Intersections of 70:20:10


Jay Cross’ post in the Chief Learning Officer’s blog-space (The Other 90 Percent of Learning – Chief Learning Officer, Solutions for Enterprise Productivity) once again iterates the well-known observation that (depending on how you slice it and who’s doing the slicing) formal learning accounts for far less than 20% of what people need to know to do their jobs well – yet formal learning (instructor-led classes, canned eLearning modules, etc.) receives the disproportionate investment of training dollars and resources. It seems like everyone who blogs, posts, tweets, or otherwise publishes on “training” has been putting this out there for years.


There are even “solutions” – or at least “approaches.” Blended learning, training at the moment of need (Bob Mosher), informal learning (Josh Bersin et al.), social learning, and even the ambitious catch-all, knowledge management (Carla Odell) or learning layer (Steve Flynn).

So, if “we” recognize that there is a problem, and we even have some semblance of solutions, why does it continue to sound like a prophetic cry when 80:20 or 90:10 or 70:20:10 is once again thrust into the light? As an organizational psychologist by training, that is my question – “Why is every organization, modern to progressive in most other ways, not a learning organization?” What is stopping us?

In the very first response to Jay Cross’ post, Jay A. Allen writes, “What gets measured, receives attention.” He is beginning to answer the question, “Why not?” I believe that, if you asked any progressive C-suite exec if theirs is a “learning organization,” I daresay they would say, “Yes. We conduct in-service training. We send our people to classes. We even have an LMS that delivers house- and outside-authored content.” They look at these formal training activities – which are visible and measurable – and equate them with a successful training strategy. What is not happening – as the Kirkpatricks, Phillips, and others have been pointing out for years – is connecting the investment in training activity to real business outcomes.

How do we change that?

First, I believe that the Kirkpatrick (or Phillips, if you prefer) model needs to be seriously adopted and enforces as the way in which all training activity is conceptually tied to business outcomes. This must be enforced by tying training department budgets and resources to the business objectives identified in the training strategy. This will necessarily lead to…

Secondly, all training activities should be designed by starting with the business outcome (Kirkpatrick Stage 4), defining the behaviors or attitudes that must be changed to achieve that outcome (Stage 3), specifying the skills or competencies that are required to result in the changed behavior (Stage 2), and then use something like the ADDIE model (see to design specific learning activities.

Finally, broaden the perspective of “what is a training?” to include all activities that support performance along Mosher’s 5 Moments of Learning Need. This will necessarily lead to discussion of how the corporate help desk, Communities of Practice, efficient information search systems, leading-practice exchanges, and many other “informal” tools are a significant and wise investment.

With knowledge, human resource, and customer needs turning over so quickly, can any company afford not to evolve into a genuinely effective learning organization?

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