on January 17, 2008
"What if we train our employees and they leave?" To which noted leadership consultant Mark Sanborn replies, "What if we don't and they stay?" Learning agility (the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn rapidly) has become one of the most critical survival skills for both individuals and companies.
Based on years of research, this book identifies the six disciplines that characterize breakthrough learning. The book provides a road map for optimizing the business impact of leadership and management training. The authors say that the essential goal of every training program should always emphasize improved performance. Learning creates value only when it is transferred and applied to the participant's work environment. Ultimately, every program must produce a positive financial return, directly or indirectly. The organization as a whole will benefit more if its employees exit the program doing several things well instead of a number of things poorly. Thus, trainees must be given the opportunity to practice their newly acquired skills. It is not sufficient for the instructor to simply talk about them. A hand on approach is more beneficial and enduring than merely lecturing. The authors suggest allowing participants time to practice their new knowledge, reflect on lessons learned, and write down how they intend to apply their new knowledge. "New insights and skills must be recalled before they can be adapted and applied," the authors say. "We are able to remember new information when it is associated with or linked to existing ideas, patterns and knowledge already stored in long-term memory. To forge these links, participants must be given sufficient guidance and enough time to reflect on what they have learned." Fred Harburg, senior vice president of leadership and management development at Fidelity Investments, puts it this way: "We are not in the business of providing classes, learning tools or even learning itself. We are in the business of facilitating improved business results."
In a nutshell, here are the six disciplines of breakthrough learning:
1. Define Business Outcomes: Agree on definition of success. Define what participants will do differently and better. Always ask yourself, "what is the benefit of this training program to the company? Be proactive in areas in which learning and development could contribute.
2. Design Complete Experience: Include what happens before and after the classroom. Redefine the finish line from the end of class to the generation of results. Be vigilant for mixed messages--where what is taught in the program and what is practiced in the business are inconsistent or where one phase does not support another. Such inconsistencies discourage participants from trying to transfer their knowledge and, if glaring, lead to cynicism. Devise systems to hold line managers accountable for their role in getting results from learning and development. Be certain that what management say, what managers do, and what the system rewards are in alignment. If not, you are wasting the time and money being invested in learning and development.
3. Deliver for Application: Show how the content relates to current business issues. Give participants time to reflect on how they will apply what they have learnt. Review the objectives that participants set for themselves. Include questions on the end-of-course evaluations to assess the extent to which participants understand the relevance, utility, and value of what they learned and whether they feel confident that they know how to use the course content in their work. Ask two fundamental questions about each program component: Will the value be obvious to participants? Will they know how and when to use what they learn?
4. Drive Follow-Through: Actively manage the process. What is your organization doing to drive learning transfer? Are managers actively involved in supporting learning transfer? Work with management to ensure that follow-through happens. Ensure accountability. Either you are part of the solution or you are part of the problem.
5. Deploy Active Support: Provide ongoing support from facilitators, coaches, managers. Provide practical "how-to" guides to facilitate transfer. Compare where you are spending resources to where the most value is created. Are they proportional? Interview a sample of participants three months after a learning or development program. Find out where they have achieved success and what factors supported their efforts. Maximize these in subsequent iterations. Identify the barriers that impeded their progress or worked against learning transfer and application. Present your findings to management with a plan for how to address them.
6. Document results: This is critical to demonstrate the value of all the effort and investment that has gone before. Report results to management and use to market the program. Review the evidence you have currently to illustrate that learning and development contributes to business success. Can you make a compelling case for the economic value added that learning and development provides? Can you convincingly demonstrate why reducing the investment will hurt the company's long-term performance? Be proactive. Begin to build multiple lines of evidence of value. If you wait until you are asked, it will be too late. If you have a great story to tell about the value you create, you cannot be shy and hope people will notice. If you believe it, you have to sell it.
Leaders who don't follow up don't improve! The major challenge faced by managers is not understanding the practice of leadership, it is practicing their understanding of leadership. One golden nugget the authors convey is that the last item on most agendas reads "Program Ends" or "Adjourn." A better ending would be: "Begin Transfer and Application."
on March 19, 2009
After using this book in a 6 week internal training I've come to greatly dislike it. There's probably 50 pages of good material that are fluffed out to 200 pages with platitudes, repetition, and meanderings. It's badly organized with massive overlap between sections. And it has no summary of key points (the "learning points" at the end of each chapter are nearly worthless), forcing us to build our own summary to create follow up material. In other words, they ignore their own "plan for follow up" rule.
Books cannot be all things to all people but be aware that this book is heavily focused on running a corporate training department. It is not meant to be a book on training design. There is zero information (even in the "deliver for application" chapter) on training design. If you run a training department definately read it. If you just do training, then I'd bet there are better books out there.
There are some reviews here with good summaries of the key points. Read them first and see if you need the book. And don't expect the book to do much useful elaboration on the summary.
An organization's chief learning officer or equivalent must be prepared to answer questions such as these:
What is the ROI of our learning and development programs?
How do you determine that?
If the ROI is unacceptable, what is being done to increase it?
