December 30

Episode 65: Using the Target Problem Solving Model with Robb Bingham


In this week’s episode, you’ll learn about the Target problem-solving model and how it fits into employee training. Guest Robb Bingham offers a detailed account of how and why the Target model works. He also explains how it works in conjunction with other models such as ADDIE.

Robb Bingham’s Biography

Robb Bingham is the founder of Converging Solutions, an organization that designs and builds customized training and communication solutions. 

In This Episode, You’ll Learn…

  • About the Target Problem Solving approach
  • About the Three Pillars of Solutions
  • Ways to implement Target Problem Solving
  • How the Target model works within an organization
  • How the Target model works with the ADDIE model
  • The Different factors in an organization that affects the Target model


  • “We come at life with our own filters, and our own perceptions, and our own way of looking at life.”—Robb Bingham
  • “There’s things that tearing down those preconceptions and shifting intentionally forcing us to step outside of our assumptions and perceptions, perspectives, that really is powerful. And that is kinda the secret sauce or magic if you will of the Target Model.”—Robb Bingham

Links & Resources Mentioned…

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Read The Transcript

Episode #65

Mike O'Neill: Welcome back to the Get Unstuck & On Target Podcast. I'm Mike O'Neill with Bench Builders and we specialize in helping leaders solve the tough people problems that are slowing their companies growth. Joining me today from Atlanta is Robb Bingham. Robb is the founder of Converging Solutions. His company helps medium to large organizations design and build customized training and communication solutions. Welcome Robb. 

Robb Bingham: Thank you, Mike. Great to be here. 

Mike O'Neill: I'm glad you're with us. We're going to be talking here in a few minutes, a bit about Converging Solutions, target problem solving approach. I'm intrigued by that. And I think our listeners will be as well, but before we do that, Robb you and I have known each other for a number of years. We reconnected not long ago, but can you share with our viewers in this listeners a little bit about who you are and how you got into the business you're in specifically, how did you go about the process of starting Converging Solution? 

Robb Bingham: Yeah. a great question. Thanks, Mike. And it's, it's an honor to be with you and, really appreciate the work that you do with leaders. Leadership, today is. It it's becoming critically, critically. It's always been important. Right. But it's critically important in these times of uncertainty. There's just so much going on. Converging Solutions, I started the company about, it's been a little over 15 years ago now and I came to it after having a, a nice corporate career, working in telecom. And actually as I was starting Converging Solutions, I realized, I didn't understand, sales and marketing as much as I needed to. And so I had a couple kind of starts, it was, truly an entrepreneurial effort and I actually hired back inside of a company, United health group. I was contracting with them for a while and then they offered me a role as a sales training director. And I thought, Hey, I don't know enough about sales I better, I better, think about this a couple of times. Not only from, I, I'm not sure I'm qualified for this role, but also man, think of all the things I can learn. And, so it was a Converging Solution in that moment. So through that process, I really have learned a whole lot about the sales pipeline and how to really consult with the client. I feel like I have had a consultant head a problem solving head. Learning strategy is the way I usually talk about it because most people reach out to Converging Solutions, looking for some sort of a training, a strategy, some sort of, training, there's some sort of training need that they have. What is unique about the way we approach it is I'll tell people I understand you want a training solution for this problem, but it may not be training that is your issue. And, so I'll, I'll push back, gently, respectfully, but say you may have a leadership issue here and there may be something that you're communicating and, I guess the, if there is a typical scenario that everybody can kind of relate to, especially in the HR and training worlds is, operations will say, Hey, you need to train these people how to take care of the customer. And so we can build a training and 30, 60, 90 days later, the operations will come back and they'll go, didn't you train these people how to take care of the customer and we say say, yeah, yeah, we did. Well, why aren't they doing it? Well, I don't know why don't we ask them and you sit down with a focus group and you say, Do you know what to do to take care of the customer? Oh yeah. We're supposed to do A, B and C and they, you know, they recite it. They learned what they were supposed to learn a training. Well then why aren't you doing it? Oh, well, cause you tell me to take care of 30 customers an hour or some other dysfunctional behavior that we're setting them up for failure instead of success, or there's a win lose instead of a win-win. Right. And they've got to make a choice. I had an employee in one of these situations and this was whenever I worked in telecoms in a call center environment, we piloted a, a project and one of them said, we didn't, we didn't give them an exact time that they had to be off the phone and they had become very accustomed to, and, but this was a new queue, a new troubleshooting kind of thing. And we said, you know what? We'll figure out what the call time is. And the person literally said, you know what? I've been working here for a while and until you give me another call time to hit, I'm not going to jeopardize my bonus. Cause my family depends on that to make ends meet. So I'm going to be hitting that number. The old number until you give me a new number. And if that's the culture we're creating, then there's something that is way outside of training that we have got to address. And Converging Solutions takes that into account. Three pillars in Converging Solutions. Learning is just one of them, communications and performance support are the other, that we the other inputs, if you will, that we really try to help, leaders of organizations, work from a strategy perspective with the training function. And especially in a medium size organizations, a lot of them are just formulating we need a formal training function and that's really a sweet spot of ours is helping, medium sized businesses, small and medium sized businesses figure out what that trajectory looks like. And a lot of times we will be the we're doing this for a couple of clients right now where we're the outside external support partner. And then we help them actually begin to develop their, training department, if you will, or learning organization within, within the company. 

