Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Being Bold and Imagining the Different

Zion Park

Last Thursday 25th August marked the centenary of the US National Parks Service. The natural beauty of these places across the North American continent is unquestionable. They are amongst some of the greatest treasures the USA and the world possess.

But they haven’t always been seen that way.

The father of today’s National Parks was John Muir. Born in Dunbar on the south east coast of Scotland, Muir was the son of a Calvinist who believed anything that distracted from Bible studies was frivolous and punishable. Muir’s father, it’s said, emigrated to the United States because he found the Church of Scotland ‘insufficiently strict in faith and practice’.

John Muir’s response to his father’s view of the world was to turn the Calvinist work ethic he’d grown up with towards his own ‘redwood cathedrals’ with an unsurpassed enthusiasm. His life’s work was to protect the beauty that has become the National Parks. His writings convinced the US Government to protect first Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon and Mount Ranier and later all the other 55 national parks across the USA and its associated territories.

Muir left as his legacy an incredibly pristine natural beauty that everyone can share. Without John Muir much of the beauty that exists in the National Parks would have become utilitarian resources.

What’s the Link with Learning & Development?

Today the world of L&D is a little like the world the young John Muir confronted. This is a world where some good work was taking place to open eyes to new and exciting environments, but where the dominant mindset was constraining even better things from happening.

In Muir’s case the dominant mindset he challenged was the desire to conquer nature and make it useful for man. The view was that if some preservation efforts could be made along the way, then all well-and-good. But the principal mindset and focus of the day was management and control of nature in the service of humans.

The course and programme mindset

We’re in a similar predicament in the L&D world today. Most of L&D’s work in done within the ‘course and programme’ mindset. It’s the natural fit for management and control.

This is understandable because many of today’s learning and development practices emerged during the second half of the 20th century. Following the Second World War the drivers were industrialisation and mass production. The need was perceived for a solid skill base to ‘feed’ the factories and enterprises on the back of building strong economies. The solutions that were developed to help build workforce capability in this context were invariably built on the idea that learning and working were best carried out separately. It was believed that if we removed people from their day-to-day work they could ‘focus on learning’ better. So structured learning interventions became the standard approach. Training became a huge industry.

Structured learning is a relatively easy process to manage and control. It fits with the industrial mindset. Fred Taylor (‘Principles of Scientific Management’) had told us that developing good management practices was simply a process of applying science to management.  So developing good L&D practices for developing managers and others should be the same.

But they’re not.

We now understand that the closer to the point of use that learning occurs, then the more effective and lasting it’s likely to be. Context is critical for effective learning.  Knowledge and skills are not enough. We need to have the understanding to apply knowledge and skills in context to deliver high performance. 

McKinsey’s report on ‘why leadership development programs fail’ clarifies this point very well. The McKinsey study found that four common mistakes, made over and over again, are leading to the waste of a large percentage of the $14 billion spent annually by US organisations alone on improving the capabilities of managers and nurturing new leaders.

The four common mistakes the McKinsey researchers identified are:

  1. Overlooking context
  2. Decoupling reflection from real work
  3. Underestimating mindsets
  4. Failing to measure results

Each of these could be contributed in part to the ‘course and programme’ mindset. If we separate learning from the work, and thus remove most of the context, we are likely to produce sub-optimal solutions. If we don’t adopt new mindsets we will never be able to meet the changing needs for rapid and continuous learning. If we spend our time inventing ‘learning metrics’, rather than simply working with our clients and stakeholders to measure what matters to them, we will never understand whether our solutions are making a difference.

If we’re going to be bold and make Muir-like differences we clearly need to step beyond the course and programme mindset.

It won’t be easy.

Moving the dial

Most of the standard models still used by learning and development professionals, and still taught by many organisation across the world as they prepare people for careers in learning and development, were developed with structured learning away from work in mind. We have refined the planning and structure of the ‘perfect programme’ to the ‘nth degree’ but the question is whether we are aiming our efforts at the right target.

To an extent, I think we are still ‘perfecting the irrelevant’ in a world that has moved on unimaginably over the past 25 years.

