Chris Croft's Personal Blog

April 10, 2014

Making training more effective

Reasons why training sometimes doesn’t make a difference:

(or as much of a dfference as it could and should)


The main two are ‘me’ and ‘them’:


Me:  “I already do it” (but do you??) / “I already know it” (but you don’t do it!)

Them:  “I would like to do it but I can’t, because of…

a) not enough time

b) it won’t work in our system the way it is at the moment

c) my boss won’t allow it or will undermine it.



Actions required to prevent or counteract the above:

Managers of those being trained need to do this before:

  • Let each person know what they need to change – why they have been selected for the training.  We all have problems that were not aware of, and might do something about them if they were explained to us.
  • Say they want to see a list of planned actions after the training


And this after:

  • Ask the trainer what behaviour changes you could expect to see
  • Ask each delegate “What are you going to do as a result of the training?”
  • And “What are you planning to do as a result of the training?”
  • Later ask “How are you getting on with your planned changes?”
  • If they aren’t doing things right – tell them they need to change
  • Ask “What are the barriers to you doing the things you were shown on the training?”
  • Ask “How can I help with things you already/now know, but aren’t able to do, for whatever reason”
  • Show them / help them if necessary
  • Make sure you are a textbook role model yourself!

May 14, 2013

100 ways to learn

Filed under: Accredited Courses and Training, Lists, Managing People — Tags: , , , , , — chriscroft @ 4:29 pm

This list was compiled by my colleague Jeremy Hamilton, and it’s brilliant
Contact us for details of how these activities can be done, or even, if you want us to organise one of them!

Formal arranged events

1. Induction courses
2. Briefing sessions
3. Bite size training
4. Short courses
5. Workshops
6. Modular courses
7. Seminars
8. Conferences
9. Refresher sessions
10. Professional skill courses
11. Formal courses
12. Adult learning courses
13. Higher Education courses
14. Planning for retirement

On-the job activities

16. Personal development plans
17. Checklists
18. Manuals
19. On-line help
20. Floor walking
21. Time out
22. Reflective practice
23. On the job training sessions
24. Observation
25. Shadowing
26. Trial and error
27. Coaching
28. Supervision
29. Appraisal
30. Stand in
31. Delegation
32. Job enlargement
33 Role development

34. Re-training

35. Job-swops
36. Observation and feedback

37. Making mistakes
38. National Vocational Qualifications

Self development activities

39. Taking tests
40. Benchmarking
41. Coaching
42. Life coaching
43. Buddying
44. Co-counselling
45. Mentoring
46. Journals
47. Books and other publications
48. Web-browsing
49. TV programmes
50. Videos
51. Voluntary experience
52. Sabbaticals
53. Career breaks
54. e-learning
55. Distance learning
56. Open learning courses

57. Project based post graduate qualifications
58. Research
59. Projects
60. Networking
61. Visits
62. Interviewing

Work experience
63. Back to the floor
64. Secondment
65. Job rotation
66. Task share
67. Trainee posts
68. Development posts
69. Project posts
70. transfer
71. Temporary move
72. Acting up
73. Promotion

74. Work experience in a similar organisation
75. work experience abroad
76. Supporting others

Group or team activities

77. Project group
78. Working party
79. Quality circles
80. Team building exercises
81. Drama based activity
82. Team based learning
83. Problem solving processes
84 . Creative processes
85. Discussion groups
86. Support groups
87. Action learning sets
88. Project boards
89. Partnerships
90. Acting as an inspector
91. Peer reviewing
92. Monitoring/ user groups
93. Simulation exercises
94 Management games
95. Communities of interest
96. Professional networks
97. Local government networks – blogs
98. Service awaydays
99. Focus groups
99. Story telling
100. Succession planning

May 12, 2013

Practical ideas for self development

Filed under: Accredited Courses and Training, Managing People — Tags: , — chriscroft @ 12:44 pm

Practical ideas for self development

Achieving Objectives
Write a list of your strategic objectives – ask your boss about these if necessary
Break each strategic objective down into the tasks that will be required in order to achieve it
Learn about project management – how to break a large task down, estimate the time required for each part, and produce a plan.
Monitor progress against your plan by colouring in a Gantt chart on your wall – is the coloured-in part (completed) keeping up with the “Today” line? This will allow you to spot problems in advance and forecast a new completion date