Mike O'Neill: Robb, as you've been describing Convergence Solutions, there's a fair number of parallels between your company and Bench Builders. But I was very intrigued to hear what you said about those three pillars. Our listeners sometimes do what we all do, and that is we look at a situation and conclude ah this is a training problem. And if there's not a willingness to step back and address, how will that training be received? What is the organization structure? What is the culture? What processes are in place or not in place to reinforce this new behavior that if you don't pay attention to these things, a very well plan and executed training program doesn't meet expectations because you're not taking those things into consideration. I remember when you and I first met a number of years ago, one thing to somewhat impressed me is you literally have taken this whole idea of kind of solving the problem kind of to a new level. You've actually, I've kind of adopted problem solving a methodology that you actually called target. And I was hoping that in our time together, you could kind of give us a kind of a high level overview. Of your target problem solving approach. 

Robb Bingham: Yeah. So, an interesting story as COVID was happening a couple of years ago now it's just, starting up in earnest. I was in the middle of, writing an article and I thought, you know, this is, this may be a good time for this article as we're trying to navigate what next, what normal is going to look like next. And if you're familiar with VUCA, the, volatile uncertainty that we were facing, and complexity of business and business models at the time. So I started to write about the target model and it was in, we were going to be published in TD magazine in March of last year, 2020. And, by the end of the year, the editors called and said, you know what? This might be really good to have our readers, see in January. So they moved it up a couple of months, which was really, a nice, nice honor. And if you go out to our website and I'm gonna share my screen here, just momentarily to give you a visual. Out on our website, you'll see you know, our links to our portfolio and the three different pillars. I refer to learning communications performance. If you scroll down just a little bit, target is right here. Tearing down preconceptions, assembling a comprehensive set of ideas, which has to do with the diverging strategies. And we can talk more about these. I just wanted you to have a visual. Reflect and refine theories, gather specific resources, convergent, strategies, engaging solutions and test new findings. And here is a, color visual of it. And so that can be very helpful as you're trying to, jog your memory about, what was, what was T what did that stand for again? So I just refer to that, to say, Yeah, this, this whole piece of tearing down preconceptions is really, really the essence of what target is all about because we come at life and understandably we've been doing it for years. We come at life with our own filters and our own perceptions and our own way of looking at life and especially right now where there's so much polarization. I always refer, audiences to check out the Netflix documentary called The Social Dilemma. If you haven't seen it, it is very, very eyeopening. And what's fascinating is to realize that it was actually filmed and documented before our last election cycle. And, and they talk about the, you know, we have extreme, left and extreme right. And they have, some, Allegories that. So it's a documentary that's interviewing executives of all these social media companies and talking about how by design, they designed them to be addictive and to feed us perceptions that we have clicked on before they know what we're going to like. And so we get deeper and deeper and deeper into this well of siloed thinking. And so T, which, you know, I created this model 10, I, close to 15 years ago now it was just, a year or two into the company. T is really that personal responsibility to, to tear down our own preconceptions. What is it that we are stuck on? And what skip are we replaying to, refer back to that old technology of a record player that most people in your audience may not even know what it is anymore. My son asked me, this is three, four years ago now a teenager. He said, dad, what is a cassette? And it made us laugh and go, we ha w what is cassette we thought the casket maybe, but he was talking about a cassette. And, so anyway, old technologies, if we can figure out how to get outside of that, jump out of that groove that we are stuck in and look at the from another perspective, that's critically, critically important. So let me pause there. I can talk you through the rest, but, just wanted to pause for reflection. 

