50 suggestions for implementing 70-20-10

50 suggestions for implementing 70-20-10

part 1 of 5                      (Here are Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3 and Part 4 and Part 5)

People learn their jobs by doing their jobs. Effective managers make stretch
assignments and coach their team members. Experience is the teacher, and managers shape those experiences.

These posts offer guidance to managers who want to make learning from experience and conversation more effective. Replacing today’s haphazard approaches with systematic, enlightened management accelerates the development of future workers and gets the entire organization working smarter. The potential is great.

Convergence of work and learning

convergeThe world of business is undergoing a phase change. Work and learning have merged. Earth-shattering forces snuck up on us when we weren’t looking, shifting major responsibilities from the institution to the individual.

Knowledge work has evolved into keeping up and taking advantage of connections. We learn on the job to do the job. In a time of increased business speed, learning is vital. To stay ahead and create more value, you have to learn faster, better, smarter.

The Coherent Organization

As standalone companies realize that they’re really extended enterprises, co-learning with customers and stakeholders becomes important as everyone faces the future together. Players throughout the corporate ecosystem need to be operating on the same wave-length. This can only happen when we’re adapting to the future, i.e. learning, at the same pace.Internally, everyone needs to stay current.

Workers need to know what one another are doing. No matter what silo we inhabit, we all need to be singing from the same hymnal. We may sing different songs (diversity builds strength) but we need be aligned to achieve a common purpose. We call harmonious companies Coherent Organizations.

In the old days, work was mechanical; workers learned the skills and knowledge to do their jobs from training sessions and then performed their job function. They did what they were told. Achieving coherence was easy. Twenty-first century employees do complex, unpredictable work. Their primary job is dealing with situations that are not written in any job description. It’s up to them to figure out what to do. They have to learn on the fly. Often the best way to accomplish the goal is to collaborate with other people.

Social networks, both in-person and online, are democratizing the workplace, and workers have an increasing amount of say in what they learn and how they learn it. Millennials entering the workplace expect to be in charge of their own development. They are used to having information at their fingertips. In high school and college, they did their homework in collaboration with friends, and now they expect to work in collaboration with colleagues.hbr

Traditionally, training departments were designed for mechanical work processes. Instructional designers created curriculum around tried-and-true best practices. Training identified knowledge gaps and delivered courses to close them.

Today most of the information that workers need to know is unstructured and constantly changing. The Internet has switched our company hours to 24/7, and that often means making quick business decisions on a public stage. Hard-copy training material cannot train you to handle unique situations. Traditional training approaches are no longer enough.

Workers and managers have to shoulder responsibility for their own learning.

Does this imply that training departments are obsolete? Quite the contrary. In the coming years, learning and development professionals will have more impact than ever before. Many of them will leave the human resources silo to tackle challenges in a new integrated way across the company. By taking their expertise in learning directly into the organization and working more closely with team leaders, learning and development staff will increase the impact of their learning programs.The advice that follows comes from practitioners, not academics. As chief learning officer at Thomson Reuters, Charles Jennings1 implemented the 70-20-10 model for the firm’s 55,000 employees. Heather Rutherford founded Blended, the Australia-based performance learning company that is the leading distributor of the Harvard ManageMentor program. Charles and Heather are the source of many of the suggestions and stories that follow.Let’s examine the 70-20-10 model, where it came from, how to take advantage of it and the opportunities it presents for learning and development professionals.


Origin of the 70-20-10 model

At its heart, 70-20-10 is all about re-thinking and re-aligning learning and development focus and effort. Morgan McCall, Robert Eichinger and Michael Lombardo originated the 70-20-10 framework at the Center for Creative Leadership in North Carolina. Their 1996 book, The Career Architect2, stated that lessons learned by successful managers came roughly:

• 70 percent from real life and on-the-job experiences, tasks and problem solving

• 20 percent from feedback and working with and observing role models

• 10 percent from courses and reading

As Charles Handy says, “Real learning is not what most of us grew up thinking it was.”702010This simple formulation has gone viral.

You hear about it at every major training conference and read about it in all the learning journals. When I recently shared the 70-20-10 model with a senior group of instructional designers and educational planners, they experienced an “ah-ha” moment.

They realized that they’d been expending their energy in the formal realm, and that the formal accounts for only a small fraction of how people learn. You shouldn’t take this to mean that the 10 percent – formal learning – is going away. Rather, by starting to focus on experiential and collaborative learning too, you can improve your overall learning and development program.3

Without dealing with whether a given situation is 80:15:5 or 60:25:15, this group of instructional designers got the message that leadership development is overwhelmingly experiential. Experiential learning reinforces and boosts the results of formal learning. The 70 and the 20 increase the results from the traditional 10.

