Coaching vs. Training: What's the difference?

A client once asked us what the difference was between training and coaching. This is a good question and is best described with an analogy. Imagine going to the sink and putting water into a glass for 1 minute. Eventually, the glass is going to become full, at which point the water will start overflowing. In fact, you will more than likely loose about 80% of the water that comes out of the faucet.

Now, the glass has a slow leak. Each day that goes by the glass looses water. After two weeks, the glass will eventually become empty. This analogy is what happens with generic training classes. The trainer (the faucet) is filling the student (the glass) with knowledge (water). A person can only learn so muchness material in a short period of time so eventually the student will become overloaded and 80% will go in one ear and out the other (the glass overflowing).

Now the student has to figure out how to apply what they learned (which is less than what was taught) to their real world project and their real world team. If they don't start using it immediately, they will start to forget (the leaky glass). Best case is they manage to stop the leak by successfully implementing some of what they were taught, but this path can be treacherous, depending on the experience of the project manager.

The coaching model allows the trainer to keep filling the glass back up over time (they may never stop the leak!). Fundamentally (in engineering terms), training is an open loop system. However, learning is a closed-loop system where observations are made and feedback given to make small corrections over time.

This is the difference between training and coaching. Regular coaching sessions after a training class is critical to the success of making learning's "stick". For fastProject, it's a way to see how the student is implementing the scheduling system so improvements can be made. It's also a forum for the student to ask questions to enhance, reinforce and even expand the learning's.

The real advantage however comes in the fact that the learning's revolve around live data. It's far more effective to learn when you're dealing with the real world in the context of your project and problems, and that's just not something that can be achieved in a generic training class.