Building Motivation
Ask your staff how things could be improved – and do it
Ask staff what changes they would like to see in you – and do it
Think of something you can thank your staff for, as a team, and do it
Thank each of your staff frequently – “catch them doing something right” – make sure it is based on facts and behaviour rather than feelings
Have a weekly team meeting to discuss news and progress
Write everything down and remember to keep your promises
Coach staff / teach them new skills
Identify someone who you think is good at motivating staff and talk to them
Have lunch / do something sociable with your staff
Make sure to tell your boss when one of your team has done something exceptional

Commercial Awareness
Find out the costs of things – how much is an hour of someone’s time, a day of your office, each service interaction etc?
Make graphs (easy using Excel) of your finances – budgets and incomes, and put them on your wall – this will encourage you to think about them
Consider increasing the quality of what you do – what would it cost, and the extra cost be worth it?
Consider reducing the quality of what you do – how much would the saving be? Would it be worth doing?

Do something new – tomorrow, …or today
Identify someone who you think is good at it and talk to them
Before deciding on a plan, ask yourself “Are there any other ways I could do this job?”
Ask your team for suggestions on how things could be done differently – and don’t criticise their suggestions
Identify a habit or routine of yours – and try changing it
Identify some creative people who you can use as sounding boards
Visit a different type of organisation and see if their different ways spark off any new ideas for you

Developing Staff
Set your team’s next development review dates
Have all of your team had some self-development this year?
Make a skills matrix for your team – what are the skills you want, and who has got what? Gaps: who can be developed to fill this gap, and/or which gaps can form a development plan for each person?
For each person in your team ask yourself “What can I delegate to this person that will enrich (rather than enlarge!) their job?”
Consider taking someone from your team along to a meeting with you
Rotate jobs around the team
Ask your team what they can coach others in
Find out your team’s learning styles
Identify one area for each of your team members where you can coach them in a new skill
Ask your team what was the last bit of development that they did and what did they get out of it?
Identify someone who you think is good at it and talk to them

Focus on customers
Meet as many customers as possible, as often as possible. Once a year is not enough!
If possible, try being a customer once, or for a day, or at least spend time working with the customers (internal or external) so that you can see what your service looks like from their perspective (for example a programmer would spend a day in Accounts, using the system).
Spend a day “back to the shop floor” – for example a programmer would spend a day on the IT help desk.
Find out what your customers want by surveys or one-to-one discussions.
When making a change, ask yourself “It may be good for us internally, but will it also be good for the customers?” Go back to your office and look at the last thing you changed – was it done for you or the users?
Ask yourself “What is currently annoying customers most, and what can I do about it?” Even if it is not in your area you can call attention to it or campaign internally to get it put right.
How do you monitor customer-satisfaction? As well as doing a once-off survey, set up a system of routinely monitoring outgoing quality and monitoring customer perceptions of quality.

Influencing Others
Identify someone who you think is good at it and talk to them
Observe people in meetings – what tactics are they using and how effective are they?
Practice trying to understand people’s motivations by asking them why they made a particular decision or choice
Practice being a good listener – this means not starting to solve their problem or formulate a reply until after they have finished speaking. Try not talking about yourself at all, but asking them more questions. If asked about yourself, give a brief answer and then say “But what about you?”
Learn about body language and then observe it
Think about a situation when you successfully persuaded someone and review how you did it – what were the effective actions?
Think about a situation where you failed to influence someone – what did you do that hindered you, and what could you have done better?

Information & Technology
How much do you know about IT?
Consider going on a course to learn about the basics / the finer points of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Internet searches, and any Harrow-specific systems

Managing Change
Make a list of the pros and cons of a controversial change.
Give the pros and cons scores and also weightings (how important is each factor) and multiply these – then add up the total. This won’t make the decision for you but t will help you to think about the issues.
Explain the reasons and the benefits of change to others – don’t assume they know these. But also be honest about the work to be done and the risks.
Before introducing anything new, ask as many people as possible- this takes time but implementation is much more likely to succeed.
When a change is forced upon you try to stay positive – ask yourself “What might be the benefits to me of this change?”
As with Project Management, divide a change task into parts, plan the time-scale, and monitor progress on a chart. Everyone involved will be able to see the progress made.