Of course all structured development isn’t irrelevant. Sometimes it is vital and the best way to help people improve. But a good deal of structured development has little effect on the participants’ ability to do their jobs better and our continued focus on it to the exclusion of other approaches is leading to many L&D teams being unable to effectively support their organisations. In other words, the course and programme mindset is limiting other opportunities.

Typical offerings to prepare our future professionals reflect the dominance of the course as virtually the only the mechanism to get any attention. As such, they are constraining our ability to deliver real impact by supporting learning in the daily flow of work. These ‘learning separate from work’ models are the antithesis of what my Internet Time Alliance colleague Jane Hart calls ‘Modern Workplace Learning’ and what my 70:20:10 Institute colleagues and I call ‘70:20:10 practices’.

The inertia is strong - effective L&D professional development is critical

The formal training industry is huge and is well embedded in HR practices. The annual performance review and development objective setting process is witnessing some changes, but it is still widespread. Development objectives still predominantly materialise as the need to attend courses or programmes. Of course this is evolving, but the inertia is strong and change is slow.

When we look at the way professionals in this field are themselves developed we can get an idea of the vortex that’s helping to hold fast the course and programme mindset.

HR, L&D and OD development is still predominantly based around training to deliver ‘faster horses’. Even if Henry Ford didn’t utter the famous words when asked what he thought his customers wanted (and there’s no evidence he did), history suggests he thought along those lines. Ford’s genius was was to develop a new mindset about production and delivery. One of L&D’s challenges is that its profession must do the same.

Ara QuoteAlthough a few professional bodies are making some progress (the UK’s CIPD is an example) when we look at the majority of development opportunities for professionals in the learning and development sphere we see preparation for a world that is in the past.

Today’s world requires L&D professionals to be agile and support their ‘customers’ in their workflow. L&D needs to focus on the ‘70’ and ‘20’ – supporting learning as part of work and learning from (and with) others.

However, most professional development offered by commercial companies for L&D practitioners is still rooted in the training paradigm. Even though L&D leadership development is couched in different words (and possibly held in more up-market locations) it is still predominantly structured in the training paradigm. Command and control – even if some role-play and simulations are included.

This type of L&D professional development is typified by the description below of a train-the-trainer course (taken today from a publicly available brochure):

“This lively and interactive course will help delegates develop and hone their skills so they are able to plan and deliver effective training. 
Delegates will learn:
- How to define objectives that meet both business and trainee needs.
- How to plan and design training to gain the trainee’s commitment and enthusiasm - Even reluctant trainees!
- How to recognise the different psychological and sensory learning styles of trainees.
- How to adapt training to meet ALL of these styles
- How to deal with challenging trainees and resistance to training.
- How to deal with trainee concerns about training.
- The pro’s and con’s of different training methods.
- How to ensure training is interactive and participative and not simply a presentation.
- How, why and when to adopt a facilitative or directive training style.
- How to ensure and check that training:
  -  Is really effective
  - That objectives have been met
  - That real learning has occurred
  - What to do before and after training to ensure the best outcome for the business and trainee

This could have appeared in a 1990s brochure – and may have looked dated even then. It’s rooted in the idea of training being something that needs to be presented in a particular way to make it palatable.  And it is typical of thousands upon thousands of ‘course and programme mindset’ offerings still being promoted to develop L&D professionals (and others who want to develop up-to-date L&D skills) around the world.

‘Imagining the different’

If we are going to ‘imagine the different’ there is a requirement to be both bold and focused. We need a galvanising vision to do things differently and better.

We have to take a lesson from John Muir and find a way to break our reliance on the dominant mindset of the day. We must re-think the options we have to both support our stakeholders and clients with solutions that provide learning in the flow of work and, at the same time, think about ways we can help our own profession develop beyond refining training processes. If we don’t step beyond the course and programme mindset we will forever under-deliver on the promise to support high performance in the best ways possible.

“Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.”  John Muir in a letter to his wife in July 1888

644px-John_Muir_CaneJohn Muir, American conservationist. Photograph by Professor Francis M. Fritz in 1907
Public Domain

The wonderful Scottish singer Dick Gaughan tells John Muir’s story in ‘Muir and the Master Builder’, written by songwriter Brian McNeill, here.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

70-20-10: Origin, Research, Purpose

This is a re-post of an article by Cal Wick of Fort Hill. The original is on the 70-20 Blog site. There are a few observations from me at the bottom.

Calhoun Wick

Cal is deeply experienced and knowledgeable in the area of workplace learning. He been studying and supporting it for many years and is co-author of the highly acclaimed Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning: How to Turn Training and Development into Business Results (Pfeiffer, 2010). Cal’s company has also developed the 70-20 tool, which supports learning in the workflow in innovative and measurable ways – it is well worth test driving.

Cal - Bob - CharlesLearning through Conversation – April 2016
Cal Wick, Bob Eichinger, Charles Jennings







70-20-10: Origin,Research, Purpose
by Cal Wick


Where It All Began
The 70-20-10 model has been part of the corporate learning and development lexicon for decades. Some people find implementing 70-20-10 brings transformational change to their corporate learning cultures. Others are not quite sure what to make of it or how to leverage the model. A last group discounts it claiming 70-20-10 has no research to back it up and that it provides little value because the numbers are not accurate.

Robert W. EichingerRecently I had a conversation with Bob Eichinger, one of the original thought leaders who created the 70-20-10 model, about its origin, research, and purpose. I found what Bob said to be so compelling that I asked him to write it up. Bob agreed.


Here is what he shared:







To Whom It Apparently Concerns, (Bob Eichinger)

Yes Virginia, there is research behind 70-20-10!

I am Robert W. Eichinger, PhD. I’m one of the creators, along with the research staff of the Center for Creative Leadership, of the 70-20-10 meme [the dictionary defines a meme as an “idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person”]. Note: see The Leadership Machine, Michael M. Lombardo and Robert W. Eichinger, Lominger International, Inc., Third Edition 2007, Chapter 21, Assignmentology: The Art of Assignment Management, pages 314-361.

The Lessons of ExperienceAt the time in the late 1980s, Michael Lombardo and I were teaching a course at the Center called Tools for Developing Effective Executives. The course was basically a summary of the findings of The Lessons of Experience study done over a 13-year period at the Center and published in 1988. My job was to convert the study’s findings into practical practices. Mike represented the CCL research staff and I was a practitioner at PepsiCo, and then at Pillsbury.

We were working on a section of the course on planning for the development of future leaders. One of the study’s objectives was to find out where today’s leaders learned the skills and competencies they were good at when they got into leadership positions.

The study interviewed 191 currently successful executives from multiple organizations. As part of an extensive interview protocol, researchers asked these executives about where they thought they learned things from that led to their success – The Lessons of Success. The interviewers collected 616 key learning events which the research staff coded into 16 categories.

The 16 categories were too complex to use in the course so we in turn re-coded the 16 categories into five to make them easier to communicate.

The five categories were learning from challenging assignments, other people, coursework, adverse situations and personal experiences (outside work). Since we were teaching a course about how to develop effective executives, we could not use the adverse situations (can’t plan for or arrange them for people) and personal experiences outside of work (again, can’t plan for them). Those two categories made up 25% of the original 16 categories. That left us with 75% of the Lessons of Success for the other three categories.

So the final easy-to-communicate meme was: 70% Learning from Challenging Assignments; 20% Learning from Others; and 10% Learning from Coursework. And thus we created the 70-20-10 meme widely quoted still today.

The basic findings of the Lessons of Success study have been duplicated at least nine times that I know of. These include samples in China, India and Singapore and for female leaders, since the original samples of executives in the early 80s were mostly male. The findings are all roughly in line with 70-20-10. They are 70-22-8, 56-38-6 (women), 48-47-5 (middle level), 73-16-11 (global sample), 60-33-7, 69-27-4 (India), 65-33-2 (Singapore) and 68-25-7 (China). A number of companies including 3M have also replicated the study and found roughly the same results.