Mike O'Neill: I think you set the stage very nice for the target model. So let's just kind of keep working through if T is tear down preconceptions A is assemble a comprehensive set of ideas that is divergent strategies. Can you elaborate on that? 

Robb Bingham: Yes. So as we are tearing down our preconceptions, it sets us up to look at things differently than we have before. And this is that the classic model of how many different uses can you brainstorm for a paperclip or for a brick. And, and so it, it's only as we begin to celebrate in this very, synergistic with, diversity, diversity awareness, diversity themes. One of the reasons that diversity is so good for business is because it ,helps we recognize that we are looking through our filter and we need other people's filters to help us come up with a more comprehensive solution. So when we are assembling that comprehensive set of ideas, we ask for, and we become open to different inputs, especially if we've checked our preconceptions at the door. So as in classic brainstorming, rules, rulemaking, you, you check at the door, your, oh, that's a bad idea. That'll never work. We don't have enough budget for that. All of those things go out the window. And through COVID you really have. Seen some businesses who, you know, food businesses that started selling, hand sanitizer and toilet paper, you know, you came to pick up food and suddenly you had a little general store there. And it innovative creative and really made the difference in whether you went to your favorite restaurant down the street or the one that also has the supplies that by the way we need, maybe we can get, you know, one more roll of toilet paper. And it becomes a real strategic partnership kind of way of thinking about how do we better serve you and the needs you have. So all these, you know, comprehensive set of ideas that flies in the face of, you know, marketing is, you know, your niche, you know, your customer, you're aiming for that client and you're getting more and more targeted. In this world that was completely blown up we started to become considerate of out of the box solutions that we hadn't thought about before. And then from there we go to reflect on those solutions. We turn, you know, if it's a stone analogy, we are turning that stone over. We're looking at the underside. So if we did this, if we made this move, what's that going to do to, oh, we've got to think about how do we get that product in. And are we setting people up for frustration or are we, are we going to take, payments, with credit card? What are the benefits of doing that versus. Actually being low cost leader and offering people a lower price, if they pay cash. Whatever the model is. After you have had that reflect and refining theory piece of the process, which is really incubation time, you don't do this all in one setting. You typically, in a best case scenario, you will allow, at least a night or two of thought process, maybe a week or two, to let ideas just tumble. And that's where you come up with some of those interesting insights that you wouldn't think of unless you're in the shower or sleeping through the night and wake up with a Eureka moment. And then we think, wow, okay, I see that things could go this direction and that's really intriguing because I would never have thought that before. But because of the way that this idea came together with this idea and this person contributed, and we have some sort of, solution here that's really intriguing. Now what resources, if I'm going to gather specific resources, what resources would help move that proposed solution forward? We engage those solutions ie, we test those findings. And that piece can happen fairly rapidly, depending upon the complexity of the solution. And sometimes what if we've taken time to tear down the preconceptions and the old way of doing things and we really are, rethinking processes sometimes it's, it can be that this is such an intuitive solution that we were standing in the way of as a business, as a company, there's a much more streamlined way to do it. So sometimes the engaging solutions and testing findings, doesn't take a lot of propping up. And sometimes if it's a sophisticated solution, we need to plan next year's budget. We've got to go here because this is going to make us so strategically different from our competition that it's worth the investment. It just depends on what that solution is and how the proverbial stars aligned, so to speak. And so you can see by the nature of the model that it's an iterative model, after you've tested your findings, you you're thinking about, did we hit the mark? Are we, do we go into production now or is this just prototype? And we need to tweak it further? And what I really like about the model too is it's not just coming up with the first idea and implementing it and then iterating, iterating, iterating. Which most business doesn't have the tolerance for and the bandwidth for, we got to aim at getting it right first time. And so what I, what I help people understand is if you take this target model that is presented as a two dimensional figure and, and you lay it down flat on a table, and then you pull it up, it becomes a three-dimension kind of a cyclone and then you have that cyclone analogy that is really, really powerful because as you're iterating, you are getting closer and closer to the target. And I really like to, we we're going deep in analogy here, but I also challenge people to think about if this analogy is, the cyclone of, of a toilet bowl, we are actually flipping it this way. So we are spiraling up and that's an analogy that I never realized Stephen Covey wrote about years ago, and it's part of his seven habits. And when I ran into it in the book, I was like, on the one hand, I was like, so, validated. I was like, that's right, Stephen. That is exactly it. That's up. And then I was like, oh, he did this a couple of decades ago. Maybe it's been three or four, you know? So it was, it was that humbling moment and that validating moment, all rolled into one.

