Coaching and the 70:20:10 Learning Model – Beyond Training

Coaching and the 70:20:10 Learning Model – Beyond Training

In a recent Harvard Business Review interview Andre Agassi was asked: What distinguishes the best coaches from the rest? His answer:

Coaching is not what you know. It’s what your student learns. And for your student to learn, you have to ‘learn’ him. I think the great [coaches] spend a lot of time understanding where the player is. The day they stop learning is the day they should stop teaching.

We doubt Agassi would ever have achieved much if the only ‘coaching’ he got was day long PowerPoint sessions delivered by strangers unaware of his current performance and development needs. Yet remarkably some organisations are still hooked on pre-fabricated classroom training as the primary path to perceived competence and performance. 70:20:10 learning

70:20:10: Experience, Exposure & Education

Charles Jennings’ 70:20:10 Learning Model was based on the conclusion that 70% of actual learning is through Experience (i.e. actual practice, including On The Job Training [OJT]), 20% is through Exposure to informal, social learning & coaching and only 10% through formal classroom courses and other Education.

Scrap Learning

Furthermore, one study published in May 2015 suggests nearly 50% of formally delivered learning is ‘scrap’, i.e. never used in practice. Some say its even higher!

Reduce Scrap, Increase Performance (Credit: CEB) Click for full presentation

Reduce Scrap, Increase Performance (Credit: CEB) Click for full presentation

There can also be an initial ‘illusion of learning‘, but as “lessons communicated in a lecture don’t stick”, initial positivity about a course then evaporates back in the real world.

Progressive Learning Organisations

Deloitte’s April 2015 study Building Competitive Advantage with Talent, concluded only about 10-15 percent of companies have well-developed learning and development programmes. These progressive organisations are taking more innovative and effective approaches to get higher performance (rather than simply picking from a training catalogue). They are:

  1. Considering the specifics of what individuals need to learn to excel in their job, and
  2. Applying a variety of techniques (including courses, workshops, on-the-job training and coaching) to satisfy those needs in more focused and effective ways.

Critically they are ensuring that learning is actually applied in the workplace and, as research shows, thereby delivering winning performance. We recently also looked at some of the improvement lessons from the turn-around of British Cycling that are also highly relevant to to organisations striving for peak performance.


Note: this article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse under the title: Andre Agassi on Coaching – The Antithesis of Training.   You may also enjoy our article: Aircraft Maintenance: Going for Gold? It asks: Should we start treating our people more like athletes who need to achieve peak performance every day?

Other Learning Resources

Peter Senge’s book The Fifth Discipline is also work a read:

Matthew Syed‘s book Bounce discusses the myth of talent and the importance of focused practice.  It also discusses how a culture that emphasises the invincibility of talent over learning a can go badly and self-delusionarily wrong, citing Enron.

A 2014 report published by the Royal Academy of Engineering identified six engineering habits of mind (EHoM) which fall within 7 wider learning habits of mind (LHoM):

Engineering habits of mind (EHoM) and wider learning habits of mind (LHoM) (Credit:  Royal Academy of Engineering)

Engineering habits of mind (EHoM) and wider learning habits of mind (LHoM) (Credit: Royal Academy of Engineering)

Amy Edmonson discusses psychological safety and openness, another function of good leadership that builds trust and aids learning: https://youtu.be/LhoLuui9gX8

Sir John Whitmore has recently written that:

Coaching is one of the most effective skills for human growth. It is different way of viewing people, a far more optimistic way than most of us are accustomed to, it results in a different way of treating them. It requires us to suspend limiting beliefs about people, including ourselves, abandon old habits & liberate ourselves from redundant ways of thinking.

Roffey Park have a series of articles on coaching:

According to one source 70% of people who receive coaching benefit from improved work performance, relationships, and more effective communication skills and 86% of companies reported that they recouped their investment on coaching and more.


Further Learning Resources

UPDATE 4 November 2015: We like these articles Moving from a Training Culture to a Learning Culture and The differences between learning in an e-business and learning in a social business (and the emphasis on ‘connect and collaborate’ learning rather than the traditional ‘command and control’ teaching).

McKinsey ask: Do your training efforts drive performance?

When we asked respondents about their companies’ biggest challenge with training programs, we found that the lack of effective metrics appeared to be a growing concern. Perhaps the most instructive answers…came from executives at the 14% of organizations who identified capability building as a top-three strategic priority and told us that their companies’ learning programs for leaders and frontline staff were “very effective” at preparing them to improve business performance. These executives were much likelier than others to say that their companies use a range of both qualitative and quantitative metrics to assess the impact of programs and were generally better at meeting the stated targets.

Another McKinsey study discusses Why leadership-development programs fail, highlighting 4 reasons:

1. Overlooking context

Too many training initiatives we come across rest on the assumption that one size fits all and that the same group of skills or style of leadership is appropriate regardless of strategy, organizational culture, or CEO mandate.

In the earliest stages of planning…companies should ask themselves a simple question: what, precisely, is this program for?

Context is as important for groups and individuals as it is for organizations as a whole: the best programs explicitly tailor a “from–to” path for each participant.

2. Decoupling reflection from real work [i.e. the 70%]

The answer sounds straightforward: tie leadership development to real on-the-job projects that have a business impact and improve learning. But it’s not easy to create opportunities that simultaneously address high-priority needs…

…one large international engineering and construction player [successfully] built a multiyear leadership program that not only accelerated the personal-development paths of 300 midlevel leaders but also ensured that projects were delivered on time and on budget. Each participant chose a separate project…. These projects were linked to specified changes in individual behavior…

3. Underestimating mind-sets

Becoming a more effective leader often requires changing behavior. But..most companies…are reluctant to address the root causes of why leaders act the way they do. Doing so can be uncomfortable…leaders who are stretching themselves should feel some discomfort as they struggle to reach new levels of leadership performance.

