T&D: Learning Via the Continuum of Formal Training to Un-Structured OJT

Spoiler Alert…


But first…

Some – Not All – Use A Strawman To Set Up Their Punchline

There was not one person I met in the biz – I started in 1979 – who ever said out loud that Training would or should train someone on every aspect of their jobs. None.

I didn’t experience that in the Navy on my ship – a US naval warship – either. Not when I was on the Deck Force for a couple of months or back after my A-School as a Journalist. Or in my jobs before college – during college – or after college. None.

But it’s a reason given by many in the biz nowadays – to shift a focus and emphasis on the Informal from the Formal.

That’s unfortunate IMO. And it’s a Strawman IMO.


But – it’s a THING now.

So – how can the L&D organization better help in the 20 and 70 – which varies in definition so much so often that THAT causes some confusion.

But in any event it’s the Informal learning side of the biz – that back in the early 1980s I had labeled as “Un-Structured OJT” (learn it on the job by hook or by crook – as we used to say) in my Curriculum Architecture Design projects to create performance-based T&D Paths – is to enable it.   The 70 that is. As well as the 20 IMO.

All for the sake of maintaining and/or improving Performance.

Enable It How?

Here are some thoughts on that – in graphic form from a former Blog Post – and note that I’ve FLIPPED the “reference model” to 10-20-70 – because I firmly believe in:

Providing Most 10 Before Most 20 Before Most 70


The Blog Post on that – from November 2017, is – here.

I see both the 10 and 20 and 70 being on a Continuum – of Very Formal to Less Formal.

And I tend to prefer leading with Formal and then sliding to Informal – as staring with Informal almost always creates frustration for folks when they are forced to figure things out for themselves – and that leads to costly (and unnecessary) turnover.

As my former client at Bank of America, Randy Kohout’s LinkedIn Recommendation put it in 2009:

Guy is a true instructional design and performance improvement professional, author and practitioner. While I was working at Bank of America we commissioned Guy and his CADDI team to redesign the three retail bank learning and development programs into one high performing curriculum design. As a result of this work we were able to reduce turnover at the frontline teller positions by an average of 30%. 
Guy’s ethics and proven approach made the effort very cost effective and fast to implement.

I would recommend Guy for his knowledge of human performance technology, for his client service focus and for his business ethics.

Randy Kohout
VP, CUNA Mutual Group

The work done for Randy at BoA was done in 1997 in my former firm: CADDI Inc.

My point is that good 10 – a performance-based 10 – establishes a solid foundation for the 20 and then the 70 – much as the proper preparation I got at DINFOS (Department of Defense Information School) prepared me to figure out the rest of my job back on the USS Okinawa in 1973 – to run the CCTV and AFRTS programming, and produce a ships daily newsletter (when we were at sea and not in port) and edit the Ship’s Cruise Book after our 1973-1974 WestPac.

The 10 Continuum

The Formal 10 – however – so much of the 10 is so poorly done – that it almost doesn’t qualify as Training – as it is often developed without a real understanding of the real world Tasks & Outputs – that it lacks any real ability to transfer back to the job in order to have an Impact or a positive ROI – depending on the prior knowledge and skills of the Target Audience, of course.

That kind of 10 is more Education or Communications than Training IMO. It might create knowledge or awareness – but not skills – again, depending on the Audience, of course.

And inside the Training bucket – I would include Performance Support – formally created and deliberately deployed Performance Support – which has been around since the 1960s. It’s not New School – it’s Old School.

And it’s Formal IMO. Deliberately created and deployed or made accessible – for a specific Performance Context or set of Tasks and Outputs.

A Performance Support Aside

Guidance – circa 1970

Guidance Materials - Rummler-Gilbert at PRAXIS 1970

Job Aids – circa 1985


Performance Support – circa 1995

Gloria Gery

The name has evolved – Consultants do that don’t you know – but the core of the concept hasn’t changed – and again – it’s Old School, not New School, so to speak.