Managing Oneself
Keep a daily jobs to do list
Write everything down
Keep some of your diary free each day for jobs that will crop up – start to say no when your diary is nearly full
Have clear objectives, written down, for your work and your personal life
Book blocks of time into your diary when you will work on important tasks
Try to do some sort of self development every year
Ask your team and colleagues “How can I improve as a manager / colleague?”
Prioritise your work into:
– Small urgent tasks that I must do today
– Planning ahead-type tasks that are important – I must put some time aside in my diary for these
– Things that are not important but are fun – allow yourself a small amount of time only on these
– Crises – as well as dealing with them, ask yourself how you can avoid repeats

Managing People
Find out what everyone is doing, and what they think their priorities are.
Ask them to make a list of what they have achieved this week, tried to achieve, and what stopped them
Ask your staff what the barriers are, and try to remove these
Sit down once a week with each member of your team to review progress
Ask your team what standards they think you expect of them
Ask yourself “Are there any poor performance issues which are am avoiding confronting?”
Poor performers: discuss with them whether they are aware of it, and how can you help them to improve?
Poor performers: Talk to HR about it
Delegate more: is there anything that you are holding onto because you like it or because you are too fussy about it?
Delegate something that you haven’t delegated before – give up something!
What did you delegate last? Ask the person how you could have improved the way you delegated it?

Respecting Others
Practice being a good listener – this means not starting to solve their problem or formulate a reply until after they have finished speaking. Try not talking about yourself at all, but asking them more questions. If asked about yourself, give a brief answer and then say “But what about you?”
Ask yourself “What do I like about…..” and “What is their unique talent?” for every person who you work with.
Make a conscious effort to thank everyone you work with at least once a fortnight – find something they have done that is good.
Learn to really understand people who are very different to you by associating with them socially every now and then

Practice being a good listener – this means not starting to solve their problem or formulate a reply until after they have finished speaking. Try not talking about yourself at all, but asking them more questions. If asked about yourself, give a brief answer and then say “But what about you?”
Be concise – can you express your key message in only one sentence?
Use the Spelling & Grammar tool when using Word
Ask a friend to check your most recent document for jargon, passives, long sentences etc
Find an opportunity to give a presentation
Give a talk to your team on the department’s longer term plans
Tell your team about your work priorities

April 19, 2013

Ways to use e-learning in conjunction with management training

100% e-course: Replace the whole course with an on-line version that people can do at their own pace, in chunks of any size, repeating and parts they want, with tests to check learning. Requires no extra time or cost to run; it is self contained.

Interactive e-course: Could involve boss (send answers to boss) and could involve interactive sessions with external trainer (send answers to trainer for marking, or “if stuck email external trainer”, or could include a skype session with external trainer. Could be a discussion forum with other learners.

Blended course: parts of the course are taught and parts are on-line. Maybe some parts can’t be done in e-format, like role plays, but the rest can. Reduces cost and increases flexibility but you still get the interaction and sharing of ideas. Could have a sequence on-line preparation, taught session with group, on-line revision. Or the reverse: face to face introduction and explanation, e-learning section, meet again as group to review and discuss (and ensure the e-part was done!).

Follow-up: after a traditional training course e-learning can be used as a follow up ~ “How much can you remember?” If stuck, here it is again. (A refresher after six weeks will double long term retention). “How are you getting on with applying the ideas? Please share your thoughts with the tutor and the other delegates”. So everyone learns from each other’s progress.

Trickle: rather than a lump of follow up, a series of small interactions can be designed, maybe a small tip or question or exercise of competition every week or month (or at random!), to keep the subject in the learners’ minds. This extends the training over a period of years and makes it really become embedded in working practice.

Add-on: “Here is more information on the subject”. An optional (or compulsory) advanced part 2 to the original course. This one, and the follow up, can be bolted on to any existing course, even if the course was done before e-learning was considered. With the blended course it needs to be planned in from the start, but not with this and the follow-up.


(It goes without saying that any of the above can be obtained from

January 16, 2013

Upgrading a Diploma to an MBA

Filed under: Accredited Courses and Training, Careers — Tags: , , , , , — chriscroft @ 5:45 pm

I often get asked “Can I upgrade my level 7 Diploma to an MBA at some future point? “

MBAs are level 8.
(By the way, there is no level 6!)

Only Universities can award MBAs.
A part time MBA usually consists of three years, the first year being effectively a CMS, and the first two years being a DMS.
Some Universities will let a person with a DMS miss out the first two years of the MBA and join for the final year. Add one year to your DMS and you get an MBA. This is sensible since the DMS is exactly the same syllabus as the first two years of an MBA.