4. Failing to measure results

When businesses fail to track and measure changes in leadership performance over time, they increase the odds that improvement initiatives won’t be taken seriously.

Too often, any evaluation of leadership development begins and ends with participant feedback; the danger here is that trainers learn to game the system and deliver a syllabus that is more pleasing than challenging to participants.

We think these points are relevant to learning and development and culture development more generally.

UPDATE 12 November 2015: We also really like: The L&D world is splitting in two, A Useful Model and What is Reflective Practice? In Rethinking Leadership “Businesses need a new approach to the practice of leadership — and to leadership development” it is noted that leadership is:

…not as a set of traits possessed by particularly gifted individuals, but as a set of practices among those engaged together in realizing their choices. It also means that leadership development will require a different approach from standard training that pulls managers out of their workplaces to attend sessions that presume to teach leadership competencies. If leadership is a collaborative activity, it makes little sense to teach leadership to individuals in a public setting detached from the very group where leadership needs to occur.  One of the methods available to instigate this kind of reflective dialogue is action learning, in which participants stop and reflect on real-time problems occurring in their own work environments. Action learning requires managers to make a concerted effort to observe and reflect together on the practices that have bottom-line impact. 

UPDATE 30 November 2015: Course Factories churn out training (‘content bombing’).  We know of one course factory that claims 100% satisfaction (technically 100% ‘not poor’ ratings) based on a paltry 0.25% response rate.  But be very wary of ‘performance consultants’ who are really just a Training Factory who want to sell from their catalogue and charge you a premium… Equally be cautious of training providers who seek to define or manage ‘pathways’ for individual development.  Charles Jennings has written:

Learning can only be managed by the individual in whose head the learning is occurring. Of course external factors – such as other people (especially your manager and your team), technology, prevailing culture, general ‘environmental’ factors, and a range of different elements – can support, facilitate, encourage, and help your learning occur faster, better, with greater impact and so on. But they can’t manage the learning process for you. That’s down to you alone.

He goes on to use the term “course vending machine” to represent Learning Management Systems (LMS) and the user interface with some course factories (effectively put in you cash and punch in the mass produced course number for it to drop down).   You get a brief sugar rush but no lasting nutrition!

BS Training

The insubstantial sugar rush of pre-packaged training vended from a course factory

He quotes Andy Wooler, Academy Technology Manager at Hitachi Data Systems Academy, as saying:  “LMS too often stands for Litigation Mitigation Service.”

…often the technology is used just to keep records in case something goes wrong and there is a need to produce evidence to support the organisation’s case in court – or, hopefully to avoid court altogether.  Many organisations – especially those in highly regulated industries – take this view.

In the past that strategy provided a more robust defence than it does now (see an earlier article about compliance training for a discussion on that issue). A record that someone had completed a compliance course may have won the day in the past, but is less likely to do so now. However, compliance course completion often has little, if anything, to do with learning and certainly won’t contribute much to building the high-performing cultures every organisation needs to aspire to if it’s to be successful.

For more on the perils of bad compliance training see: Ticking the box.  Aviation is riddled with courses loosely based around reading regulations aloud, made at least tolerable, in the course designers mind, by padding out with anecdotes and sharing of experiences within the group. The latter aspect is often the most valuable but it could be exploited in far more effective ways than just a means of relieving fatigue!

Furthermore: Let’s ban PowerPoint in lectures – it makes students more stupid and professors more boring

death by powerpoint begins with the first bullet point

UPDATE 6 December 2015: More valuable advice on structuring learning: Start with the 70. Plan for the 100.  In other words start with experiential learning but consider the full range (experiential, social and formal).

UPDATE 24 December 2015: Corporate training needs to re-think its model; no to courses and assessment, yes to experiences “Content cannot be delivered”. Milk is delivered, not learning. Dialogues are the key.

UPDATE 1 January 2016: Improving Anesthesiologists’ Ability to Speak Up in the Operating Room: A Randomized Controlled Experiment of a Simulation-Based Intervention and a Qualitative Analysis of Hurdles and Enabler.  During a routine continuation training course, a 50-minute workshop on ‘speaking up’ was conducted prior to a simulated exercise for 35 anaesthetists.  A control group of 36 had the workshop after the simulated exercise.  The authors analysed videos of the simulated exercises and the debriefing sessions.  They concluded that:

An educational intervention alone was ineffective in improving the speaking-up behaviors of practicing nontrainee anesthesiologists. Other measures to change speaking-up behaviors could be implemented and might improve patient safety.

In other words, classroom behavioural / human factors training alone, even interactive and facilitated sessions immediately prior to an exercise where the lessons can be applied, are not effective.  Its likely that a more sustained and integrated approach, with process changes, tools and effort on the 70 and 20 aspects of learning will produce better results. We also enjoyed this article: Revisiting 70:20:10 by Tom Spiglanin.  Among the quotes:

70:20:10 is not prescriptive, but instead descriptive. It describes what has evolved over decades of learning in the workplace, and it’s backed by a number of studies… 70:20:10 serves as to reminder us that formal learning interventions comprise a relatively small portion of workplace learning.  70:20:10 serves as a strong reminder that we [i.e. learning and development professionals] work within the business as an integral part of it, filling a relatively small but important role in the workplace.

