TRAINING Capital Investment #1

NOTE: The material herein is NOT under copyright. My goal is grand theft — by you, the reader. I hope you will find some of the contents of value, and will therefore extract and utilize what you will, directly or indirectly, with or without attribution.

(Yes, it does. “Hey, this looks a lot like a PowerPoint presentation,” you say. “Yes, it does,” I reply shamelessly. PowerPoint is my medium. Pretty much everything I do resembles PowerPoint — I think and dream in PowerPoint. So, consider this doc as a Word translation from PowerPoint. Why? Because it’s, as I said … WHAT I DO.)

My Training … Obsession

Consider …


*It takes Jerry Seinfeld 6 MONTHS to develop 2–3 MINUTES of new material.

(Source: Documentary, Comedian)


*Winston Churchill’s rule of thumb: 1 hour of preparation for 1 minute of a speech.


“Give me 6 hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first 4 sharpening the axe.” — Abraham Lincoln

“The only thing you have power over is to get good at what you do. That’s all there is; there ain’t no more!” — Sally Field

Basketball coach John Wooden, perhaps the best coach of anything, ever:

I was always more of a practice coach than a game coach. This is because of my conviction that a player who practices well, plays well.”

From legendary basketball coach Bobby Knight:

Everybody has a will to win. What’s far more important is having the will to prepare to win.”

Hall of Fame NFL San Francisco 49ers football coach Bill Walsh on prep:

“The score takes care of itself.”

In the Army and Navy, 3-Star Generals and Admirals worry obsessively about training. In most businesses, the top training post is a “ho hum” mid-level staff slot.

(The Seinfeld-Churchill-Lincoln numbers make perfect sense to me. Three people at the top of their game — for whom preparation is activity #1. For whom preparation is a consuming passion.)

The Sally Field quote holds almost biblical significance for me.

And the Wooden-Knight-Walsh quotes are, well, peerless sentiments from peerless coaches-leaders.

The Army statement? A truism. PERIOD.

The arts. [Theater, ballet, etc.]



Police & Fire.

The military.

Nuclear powerplant chiefs.


What’s missing?

By and large: Business and “normal” jobs in general.

Soooooo …….

I have been at this [whatever it is that I do] for 43 years. And I am more determined than ever to shout/scream about CEOs (and other bosses at all levels) finally “Putting People First” — as their mission statements say, but which is contradicted by their actions. As tech change accelerates, this becomes more important with each passing day.

At an event in Milan, well over a decade ago, I passed out one item to the several thousand attendees. I labeled it my “#1 belief.” To wit:

Your principal moral obligation as a leader is to develop — day by day — the skillset, “soft” and “hard,” of every one of the people in your charge (temporary as well as semi-permanent* (*there is no “permanent” circa 2021) to the maximum extent of your abilities. The good news: This is also the #1 mid- to long-term … profit maximization strategy!

I understand full well the complexities of a full-blown development process. But I insist in this essay on paring to it down — to the Seinfeld-Churchill-Lincoln-Field-Wooden-Knight-Walsh bedrock. Namely, “down and dirty” … TRAINING.

“The root of our problem is not that we’re in a Great Recession or a Great Stagnation, but rather that we are in the early throes of a Great Restructuring. Our technologies are racing ahead, but our skills and organizations are lagging behind.”

— Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, Race Against the Machine

“For most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, employment usually rebounded after each recession, but since the 1990s employment didn’t recover briskly after recessions. Again, It’s not coincidence that as the computerization of the economy advanced, post-recession hiring patterns changed.”

— Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, The Second Machine Age*

“The median worker is losing the race against the machine.”

— Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, Race Against the Machine

So, salvation (of the employability sort), through …








Training Queries: If not, why not?

Is your CTO/Chief Training Officer your top paid “C-level” job (other than CEO/COO)?

If not, why not?

(Most companies don’t even have a Chief Training Officer. Dumb. Pathetic. Contemptible. AND … a crippling blow to profit maximization.)

Are your top trainers paid/cherished as much as your top marketers/engineers?

If not, why not?

Are your training courses so good they make you tingle?

If not, why not?

(Someone at a seminar challenged me on this. Said it was unrealistic and, by the way, what does “tingle” mean. I pointed to my sophomore year in college. For us engineers, including civil engineers like me, an introductory chemistry course was required. Most of us looked forward to it as the equivalent of a 4-month long root canal. We had two well known professors, Michell Sienko and Robert Plane. They were scholars of the first order and simultaneously entertainers of the first order. Bottom line: By the end of the course, probably half of us [among hundreds] wanted to be chemistry majors. Ten years later the same sort of lightening struck courtesy an economics professor, Keith Lumsden, at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. That is, there are great teachers and great courses — and I do not understand why the corporate world can’t develop or recruit the Sienkos and Planes and Lumsdens. Billions are at stake — and great “profs” concocting great courses could do wonders to, say, recruitment and retention and productivity. As to “tingle,” I’m looking for something beyond “very good;” I’d accept for “earthshaking” or “mind blowing” or, for sure … “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”)

Randomly stop an employee in the hall: Can she/he describe [in detail] her/his development plan for the next 12 months?

