T&D: Revisiting The Shifts in the 70-20-10 Reference Model

The Current State Isn’t Often Thought of As the Ideal State

I’m not a big fan of the Reference Model 70-20-10 – and I have posted about it for years – including my version of the Flipped model…


For those following this Blog you’ve seen my Blog Series on “Flip It Friday” where I tried to make a case for flipping that Reference Model to 10-20-70 – to provide Most 10 Before Most 20 Before Most 70 – to help people avoid inadvertently learning poor practices – especially when the performance is of Significant Consequences – both good or bad  – which are flip sides of the same coin – IMO.

But it was pointed out to me yesterday on LinkedIn that I am classifying Performance Support differently than some. I see it in the 10 and others see it in the 70.


Years ago, the Reference Model, as it has been labeled, meant something different than it does (to some) today. Whereas it used to be framed as – where does/should “learning” come from – with the answer provided from the Reference Model’s origins as:

  • 70% Learning from Challenging Assignments
  • 20% Learning from Others
  • 10% Learning from Coursework

In the late 1980s, 191 Executives were asked where they thought they learned things from, that led to their success – The Lessons of Success*. Their responses were eventually summarized into the three groupings above.

* https://charles-jennings.blogspot.com/2017/07/70-20-10-origin-research-purpose_10.html

It seemed to validate the notion of Informal Learning was how we learned most of what we know. That’s fine. And true.


Shifts Happen

The point of my Post today – is that the 70 has shifted in meaning – and IMO it’s much like the Sooners of yesteryear in America – and some have been doing the equivalent of Land Grab – again IMO. Your O may differ.


The 70 now includes – for some – the use of Performance Support – otherwise known in previous decades as Guidance (in the 1960s for followers of the late Geary A. Rummler and Tom Gilbert), or later, as Job Aids (in the 1970s for the followers of the late Joe Harless).

To me that is quite different – a stretch – some might say – from Learning from Challenging Assignments. Which is an Informal Learning approach. A Trial & Error approach. A Discovery Learning approach as it were. Using whatever resources one could get their hands on.

But To Now Include Performance Support?

Performance Support – or Guidance – or Job Aids – are engineered and built with intent.

A Performance intent. Which to me is quite Formal – regardless of the place learned or used.


Performance Support

Some Performance Support is OK as a standalone – when the user/Performer has enough Prior Knowledge to take advantage of the guidance. And when the Consequences for mistakes (errors) are of little consequence and are tolerable. Such as you doing some household repairs using some YouTube advise.

Use of that Guidance and some mistakes may be tolerable and worth attempting to DIY – Do-It-Yourself.

Unless of course it’s tricky electrical work and your awareness of your own lack of Prior Knowledge and the Consequences for errors is known and sufficient for you to call a professional.


Other Performance Support is not OK as a standalone – even if the user/Performer has tons of Prior Knowledge to take advantage of the guidance – as the nuances of the Performance and/or the Consequences for poor performance are intolerable. Such as an airline pilot using her Pre-Flight Checklist to inspect the aircraft prior to taxiing to the runway for takeoff.

Use of that Job Aid was probably covered extensively in Formal T&D and practiced sufficiently – and then practiced some more routinely – as the Consequences for poor performance are intolerable.


Modes & Media

Since 1981 – when I was at MTEC – Motorola’s Training & Education Center – I have tried to move as much of my Content into Self-Paced Modes and Media – to improve the accessibility and timing for the benefit of the organization for both Initial development and Spaced Reinforcements.

The MTEC team I was on was challenged to do so by our leader – Bill Wiggenhorn – who had been challenged by the Motorola leadership to do so.

And to couple that where needed to Coached or Group-Paced efforts soon afterwards – for Practice w/ Feedback. Where the Consequences for poor performance dictated such an approach.

My first CAD – Curriculum Architecture Design effort was done at MTEC in 1981 for my Manufacturing Supervisors – across 5 Business Sectors (SBUs). It was all Self-Paced and Coached on-the-job – or near enough to call it on-the-job. No classrooms need apply – so to speak.

My clients – Manufacturing Operations Managers, the MOMs – hated it at first – because they wanted learning to be a hand-holding affair. But when they saw the first module produced for that T&D Path back in 1981 – and they realized that T&D could be JIT – Just In Time too – they bought in.


I’m all for T&D – Formal where the situation calls for it – where the stakes are high – based on the Consequences of good or poor performance – and Informal where the Risks and Rewards are low.

So depending on where you place Performance Support – I’m OK with 70-20-10 or 10-20-70 – other than the numbers themselves.

# # #

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.