The last point is interesting.  When you commission externally provided training to be run exclusively within your organisation, do your external training providers actually act as an integral part of your organisation, or do they set themselves apart form the challenges and learning needs of your staff?

UPDATE 4 January 2016: Jane Hart discusses 2016: Rethinking workplace learning.  She suggests:

  • We recognise that “most learning happens as a natural part of work”.
  • That people are learning “to solve their own performance problems and to keep informed about their industry and profession” and that “this needs to be promoted and supported rather than banned or ignored”.
  • “A mindset that values workplace learning in ALL its forms – and it is not just about organising course and resources FOR people, but also involves encouraging, enabling and support self-organised learning”.
  • We focus on “evaluating the impact [what people have learned] has had on job, team and business performance”.
  • “Everyone has a responsibility for learning in the workplace”.

UPDATE 18 January 2016: Laura Overton discusses: Why L&D need to let go to move on! and in particular:

  • We need to let go of the course
  • We need to let go of our assumptions (about how staff learn)
  • Let go of the silver bullet
  • Let go of the preoccupation with ROI
  • Let go of excuses

UPDATE 27 January 2016: Robert Jeffrey discusses Five lessons for the future of L&D on the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (now just CIPD) website.  He quotes social learning guru Harold Jarche as saying “L&D professionals…must rediscover the wonder of knowledge”:

If you’re promoting learning, part of that is being curious yourself, then taking that curiosity and saying ‘how could this be interesting to someone else?’

Jeffery goes on:

The traditional metrics of L&D have been blunt instruments: sheer numbers of people taking part, or total completed courses.

L&D should be talking the language of business stakeholders, asking them what improvements they’d like to see, then introducing interventions that will help them get there. Once you do that, says [workplace learning expert Charles] Jennings, you’ll find you won’t have “L&D leaders almost doing nothing other than work on the numbers”.

Andy Lancaster, the CIPD’s Head of L&D adds:

CIPD research also highlights that only about 30 per cent of L&D professionals are being developed to ‘any great extent’. We desperately need to bridge the gap in learning strategy and practice.

We’d certainly recommend caution engaging training providers that don’t develop their trainers (apart from training parrot like delivery), that take more pride in quantity than quality, or that trumpet ‘customer satisfaction’ based on surveys done in the last moments of a classroom PowerPointathon, completed by just a tiny fraction of their training factory’s ‘output’.

UPDATE 29 January 2016: Aerossurance’s Andy Evans discusses the question: Too Busy To Read About Safety? quoting US Marine General James Mattis.

UPDATE 3 February 2016: Tanmay Vora discusses When Does Real Learning Happen?.  Its a neat reminder too than learning is not the same as teaching and that a strategy based around solely around formally imparting information to another will always be sub-optimal and create excessive scrap learning as its not focused on the learners needs.

UPDATE 5 February 2016: Graham Sharrock discusses coaching in: Leadership and Coaching – What’s the connection? What’s the ROI?

…coaching is a positive contributor to the above list of gains as well as having significant impact especially ‘when tied directly to outcomes’  – both in terms of the individual and the organisation. It’s easy to talk about leadership. It’s much harder to actually do something about it. Words and books aren’t enough – you need to directly connect with what you are trying to achieve.

UPDATE 8 February 2016: Jane Hart discusses How can L&D support today’s smart workers? and moving from a ‘command and control’ approach to learning (i.e. ‘you only learn what we teach’) to embrace a more sophisticated ‘enabling and supportive’ approach.  She has previous said that: Workplace learning is like learning a second language, contrasting formal learning (e.g.  memorise German in a school classroom) with informal learning (e.g. learning by doing German immersed in Germany). Towards Maturity has also published their survey: 70+20+10=100: The Evidence Behind The Numbers

UPDATE 14 February 2016: Jane Hart discusses Guided Social Learning Experiences (GSLEs) in Why your Enterprise Social Network is your most valuable social learning platform

UPDATE  22 March 2016: How to Accelerate Learning on Your Team

In my experience, the central challenge is that leaders tend to think of learning too narrowly — equating it with training, mentoring, or “constructive feedback” during performance reviews. But all of these are inputs that may or may not correlate with the results we want to create.

By contrast, we should be mastering how we generate outcomes. And that is a team sport. As Peter Senge wrote in The Fifth Discipline (Doubleday Business, 1990), a learning organization is one in which “people continually expand their capacity to create results they truly desire.” When we view learning in this broader sense, we build feedback right into the system as an integral part of the work. If you want to accelerate learning on your team, first engage them in a meaningful challenge, then design a feedback system that enables them to learn naturally, every day.

This leads to six suggestions that are discussed on more detail:

  1. Shorten the loop: “try making feedback more timely and systematic.”
  2. Think like an architect: “channel timely, useful information directly to those most able to act on it.”
  3. Look upstream: gather “real-time data on [the] critical “moments of truth” with their customers.”
  4. Gather feedback on how the system is doing, rather than rating individuals.
  5. Create forums for team learning: “it is critical to shift from judging people’s competence to thinking together about what works, in an environment of openness and support.”
  6. Evolve your system over time: “It takes time for people to trust the data, diagnose underlying issues, and address them.”

UPDATE  24 March 2016: Andrew Gibbons says:

If an organisation is to truly make the workplace the primary source of development, we need an awful lot more line managers who firstly accept that coaching and facilitating learning is a key part of their job. …they must be upskilled to make them capable of doing this well, and their operational expectations must be managed such that they have the time and space to fulfil their developmental responsibilities. I fear that too many who for too long have been in the ‘trainer’ role will find it beyond them to adapt to a radically different way of supporting learners who favour a far more informal, self-managed career path.