The simplicity of the 70-20-10 formulation makes it memorable. The message is that in business, we learn most by doing.70-20-10 is not without its critics. The model is based on observation. It is not a precise formulation like water boiling at 100 degrees Celsius/212 degrees Fahrenheit. Academics and purists complain that there’s no empirical evidence to back up 70-20-10. I counter that my colleagues and I have talked with thousands of managers about 70-20-10 and they agree that the proportions sound about right.

Among the organizations that have adopted the 70:20:10 approach are Nike, Dell, Goldman Sachs, Mars, Maersk, Nokia, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, L’Oréal, Adecco, Banner Health, Bank of America, National Australia Bank, Boston Scientific, American Express, Wrigley, Diageo, BAE Systems, ANZ Bank, Irish Life, HP, Freehills, Caterpillar, Barwon Water, CGU, Coles, Sony Ericsson, Standard Chartered, British Telecom, Westfield, Wal-Mart, Parsons Brinkerhoff, and Coca-Cola.

Charles Jennings made 70:20:10 a guiding philosophy of learning during his eight-year tenure as Chief Learning Officer at Reuters, the world’s largest information company. (Disclosure: Charles and I are colleagues at the Internet Time Alliance. He is the world authority on 70:20:10 and this paper draws heavily on his work.)


Is 70-20-10 good or bad news for trainers?

Imagine that a top executive from your company read an article about 70-20-10 in a Harvard Business Review blog and wondered whether your company should do something with it.

Should you be worried or elated?You have been investing most of your energy in formal learning. That’s what management asked you to do. It’s important; the company cannot live without it. You understand it upside down and backwards. You have probably implemented classes, workshops, online learning, a measurement system and learning events. You believe in these components.

On the other hand, the experiential and exposure parts of the spectrum are virgin territory for you. But the upside of investing in the support of experiential learning, assuming you are successful, is job enrichment, more responsibility, recognition from senior management and career advancement.



My next post will deal with the 70%: Learning from experience.



This paper draws heavily on the work of Charles Jennings, a leading thinker and practitioner in human development, change management, performance improvement and learning. Charles is senior director of the Internet Time Alliance. He has deep experience in both the business and learning practitioner sides of learning and performance. He knows what works in the world of strategic talent and effective performance and productivity approaches.chas

Charles is the Founder of The 70:20:10 Forum, a global membership portal helping professionals implement the 70:20:10 framework to maximize performance and productivity. The Forum offers a vast repository of practical information and connects members with a vibrant global community of fellow practitioners. As part of its social responsibility, the Forum supports projects at Sreepur Village, a refuge in rural Bangladesh for destitute women as well as trafficked or abandoned children.


Another source of inspiration is Heather Rutherford, founder of Blended, an organizational learning solutions company. With a philosophy centered on the 70-20-10 framework, Blended supports clients in implementing a simple and powerful architecture supported by best-practice tools and resources to increase engagement, improve productivity, efficiency and performance.


About the Internet Time Allianceita

The Internet Time Alliance helps clients understand and embrace complexity and adopt new ways of working and learning. We ask the tough questions and explore the underlying assumptions of how they do business. Then we work with them to develop strategies and plans for transformation and improvement. Email me for information on working with the Alliance.


About GoToTraining


Online Training Made Easy™Citrix GoToTraining is an easy-to-use online training service that allows you to move your entire training program online for more efficient customer and employee training. Hold unlimited online training sessions with up to 200 attendees from around the world right from your Mac or PC. Reach more trainees, collect real-time feedback, record and store your training sessions and more – all while slashing travel costs. To learn more, visit www.gototraining.com.

Citrix sponsored the research and writing of much of the material in this set of posts. Please visit CitrixOnline to see the original paper in its entirety.


About the authorjcc

Jay Cross is an author, advocate and raconteur who writes about workplace learning, leadership, organizational change, innovation, technology and the future. His educational white papers, articles and research reports persuade people to take action.

Jay has challenged conventional wisdom about how adults learn since designing the first business degree program offered by the University of Phoenix. A champion of informal learning and systems thinking, Jay’s calling is to create happier, more productive workplaces. He was the first person to use the term eLearning on the web. He literally wrote the book on Informal Learning. He is currently researching the correlation of psychological well-being and performance on the job.

Jay works from the Internet Time Lab in Berkeley, California, high in the hills a dozen miles east of the Golden Gate Bridge and a mile and a half from UC Berkeley. People visit the Lab to spark innovation and think fresh thoughts.He is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Business School.

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