If you are worried about the frequency of imposing learning on people, ask them if it's too often. They will tell you if it’s too much. You have options, such as taking a break between books for a few weeks, scheduling lunch-and-learns biweekly or once a month, or not scheduling too many workshops too often. But, the longer you make the break between occurrences, the harder it is to make the learning happen and the more likely you are to stop learning and training entirely. It's easier to learn a little every week rather than have a huge hit once every six months. If you have to stop a project for one or two weeks every six months for a training course, then the course feels like a huge imposition. Instead, if you have a lunch-and-learn every week for forty-five minutes—where you might not even notice the time, because people need to eat lunch—then the training time is unnoticeable for the project but adds up for the people.
Make Time for Conferences, Too
Every so often, you need an injection of a wide variety of new ideas from many new people. That means it’s time for a conference. You might be lucky enough to find a local conference, so you don’t have to incur travel costs. Look for user groups, agile, open space, and professional group conferences. Yes, the quality of the conferences varies. You will have to see if the sessions are experiential or if you will be sitting in rows, bored to death by PowerPoint. I am a fan of experiential sessions.
But, no matter what kind of sessions you find at a conference, one of the best things conferences offer is networking. I find that when I meet people at conferences or introduce people at conferences—in or out of my sessions—they learn a lot, and the things they learn are different from what they learn in talks and tutorials.
When you network to find other people with similar problems, you learn not only how they have solved their problems but also what didn’t work for them. You can learn from their experiments and experiences, trade notes, and, depending on your geographic location, possibly exchange candidates or hiring tips.
Because you are face to face at a conference, you can learn more when you network than you can by email or any other electronic forum. If you have not been to a conference in a while, consider going to a local conference this year. Then, set aside time and budget for a national or international conference. I learn about culture and practices from my international colleagues, and both my international and domestic clients benefit from what I learn.
Capitalize on Our Curiosity
Many of us in the software field are curious. Use that curiosity to build in training as a weekly endeavor. You won’t be sorry. Yes, training can be expensive. Only you know the cost of the training you bring to your workplace, or the cost of sending people to a conference. In my experience, the value of the training significantly outweighs the cost.
But, what’s the cost if you don’t train people and they stay?
Read all of Johanna's Management Myths here:
- The Myth of 100% Utilization
- Only the 'Expert' Can Perform This Work
- We Must Treat Everyone the Same Way
- I Don't Need One-on-Ones
- We Must Have an Objective Ranking System
- I Can Save Everyone
- I Am Too Valuable to Take a Vacation
- I Can Still Do Significant Technical Work
- We Have No Time for Training
- I Can Measure the Work by the Time People Spend at Work
- The Team Needs a Cheerleader!
- I Must Promote the Best Technical Person to Be a Manager
- I Must Never Admit My Mistakes