We agree in particular that organisations that are dependent on formal external provided classroom training are undermining their own ability for learning and development.

UPDATE  7 April 2016: The Google Way of Building A Strong Learning Culture google learning UPDATE  19 April 2016: Charles Jennings lunch presentation – ’70:20:10 towards 100% performance’: https://youtu.be/sNjWOXUdv5w

Jennings says organisations that implement a 70:20:10 approach are 4 times more likely to report they are achieving a fast pace of business change.  He is also critical of organisations who think that there is a trade off between operational excellence and developing their people.  He considers that a myth and that managers and supervisors should be developing their people and this should be a strategic target.  Employee engagement increases 40% when working for managers and supervisors who focus on workplace learning and development.

UPDATE  23 April 2016: Katie Harrison discusses: Be More than a Coach, Be a Coach Who Listens and goes on to explain Coaching for Improvement – not just Lean, Toyota, or Silicon Valley methods… just good leadership. In that article. Isao Yoshino, a retired 40-year Toyota executive explains that:

My aim was to develop John [a US trainee] by giving him a mission or target, and supporting him while he figured out how to reach the target. And as I was developing John, I was developing myself as well.

Harrison goes on:

At Toyota, a leader’s role is to set the target, help his or her learner figure out how to achieve the target (not solving the problem for the learner), and to continue to develop as a coach and leader. So how are YOU developing your skills as a coach who develops problem solving capability in others?

UPDATE 6 June 2016: Charles Jennings explains there is no ‘magic number’ for learning.

UPDATE 21 July 2016: We have seen the review of a classroom course (on maintenance human factors) that sums up the problem with formulaic training factories:

I don’t claim to know everything but I felt 3 days was far too long to see numerous examples of the same outcome. We were all supposed to share experiences but on a course of 11, 4 were foreign [i.e. non-native English speakers] so did not say anything for the duration. …the term “death by power point” comes to mind. Too much sitting in once place just listening. I felt it was something I had to put up with in order to deliver the same training in [just] 2 day (1 day refresher) back at base.

The participants paid a total of £15,000 for this…

UPDATE 1 August 2016: We also recommend this article: Leicester’s lesson in leadership, published in The Psychologist.

UPDATE 1o August 2016: companies like Toyota have long emphasised workplace learningMike Rother’s research, that resulted in his book Toyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness and Superior Results discusses how

Toyota develops people in order to achieve continuous improvement and adaptation:

This is closely linked to Charles Jennings’ points about using managers and supervisors to develop their people. You can read a first hand account of Toyota training here: Raised by Toyota.

UPDATE 13 August 2016:  For further background see: 70-20-10: Origin, Research, Purpose

UPDATE 19 August 2016: 3 Big Myths About Workplace Learning:

  • Myth 1: Workers don’t have time for learning.  Survey results showed employees found the time to spent over 5 times the amount of time on informal learning as companied provided classroom training.  “Nearly two-thirds said they would find more time if they received some kind of credit or recognition they could leverage for professional growth.”
  • Myth 2: Traditional training are obsolete.  learning and development is not an either/or proposition.  “To build a culture of learning, learning leaders need it all now: business-led training and self-service learning, formal and informal, job training and career development, courses and resources. That’s how today’s workers really learn.”  However: ” L&D today is not the either/or proposition some make it out to be. To build a culture of learning, learning leaders need it all now: business-led training and self-service learning, formal and informal, job training and career development, courses and resources. That’s how today’s workers really learn.”
  • Myth 3: The learning function owns responsibility for employee development. “Truth: Responsibility for learning is shared between the learning function, managers and employees”.  Which is a good reason not to abandon this responsibility to training providers.

UPDATE 24 August 2016: Two blog posts from the 70:20:10 Institute 70:20:10: working = learning at the speed of performance

70:20:10 is about performance enhancement: the performance paradigm starts with the desired organisational results and uses performance consulting to establish what interventions are needed in the 70, 20 and 10 to improve individual and organisational performance.

‘Training factories’ cling to their teaching paradigm “rather than shifting to a performance mindset “. Also: 70:20:10: the positive business case

The business case for 70:20:10 with performance support consists of two components:

- 40-60% less formal training, significantly reducing the out-of-pocket costs of courses, absences and travel.

- A measurable impact on the business as a result of reduced mistakes and reworkings and increased productivity.

Depending on the question and context it is important to find the right relationship between formal learning interventions and supporting performance in social learning.

UPDATE 29 August 2016: Coca-Cola: How we Modernised our Learning and Development Model, Mindset and Capabilities Noteworthy is their move from formal training to more workplace learning. Coca-Cola have focused on moving from training delivery to actual learning performance.  Beware training providers with a ‘training factory’ approach (and associated consultancies). They will resist this more effective and holistic approach to improving your business performance, as a business model of mass sheep dipping in the classroom is far more lucrative for them (i.e. for their financial performance).

UPDATE 14 September 2016: Globally companied invest US$356 billion training but are not getting value for money says an article in the Harvard Business Review, that describes the ‘Great Training Robbery’. They discuss a study that showed:

Companies that tried to launch major transformations by training hundreds or thousands of employees across many units to behave differently lagged the only company (in a sample of six) that didn’t kick-start its transformation this way. The problem was that even well-trained and motivated employees could not apply their new knowledge and skills when they returned to their units, which were entrenched in established ways of doing things. In short, the individuals had less power to change the system surrounding them than that system had to shape them.