But many universities won’t accept anybody else’s year 1 or 2, saying you have to start again because their syllabus is different. Some also claim that all three of their MBA years are at level 8. But if you look at the subjects covered you will see that it looks very similar to your DMS!

But that is their loss, since we have enough friendly Universities to be able to provide you with a route to gaining an MBA without repeating everything.

Final bits of confusion…
The CMI (Chartered Management Institute) are sometimes confused with CIM (Chartered Institute of Marketing), and the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) and the ILM can be confused with IPM (Institute of Personnel Management) – these are professional HR organisations, HR being one of the areas you will study on your DMS.

CATS points: this stands for Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme, and the idea is that qualifications give you points which count towards exemptions when you start another qualification. We had hoped that these would allow our students to join any MBA programme half way through, but the reality is that many MBA courses don’t recognise CATS points, FE College courses don’t count towards CATS, the points have to be at the same level (and MBAs may or may not be at level 8, see above) and all applications are subject to interviews anyway – basically the whole thing is a mess and CATS points are virtually irrelevant.

The only thing that matters is “Can we get you onto the final year of an MBA?” and the answer is yes we can.


The following is what we have done so far, but it’s always changing, and if anyone knows of new MBA routes then please let me know, or if any of the ones listed have now closed I’d like to keep this blog up to date. Thanks for any help!

Ideally you can use your DMS to exempt yourself from the first 2 years of a part time MBA, and just do the final year.

This would involve a year of part time study, mostly at distance, and probably a cost of about £5,000 (depends on the university) which you will probably have to pay yourself.

But an MBA is a good thing to have on your CV, and all the evidence is that the investment pays back.

An MBA would benefit both you and the organisation you work for, since it will give you a more strategic view.

Longer term I would like to get accredited to be able to teach an MBA year, but at the moment we have to live with transferring people to a university near them – still not bad.

Of course, universities won’t guarantee you a place on their course, you’ll still have to apply with an application form, and maybe be interviewed. But of course they are quite interested in your 5k, so it shouldn’t be too hard to get a place…

Back in 2006 we finally got Sunderland, a proper UK university, to agree that our DMS counts as the first two years of an MBA, so you jsut have to do the final year of their MBA to get the ultimate management qualification. You can do it in your spare time while doing a normal job, it takes a year, it’s distance learning so it doesn’t matter where you live, and it costed £3,500. Probably gone up since, but still great value.

More info on the Sunderland Uni top up MBA

We also have our first person enrolled at London Met (well done Roni!!)
The course admin is Nicholas Scott and leader, his boss Kate Cooper. or
The fees are about £4500 and with DMS you get straight onto stage two, so can be completed in one year.

Northampton Uni also has a top up MBA which costs about £3500
also this;jsessionid=62303d59d832$AD$F8$D?keyword=mba&type=Course&action=showdetails&offset=10&2waynocompress=1&id=46273

We have also had one of our Diploma students doing an MBA top up at London South Bank University.

There’s a list of participating Universities here on the Edexcel (BTEC) site

And the most recent addition is this:

Big thanks to Peter Rose who just got in touch with me about his MBA
He did the level 7 Diploma with me and then upgraded to an MBA with one year at the University of Wales / UWIC / Cardiff Metropolitan
Distance Learning do you can it from wherever you live
No exams
£2500 – the cheapest MBA you’ll ever yet, I reckon!

I had a quick google and found this
The price is a little higher, I’m not sure if it’s the distance learning option, it looks like “on campus”, and it’s for the whole course rather than just the dissertation part
but importantly it shows (item 6) that the BTEC level 7 DMS does indeed give you entry to the last bit of the course

It says:
“If you have a suitable Postgraduate Diploma in Business Management which has been approved by the school, you can apply for direct entry to the dissertation phase of the MBA either on-campus or via our distance learning programme”.   Sounds good!


That’s everything I know – I hope it helps anyone out there who wants to advance themselves.



August 7, 2012

What should be in your assignment answer?

Filed under: Accredited Courses and Training — Tags: , , , , , — chriscroft @ 3:13 pm

To pass you need to:

  • Quote theory and give references
  • Your opinion on the theory
  • Reflect on how the theory applies (or doesn’t!) to your work

To get a good / merit

  • The ideas must have been applied toyour work place
    (“I‘ve been and done it and it either worked or it didn’t”)

To get an excellent / distinction I’d be looking for

  • Evidence of extra research (reading, asking, observing)
  • Well written and laid out
  • Word count met or near

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