Mike O'Neill: You know Robb, what you have just done for our listeners is kind of given a verbal walkthrough. We very quickly saw the target model. We're going to be including a link to that in the show notes, but just for those who are listening, let me recap, target T tear down preconceptions, A assemble a comprehensive set of ideas. R reflect and refine your theories. G gather specific resources. E engaged solutions and T test new findings target. Now I wanted to go down this path a bit with you, Robb, because I introduced you as a, a, a customized training organization a communications organization. And for the people who are kind of listening, this is a relatively sophisticated model. And what you start off by saying is that when someone comes to you and say, we need a training solution, we mutually agreed that may very well be the case, but you got to step back. How, in practical terms, are you using the target model when you're beginning to engage with a client, how are you using this target model to help them?

Robb Bingham: So to answer that question, I'm going to geek out on you just a little bit, for those of you in the HR world, and specifically if a training organizations you'll recognize this acronym, Addie, A D D I E stands for analysis, design, development, implementation evaluation. So when in the training world, whenever we build content we, historically, for a few, several decades now have thought about it from an Addie perspective. We start with analysis. But the problem is with Addie is sometimes we're not really As, as looking at it as broad we're, we're kind of stepping inside the box and saying, okay, so there's a training need. What do we need to, we need to analyze what the training need is and start there. And what target allows us to do is step outside of that box and say, wait, why do you think it's a training need? Oh, because they're not doing X, Y or Z. Oh, so you mean you need to change someone's behavior. And, and, and then we start having a different conversation. Well, there's different ways to change people's behavior. What might be involved in that? What are our incentives as I referred back to in the previous example? So. There's things that tearing down those preconceptions and, and shifting intentionally forcing us to step outside of our assumptions and perceptions perspectives. That really is powerful. And that is, is kind of the secret sauce or the magic, if you will, of the target model. 

Mike O'Neill: Robb for those who are familiar with Addie, Addie has been around for quite some time and are now being introduced to your target model. I hope what the listeners now have picked up is that if you go down the pattern of following training development, the kind of the methodology that we all try to embrace. What I'm sensing is that the target model that you introduced to an organization is almost a precursor to Addie, and that is, it really kind of helped zero in what is the problem? If the problem is training, then you would transition to use an Addie as a way to address it, but it could be other things. And I know that your company focuses on not only training, but also communication. But it's very clear to me listening to you, kind of explain your approach. You bring to a client, very solid grounded approach. Meaning you're going to be recommended to the client. Something that is very much fact base based on looking at it from a very analytical standpoint and looking at issues from different perspectives. I like to go ahead. Do you want to elaborate on that? 