The authors say:

…we’ve learned that education and training gain the most traction within highly visible organizational change and development efforts championed by senior leaders. That’s because such efforts motivate people to learn and change; create the conditions for them to apply what they’ve studied; foster immediate improvements in individual and organizational effectiveness; and put in place systems that help sustain the learning.

In another article, How to Combat the Leadership Crisis, it is noted that:

…leadership development programs need to fit the culture, style and goals for both the organization and the leaders receiving the training. Too often, they simply don’t. Customization is minimal — putting the company name on the program or perhaps adding an industry-specific case study. To truly fit the organization, leadership development programs must be linked to three organizational facets: initiatives, key goals and strategy and culture.

UPDATE 26 September 2016: John Bersin writes: Data Proves that Culture, Values, and Career are Biggest Drivers of Employment Brand.  When it comes to recommending your organisation to others:

An employee’s rating of “culture and values” is 4.9 times more predictive of a company recommendation than salary and benefits. The second most important factor is “career opportunities,” which is 4.5 more important than salary and benefits. The third factor is “confidence in senior leadership,” which is approximately 4 times more predictive than salary and benefits. …while salary and benefits may be one of the most important things you think about in your hiring and investments in people, in reality your investments in leadership, culture, and employee development are far more important. Today people…crave a job with a culture they enjoy. People seek meaning and values at work… The issue of learning and development has become paramount… Companies that focus on an entire culture of career growth and learning outperform their peers in innovation, long term growth, and employee retention.

UPDATE 29 October 2016: 7 Gold Standards Of Deliberate Practice: Why F1 Driver Max Verstappen Has No Talent This article quotes Anders Ericsson, who in his book Peak: Secrets From The New Science Of Expertise says the gold standards of deliberate practice are as follows:

  1. Having A Specific Goal.
  2. Expert Coaching.
  3. Consistently Learning From Feedback.
  4. Learning In Your Discomfort Zone.
  5. Building A Strong Foundation.
  6. Being Focused And Involved.
  7. Using Mental Representations.

Ericsson’s message is very optimistic: …people are often capable of achieving much more than they and others around them realize. This is essentially a growth-oriented view that offers a different approach to developing expertise. The standards are based on a combination of deliberate training and practice, and can be seen as a vindication of the principles of the 70:20:10 reference model.

UPDATE 31 October 2016: In an article, How to establish a culture of growth and development it is noted that:

When it comes to staff development, direct managers have the largest role to play in providing employees with an opportunity to apply and grow their skills and abilities. Yet, 64 per cent of L&D leaders identified the fact that ‘managers don’t encourage, enable or follow up’ as an obstacle for learning. Managers must facilitate employee development by enabling employees to put into practice what they learn through stretch assignments, team collaboration, and offering regular coaching and feedback on their performance.

UPDATE 2 November 2016Why Experiential Learning is Better

UPDATE 23 November 2016:The BBC pose the question Shouldn’t lectures be obsolete by now?

Research shows that students remember as little as 10% of their lectures just days afterwards.

The BBC note how Nobel Prize winner Professor Carl Wieman

…realised that talking at students and expecting them to absorb knowledge was not helping them to learn.  So he replaced traditional lectures with “active learning”, where he sets out a problem at the beginning of a lecture, divides students into small groups, and walks between them to listen to and guide their discussions.

Read more of Wieman’s thinning here: A Nobel Laureate’s Education Plea: Revolutionize Teaching

UPDATE 10 January 2017: There’s no such thing as learning content:

There is just learning and content: we learn, and whether or not a piece of content helps us to learn, helps us not to learn, or is merely useless depends entirely on the context. In general, our learning is driven by the challenges we face, not by content. The practical take-away: stop producing learning content. Instead, take time to understand the problems people are facing, and design resources that help them. Alternatively, create experiences that challenge people to care about something that they didn’t care about before.

UPDATE 10 January 2017: Pulling Back the Curtain on L&D’s Myths

Myth 1: It only takes one training event for learning to take place — and stick. Learning is a one-time event, not an integrated process.

…a one-and-done attitude will yield few sustained results over the long haul. …learning leaders have to be aware of their organization’s cultures at the team and companywide level. They also have to know their company’s formal and informal cultural norms. Get beyond the design of the program, how it is delivered and to whom. Culture is key. A company with a strong learning culture provides the psychological safety for vulnerability, smart risk taking and even some mistakes. …deeper conversations will help the learning leader decide how to best proceed.

Myth 2: Leadership development is for, well, leaders — people leaders.

…skills [are] needed up and down the leadership pipeline and across the organizational structure… Smart organizations see the importance of leadership development taking place throughout the company…

Myth 3: Leadership development isn’t leadership development if the company doesn’t contract out for it.

If you bring in other people and rely on them to tell you what you should be, you’re not going to have the ownership you have to reflect as a team,” said Noelle Gill, vice president of leadership development at Lear Corp. “You have to decide what you want to be. When you outsource that, it just doesn’t become authentic. You have to be true to your culture.” [Lear] developed a leadership assessment tool to identify the company’s leadership challenges, then developed its own programs. “What’s exciting now is seeing us step up ourselves to address them in the way that we run our business day to day.” …it makes sense to have champions of change in-house. A consultant can bring capacity and a unique view to the business dilemma at hand, but the company must be involved. The course content, the phraseology, the marketing, these are just some of the characteristics in an initiative that can’t be simply plucked from a catalogue or off a web site. They likely need to be customized using insights and objectives from the requesting company to meet its unique needs — “not to be overlooked or taken lightly,” Gill said.

