Tips for Better Software Training Part II – Extra Gravy

Looking to up your software training game? You have come to the right place! I have some great tips and tricks for you, as told through quotes from some of my favorite films.

Looking to up your software training game?  You have come to the right place!  I have some great tips and tricks for you, as told through quotes from some of my favorite films.  Missed the first post?  Check it out here.

Yzma: Why do we even have that lever???


Going back to the old school Disney film The Emperors New Groove for this tip.  I think this is one of the best Disney films ever made (seriously, if you haven’t seen it, check it out!). The Villainess Yzma asks her strong-but-simple henchmen to pull a lever to send them down a secret tunnel to their lair.  But he chooses the wrong lever, and she instead winds up in the alligator pit, returning to wonder aloud why that second lever even exists.  Anyone who has worked with software knows that it has its quirks. Sometimes it’s legacy fields that are simply left in long after they are useful. Sometimes it’s screens or fields that were clearly named by Programming, which are confusing to the users. But I always cringe when I see trainers say something like this in front of users, even if it’s just an attempt to “better relate” to them.

As Software Trainers, we are the front line; we need to know how every aspect of the system works, and be able to communicate that system to new users. This means we know the good, the bad and the ugly.  But when you are training, even in the most frustrating situations, you should refrain from criticizing the system design, even if your students are making similar comments. Ideally, you can present your concerns to your designers, who will take advantage of your perspective to make usability improvements. If you don’t work in that kind of culture, at least keep your criticisms to yourself when working with users.

  Sherlock: Shut up!  Everybody Shut Up!!  Don’t Move! Don’t Speak! Don’t Breathe!


 I left the realm of movies in the cinema and hopped across the pond for this gem from BBC’s Sherlock starring the amazing Benedict Cumberbatch for this one. For those of you who haven’t seen this adaption of the Sherlock Holmes stories, you are really missing out. In this scene, Sherlock is attempting to solve a crime with several other people in the room who are being, shall we say, less than helpful to his concentration. What does this have to do with software training?  Elementary my dear Watson; allow me to explain.

When you are working with users who will be converting on to your system, as you begin the education process the students will naturally begin to wonder how the system will fit into their existing policies and workflows. As a result of the conversion, there may need to be changes to those policies or workflows. Once someone in the group discovers this, it is easy to have the session hijacked by the users who decide that right in the middle of class is the perfect time for them to have a side meeting to iron out those details.

As a Software Trainer, you can let this ride for a time, as long as the discussion is productive and you remain in control of the group. After all, if it helps them better understand the system then it’s a plus for everyone!  But when you feel yourself starting to lose control as the group becomes more wrapped up in conversations best had during a separate meeting, you need to step in to reassert control and remind them that these issues they are discussing, while related to the topic at hand, should best be handled internally after class is over. Ideally, of course, you wouldn’t use Sherlock’s response above in this situation no matter how tempting it may be.

This side-tracking happens to me quite a bit when I am onsite because of the nature of the subject I specialize in. In order to combat this, I have started creating a Table List. When the conversation between group members starts to veer off in this direction, I step in and say something along the lines of “These are all very important questions, and they need to be addressed. Why don’t I write this issue down, and at the end of class we can re-visit the list and address them at that time.” The students rest easier and re-focus on the learning because they are confident that the issue has not been forgotten, and you regain control of the class to keep it moving forward.  If there is time, you can re-visit the list of tabled questions when you have covered the material you need to cover. If not, I provide this list to the interested parties after the class is over, so that they have an agenda for the meeting I encourage them to schedule to discuss these issues.



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