Robb Bingham: I want to also. So, as you say that I hear, yeah. Yes, absolutely. We look at things from a very analytical perspective, but it's not just an analytical perspective. We look at it from, and so the here's, I'm always trying to see how do we, how do I gently push back, question it's a, it's a critical thinking skill set. So I would say my initial response was, yeah, but it's not just analytical. It's also emotional. What are the spiritual overtones to this inside of the organization? We, we really to, to think it's all about numbers and all about business. And it's just, the analysis is just the data sheet. It can be an oversimplification of what it is that we really are aiming toward. And when you get into culture training, that's really where some of those other pieces. Because there, will be an owner of a company who's built this puppy from prenatal stage and grown this organization into something, you know, significant, large, valuable, and now they're ready to sell this or turn it over to someone else, but they also want to hang on to the culture that made the company great. You know. And so a lot of times we'll work with how do we communicate that because putting together, and a lot of times it'll be, well, we want this in the onboarding lesson, we need this piece about history. Well, from a business perspective, it doesn't make any sense. The history of the organization from a cold calculating perspective, you know how's that going to make them do their job better? How's it going to make them more efficient? It doesn't. But is there something that culturally does need to be there? When do they need it? Maybe they don't need it during onboarding. Maybe it comes at six months in or a year and a half, then that they need that dose right. About the time when they're getting ready to, you know, I'm not sure if this is, I'm not sure if I'm glad I took this job. What, where does it make sense emotionally for them to really be able to for it to resonate for them to start sharing their own stories about ways they've impacted customers. So all of those different components come into play. Does that make sense? 

Mike O'Neill: It does make sense. And Robb, I'm glad you kind of elaborated on that. You know, you and I both were kind of geeking out on these models because this is kind of our world. The person listening here if I'm putting myself in their shoes, 

Robb Bingham: Very good Mike. Very good. 

Mike O'Neill: I hope I am. But what I'm hearing is that when you're working with clients, it, it's not purely an analytical. When you brought up culture. I think that's a perfect example. And that is when you're trying to either build or reinforce culture in an organization. We have to be mindful. Any, and all organizations are comprised like any organization. It's a very dynamic, there's a lot of moving pieces. And what I'm hearing you describe is that when you're talking about things like culture, reinforcing culture, there's a lot that goes into it. You mentioned just one aspect, the feelings that it evokes, but there's so much more. You know, Robb, I know we're just kind of scratching the surface in this conversation, but would you be willing to share an example where perhaps you or a client got stuck and what did you do to get unstuck? 

Robb Bingham: Yeah. And, yes. And, and even before I do that and help me remember to come back to this, but as you were talking about the culture, I just, I thought, I want to share this really quick example of the culture piece. It doesn't have to be hard. It doesn't have to be expensive. One of the most, successful examples of really making a differentiating culture shift, was a part of an organization where we said, you know what, when people sign up to work with our company, Yeah, we're going to pay them. Well, we're going to try and attract the best and the brightest, but we want from day one, there to be a, some, something that's different about the experience. So what that looked like for them is every Monday morning, when there was a new hire class starting, they invited them for breakfast in the cafe, and everybody came in and kind of just visited and got to know their new team mate buddies for 30 minutes. And then at nine o'clock. Everybody in the organization knew that nine o'clock, there was a new training class coming in. So at 8:55, just before the walk down the hallway, whoever had availability and usually it was somewhere between 15 to 30 people would just come down, sneak inside of the training room. And as these people walked in the door, We just sat there and we applauded, Hey, welcome. Welcome. Yeah. And was just like a pep rally at nine o'clock on a Monday morning. Do you think that any of these employees had ever worked at a company that applauded them on day one? And if you think about what that did to the employees that were in the room applauding every Monday morning, that was, that was priceless for those people who participated. And as you can imagine, people who are built from that perspective of, of affirmation, that was a power boost. And so some people would be there every week because it just did so much for them to honor people in that way. So it doesn't that didn't cost a lot of money. I mean, it was literally people's time walking down the hall, being there for five minutes and then waving goodbye. Have a great first day. We're so glad you're here. Powerful powerful. That's the emotional piece, the spiritual piece of connecting with other human beings that will leave a mark. And then we've got to follow it up as an organization. All those other things it's gotta be converging. But, that really sets them on the path. Now you asked me a different question very quickly. Remind me what that was. 

Mike O'Neill: Of course. An example of where either you or a client got stuck. 