My guess (only a guess) is that similar questions are also asked of those who lead innovation initiatives. The fact remains that in most organizations, board members and CEOs not only expect but indeed demand that every hour and every dollar be committed to helping achieve and then sustain profitable growth and that is especially true of training programs and innovation initiatives. There seems to be little (if any patience) with any costs that cannot be justified in business terms. In this context, I am reminded of a brainstorming session at Southwest Airlines years ago during which someone suggested that a chicken salad treat be given (not sold) to passengers as an expression of appreciation. Then CEO Herb Kelleher is reported to have responded, "Does it help us to continue to be the low-cost airline? If not, then chicken salad is chicken shit." End of discussion.
What Calhoun Wick, Roy Pollock, Andrew Jefferson, and Richard Flanagan (hereinafter referred to as "the authors") offer in this volume is a rigorous and eloquent analysis of what they characterize as "the six disciplines of breakthrough learning." They devote a separate chapter to each discipline, concluding each chapter with one checklist of reminders and action points for learning leaders and another for line leaders. In this context, it may be of interest to at least some of those who read this review that two other authors also recommend comparable disciplines. In Think BIG Act Small, Jason Jenningssuggests that all high-performing companies are led by people who are down to earth, keep their hands dirty, make short-term goals with long-term horizons, let go ("when it's DOA, bury it"), have everyone think and act like an owner, invent new businesses, create win-win situations for everyone involved, choose their competitors, build communities, and grow future leaders. In Six Disciplines for Excellence, Gary Harpst recommends these: Decide What's Important, Set Goals That Lead, Align Systems, Work the Plan, Innovate Purposefully, and Align Systems.
Because learning and development programs are investments by a company in its workforce, the authors acknowledge that management "has a fiduciary and ethical responsibility to ensure that those investments produce a return: results that increase enterprise value." None of what the co-authors call "the 6Ds(tm)" is a head-snapping revelation, nor do they make any such claim. However, in my opinion, they should guide and inform all performance at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise and rigorous measurement and review of performance should be based on them. Exhibit 1.1, the "6Ds(tm) Learning Transfer and Applications Scorecard," provides a diagnostic that enables the reader to evaluate the readiness of a learning program to deliver results. There are other diagnostic exercises inserted throughout the book's narrative. I appreciate the fact that the authors also include a number of mini-case studies based on real-world initiatives by prominent organizations that include Sony Electronics, British Broadcasting Company, Home Depot, and Pfizer. And I also appreciate the series of brief but insightful statements by a CLO or equivalent, called "From the Top," that provide an eyewitness account of specific learning initiatives. The organizations represented include the Center for Creative Leadership, General Mills, University of Notre Dame, Honeywell, and AstraZaneca.
As the title of this book correctly indicates, the emphasis in all of the authors' observations and recommendations is on using various disciplines to achieve breakthroughs in learning that achieve exceptional results. Knowing what not to do is often at least as important as knowing what to do. Kevin Wilde offers a case in point in the Foreword: "A talented and hard-working team designed an air-tight course: activities planned to the minute, world-class external faculty and cutting-edge simulations...all grounded in specific learning objectives. But the team fell short by failing to first clearly identify how the company would benefit from having leaders attend the program. I've been there - so caught up in crafting the excellence of the learning event that we failed to ground everything in the real business case. When that happens, the results leave you heartbroken, far short of the learning breakthrough intended."
The authors are exemplars of pragmatism, of "nailing the fundamentals," when formulating and then launching learning initiatives. They also have bold and compelling visions of breakthroughs in training and development while agreeing with Thomas Edison's observation, "Vision without execution is hallucination." The advice with which Marshall Goldsmith concludes the book will also conclude this review of it. "The designs for learning and development programs should be considered incomplete if they do not include plans to encourage participants to follow through, practice what they have learned, and reach out to colleagues for feed forward ideas and coaching. When those elements are in place to support well-designed and well-delivered learning, then we have all the ingredients for a true transformation. Life is good."
Those who share my regard for this book are urged to check out James Kilts's Doing What Matters, Judgment co-authored by Noel Tichy and Warren Bennis, and Return on Learning co-authored by Donald Vanthournout and his associates on Accenture's Capability Development team as well as Josh Bersin's The Training Measurement Book, Jay Cross's Informal Learning, Gary Hamel's The Future of Management (with Bill Breen), and Ram Charan's Leaders At All Levels as well as Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff's Groundswell, Dean Spitzer's Transforming Performance Measurement, and Enterprise Architecture as Strategy co-authored by Jeanne Ross, Peter Weill, and David Robertson.
Even if learning professionals design superb programs with outstanding content and instructors deliver the material in engaging, compelling ways, these programs unfortunately may not be relevant to actual daily operations. They may lack solid business - as opposed to learning - objectives. Such initiatives may not accomplish what managers intend and will not make your business grow. Calhoun Wick, Roy Pollock, Andrew Jefferson and Richard Flanagan explain how learning officers and training departments can use their "six disciplines" or "6D" approach to increase the effectiveness and impact of training and development programs. They've written a good book - a tad dry but very thorough - that outlines a top-quality program. The authors repeat, a bit too frequently, that training's real payoff occurs in its practical application. getAbstract believes this book will help those who provide, purchase or benefit from corporate training and development.