Continuous Improvement Through Training


Below is a transcript of my presentation on Continuous Improvement Through Training and Enterprise Training Solutions.



I’m Shelley, and I’d like to talk to you about continuous improvement through training.

Have you ever wondered how the military takes high school kids and turns them into soldiers?  Having experienced it first hand, I can tell you it’s through an extensive and ongoing training system.

So what is training?  How does it work?  And why does it matter?

When I joined the military, I went away to basic training just a month after my 18th birthday.  Military basic training is standardized throughout the organization, and everyone who joins the military attends some form of basic training course, where you learn how to dress your uniform, drill, terminology, rank structure and basic weapon handling.  This is really a CULTURE course, that trains us how to think, speak, dress, walk and act military.

From there I did my degree program at the Royal Military College of Canada, which also started off with another CULTURE program, now, the military likes to make these programs as physically demanding as possible and call them cute little names like “orientation” or less cute names like “indoc”…which is short for indoctrination.

BUT!  All that notwithstanding, if there’s one thing the military gets right, above almost everything else, it’s training for operations, training for success and training for continuous improvement.

Think about it.  What does the military do?  We go on operations, or we TRAIN to go on operations.  Time spent in the military is a constant stream of initial training to get you integrated into military culture and up to a certain standard of technical competency, followed by training at every level of career advancement for your new job, interspersed with training for months or years for specific operations or tasks.

My personal path of military training saw me do a 2 month basic training course in St Jean, Quebec; followed by a month long orientation at my school that I attended for the next 4 years.  During the school year we attended our classes and also attended military lectures, drill, fitness or skills and training events, all of this to improve our professional competencies and make us better leaders.  The following summer I found myself once again back in St Jean, for another level of military training and then a month long French language course.  The next summer was a 3 month basic Army course.  So my first basic training course taught me how to be a member of the military, the second screened my ability to be an officer in the military, the third one taught me how to be in the Army, and it was only from there, after a total of around 6 months of training I even began my trade specific training.

The summer I graduated from college with a freshly pressed business degree I went to Borden, Ontario to take my trade training.  As a Logistics Officer I first did a course given to all Logistics Officers, regardless of branch, or whether you’re in the Army, Air Force or Navy.  Next I did a specialization, my specializations within the military were transportation logistics and later movements, whereas others did courses on supply chain management and some did finance.  And finally I did a two month course learning how to be an Army Logistics Officer.

Now, after all of that time, and all of that training, in November of 2009 I went to my first unit and was given my first job.  I was going to be a duty officer for the Forward Support Group located in Vancouver for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.  If you don’t know what a Duty Officer is, they’re kind of like a cross between a 911 operator, operations planner and clerk.

BUT, and you may have guessed what’s coming next, the first thing we had to do before we deployed on this domestic operation was train to deploy on this domestic operations. We even have a term for the formalized process called pre-deployment training.

Once you’re done all that initial training I’ve been talking about and you’re considered qualified then you enter a system of annual training for readiness, collective training and training for specific operations until you need to take additional qualifications training as you advance in your career.

When the military trains for operations or specific deployments some very smart people, usually in Ottawa, tell us using books of doctrine, analysis and historical data what levels or standards we need to meet, then we’re tested and checked off and released to deploy.

So remember, I was going to be a Duty Officer once we were deployed.  So what was I going to do in the 2 months before we deployed for the Olympics?  If you guessed, track, arrange and report on training, you would be correct!

It’s worth noting at this point that training jobs are generally thankless and considered a bit of a place holder positions, especially for newly minted officers who’ve just come to their units.  It’s really kind of perceived as some place we can push some paper and stay out of the way and not do too much damage until we learn the ropes.  Whether you recognize the importance of training or not, and whether you enjoy the planning and strategic aspect of training or not, training jobs in the military are considered less glamorous and much less important to the advancement of ones career compared to operations jobs and especially Command jobs.