Myth 4: Learning and development is a cost center.

…hopefully what inspires greater buy-in among leadership is learning’s ability to create more business value than cost.

UPDATE 20 January 2017:  Stop Treating Training as a One-Time Event

Why is so much training wasted?  Well the answer is quite simple. Too often training is seen as an event. It is treated as a one-off. A gap is identified and then a training event is provided with the content that addresses that gap.  Unfortunately, that’s not how learning works.

…you also want to have a plan that facilitates the 20% and 70% on an ongoing basis.

It’s up to you as a leader to ensure that when you bring in an external training provider they are able to supply you with a training program that embeds the learning and maintains the momentum. If they try to sell you a one-off event, then maybe you need to look for a different trainer.

UPDATE 30 January 2017: As generations change, in this amusing video CLO Magazine discuss ’6 Ways to Get Millennials to Care About Training’.  Are the techniques different to those that work with other generations, well maybe not that much in the future!  Enjoy!

UPDATE 2 February 2017: Inspire Learning in the Workplace:

The words ‘mandated’ and ‘learning’ must never be in the same sentence together because they cancel each other out.  One is determined through control and direction, while the other favours autonomy, engagement and inspiration. It’s a pity that some Learning and Development teams continue to create programs from the position of control rather than propose different ways to incorporate learning within the workplace so that the critical factors of business context and relationship building is not lost.

UPDATE 6 February 2017:  Workplace coaching – what’s the verdict?

UPDATE 16 February 2017: See also our article Consultants & Culture: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

UPDATE 20 February 2017: Beyond Training – The Importance of Workwide Learning

UPDATE 26 February 2017: Coach Selection: A highly subjective affair (which references Personal Best: Top athletes and singers have coaches. Should you? by Atul Gawande).

UPDATE 2 March 2017: L&D’s biggest challenge and greatest opportunity: letting go

This essentially means moving away from the role of “learning gatekeeper” [e.g. defining set teaching pathways] or the “learning police” [i.e. ensuring a monopoly on teaching] to becoming an Advisor and Consultant to the business.

UPDATE 13 March 2017: Critical to developing any learning solution is understanding the real learning need:

There are few management skills more powerful than the discipline of clearly articulating the problem you seek to solve before jumping into action.

Faux-consultancies that are really a front for training providers will jump to recommend formal training as the preferred action, irrespective of the true learning need or the most effective and efficient learning solutions.

UPDATE 16 March 2017: Supercharge your performance with 70:20:10, a Safety on Tap podcast with Charles Jennings from the 702010 Institute.  Three takeaways:

  1. Its all about performance i.e. the learning outcomes not the process
  2. Start with the 70, plan for the 100
  3. Learning is most likely to successfully occur if it is done ‘close’ to where the work is done

Jennings also comments on 10+ training, where a small amount of pre- and post-classroom activities are tagged on to formal learning as a false attempt to address the 70:20 elements.

UPDATE 18 March 2017: Giving feedback is effectively is critical to successful coaching.  People often hide constructive criticism inside a compliment, and those on the receiving end never hear it. Is there a better way to provide feedback?  Yes, according to this New York Times article: You’ve Been Doing a Fantastic Job. Just One Thing …

UPDATE 21 March 2017: How Middle Managers Provide Leadership Everyday

Providing leadership as a middle manager requires an expanded understanding of your role and a willingness to take the risk to think and act more broadly. Perhaps the most powerful way you provide leadership is by developing leadership capability in others. You don’t need to have all the answers. Look for opportunities to support other’s leadership efforts. And as your team develops into a high performance team, you will need to step out of their way so they can fly.

UPDATE 21 March 2017: The Great Education Conspiracy:  Nick Shackleton-Jones explains:

Here’s a funny thing: when you ask people what kind of learning they think is most effective they say ‘classroom training’. Even millennials.  They are wrong (at least if we think of learning as knowledge transfer – see here) but why are they wrong? Neither classroom nor e-learning are very effective at transferring knowledge, but people enjoy classroom training more.   ….people are really there for the experience – for the chance to ‘network’ (socialise), have some fun, talk about things, try some things out. Sadly, because the industry labours under the myth of ‘learning as knowledge transfer’ or ‘curricula’, the poor practitioners feel compelled to subject people to a ‘content dump’ of information and sometimes a token test in order to preserve the illusion that this is the real return on the investment… Instead, give people the chance to experience things, and learn from those experiences – that’s how learning works.  But what will we measure if we don’t have a test? Call me crazy, but how about we measure the impact on performance?

UPDATE 23 March 2017: 3 Ways Learning Can Affect Behavioral Change

It’s time to change the way learning leaders work. Focus on strategy, performance and the employee experience, and business success will follow.

  1. Learning professionals need to become strategic leaders.
  2. Link learning to organizational performance for business success.
  3. Make learning continuous and relevant to the employee experience.

Points 2 and 3 undermine the marketing approach of some training factories that mass-market what is primarily off the shelf training, unconnected with individual learning needs.

UPDATE 5 April 2017: Unlocking the Potential of Learning at Work

UPDATE 30 April 2017: Does Your Company Really Want to Build a Learning Culture?

UPDATE 11 April 2017: What Kind of Learning Culture Does Your Company Have?

Most companies already have some kind of learning culture. It just may not be the one they want.  The question is, what type of learning culture do you have versus what type of learning culture do you want.

Four types are proposed:

  1. A culture of compliance training.
  2. A culture of necessary training.
  3. A culture of learning.
  4. A culture of continuous learning.

