70:20:10? Or Is It…85:12:3?


To answer the question suggested by the title I offer another question – “Who gives a rip?” – as long as the end-game drives sustained workforce capability. The correct ratio is only correct if the end-game is reached. Even Charles Jennings has said 70:20:10 is only a guideline; not a hard and fast ratio that must be met. It’s the spirit and intention behind the ratio that matters – not the actual spread. We have to snatch off the training paradigm glasses and start looking through performance paradigm googles. Why googles? Because it gets really windy when we…as the L&D organization…must travel fast enough to match the velocity of business demand…and that ain’t happenin’ if Training is our only ride…too slow and clunky.

To meet the speed of business demand and the continuous nature of change we must be nimble, we must be quick, and that means rethinking the training shtick. Sorry…weak moment, but there’s truth in my nonsense. Creating sustainable performance readiness in our workforce demands a nimbleness and agility in learning and performance support that is at least as nimble and agile as the workforce we need to support. Training alone cannot do that. It cannot keep up. At some point we cannot peddle any faster, and we ultimately get lapped by demand…or worse…the competition.

Go back to Gottfredson’s Five Moments of Need and see where true business value is created. It’s at moment #3 – APPLY – and that’s not during training no matter how experiential it might be. Moment #3 manifests at the point-of-work where learners become performers and they work without a net…meaning they either create value or squander it. So…give ‘em a net. Overcome knowledge retention loss by providing seamless, frictionless, ubiquitous access to the right end-users…with the right intentionally designed assets…at their right moment of need…in the right task-centric amount…in the right readily consumable format…to/from the right devices. That’s the kind of solutions that are foundational to a learning and performance paradigm.

If we develop and deliver access to assets of that nature then the percentage spread is irrelevant. That said, I can promise you that the majority of the learning experience that gets pushed out to the “70” will likely meet or exceed 70%. We cannot get wrapped around the axle of meeting a percentage mix and become distracted from what we really need to be producing as our ultimate solution – sustainable performance. If we are not producing that kind of outcome consistently, then we really need to question what the heck are we doing with our time.

Who knows…we might find when we get into the point-of-work that a performance discovery just might point to a solution mix of 90:10:0, or even worse, 100:0:0. Then what do we do with those other buckets? Fill ‘em full of ice and peel-n-eat shrimp! Would that be such a problem? Methinks not, if after all is said and done, we move the performance needle forward and it sticks. We have to be courageous enough to NOT apologize for coming up with a response to a training request with something as radical as performance support and no training is even necessary.

If your leadership is stoked on 70:20:10, throw performance support into the “70” bucket and call it training. I think it was Allison Rossett who said something along those lines. “Just do it…and call it training!”


Okay, now that I’ve calmed down a little, I will say that this performance paradigm concept may sound radical. Maybe not radical, but it smells like change for sure. I see a lot of companies recognizing the benefits of PS and showing signs of sniffing around the edges of the performance support paradigm. Next comes sipping the PS Kool-Aid, and then the craving is flung upon them to give in to the lure of a bright, shiny piece of EPS technology. It’s exciting when that happens. Everybody wants to dive in and start driving results. They are ready…but…the organization is not at readiness to negotiate their way through the journey to full adoption.

One-and-done is often the result if you jump in the deep end and buy your technology too soon. You’d think we would’ve learned given the number of LMS owners who bought in because everybody else was before fully defining the attribute and requirements of their ecosystem. And yes…you DO have a learning and performance ecosystem. The goal is mapping how optimized it is…and/or  could be…should be.

Define your organization’s readiness first. Step away from the technology for now. There are too many EPS vendors out there who look attractive, and they all have solid product offerings that excel at EPS at a high level, but under the hood each one of them has a discrete sweet spot. The question becomes one of matching up their sweet spot with your learning and performance ecosystem requirements today…and tomorrow. That takes an EPS readiness assessment to identify your current state of readiness and accurately define the gaps across attributes of people, content, process, technology and measurement present…or absent…in your ecosystem.

Join me at Learning Solutions/Ecosystems 2016 in Orlando this coming March for a breakout session on EPS Readiness Assessments. Even if you can’t make the conference, the preceding rant is still valid.

Gary G. Wise
Workforce Performance Strategist
(317) 437-2555

  1. January 22, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    Nice, Gary, though I’d suggestion 70:20:10 is a bit more than just performance support. It’s also mentoring, coaching, challenge assignments, and more. But you’re absolutely right, not looking beyond the course is a performance-limiting mistake.

    • January 22, 2016 at 4:14 pm

      Absolutely, Clark! PS is only a part…maybe…though likely… And PS assets potentially serve mentors, coaches, help desk, and, and, and… Thanks for reading and dropping a note!

  2. Mark Britz
    January 22, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    Nice Rant Gary :). I agree on the numbers and some are saying Experience, Exposure, Education instead which is all good and fine. My take is more on the idea that 70:20:10 is some type of model to emulate or a strategy to apply. The reality is …it’s the reality. So with that I say it’s a principle, more like a natural law. As such we need to work with it and that’s where a Framework comes in. Something that supports and guides. Back to the Principle. If it’s a principle than this is just how learning happens in organizations and it is more an organizational guiding one and I’d argue L&D plays there role but it’s not their charge. This has to be supported from the top. I think you are correct in taking the angle of resources fueling the “70” and L&D can certainly do that but the biggest part of 70 is the learning we do in actually doing our work. If people are cognizant and the culture is tolerant that working out loud is how those ah-ha moments are shared throughout the organization for the betterment of the organization. And I don’t see WOL as a periodic blog post (although that helps) but more it’s doing your work in open and transparent ways and again, that requires enabling and encouraging by the c-suite. Thanks for your thoughts on this Gary I’ve had a few posts on this myself lately you might be interested in. http://www.thesimpleshift.com

  3. January 22, 2016 at 6:50 pm

    It needs disentangling. Directionally ‘resources not courses’ is sound, though technically this is a shift away from learning. In actuality, performance support gives way to performance guidance which amounts to learning mitigation. Two big caveats around 70/20/10: 1) it was just some guesswork on the part of leaders on how they learn, 2) it pre-dates the Internet. 70/20/10 is just a way of saying ‘training makes almost no contribution to learning in your orgnisation’ – I.e. It is not a model for training delivery as such, but an observation (though it should prompt reflection). Today, it is probably fair to say that most ‘on the job’ learning is already online, as people ‘Google their way through life’. Whilst this may seem to amount to a bleak picture I do not believe it is: I think there are opportunities either for post-learning professionals to craft engaging and meaningful experiences OR to build performance support and/or guidance.

  1. January 24, 2016 at 8:30 am

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