Robb Bingham: Yes. Okay. So here's, here's an end. What I love about you asking this question is I wanted to also point out that this is a think of this as an overlay. So if you know, we use Addie or we use a six thinking hats or some other tool. Target just is an overlay to help us make sure that we we're staying true. Are we questioning as we are iterating? What, what could we, question here and what could we take another look at something doesn't feel quite right. And anybody on the team can kind of, call for that, to happen at any point in time. So here's a classic example. A sales organization hired us to come in and build a some sales training for, it was, it was their annual sales training events. So all of the salespeople from across the country came in for the rah rah, first of the year meeting. They had a new implementation of Salesforce, customization. So they'd had generic Salesforce for a number of years, and now they were going to, have it do some very specific, customized things for their client base. Because they needed more consistency inside of the tool. And as we talked through the design and we put together a prototype of what the design was, I said to the, national sales leader. So you feel good about this training solution? Yeah. Yeah. W we're excited to be there for you and excited to be a partner with you in this. Let me ask you a question. Are we pretending that on Monday morning, when the sales people go back into the field, are we pretending that they're actually going to do this? And he looked, he looked at me and the look on his face said, well, I sure as heck hope so because we're paying you good money to, you know, put this together for us. And I said, before he even answered, I said, have they ever done that before? And he looked at me with a sick feeling as a sick look on his face. He said, they're not going to do it are they? And I said, no, they're not. So this is really, really important that we have this aha moment now because we need to plan for what the implementation of this. If we want to see behavior change, we've got to question though, you know, we're stuck. We thought it's going to be the classic book telling ain't training. We thought we were going to tell him what to do and suddenly this they're going to be transformed. And so what that led to was we put together a really neat incentive program where they competed as team members against one another. And against other teams. So one of their, team members in the huddle had to come up with, they, they applied what they'd learned. They talked about it as a team. They decided on one team member that was the most, the furthest along in adaptation, to the new expectation and they submitted their record to the, Salesforce admin for review. And if everything was there, they got a point. And so, it was not only a race to be the first one to, from the team to be put forward and presented on behalf of the team. But it was also a race as a team and they got additional points. If the whole team were certified before others. And so there, and there were three little different levels of chotchkies. One was a tumbler kind of thing that everybody who, you know, knew you knew that that's what that meant. And then another one was a name badge that was Salesforce guru or something like that a Trailhead, I think, as their terminology. And then the third was a hoodie, that the, the team was going to be presented with in the fall. So, really really neat way because otherwise it's just a one and done, or we also refer to it as a, a spray and pray. Spray, the training and just pray that it sticks. But this, this became a life-changing and, behavior changing kind of event as a result of being willing to have that conversation.

Mike O'Neill: Robb, I love this example. It may be the first time that I've had a guest share an example by which by doing what was done, you prevented them from getting stuck based on past experience. So that was a perfect way of doing that. We are about to wrap up here and I want to make sure if folks want to reach out to you, what's the best way for them to connect with you online? 

Robb Bingham: Yeah. So, through our website, there's a form, a contact form there, for sure. You can also email me, our, our intake email is And, we can put that in, in the notes, I guess, attached to the show, I think is the way that I recall you doing that, and our website address. And, and we can also put my phone number. 

Mike O'Neill: So that's exactly what we'll do. We will include your contact information to include your website, perhaps even your LinkedIn profile, so people can reach out, to Robb. Thank you very much for sharing your insights and sharing a little bit about how you help clients, with Converging Solutions. I appreciate your time today. 

Robb Bingham: Thank you again, Mike, for all you do and the difference you're making in, for businesses. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. 

Mike O'Neill: Well, we're thanking left and right, because I also want to thank our listeners for joining us today. Every Thursday, we upload the latest episode to all the major platforms. So if you haven't already, please subscribe. Got a question for you. Are people problems keeping you up at night? If, yes, let's talk head to to schedule a quick call. We'll explore ways to help you solve your people problems. So you can again, focus on growing your business. So I want to thank you for joining us, and I hope you've picked up on some tips from Robb that will help you Get Unstuck & On Target. Until next time.

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