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Goal-Oriented Training

For effective instruction you need to follow a focused plan that incorporates specific short-term and long-term goals.

May 20, 2011  |  by Amaury Murgado - Also by this author


Many in law enforcement view training as something to try to get out of. Since it's often seen as a necessary evil, it's always one of the easiest things to cut when budgets get lean. That's a shame because training doesn't have to be expensive; it just has to be good. If more people experienced good training I think they'd see its value. The essential missing component is usually a sense of purpose.

For example, any experienced firearms instructor will tell you they could accomplish more with 50 rounds of ammunition doing a ball and dummy drill, than burning up hundreds of rounds just blowing holes in paper. It's not so much what you do that's important but why. The older I get, the more I realize that formalizing the question is more important than getting the answer. If you have an idea of why you're conducting the training, it will all come together. If not, it could be a mess and a waste of everyone's time. The term GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) says it all.

It's the Why That Matters Most

Many years ago I was invited to a newly formed specialty unit's training meeting. The team's command staff was feverously debating what to teach in a two-day, 16-hour training block they were planning. They had the 16 hours broken down on a chart and they were steadily filling in the open slots willy-nilly with all sorts of cool sounding topics. It was a hodgepodge of instruction that looked really good on paper but made no sense when you tried to string it together. I couldn't figure out the direction that they were going in, let alone their final destination.

Unable to keep my mouth shut, I stopped them after awhile and asked, "What do you want the students to be able to do after the 16 hours of training; what's your overall training goal?" I immediately got the "Why are you questioning me?" look from the number one guy and the others present just started looking at each other as if I were speaking Chinese.

I told them that they were putting the cart before the horse by detailing the "what" of their training without having identified the "why." I advised them that in stating the why (goal), the what (objectives) would follow naturally. They reluctantly took my advice.

An hour later, after identifying some basic goals, the team pounded out a list of objectives that became the standard for the future basic training of their unit. Once the goals had been established and the parameters set, it became an easy conversation. It's similar to figuring out what you have when you arrive on scene. Once you identify the situation, the rest is paperwork and following procedure. The hard part is in the identification; training is no different.

Much to my chagrin, I was never invited back to another planning meeting. Perhaps someone got embarrassed or they just no longer needed my help. The world may never know...

Setting Specific Goals

As demonstrated above, setting up your goals properly makes coming up with the training elements very easy. Your training goal should be a statement of intent. If you are not defining your goals and therefore working toward them, you are merely treading water when you could be swimming.

I liken the whole goal and objective issue to a road trip. Like a road trip, with training you have a final destination, or goal, which is further broken down into the legs of your journey, or objectives. The complexity of the goal will establish how many objectives you need. Here are examples of law enforcement training goals:

Goal 1: The student will demonstrate the three basic blocks used in police combatives.

Goal 2: The student will demonstrate how to write a police narrative.

The goal is a clear, succinct statement that describes what you want to accomplish. The next step is how you are going to get there by way of objectives.


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