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Education Led Transformation

In the 1960's the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) developed the 70/20/10 model; a model that demonstrated how people learn best when it comes to doing their job. The study showed that lessons learned from successful and effective managers were:

70% from tough jobs, experience / 20% from people (managers, bosses) / 10% from courses and reading (classroom instruction)

In 1996, two of the original members of the CCL study on the 70/20/10 model wrote the book "The Career Architect Development Planner". With more empirical data and evidence, they were confident in stating:

“Development generally begins with a realization of current or future need and the motivation to do something about it. This might come from feedback, a mistake, watching other people’s reactions, failing or not being up to a task – in other words, from experience. The odds are that development will be about 70% from on-the-job experiences, working on tasks and problems; about 20% from feedback and working around good and bad examples of the need, and 10% from courses and reading.” (Lombardo and Eichinger expressed the rationale behind the 70:20:10 model this way in The Career Architect Development Planner).

It is now 2014 and in the last five years, we've seen the exponential demand for new thinking in organizations. When I say new thinking I mean new ways of doing our old jobs. This exponential demand is largely credited to the adoption of both agile and lean practices. The early years of Scrum and XP have demonstrated that developing and delivering software can be drastically improved but also that many agile practices can now be successfully applied in other core areas of an IT and business organization.

The early years of lean showed us that Lean Six Sigma was a good initial foray into compressing DMAIC and taking the idea of lean from the manufacturing floor to the corporate world. We've now learned that lean, on its own, is more than adequate without other process models attached to its hip. Lean Startup is a testimony to this.

In all of it, however, companies still spend enormous amounts of money on sending people to training classes in order to learn these new skills plus they bring in external consultants to coach and mentor. There is value and need in both of these investments but if we are truly interested in transformation then we need to look further and outside the traditional methods. This goes back to the 70/20/10 model and why it's more relevant now than ever.

Part of the answer when we discuss transformation lies in two important questions; what do we mean by transformation? and what are we transforming? History tells us that traditional two-day scrum training has had little effect in helping organizations change (transform) how they work. Similar to the challenge we see with the dependence on tools, believing they will help solve our problems, two days of training on anything simply cannot produce lasting results, only motivation perhaps and some formation of good ideas. This is the 10% component of the model; learning from courses and reading (classroom instruction). To emphasize, this is still important but it's not the whole picture nor does it serve the real need; how we help people change how they do their work and make that change stick.

The 70% component of the model; learning from tough jobs and experience is where the real learning sticks. This requires the consistent and repeated application of practices and principles on real work; something you are engaged in at your company where you can begin to see immediate results and understand why change matters. This approach often referred to as work-based or action learning is new to the agile and lean market yet it is quickly becoming the new normal. Think of it in the form of these statements:

  • You want to introduce agile and lean thinking to improve your customer experience and overall business performance

  • You want to invest in what's most valuable to your organization; your people

  • You want to retain your best people and provide a learning journey for others so that they become your best people

  • You want to improve, even change, the way you deliver your services and products to gain market share and increase brand equity

  • You want to leverage "just enough" external expertise and not be heavily dependent on someone else

  • You want to do all this in the shortest time frame possible with the maximum results and most reasonable cost

  • All this is what you mean by transformation

I expect there are more statements you'd add but to achieve these we need to bring it back to how people learn. A systemic learning approach will always provide greater value and lasting benefit. Incremental and disparate training that is purely content or classroom driven simply cannot produce the same, compelling results.

Education Led Transformation is a phrase that has come to mean many things for me in the last year; mainly it has been a re-awakening that organizations improve only when people do. Oh my, this is so obvious that it even seems trivial to say but haven't we all fallen into the trap that process and tools are so much more important? Isn't this the reason the agile manifesto was so key in saying "individuals and interactions over processes and tools"? Isn't it still and won't it always be about people?

Therefore we conclude that learning AND development are so much more important and so much more than training. It is a lifestyle of learning and applying and this is why leading with a systemic, work-based learning approach is so fundamental to the cause. Yes, I'm a bit biased to the work-based (action) learning topic but indeed I've now seen too many examples of how impactful it truly is.

“I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand.”

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