writer

Last year, my wife and I purchased a home in Texas.  With this purchase, we inherited some home appliances, one of which was a refrigerator.

In splitting up the duties, one of my jobs was to clean the refrigerator.  Now you may think that the simple instruction, “clean the refrigerator,” is easy to follow, but my wife is a bit of a clean freak so I wanted to make sure it received a deep cleaning.  I have also been “coached” in the past about the differences between what I think cleans looks like versus what she thinks clean looks like.  What did I do?  I did a quick search on the internet for how to deep clean a refrigerator.

I found information that was broken down into manageable chunks and it reminded me of how we should break down our content when teaching others.  The steps to clean the refrigerator were as follows (just in case you were wondering):

1.     Clear everything out and separate items that will be thrown out from those you are keeping.

2.     Remove shelves (if possible).

3.     Using a solution of salt and hot water, wipe down all interior surfaces.

4.     Wash shelves in warm, soapy water and dry before replacing.

5.     With a damp cloth, wipe down the exterior of all items before returning them to the fridge.

As you can see, the tasks were broken down into manageable steps that were easy to put into practice.  No single item contained so much information that I had to read it twice.  The steps did not make assumptions about what I should or did know and in fact, each step provided details on the action to take.  These steps were much more effective than simply starting with the single task of “clean the refrigerator.”

We need to let this serve as an example and a reminder for us when we train others.

Do we break our training into small tasks or lump entire processes together?

Do we make assumptions about common sense knowledge that we believe everyone should know?

Do we provide details with each step on action to take?

Take the time to review your existing training material and verify it is broken down into manageable chunks for your employees.  Then, review your existing procedures for designing new content and verify it is effective.

Design training so that it is easy to follow, easy to remember, and easy to execute.

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