And it was always preached – by Rummler/Gilbert and Harless per my recall of them and their NSPI sessions back in the day – as being Choice #1 for addressing Performance.

And back before Learning was called Training and before that it was called Instruction – Guidance/ Job Aids and Performance Support did exactly that – it provided Instruction.

So my 10 Continuum is: Training – Education – Communications.

Creating: Skills – Knowledge or Awareness.

Flip those “Continuums” if you like. I most often do – from Awareness to Knowledge to Skills … leading to Performance Competence.

I have reviewed/assessed hundreds of sets of existing content for my clients and most content I find was/is focused on Topics and not Tasks.

The Topics almost always have Face Validity – but lack mention of specific Tasks leading to any Practice & Feedback of those Tasks to produce authentic Outputs to Stakeholder Requirements.

That’s why I am in there for my clients – to help them remedy that.

And THAT’S why the 10 has such a poor reputation – besides the Strawman of not addressing everything under the sun for any one job.

If you’ve got performance-based 10 (no kidding) – then I prefer to see –

Most 10 Before Most 20 before Most 70

The 20 Continuum

Getting advice is sometimes a good idea. Depending on the source and their qualifications. Depending on your prior knowledge and skills.

I prefer providing Structured Interview Guides for folks new to the job – again depending on their incoming knowledge and skills based on their education and experience.

Later – after they have more experience – they know what they need, what they know and how to fill the gaps – with the advice from someone else who has credibility.

But one thing that needs to be watched-out-for is that experts operate on Non-Conscious Knowledge – in that they don’t think about everything they do once they’ve mastered it. They operate on Auto-Pilot.

Research has shown that an Expert – who is trying to give all the details – will still miss up to 70% of what a Novice needs. As the old saw goes “I’ve forgotten more than I know.”

That should be concerning to we in L&D/T&D in how we use Experts – Exemplars – master Performers – Top Performers – etc.

Structured Interview Guides can themselves be detailed or loose. They can help get a Learner into the details with an Expert – or just be suggestive of topics and tasks to discuss – or demonstrate.

A Structured Interview Guide that guides the Learner to say/ask: “Tell me about Project Planning” – is loose compared to – “Walk me through your last Project Plan paragraph by paragraph – and tell me why you wrote it up that way.”

So my 20 Continuum is: Highly Structured Interview Guides – to Less-Structured Interview Guides to No Guide Interviews.

The 70 Continuum

Trial & Error – is either informed or uninformed.

As this is Informal Learning – the 70 – it is at best informed by Resources not necessarily created for one’s application – but may be serendipitously a perfect or a close enough fit.

So my 70 Continuum is: Trial & Error using highly Relevant Resources – to Trial & Error using less Relevant Resources – to Trial & Error using no resources (Un-Structured OJT).

My Learning Continuums for 10-20-70

With – again – in mind:

Most 10 Before Most 20 before Most 70

The 10 Continuum: Very Formal performance-based Performance Support and/or Training – to – Education – to – Communications.

The 20 Continuum: Highly Structured Interview Guides – to Less-Structured Interview Guides – to no guide other than one’s own insightful (or not) questions.

The 70 Continuum: Learning by Trial and Error – which might include sourcing some type of guidance/information/instruction even if not formally created for the job one has to do – to winging it and hoping for the best … totally Un-Structured OJT.


Learning in the Workflow?

It’s just not for everything … This from a Past Post:

My ship’s electric switchboard had this nasty habit of catching on fire every once in a while and we all went to General Quarters (Battle Stations) while the Damage Control Parties put out the fire. During the day, in the middle of the night.

So this film resonated with me the first time I saw it.

(See this film at this Past Post – here.)

I showed the following film about the 1967 fire on the USS Forrestal (of John McCain fame BTW) every week and sometimes 3-4 times a week – when we were out at sea. I caught hell for doing so from my fellow travelers everywhere I went on the ship when I wasn’t working.

I won’t type out my response to them here. 

Most 10 Before…

May the Continuum Be With You! And may you too get…

Most 10 Before Most 20 Before Most 70

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