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Evolutionary Versus Revolutionary Approaches to Implementing 70:20:10

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Activity Evolutionary vs Revolutionary Approaches ACT0070614.3.docx

This post provides an overview of two approaches to implementing the 70:20:10 framework. It also includes a quick assessment tool you can use to consider the approach that most aligns with your organisation’s context.

There are two basic approaches that organisations have taken to implement 70:20:10.

The first is a ‘revolutionary’ or ‘whole system’ approach where learning and development strategy as a whole is built around the framework.

Development plans and competency models are reconstructed to reflect the framework and HR operating rhythm activities and focus are adapted to support the creation of a culture of continuous learning.

In addition a strategic approach is taken to de-focus time, effort and resources from supporting formal learning.

This occurs whilst maintaining formal courses and programmes where they are proved as the most effective and efficient mechanism for performance improvement and, at the same time, refocusing effort and resource on supporting learning in the workplace.


The second is an ‘evolutionary’ approach where specific areas of development are identified and adapted to reflect the 70:20:10 framework, but wholesale change is not undertaken.

This often involves the reconstruction of specific programme-based formal learning activities – such as leadership development programmes – to incorporate non-course components, particularly post-formal follow-up and involvement from line leaders.

The ‘whole system’ approach is often adopted in situations where there are opportunities to make transformational changes, such as during merger and acquisition activity or when other major organisational changes are being undertaken.

The ‘evolutionary’ approach is often adopted where transformation is more long-term. Piloting of 70:20:10 is often undertaken where there is a requirement to ‘test the water’ in terms of gathering feedback and data to demonstrate real benefits in one specific organisational context. This approach can be powerful in terms of developing experience in the approach as well as getting ‘runs on the board’ and building advocacy that can support a broader business case for change.

Either way, a strategic plan is required and each of the four requirements needs to be met. Even if an evolutionary ‘test-the-water’ approach is taken it is important that this is done in the context of future potential if it is going to fully serve its purpose.

“If HR and Talent Development Strategy is aligned with business – the result is up to 250% increase in organisational performance compared to those with more tactical/transactional HR/Talent/L&D functions”. - Dave Ulrich & Wayne Brockbank, RLB Group Research

Where a ‘whole system’ transformation is to be undertaken, it is important that plenty of thought is given to alignment with overall organisational strategy as well as with HR and talent strategies.

Take Action

Use the attached quick assessment tool to consider your organisation’s context and to explore the suitability of an evolutionary or revolutionary implementation approach.

The activity will help you to review the broader agenda for change or transformation in your organisation and to consider your organisation’s current learning culture and worker perceptions of training, development and performance.

Explore Further

A number of free and member only resources can be accessed via the Forum’s Toolkit to explore further or to apply the results of the quick assessment. Consider the below as a starting point:


Have you conducted this activity and if so, what were your results and what were your next steps? What approach are you taking to implement 70:20:10 and what advice do you have for others seeking to undertake this activity or for implementing either of the two approaches?  

Why not share your reflections, questions and experiences with our community. 


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1 comment

Revolution verse evolution - this assessment helped in supporting the most suitable approach for implementing our planned work based project. Initial, at the time of developing our scope the team’s aspiration was an all of institute performance improvement project – a great aspiration, but not a realistic approach. Completing and reflecting on outcomes of this easy to use assessment which for me, resulted in 13 to the left and 8 to the right of the assessment grid confirmed, along with guidance from senior stakeholders that an evolutionary approach would be the best chance for achieving a sustainable tangible and continuing performance outcome. Within our context or work the approach needed:

  • to align with our roles as operational managers opposed to organisational learning and development managers.
  • to be practical, within existing resources and achievable – taking advantage and leveraging  off other activities especially related to team coordinator leadership development and our own leadership development programs.
  • to be implementable in ‘real time during real work using existing workers’, at the same time as the long term transformation of our organisation.
  • to be the most suitable approach that would align with our teams adoption and practice of – Experience:70 and Exposure:20  components of the framework and contribute to their development and adoption of workplace cultural change – the need for speed, competing priorities, achieve more with less .

What happened?

With more clarity on an approach for implementing 70:20:10 and our scope developed, we decided to initiate three pilot projects focusing on different areas of the organisation, but all related to enhancing the customer experience.

I’d be very keen to hear from others who have used this assessment to clarify their approach and whether during your assessment you also considered the organisational environment as I did above. Especially organisations undergoing change, but were core business activities and standards must be maintained to stay at the front of the line.