Will Thalheimer’s thinking out loud again, refining models he’s been working with. Specifically, he’s looking at how learning can prompt performance — in other words, how should work-related learning relate to on-the-job performance and the desired results.
Here’s his model (click for a larger version on his site):
I think Will’s focus here is more on what I’ll call scheduled learning (rather than “informal,” which is too loose a term). And that works well in many cases in organizations: if you’re managing properly, then you’re finding out where someone may need or want to gain additional skill; you determine ways that can happen; and — the key part of Will’s model — you connect that learning to the job, both in terms of performance and in terms of desired results.
For example — maybe I want to learn how to create cascading style sheets. Or maybe I want to make technical sales presentations to clients. That’s fine for me as an individual — but in the context of the organization, I need to figure out how that’s going to contribute. Am I trying to gain more responsibility in my current position? Do I want to have different responsibilities in the same general area? Am I trying to take on something entirely new?
And, does this make sense in terms of the organization? For most of the time that I worked for GE Information Services, the bulk of our revenue came from applications that ran on a proprietary operating system GE had developed. Many people had built impressive skills with Mark III, as we called it. In later years, though, both IBM mainframe applications and the PC came along, followed by the web.
As the company’s goals and needs changed, it had less and less use for Mark III skills, no matter how strong they were. If you wanted to stay only in that realm, you were in a sense closing out your own options.
Going back to Will’s chart, one of the additions I’d like to see (and Michele Martin had a similar opinion that I failed to read before adding my own comments) is a column for the learner.
After all, the individual is the pivot point for the performance system. Not only (as Will points out) do learning processionals need to understand business needs, not only do managers need to clarify them, but the individual needs to understand them as they related to that person’s own job.
I have other thoughts on Will’s chart — for example, I am mulling over ways it could reflect not only the somewhat linear sequence of preparation –> learning situation –> on-the-job, but also just-in-time learning.
Maybe it’s it’s just-after-time learning. I’m thinking of unplanned occasions in which the individual realizes he or she needs to learn about something, usually with a timeframe that precludes a more scheduled learning event (like a workshop or synchronous training). That’s much more learner-centric, and the “learning professionals” are not as likely to be able to help unless they’re well informed, flexible, and willing to aid the individual in making intelligent judgments on his or her own.
More on this in a future post.