All Learning Starts As Informal Learning

All Learning starts as Informal – until someone decides to make it more Formal – and hopefully they’ve considered the Worth of doing so. And Invest accordingly.

I borrowed a couple of key concepts from the TQM movement back in the late 1980s regarding the CONC and COC – the Costs of Non-Conformance and the Costs of Conformance – which align perfectly to the R and the I in ROI – Return on Investment.

I believe it was the late quality guru, Phillip Crosby, who gave us CONC and COC.

Cost of Nonconformance and ROI for Training Projects _ASTD – 1991 – 9 page PDF of the original  article submitted and published in ASTD’s Technical & Skills Journal in their May-June 1991 issue under the title: Costing Out a Training Project – 1991 – Wallace (which it did not address). This presents an alternative approach for determining ROI that was unique to one of my client’s situation, and proxy for ROI: RONA – using the quality concepts of Cost of Non-Conformance and the Costs of Conformance in place of returns and Investments respectively.

One of the key questions I see necessary on the front end is:

Does the Performance Context “demand” a Memorized Performance Response – or does it “allow for” a Referenced Performance Response?

The key thought is – can we avoid forcing people to memorize things that their jobs don’t require to be memorized?

Informal Learning – isn’t simply “one thing” – as it includes TAEL: Trial & Error Learning on the most informal end of the continuum – to searching for and using References and Resources that might (or might not) be relevant enough to the need.

Sometimes those References and Resources have been “architected or engineered” to address some general or specific context. Sometimes they address general awareness, knowledge or skills – or the less-to-more specific Performance of Tasks to produce Outputs to meet Stakeholder Requirements.

My 3 Modes of Instruction (since the early 1980s) have been:

  • Self-Paced
  • Coached
  • Group-Paced

They reflect (or they used to) reflect the ease and speed to get to them, the less-to-more cost profile.

Coached – used when Self-Paced isn’t sufficient and personalization is needed and feedback is needed for “Practice and Feedback” on the job, or in some other venue; and when Group-Paced – which needs to be scheduled – isn’t timely.

Coached – to me anyway – is Social Learning – and on a continuum from Informal to Formal.

To support the less Formal – the more Informal – end of the Coached Continuum – the L&D function can advocate for various types of support.

Some things needed in order to Perform – are static and some things are dynamic.

When what’s needed – in the Process flow is dynamic – the specifics can be referenced and then forgotten. Not everything has to be memorized – except perhaps where and how to reference it.

Early on I was aware that Instruction would not address all of the Performance Variables – thanks to being given on Day 1 in my first job out of college at Wickes Lumber in Saginaw Michigan in August of 1979 – these three resources:

I was told that we would be using a derivative of a derivative of the Geary Rummler approach to Instructional Analysis – and that our default would be to provide Guidance instead of Training. I had no idea who he was – but I soon learned.

My new boss and my one peer in the Program Development unit of our 10-person Training Services organization at Wickes, had only weeks earlier come from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Detroit where they had worked alongside Geary Rummler’s brother, Rick. They were brand new to Wickes.

Also in that 10 person organization was Geary Rummler’s brother-in-law, who was instrumental in finding these two new members of the staff.

However, neither my boss or peer had worked in the lumber business, while I had 2.5 years experience in Inside Sales at the Lumber Center in Lawrence Kansas. That was my value add – plus my Radio-TV-Film degree which would help my as a Program Developer – who would conduct Analysis, then Design, then Development of a Video Script and the ancillary materials for a Video-Based set of Instruction for field personnel at the Lumber Centers across North America.

So I was inundated with a Performance Orientation – from Day 1 – a focus on Outputs beyond Tasks and Behaviors – well well well beyond Topics with “Face Validity” but lacking any “Performance Validity” – so there would not be negative ROI at the end of that tunnel.

Back to: our default would be to provide Guidance instead of Training

No it would not. Our clients, mainly the Marketing Organization at Wickes – simply hated the idea.

So I learned Sneaky Trick #47 – which was to dummy up (shut up) about Guidance – which we called Job Aids – and simply embed them in the Training Materials that went out along with our 15-munte (max) Videos. Our key audience was Inside Salespeople – which I had been. But I also had worked with our Construction Sales People, and our Inventory Clerk (helping out when he was sick or on vacation).

So when I worked on ISD efforts for them – we also built Job Aids for use during their Performance – now known as in the WorkFlow.

This video is 2:13 minutes in length.

The Only Thing That’s Changed Since 1979 IMX

Not much has changed (in my view/experience) of the technology – the application of science – regarding Instructional Analysis, Design and Development. It hasn’t changed much – and the adoption of those Practices hasn’t been wide and deep. Same as it ever was.

In my view – since 1979 – the only thing that’s really changed in performance-based ISD is the computer technology that enables our work and then allows us to deploy Instruction and/or make it accessible.

Focus on Performance – and Enable That

That’s the way to differentiate yourself in a marketplace chock full of practitioners practicing anything but valid ISD Practices for Measured Results. They’re very busy focused on Measured Activities.

YOU just might have a major head start in a crowded field.


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