Going Ninja & the Covert Art of Hiding 70:20:10

After surviving in the L&D profession for over thirty years, I continue to ponder what is it going to take to trip the trigger that deploys the training air bag? C’mon, man! We’ve tried everything known to humans so far…we gamify, we MOOC, we micro, we burst, we space, we go virtual, we go mobile, we asynch, bi-synch, tri-synch, and…and…and it’s still training, and we continue to follow the same road map to achieve the most effective training outcomes using myriad methodologies and technologies. How many times will we endure the collision with a proven reality…yes…a documented…self-inflicted reality…at levels 1 & 2…that training, in and of itself, only drives potential?

Could it be that our current paradigm is locked onto a road map to a destination that falls short of the outcome we really seek? Aren’t we really after sustained workforce capability? How is that outcome not a common desire? If we can turn loose of our current paradigm long enough to consider that effective performance drives tangible outcomes, methinks we’ve just moved our destination downstream to someplace not on the current road map – the Point-of-Work.

In my post last week, “Training Is Not “Predicament-based & That’s a Predicament”, I described a recent performance assessment that replaced a routine training needs assessment for improving onboarding for a particular work group. The performance restrainer categories facing this work group illustrated in the summary findings below should be enough to deploy the training air bag:

  • Leadership – 14%
  • Capability – 6%
  • Motivation – 8%
  • Process – 19%
  • Resources – 39%
  • Environment – 14%

Since “Training Programs” fall under CAPABILITY, can you see that our traditional training paradigm is keeping us on this road map to a destination that falls short of the ultimate outcome. Seriously, even the best training solution for this intervention would only impact 6% of 100% of the challenges. How can that be acceptable? So…has your air bag deployed yet?

“Holy wasted time building training to improve onboarding, Batman!”

There is a lot of noise going on these days about “new ways” to build training…or learning…and…I have to say this right now…it bothers me that people use those two terms interchangeably. You train a bear to ride a bike…and with enough bear treats and a Taser you can train a bear to ride just about anything. If that bear is “learning” anything at all, it’s how NOT to get shocked…and keep scoring bear treats.

True, you can “train” a human to be a lug nut screwer-oner on an assembly line, but sustained screwer-oner capability is not reached until the human “learns” the finer points of leftie-loosey-rightie-tightie and the art of not cross-threading a lug nut upon screwing it on.

Humans learn, and it’s not because straight “5s” on level one evaluations say it’s so…any more than straight “5s” on level two evaluations prove knowledge was transferred; at least not retained long enough to apply on the job. Oh, and we have documented proof from research showing we actually lose most of the knowledge transferred before the chicken tacos served at lunch have been digested. One could say we learn by doing…in spite of training to remember how.

Take 70:20:10 for example. That learning framework has been taken and hammered and twisted to make it fit into the training paradigm. I don’t believe that was ever Charles Jennings’s intent. If 70% of how we learn is experiential, I don’t think he was describing insertion of interactive whatchamacallits into Articulate Storyline and calling it good. Hang with me for a second; this is about “DOING” to learn…and doing so to become CAPABLE at the Point-of-Work.

A colleague pinged me this morning about an article posted by Nick Shackleton-Jones, The Great Education Conspiracy, where Nick references something I’d not heard before, and it resonated…and it reflected something I’ve been blogging about (using other terminology) for years. Nick’s article, among other positive points, describes that effective Learning is impacted by “affective significance” and by “affective context”.

When you peel back the layers, at least for my twisted mind, affective significance implies there is some urgency to perform and a Moment of Need is acting as a restrainer and there is some significance to achieving the performance required. Additionally, affective context implies there are work environment attributes shaping uniqueness found mainly at the Point-of-Work.

All of this is pointing straight at the “70%” and likely further embellished by the “20%” afforded by social collaboration with other humans involved in the work. How can we continue to bird dog the “10%” with so much gusto when business impact is NOT manifesting until performance is executed in the “70%” in an affective context farther down the path to competency at the Point-of-Work?

Why doesn’t the training air bag deploy?

I’ve written about going Ninja before in the context of  covert performance consulting. It might be time to go under the radar once again if we really want to embrace 70:20:10 effectively.  Here are some useful suggestions:

  1. Buy some black pajamas…and a Taser
  2. Watch Youtube to learn about stealth techniques mastered by Ninjas
  3. Never…ever…reference 70:20:10…especially in front of misguided L&D traditionalists
  4. Avoid any L&D person sucked in and trying to get the “ratios right”; they could easily self-combust
  5. Deploy Taser to shock them out of their dysfunction
  6. If asked about using 70:20:10…deny…deny…deny…then use it in the spirit for which it was created
  7. Go Ninja…do performance diagnostic assessments and swear they are really training needs assessments
  8. Relax…a performance diagnostic informs training needs…if there really are any
  9. Identify affective significance in terms of root cause(s) behind Moments of Need
  10. Intentionally design solutions accessible in the affective context of Point-of-Work
  11. Measure evidence of business impact you’d never realize relying upon training events
  12. Celebrate achieving sustained capability at Point-of-Work, and dance as only Ninjas can dance

My point, twisted as it may be, is very simple – shut up about using 70:20:10.

Just do it. Treat it like a secret handshake. Focus upon the “affections” described in Nick’s article, and pursue performance diagnostic discovery to move things downstream into the out-of-training-scope-and-charter-world known as Point-of-Work. Become a performance consultant…or find one…who can determine what’s broken; why does it break; whose involved; where does it break; when does it break; and how much does it cost when it breaks; and other secret performance restrainers; and you’ll be hip deep in the “70%”, and the “20%” will be tucked under your arm as a bonus. Only then can you design and deliver solutions intended to drive performance and promote sustained capability.

If caught using 70:20:10 – LIE like a rug…and have a co-conspirator swear to it. Things will be okay…just explain that you are converging learning with work because it’s the new way to train and never tell anyone you that you’ve just hidden the pill in the cheese.

Black pajamas are optional.

Gary G. Wise
Workforce Performance Advocate, Coach, Speaker
(317) 437-2555
Web: Living In Learning