UPDATE 12 April 2017: Better learning environments:  If you do training in a classroom there are better ways to arrange the room.

UPDATE 14 April 2017: What Skills Will Leaders Need in the Future?: “When it comes to leadership development, consider common ground before deferring to oft-overstated generational differences”.  Note the emphasis on coaching and mentoring.

UPDATE 19 April 2017: Jane Hart’s 5 Stages of Workplace Learning (Revisited in 2017).  Sadly we think some areas, such as aviation regulation and safety training, remain dominated by Stage 1 training factories…

UPDATE 30 April 2017: SIOP discuss learning agility, a competency or capability which describes the ability to learn rapidly from experience.

https://youtu.be/DcnapnW7zjk

The concept is discussed further in the HBR article: Improve Your Ability to Learn

UPDATE 2 May 2017: Charles Jennings discusses the The Knowledge and Learning Transfer Problem and the myth of knowledge transfer.  He emphasises Ebbinghaus‘ on memory and the importance of practice in retaining knowledge.

Hermann Ebbinghaus (January 24, 1850 – February 26, 1909)

UPDATE 3 May 2017: The BBC discuss Why So Many Companies Get Training Wrong.  They ask: “Training is often seen as a bore and a chore. Is there a way to make it better?”

The BBC comment:

Several studies show that employee training can be more problematic than productive. A 2010 McKinsey & Company report found just 25% of respondents felt that training programmes had a measurable improvement on performance. A 2015 study from online training company 24×7 Learning found that only 12% of employees apply new skills learned in training to their jobs.

Many programmes don’t actually improve skills…Why? Most are too generic, too basic and too boring…

Sitting in a training room…sucks.

The misguided one-size-fits-all approach comes from companies training everyone, in every department…There’s not enough attention given to what objectives the company wants to accomplish and the current level of knowledge and skill of those who are going to be trained.

…managers don’t always follow up after training, or even know what their employees are learning in a training session…when the employees return to their desk they think, “If we can get the work done that the manager wants, and if the manager’s not reinforcing things, then why change our behaviour?”

The BBC article suggests like we have above:

  • Combining appropriate coaching, networking and training
  • Spacing training into shorter sessions
  • Training that involves working on real work problems/tasks
  • Creating an environment for sharing ideas is also important” (though that is not a reason to employ expensive trainers to facilitate discussions that should happen routinely in the workplace)

UPDATE 11 May 2017: Michael Bungay Stanier, author of The Coaching Habit, discusses the differences between coaching for development and for performance, as well as the impact each has on organisational development.

Also: The Traditional Lecture is Dead

Research shows students don’t learn by hearing or seeing, they learn by doing, a model often called active learning.

UPDATE 18 May 2017: Jane Hart illustrates the challenge in I am Bailey. I am a Modern Professional Learner.

UPDATE 22 May 2017:  Why Organizations Need Chief Knowledge Curators: “Organizational knowledge is like currency. When spent the right way, the dividends compound like the fastest growing interest”.

UPDATE 30 May 2017:  5 Important Coaching Techniques Every Leader Should Practice

  1. Be fully present…this alone can go a long way toward building trust.
  2. Get, and keep, the conversation focused.
  3. Ask mostly open-ended questions, especially those starting with what and how.
  4. Stay action focused.
  5. Follow up.

There are many ways for managers to incorporate a coaching style to help people develop more competence and confidence. Practicing coach-like behaviors in your conversations creates a learning environment not only for those you coach, but for you as well.

UPDATE 31 May 2017: Always-on learning: Evolving L&D’s role

[The] L&D [function] is evolving to be a more ubiquitous, more behind-the-scenes force for supporting and enabling employee development and performance.

The idea is that L&D becomes “invisible” —in the background but always on, able to meet learners where they are, at the point of need, with a learning solution that meets that need. The learning experience is holistic, not confined to a particular course or session but an ongoing presence throughout an employee’s tenure with the organization. L&D doesn’t “own” learning as much as anticipate, curate, and enable it.

The article suggests that instead of trainers progressive organisations have ‘experience managers’ (perhaps a little over trendy in jargon) but called that:

…because will they not only be handling traditional classroom facilitation but also facilitating the broader learning experience. This could include things like encouraging peer-to-peer dialogue through internal social media channels, moderating discussions, posing questions, distributing online assignments, connecting learners to relevant online articles or resources, and similar activities that make learning a more integral and continuous part of employees’ work lives.

UPDATE 5 June 2017: Three rarely seen coaching skills

Thus coaching absolutely requires something most who claim to be a coach don’t have – a will to genuinely understand the person they are helping to learn and develop. Doing this properly takes time, time is usually tight and costs, which in turn means that the value of any help is far less than if context was understood.

Time…is required to get to know your client, and time is needed in serious quantities to then explore thoroughly and truly work out what will help by way of forward progress.  Those that see coaching as a ‘product’ are selling time and are often not driven by a desire to help people to learn. For many who call themselves coaches this means a need to move from ‘how much can I make?’ to ‘how much can I help?’.

A real coach knows the client must lead this process. Many of my coaching interactions are frustrating, even annoying, because it is clear that the client is unready to move at a pace I might like on their behalf.  To be a genuine helper the coach must judge skilfully when to offer direction, options, questions, and explore significant matters, and when to simply let the client speak – because no-one else shows that respectful interest.

UPDATE 6 June 2017: How to wreck your training results by Paul Matthews, author of How to Solve the Performance Puzzle:

I was going to use the title, “’The shocking truth about training fails!’, but decided that was a little too tabloid, even though it’s true.

