The Definition of Learning

Standard

(All names are altered due to the privacy)

EG Program is a long-term custom executive program for one of the 50 top conglomerate company. With 24 participants from EG conglomerate, the classes are held every Wednesday over 2 years period, and this 2 years is again broken down to 4 semesters. Some of you might think “…and you call it executive education?” Yup, I know. But this is South Korea – whatever the client asks, especially for big name companies, forget about the principles and such. Their wishes shall come true. I will write a detailed post about this kind of practices some time later, so please wait until then.

Before the beginning of 4th semester, people from EG and we had a coordination meeting. They changed their mind and now wanted to add final group presentation assignment for all participants. Not a big deal, it was still 3 weeks before the semester’s kick off, and EG said it will provide assignment topics. Thought it would be a bit tougher for participants, the workload should not be impossible to handle.

Few days later, they called again, saying they would like to have some of their presidents as guest lecturers for the current program. Apparently the program schedule was packed. More than half of the class days finishes at 9:30 pm. Obviously, I thought EG will set another time schedule for this other than Wednesday and/or use some other place for their special lectures. Apparently, I was wrong. They wanted to push everything on Wednesday, before the regular classes.

Now, that means all participants, battered with overtime and all-nighthers and forced social drinking have to spend more than 10 hrs stuck in classes. For sure anyone would dramatically lose their concentration if you have to sit through classes and lectures for 10 hrs straight (of course there are 10 min breaks, but I don’t think that will do much).  Surprised, I (indirectly) asked why would they want to add this massive “special lecture” by their CEOs.  Their answer: “we understand the company is not in the best shape and everyone’s motivation is low.  So by inviting CEOs, we would like to show that the company and higher managers really care for the employees.” Well, well, what can I say.  So as our almighty client asked, we are currently running this special lectures by CEOs.

But honestly, I doubt the participants are actually learning something.  The lectures of CEOs were pretty much reiteration of common sense of business – the stat data of their company revenue, number of oversea branches, or how to be a good middle manager.  Toward the end of day, some participants even asked me to start the evening classes early so they can go home.

The company clearly is spending a lot of money for this program. The participants are investing a lot of time for the program.  But are they really learning anything?  Or, does the company HR care about what employees are really learning? Or is it more about appearing to be learning and studying hard, rather than really learning something?  To my guess, in this land of morning calm, the “appearing to be” option matters more.  If they really want their employees to learn some thing or two, the company should ensure the institution and employees so they can truly focus on education, and put its utmost effort to create the surrounding so the employees can freely practice and try what they have learned.  Honestly, do the CEO babbling about the current company revenues and stats (which the employees already know) and locking up people for 10 hrs straight in classroom really help these participants to be an efficient manager with full potential? Quoting from Niall Murtagh, the author of Blue-Eyed Salarymen,  “what’s the connection between riding your bike with one hand on rainy day and being efficient in financial expenditure? I don’t get it.”

I would like to end this posting with a great story (actual story from my work experience).  An internationally renowned conglomerate, P, contacted us for their exec. education program. So my boss, the senior manager, and their HR started to communicate for the program development.

Sr. Manager: So you want to do some basic leadership programs with humanities…I see.  Now let’s move on to the classrooms and locations.  It would be more time and money efficient if you can just use our accommodation and classroom and I am not saying this just to increase our revenue; I am saying this for the best result.

HR: Well, yeah, but we would like to use our new building in Gangnam.

Sr. Manager: Well, but that would cost more time and money for your company.  Majority of your employees are coming from Pohang, so that’s a good 6 hrs ride per week, in a day.  furthermore, the accommodation at Gangnam are expensive.  If you choose to use our accommodation, it’s only 40,000KRW per night and we are located at the downtown Seoul.

HR: Er……well…uhm…our president recently built this new building, and he would love to actually see the employees sitting and taking classes in his building.

Sr. Manager: Oh…I see.

End of the Story!

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