We’re No. 1!” “Three strikes and you’re out.” “Six of one, half a dozen of another.”
1. Kirkpatrick and Phillip’s “5 Levels of Evaluation”
2. McCall, Lombardo, and Morrison’s (supposedly) “70-20-10 Model”
3. Conrad Gottfredson’s “5 Moments of Learning Need”
For many, these have been grounding and defining moments. They have given our industry a powerful way to have a collective conversation around complex and abstract concepts. At the same time there is a dark side to all this: In our industry, we get ourselves into trouble by creating more questions than answers.
There are a few things we need to be careful about. The first is one of my pet peeves with our industry. We often put sizzle ahead of substance. Each of these expressions says a mouthful offering amazing promise and impact. I have seen many of these in five-year plans and strategies, and these were by senior leaders outside the learning domain — CEOs and others in the C-suite.
On the one hand, that’s a good thing. It shows that these frameworks resonate and align to their way of thinking and, more importantly, their view of what’s strategic to the business. The challenging part is they then look to the chief learning officer to implement them. There lies the problem.
Candidly, I’ve talked to many who get the numbers but have no idea now to achieve them. Many of these frameworks don’t align to our skill set, products and methodologies. If you compare them with much of what we offer, we come up short on all three. We need to rethink our approaches and solutions within our own industry before we elevate these to the boardroom. There’s power in this community. We need to spend some time together working these things out.
The second issue is around the numbers themselves. I’ve seen two interesting things happen every time we introduce one of these things. First, we get caught up in the numbers themselves. Many of these frameworks are just that — frameworks. They are highly conceptual or theoretical models. They are principles, not rules. They are meant to guide ahigher-level conversation supported by a lower-level set of details and logistics. Achieving these things within your enterprise will vet the numbers. Hassling over “Is the 70 really 80?” or “Isn’t learning moment three a lot like learning moment four?” gets us nowhere and never was the point.
Guidelines are just that. They are meant to guide, not dictate. Only when a gifted learning leader peels back the layers in these frameworks and makes them work within their context do the real numbers materialize. Again, it’s not about the numbers — it’s the implementation and results that matter. Each will manifest differently within each organization.
The next issue I’ve seen is the result of numbering something in the first place. A numbered list implies two things: sequence and ranking. In the case of the aforementioned frameworks, being No. 1 or working on it first does not serve any of these models.
For example, I’ve talked to many learning professionals attempting to implement the five levels of learning and when I ask how they’re doing, I hear, “We’re finalizing the first two and moving on to the last three next.” That’s not the approach. In Gottfredson’s model, he would argue the entire purpose of this approach is to focus on moment three — the moment of apply — first, and leave moments one and two until last. Again, this gets back to better understanding the principles before we take them to a practical level.
So, what’s in a number? In this case, frankly, not much. Guidelines and frameworks are just the beginning as we work to reach our learners in amazing ways, in and of the workflow. We each need to find a way to make the math work in our learning teams. The better we can integrate and internalize these approaches at an operational level, the greater chance we have of benefiting from them.