You’ve heard…of the research that shows how little effect most classroom training has on changing behaviour in the workplace. The figures I have seen vary from study to study, but all paint a disturbing landscape of training programmes, due to lack of learning transfer, that fail to deliver the expected business benefits.

How much do delegates remember one month after their day in the training room? 5%? 10%? 20%? More importantly, what percentage of delegates act to implement what was taught? What percentage of those delegates then continue to apply what they have learnt?

If we were doing something else with that level of failure, we would stop doing it, or seek a way to do it differently.

Perhaps because we, and the organisations we serve, have become so complacent about lacklustre results from training, we consider it ‘normal’, and therefore acceptable.  It isn’t!

Training is not something new we are experimenting with. We have been doing it for a long, long time. Why are people delivering training not being held accountable for results? They should be!

UPDATE 6 June 2017: Building Modern Professional Learning skills through 30 Day Learning Challenges

UPDATE 19 June 2017: No one knows everything, says John O’Brien, and it’s not a weakness to admit it. He explains the business importance of continually learning:

UPDATE 30 June 2017: To Better Train Workers, Figure Out Where They Struggle

What company would spend thousands — or even millions — of dollars, year in and year out, without knowing the return? When it comes to training and workforce development, lots of them.

In a 2014 survey, 55% of executives said a major constraint to investing in training was that they did not know how to measure success. Almost half (49%) said that it was difficult to ensure a return on investment (ROI). And in another survey, 87% said they cannot calculate quantifiable returns on their learning investments.

In short, companies have little idea whether they are spending too much or not enough.

The reasons for this lack of understanding are not difficult to identify. For a start, employers don’t often collect or analyze individual performance data.

Better, data-driven training…can benefit both employees and their employers.

UPDATE 2 July 2017: Laura Overton of Towards Maturity discusses: Here’s why you’re failing to create a learning culture.

Developing a learning culture takes time and requires us to focus on efficiencies, process improvement, greater agility and better performance. Get these elements right and the right culture will develop. We see the evidence of this working in Top Deck organisations, who are six times more likely than the average to influence culture.

Here are five mistakes to avoid:

  • You don’t trust staff to manage their own learning
  • You are stifling staff contribution
  • Your content is inaccessible
  • You take learning away from work
  • You don’t reward learning

UPDATE 6 July 2017: Lord Cullen in his report following the public enquiry into the Piper Alpha disaster which occurred on 6 July 1988 said:

It is essential that the whole workforce is committed to and involved in safe operations. The first-line supervisors are a key link in achieving that as each is personally responsible for ensuring that all employees, whether the company’s own, or contractors, are trained to and do work safely, and that they not only know how to perform their jobs safely but are convinced that they have a responsibility to do so.

Never forget the role of supervisors in aiding learning.

UPDATE 8 July 2017: At what point can you say you have learned something?:

This question is one that is not asked enough, especially in organisations. I see “learning events” (workshops, training events, coaching, seminars, online learning etc.) being provided with little or no idea about what the aim is in terms of learning beyond some vague exposure to content.

When you look at many learning events there is an implicit assumption that attendance = learning. Beyond the ubiquitous happy sheet type evaluation at the end of an event there is usually no real effort to find out if ‘learning’ has actually taken place, if they have learned.

[A] study a few years ago found that students on an introductory psychology course knew only 8% more than a control group, four months after the course. Further research has found similar worrying figures.

…ah but you may not remember but it makes learning it later a lot easier. Sounds plausible but is it true?  Not only is there no evidence for this assertion at all, we are actually inherently biased when we think about what we have retained and forgotten anyway.

A series of new studies are showing that when we learn something cognitive (memory) the context of that memory is stored with the memory and that recall is more difficult in a different context. So if we learn in a classroom or a library (remember those?) recall is significantly better and more complete in that context and more difficult in a different context like in a work context for example. In effect classroom based learning does not automatically transfer to the workplace. Our recall tends to be heavily dependent on the context within which the learning took place. This is one factor for the poor transfer to workplace of most learning and coaching events.

UPDATE 10 July 2017: There is often an assumption of a connection between defined competencies and organisational performance. “However, this connection now appears to be tenuous or non-existent“.


Aerossurance was delighted to present at the Flight Safety Foundation’s (FSF) 69th Annual International Air Safety Summit in Dubai on 15 November 2016.  We discussed ‘The Great Training Robbery’, the inappropriate use of training and the value of 70:20:10.

Later Tuesday morning, [Nick] Dahlstrom [Human Factors Manager at Emirates] spoke on Safety Culture in Maintenance during the IASS Maintenance & Engineering (M&E) track session and said that safety is about more than just data and that people create safety. “It’s not your SMS (safety management system) manual that makes you safe, it’s your people,” he said. He also cautioned that aviation as an industry is too focused on training and not focused enough on education. That sentiment was echoed by Andy Evans, director, Aerossurance, who said, “I’m not against training, but I’m more for learning.”

Aerossurance is pleased to be supporting the annual Chartered Institute of Ergonomics & Human Factors’ (CIEHFHuman Factors in Aviation Safety Conference for the third year running.  This year the conference takes place 13 to 14 November 2017 at the Hilton London Gatwick Airport, UK with the theme: How do we improve human performance in today’s aviation business?

ciehf 2017


Avoid the Great Training Robbery!  For independent, innovative, leading edge aviation improvement and learning development support you can trust, contact Aerossurance at: enquiries@aerossurance.com