So some have said that 70-20-10 doesn’t come from any research. It does. Some have said the 70-20-10 is just common sense. It is now. Experience has always been the best teacher. Still is.

I might add that there is a lot of variance between organizations and levels and types of people. These studies were mostly about how to develop people for senior leadership positions in large global companies. The meme for other levels of leadership and different kinds of companies might be different. There might also be other memes for different functional areas.


From My Perspective (Cal Wick)

From my perspective, Bob and Mike’s genius was to take the 16 sources of learning present in the 616 key learning events, as recounted by the participants in the Lessons of Success study, drop out the 25% of learning that comes from hardship and beyond work, and turn the remainder into a meme of three sources of learning now known around the world as 70-20-10. As a meme or reference model, it both validates the importance of Formal Courses – the “10” as well as opening up the opportunity of intentionally activating Learning from Challenging Assignments – the “70” and Learning from Others – the “20.”

Implications70-20-10 Model

1. Bob and Mike’s 70-20-10 meme made visible that learning takes place both in formal settings (the 10) as well as in experience (the 70) and through relationships (the 20). As a model, its value is not in trying to determine with precision the exact numbers to the left or right of a decimal point, but instead to use it to open our eyes to learning that is happening all the time on-the-job, but is largely invisible.

2. When 70-20 learning becomes visible and intentional, the implication is that Learning & Development has the opportunity to harness its potential. The challenge is how can L&D activate and support informal and social learning in an intentional, high impact way that builds a vibrant learning culture? And this learning culture leads to higher performance as employees embrace continuous development on the job. The 70-20 learning of today’s workforce is largely self-directed. Just look at the web searches you have done in the last week. The opportunity for L&D is to add value by making available the resources, people, expertise and digital tools to support and accelerate the 70-20 learning that happens every day and everywhere.

3. It turns out that there is now significant research that supports the reality and value of learning Experiential Learningbeyond the formal “10.” For example, David Kolb in his Second Edition of Experiential Learning cites nearly 4,000 bibliographic research and application references. The question is how can L&D best take advantage of the great research that has already been done and put it into practice? How can today’s L&D groups be effective at delivering formal learning with support so that it is well applied on the job? What approaches can we take to enable self-directed 70-20 learning that improves capabilities and performance throughout an organization?


This is a very exciting time in our industry and we’re delighted to be part of the conversation and the exploration of new strategies to drive competitive advantage and improved performance through 70-20 learning.


My Observations (Charles Jennings)

There’s no doubt the work of Bob Eichinger, Mike Lombardo and the team at the Center for Creative Leadership was fundamental in highlighting a critical fact – that most learning, most of the time, comes not from courses and programmes, classrooms, workshops and eLearning, but from everyday activities.

This research set the ‘70:20:10 ball’ rolling, and Bob’s explanation above answers many questions that I’ve heard raised over the years.

It’s also important to recognise, as Cal Wick points out above, that many other researchers have also identified the importance of learning beyond the ‘10’.

jay - spending outcomes paradox

Jay Cross, a friend and colleague in the Internet Time Alliance, spent the last years of his life raising awareness of the importance of ‘informal learning’ across the world. As early as 2002 Jay was describing the unrelenting focus on formal learning in terms of the ‘Spending/Outcomes Paradox’. 

Jay talked about ‘the other 80%’, the informal learning that happens beyond the control, and often the sight, of the HR and L&D departments. Jay cited a number of studies and observations that supported this. They were briefly documented by Jay here.

More recently, researchers have been validating the importance of the learning that happens as part of the daily workflow. One example of is the work of Professor Andries de Grip and his team at the Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Professor de Grip’s 2015 report ‘The importance of informal learning at work’ explains that:

On-the-job learning is more important for workers’ human capital development than formal training’

and also that:

’Rapidly changing skill demands and rising mandatory retirement ages make informal learning even more important for workers’ employability throughout their work life. Policies tend to emphasize education and formal training, and most firms do not have strategies to optimize the gains from informal learning at work’

We’ve known for years that the ‘70+20’ are critical and that it’s in these zones that most learning happens. It’s now time to put this knowledge into action.