Learning About When and Where Learning Has Nothing To Do With It

It Ain’t The People – Stupid!

To paraphrase a USA-centric cultural/political reference from the 1990s.

It’s Most Often Something Else

But the Wisdom of the Crowd – our personal Crowds – our PKN – might have led us to believe – by the absence of their framing that “Learning Is But One Solution of Many, To One Variable of Performance” – in what they write and say.

They lead us astray but what they leave out. Not deliberately. But nonetheless.

Case in Point on My supposition here: That Learning addresses but one variable…

Earlier this year Brett Christensen and I published an article on:

Chasing Down the Elusive Credits for Facts and Fictions in Learning and Improvement

We were taking on the popular notion that:

Only 20 percent of performance issues are rooted in the individual versus the system (or environment).

“Who said and where are their data on that?”

And of course, my favorite: “And data is plural!”

That article is available for free at elearn Magazine online – here.

It’s the Process Silly

Enough of the Stupid word: Stupid.

It’s most often an issue of ignorance, being uninformed.

In 33 years of doing this gig, this performance-based Learning gig – I have found that most often:

It’s the Process.

My first clue is after I’ve asked about Process – for I start there or soon steer to there – people respond with something along the lines of:

What day is it?

Meaning: different day, different process.

Meaning: there isn’t “one.”

Ah, I reply while shifting in my head all of my initial questions I had intended to pose to the interviewee, off of “why don’t the performers know any better than to screw (a technical term) this up – to tell me more about that.

Then it’s important to figure out what those, with experience, think the Process “ought to be.”

And that’s only 1 of my 12 variables – or should those be 12 Boxes? :)

Next Up – Either the People Stuff or the Environmental Stuff

I start with the people stuff if my client is expecting Training/ Learning – and they are with me – otherwise I skip to the non-human stuff, humanist that I try to be.

My view of Human Variables are in this next graphic – and yes, your model/ frame/ diagnostic approach may vary.

Without a doubt.

I use the word Asset – even though many others, humanists themselves – seem to cringe when I use that.

I am attempting to make it all non-personal. For my clients. Who are often used to thinking of assets deployed here and there to get some impersonal job done.

They may very well understand their world in terms of Asset Management – having been brought up with MRP, MRP II, or ERP – and RONA – Return on Net Assets – a variation in ROI that’s perhaps more meaningful to them – and helpful to me and us as we try to decide what’s worth solving/addressing. It’s not personal, it’s business.

And at some point – it is all about them.

At least to start – and probably at the end.

But somewhere in the middle – it’s about all this other stuff. The Process and its variables. My 12 Boxes. Check Boxes if you will.

To check off as I decide – with my client if I can arrange that – which variables have the most leverage for getting from here – the current state – to there – the future state. An Investment for a sufficient Return. Using ROI or RONA or whatever they need to use.

Even ROE – but not that quack Return on Engagement – ’cause to any/every CFO – ROE is Return on Equity. Don’t embarrass yourself.

You may need otherwise to seek happiness elsewhere after self-tarnishing your reputation as a non-Business Person/champion and establish yourself as a Uninformed Learning/Engagement champion.

But I digress.

Then Next – Either the People Stuff or the Environmental Stuff

Whatever is left over – as you navigated through the 12 variables – as you saw most appropriate.

And then proved to yourself that I guess that works – or you prove to yourself: wrong sequence.


Check off all 12 Boxes/ Circles/ Variables.

What is at the Root of the Issue – Issue being either a Problem – or an Opportunity – or both.

Which Variables have some promise for a Return greater than the Investment Costs.

Think: Pareto.

EPPI – Enterprise Process Performance Improvement

I was luckily taught the importance of Process – by the late Geary A. Rummler, informally in 1979 and formally in 1981/2 – and formally at every NSPI/ISPI Conference from 1980 until his passing in October 2008.

I always sat in the front row, for my Rummler Booster Shot.

My recommendation to you:

Find where you can learn about Process performance – within Enterprise performance – and using Human performance. For the good of everyone, Mega-wise, Social Responsibility-wise.

Get yourself Process-wise.

There are many good sources.

And learn how to use what you learn  in your approach to Analysis. Instructional. Learning. Knowledge Management. Process. Organizational Performance.

And avoid Analysis Paralysis.

When Is Learning Without a Doubt Part of the Need?

Is it ever?

Yes, it is, when the Learner is New to the Job.

Otherwise, be careful. Be suspicious – but never directly challenging – unless, of course, it is appropriate, situationally, to be most direct.

As Always – It Depends.

I Was Lucky To Have This Insight Given To Me

It was 1979.

When I was new to the job – of Instructional Designer – I was a Program Developer for Wickes Lumber in Saginaw Michigan.

I didn’t have to unLearn something to Learn this.

What a Godsend! No Forgetting Curve by Design.

My forgetting curve is real. Mostly on who to credit for what I have learned.

I learned initially from the published works of: Mager, Rummler and Gilbert. Later, soon, came Harless.

The first book I was given in my job right after college, is now part of the Mager 6 Pack – the one titled:

Analyzing Performance Problems (or You Really Oughta Wanna).

Perhaps you should add this to your reading list.

And get ‘er done.

BTW – I now have my own 6 Pack on PACT – and on EPPI.

For more about these 6 books of mine – available as Paperbacks and as Kindles – please go here.

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