In my role as a Duty Officer before the Olympics I kept spreadsheets to track who had completed their training and what was left to do, I arranged relays for range training days and I booked resources for specific training events.

Then we went away to the Olympics and still to this day, even though I never saw an event, I’m so happy I was lucky enough to be a part of support for the games.

All good things must come to an end, and the Olympics did and I returned to my unit and to a new job where I was assigned Operations & Training Officer for my company.  Along with many other tasks I was given in this time period I also had my first opportunity to help to plan and run collective training.  Military collective training is training events which practice then tests the abilities of inter-connected small teams to larger groups within the military to do their jobs specific to the operations they will be conducting.

These training events are called exercises and involve research and setting of training standards, creating a backstory as the backdrop of the training event, then developing a whole scenario with injections and actors that trigger certain required actions and reactions to test a training audience’s abilities.

When I got back from finishing this first training exercise I was given my next assignment, which was again as a Duty Officer, this time deploying to Afghanistan, and following the same pattern as last time, I spent months arranging, tracking and coordinating pre-deployment training.

But things changed when I returned to my unit after being deployed to Afghanistan.  I was coming back more experienced and was given a more demanding position of more responsibility.  I was made the Training Officer of my Unit of 750+ people.  I don’t want to oversell the importance of this position, but it was a great job for me and one that I’ve enjoyed the most to date.

The job of a Unit Training Officer is to plan and coordinate their Unit’s training.  Basically that starts by writing an annual training order, a document upwards of 10 pages which sets the training objectives your organization must meet and outlines all the actions your organization will to meet those objectives.  My job covered supporting everything from individual military training for everyone in the unit to collective training and trades training such as a multitude of driver training courses and other skills.  I did everything from set the year long schedule to plan exercises; from writing course reports to ordering ammunition for ranges.

This job is where my appreciation for training and the importance of training truly became ingrained and almost a part of my DNA.

It got worse though…or better, depending on who you ask.  Having done so well as my Unit’s Training Officer, they decided to send me off to a School, called at the time Land Forces Western Area Training Center.  Where I was able to see and plan and coordinate training at a whole different level. Doing everything from setting up and monitoring the very same basic training courses I had taken when I first joined the military to running driver and specialty courses for other Units.

I’ve been out of the military almost 4 years now, I’ve been in a few different jobs and I’ve seen a huge variety and difference in the ways various organizations handle training.  From doing my real estate license and training as an At-Sea Observer to a few well structured onboarding programs.  I’ve seen training that was completely unplanned and unstructured to that with no set objectives or timelines.  I think I’ve seen some of the best and some of the worst.

Although I don’t know how fair it is to compare the military system with civilian systems within other organizations, I can’t help but identify in the organizations I’ve been a part of since the military’s shortcomings and areas for improvement, and I can’t help but thinking about how much better all the organizations I’ve been a part of would be if they integrated some of the simple mechanisms the military uses to structure and run its training systems.

It’s for that reason I’ve become obsessed with two concepts, continuous improvement through training and enterprise training systems.  I think the best way to develop a dynamic and successful organization is continuous improvement; and I think the best way to manage this is through what I like to call an enterprise training system.

Training, rightly, takes a lot of time and effort.  It’s expensive, as good trainers are highly skilled and knowledgeable subject matter experts.  Do you have a training budget within your organization, are there goals attached to the use of this money or is it a first come first served pot?  Do you have an onboarding plan, and is your onboarding plan integrated with your ongoing training?  Do you have a process in place to training new hires to their new positions?  Do you provide training to new supervisors and managers?

An enterprise training system is taking what I did in the military, planning training in year long blocks, integrating interdependent sections to effective processes, arranging for people to improve their technical skills and professional expertise, and developing leadership; in a deliberate manner that makes most effective use of resources and has a defined purpose with defined objectives.


That’s why I’m making it my mission to convince every company they need an enterprise training solution.




Thanks for reading, please check out my Facebook page!






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s