The 1-2-3-4 of Evaluating Learning Investment Opportunities Controversies – Continues

Same As It Ever Was

The latest dust-up started – or restarted – or continued – with this…

Then came this…

A lot of hysteria – and miscommunications – I believe. I hope.

Especially the “you said learning only occurs in the event” writings.

OK, Dan wrote: “Let me be clear – training is not an event; learning is a connected, collaborative and continuous process.”

Hmm. Personally I think “Training is an Event – and/but Learning is continuous – and happens before, during and after an event – or – without any event at all.” But it could just be our semantics.


I know I mis-write at least as often as I mis-speak. Your interpretation of my meaning depends on both you and me. At least that’s what I believe. So please don’t take my words so literally – as I have probably mis-used them in my inadvertant mis-communications. Sorry about that. It wasn’t my intent. That’s why what I learned from Neil Rackham (of SPIN Selling fame) about “testing understanding” and “summarizing” as key communications behaviors are so important. And – the only way to turn around a “Defend-Attack Spiral” as they called it back in 1981 – is to employ those first two communications behaviors. I wrote about that here.

And I am not sure what Statistical Tools now available has to do with it. The slide ruler was used before the handheld calculator – and Deming used them at Western Electric – and then later taught Japan the use of Statistics in Quality Improvement before Kirkpatrick’s model came out in 1954 – and I cannot seem to find it – but I know he himself has written that these didn’t start off as levels – that came later (something I think recall reading that he lamented). Anybody have that reference?

I also believe that you might start with the focus the Performance Requirements and then determine if an investment in formal, informal or both is the way to get there most effectively and efficiently, then determine what to measure both at the end of Training/Learning (or throughout the Event(s)) and back at the ranch/job. More on this in a moment.

I’ve written on this – the 4 levels – before – here.

Let me take another stab – or attempt – at this. I don’t mean to bring a knife to a word fight. At least I think/hope it’s words we are arguing over – and not making it personal – as it seems to have been taken personally.

Shareholders expect leaders to take a fiduciary attitude about their fiduciary responsibilities – about plowing “their returns/their equity” back into the business. Perhaps they’d rather take that equity out as a dividend – than have someone “waste it.”

They want a payoff, right? Whether that pay-off is in dollars, or reduced hunger around the world or in some targeted region. Some kind of return is expected – depending on why they invested in the first, second or third place. Inquiring Investors want to know: So how can we check this out before the check is written? And should we invest in A, or B, or C if we can only afford one? The goal is to forecast the return before making the gut decision. The reason to then measure later – from a shareholder/fiduciary responsibility – is not to “play gotcha” after the fact – but to improve the ability to forecast the return (or lack of return). Too bad many poor managers play gotcha.  Too many in fact.


Is it 4-3-2-1 – or 1-2-3-4 – or 3-4-2-1 

This is the “More on this in a moment” stuff…

Why Measure – Why ROI?

Or ROA, or RONA, or whatever measures the business uses – which is key for me: whatever the business uses to make investment decisions – and refine how they do that for a CI – Continuous Improvement approach to measurement of Investments.

If I am trying to see if one of the components of Learning (the Training/Learning event) is working – I need to figure out how well that piece is working. If my mobile phone is dropping calls I’ve got to figure out if it’s the phone itself, the network itself – or if I’m holding the dang thing wrong while standing in the basement – a combination of the two. And all of the other real-world reasons why it drops the call – such as: time of day when you are making the calls happens to coincide with the time of day when your local cell phone towers get their busiest – and pushes your call to a further away towers/antennas.

That last might be known as Operator Error – for the phone and network aren’t robust to every last possibility – because no one could afford to pay the manufacturers and system operators to make it so robust to all uses and misuses.

Am I digressing?

It would be me if I didn’t. Sorry.

What is needed on-the-job – #3?

What would my returns be for my options (Formal, Informal , or some blend) – #4?

What can I measure along the way, along the Learning Path – or along the Learning/Performance Path – #2?

Do they like it – #1?

But, as ISPIer Roger Chevalier has pointed out to those in his crowd – that’s got little to do with it. In fact – that’s sometimes 180 degrees off. See his article here.

 about the Instructors with some of the worst Level 1 Scores – had student with the best #3 and #4 scores. From his draft article: “In one case, a trainer who was rated in the bottom third of all trainers by his students in Level 1 satisfaction evaluations, was found to be one of the most effective in how his students performed during the first three months after they graduated.”

So perhaps the/a new model could be 3-4-2 without 1.

The Bottom Line

It’s all about the Learner’s ability as a Performer. It’s all about their Performance Competence – as compared to the Performance Competence Requirements. In an Enterprise versus Personal versus Educational Learning Context.

What is needed on-the-job – #3?

What are the means to that end, including Formal, Informal? And in what blend, and in what general sequence “IF” that is important? It usually is for efficiency measures – but still can be overcome by almost any motivated Learner/Performer. You “learned/trained” me in A, then B, then C – when what would have been better was C, then A, then B.

What are the ROI’s (or whatever) for the component pieces of A, and B and C?

Could we do any of those without it being Formal – and more expensive? Could we make do/ get by with something being Informal – much cheaper? Or will the non-ability to actually Perform have a cost that drives us back to Formality?

Is the only way to really learn this well enough/fast enough via Informal means – or is it best done (effectively and efficiently) via Formal means?


There is that need to unlearn. Why is that? How does that play into this?


 Not always – but if you have been in this business long enough – in front of and/or with enough Learners/Performers in their Learning Context – you know that unLearning is sometimes the key to Learning/Performing. And a few times that stuff to be unLearned was from Formal Learning that was wrong – but more often (my guess) is that it was obtained via Informal Learning.

That’s why it so important to do the Analysis of the Performance Competence Requirements as a starting point.


Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

I’ve been in the Learning field since it was truly Training – and when IT stood for Instructional Technology – back when the current IT was MIS. That was 1979. This issue/controversy has been going on since before then. In 1922 Thomas Edison predicted that “the motion picture is destined to revolutionize our educational system and … in a few years it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks.”

Back then in 1979 Video was again going to change education and training. Then that died off. And now it’s back. Same cycle as when Edison declared that the talkies would revolutionize education. Due to mostly the Technology Fanboys and Fangirls. I am one too. I am just tempered a bit having been around this deja vu corner more than once. But shareholders’ expectations of having wise investment decisions being made to guide the plowing back of their equity into the business – for a decent return – has not.

Will the circle be unbroken? Or will it be…

Same as it ever was.

 # # #

One comment on “The 1-2-3-4 of Evaluating Learning Investment Opportunities Controversies – Continues

  1. Pingback: A Popular Strawman – The Evaluation of Training/ Learning/ Knowledge Management « EPPIC – Pursuing Performance

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