70-20-10

50 suggestions for implementing 70-20-10

Things should be as simple as possible, but no simpler. implementing 70-20-10 is not simple. Sharing 50 suggestions on putting 70-20-10 to work has consumed five posts spread over two months. Today the series is complete. Here’s what you’ll find:

Post 1   Post 2   Post 3   Post 4   Post 5

Post 1 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 their teammembers’ experiences. Knowledge work has evolved into keeping up and taking advantage of connections. We learn to do the job on the job. To stay ahead and create more value, you have to learn faster, better, smarter.

The Coherent OrganizationAs 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.

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 entireorganization working smarter. The potential is great.

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 these posts draw heavily on his work.)

Post 2 The 70 percent: learning from experience. People learn by doing. We learn from experience and achieve mastery through practice. Experience is a difficult task master. We learn more from making a mistake than from getting it right the first time. That’s why wise managers throw team members into stretch assignments. It accelerates learning. Being ejected from one’s comfort zone is why some say that the only thing worse than learning from experience is not learning from experience. Matching the most appropriately challenging experience to the developmental stage of the worker is the most powerful lever in the manager’s toolbox.

Charles Jennings reports that performance inevitably improves when managers ask their team members these three simple reflective questions:

  1. What are your reflections on what you’ve been doing since we last met.
  2. What would you do differently next time?
  3. What have you learned since we last met?

Post 3 The 20 percent: learning through others. Learning is social. People learn with and through others.

Conversations are the stem cells of learning. Effective managers encourage their team members to buddy up on projects, to shadow others and to participate in professional social networks. People learn more in an environment that encourages conversation, so make sure you’re fostering an environment where people talk to each other.

A Community of Practice (CoP) is a social network of people who identify with one another professionally (e.g. designers of logic chips) or have mutual interests (e.g. amateur photographers). Members of CoPs develop and share knowledge, values, recommendations and standards. An effective community of practice is like a beehive. It organizes itself, buzzes with activity and produces honey for the markets.

Post 4 Formal learning includes courses, workshops, seminars, online learning and certification training. Unfortunately, a lot of organizations aren’t using online learning to its full potential, and the results at those organizations reflect that. Learning expert Robert Brinkerhoff figures only about 15 percent of formal training lessons change behavior.12 This is a reflection of both formal learning creation and of the lack of focus on experiential and exposure learning. If what we learn is not reinforced with reflection and application, the lessons never make it into long-term memory.

Formal learning is typically conducted by an instructor. So why do we address it in a paper on managers? Because managers can make or break the success of formal learning programs. Research has found that the most important factor in translating formal learning into improved performance is the expectation set by managers before the training takes place13. Understanding the needs of the learners and following up after the event are also essential for formal learning success.

Post 5 You will need to become a champion for the new approach to developing talent. You must convince your sponsor that managers and supervisors are the linchpins to developing new talent. Without them, the company could find itself with nobody on the bench to take on future challenges. For your career, this lead role is high risk/high reward.

Managers have to learn how to develop their people. It doesn’t always come naturally, and managers can get too busy to pay much attention to it. Let them know you don’t expect them to train their people. Rather, they will set examples for their team; they will foster experiential learning by leading their team to tackle new challenges (the 70), by helping them reflect on the lessons of experience and by coaching them at every step (the 20), and by showing them how to get formal learning on the subject (the 10).

The Learning and Development Roundtable of the Corporate Leadership Council pinpointed three management practices that significantly improve performance.

  1. Setting clear expectations and explaining how performance will be measured.
  2. Providing stretch experiences that help their team members learn and develop.
  3. Taking time to reflect and help team members learn from experience.

Managers who set clear objectives and expectations and explain how they measure performance are much more likely to succeed. Their teams outperform their peers by 20%. That’s an extra day every week to get the job done (and engage in deep learning). Managers should make explicit why they’re assigning particular projects, what they expect people to learn and what sort of debrief will occur after the assignment.

The 70-20-10 model depends on L&D teaming up with managers to improve learning across the company, but often managers do not appreciate how vitally important they are in growing their people. This is the absolute, must-do secret to success to improving learning and development. Frontline managers must take this as the very definition of manager: someone who develops others by challenging them with assignments that stretch them to the point of flow17. This takes a can-do manager who knows how coaching creates mental models and habits, how motivation activates a chain of high-performance activities and what success habits their team members need to adopt.

Charles Jennings says that the role that managers play is far more important than that of Learning and Development or HR. Your role is to help managers learn that:

  • People learn from experience.
  • Managers shape the experience of the people on their team.
  • Experience coupled with reflection sticks lessons in memory.
  • Daily mid-course correction is much more powerful than after-the-fact reviews.
  • Every project they assign is a potential learning experience for their team members.

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