If not, why not?*

*And if the answer is “No” … her or his boss should be sternly reprimanded ASAP. (I would say “fired” — but you might accuse me of over-the-top-ism.)

Sunday/NFL game day (as this was written): “Players are our most important asset.” “No shit, Sherlock.” Football is a competitive BUSINESS.

If “people first” is obvious for them, why not you?

Study/inhale Matthew Kelly’s book The Dream Manager. It’s about a fictional sanitary services company where development and shoot-for-the-moon aspirations of front-line housekeepers is encouraged — and vigorously supported. But it’s not fictional. I met the company’s CEO.

If them, why not you?

Check out a U.S. Marine E-6 (senior sergeant). Ask him/her about training and development objectives, and the intensity of the approach thereto.

If him, why not you?

Want to understand training in a super high-tech business? Talk to the commanding officer (effectively CTO) of a “boomer”/U.S. Navy nuclear sub patrolling the sea with nuclear-armed missiles on board.

If them, why not you?

Gamblin’ Man

Bet #1: >> 5 of 10 CEOs see training as expense rather than investment.

Bet #2: >> 5 of 10 CEOs see training as defense rather than offense.

Bet #3: >> 5 of 10 CEOs see training as “necessary evil” rather than “strategic opportunity.”

Bet #4: >> 8 of 10 CEOs, in 45-min “tour d’horizon” of their biz, would NOT mention training.*

*If you had any idea at all how much this pisses me off …

Rick Taylor/twitter: “It’s been 12 years since I’ve been offered training in anything. Corporations see it as an expense not investment.”

Shit hits the fan, Great Recession: Container Store boosts front-line sales training. RARE!!

(FYI: A few years ago, Container Store ranked #1 on the list of “Best Companies to Work for in America.”)

Training = Investment #1*

*Training should be classified as an element of … R&D.

What is the best reason to go bananas over training? GREED. (It pays off.)

To whom does “all this” apply?

Training #1: Bottom Line

NOBODY gets off the hook! “Training (& Development) Maniac” applies as much (actually more) to the leader of the 4-person business as to the chief of the 44,444-person business.

ADDENDUM: Training Is Not a “Do To”: The-Prep-Is-The-Thing!

The Tokyo Olympics (on as I wrote this) should remind us that extensive training is not something bosses “do to” people.

Training = Success.

Junior/senior. Age 17 (young Olympian) or 78 (me).

(My take: In many [most?] organizations training is treated as de facto penalty administered “to” rather than a … magnificent growth opportunity.)

You do not achieve mastery during the game or the speech or the concert. Mastery is achieved (only) in the (invisible) preparation stage.

(It so often seems to me that the attitude toward training is, “another damn cost item,” or “How bloody much do we have to do?” On the receiving end, given the half-assed attention to the product (the training itself), the attitude is, “How much of this shit do we have to go through?” Instead I imagine — and I think everyone should imagine — training as … THE COOLEST THING EVER. The matchless opportunity to help people grow — and to help our organization achieve Excellence, which in turn can be translated into Ecstatic Customers — and, then, Ecstatic Shareholders. This whole topic, as ordinarily approached … PISSES ME OFF SOOOOOO MUCH I QUAKE & SHAKE.)

If there is no joy and exhilaration in preparing, success odds are … Z-E-R-O.

Training should be the highlight. Event, an afterthought. (Event is basically decided before you step in the field/stage.)

For me, the pleasure is in increasing, at 1A.M. before a 9 A.M. speech, the font size of a single word I’ve decided to emphasize on PowerPoint slide #39.

My speech is effectively over before I step on stage.

Trevor Gay: Would rather hear “You clearly prepared for that” than “That was great!”

Any idiot can be “psyched” & “up” when he steps on the field on game day. Key is being “psyched” & “up” & 1st on the practice field.

“The only thing you have power over is to get good at what you do. That’s all there is; there ain’t no more!” — Sally Field*

*Yes, a r-e-p-e-a-t. Very purposefully.

Twitter comment by org development group: “We can help by integrating learning into work and ditching the term ‘training.’”


NO cover-ups!

Training: WONDERFUL thing! Training: WONDERFUL word! Make it so GREAT people BEG for it!

I LOVE to train.

I LOVE to improve. (Age 78.)

Prompted by a Twitter exchange on optimism:

I simply don’t understand optimism. I only “get” preparedness and de facto psychotic relentlessness.

“Yo, I’m an optimist. Gonna happen.” “Yo, I’m a shit-happens-OCD-preparationist.” Take your pick?!

“training, TRAINING and M-O-R-E T-R-A-I-N-I-N-G”

— CINCPAC Nimitz to CNO King/1943 (punctuation Nimitz’s)

(U.S. Navy under-prepared after Pearl Harbor. The fix? T-R-A-I-N-I-N-G. Training more important than more ships!)



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Tom Peters

Business speaker and author Tom Peters' books include In Search of Excellence, Excellence Now: Extreme Humanism, and 17 others.