Putting the 70-20 in the 10 (Teresa Roche) - Guest Blog

I have a confession to make.   I have been talking about 70:20:10 for many years and thought I understood what it meant however I continue to find myself in numerous occasions where I feel as if I am learning about it for the first time.   The first myth I had to bust for myself was that I spoke about it as a prescriptive strategy and not as a descriptive one.   That was not my intention however it did point to my lack of real understanding about it.   The second myth I had to let go of was that how I would talk about it as if the development approaches of 70:20:10 were segmented where the real value is in seeing how they can and should be interdependent and integrated.  

The irony is that my team at Agilent Technologies were implementing it in a systemic, integrated way and until we were asked to tell our story about our 70:20:10 journey did I finally “see” what we were really doing and could now make more explicit.    In many ways, we were learning through our experiences in our work.  Imagine that!

As my colleague Sally Nowak and I spent time talking about what we had been doing in preparation for sharing our approach, she pointed out to me how we had woven the “learning from experience—the 70” and “developmental relationships—the 20” into many of our “enterprise leadership programs—the 10.”    We had not separated them in our implementation and yet my words did not reflect our reality.

I simply had not thought deeply enough about what we were doing.    

In the beginning of our time together, my team and I outlined strategic principles that would guide all of our development work:

  • Optimise learning that features integrated, business-focused, applied learning.
  • Involve learners and their managers to reinforce accountability for applying the learning.
  • Engage leaders to develop other leaders through their effective participation in all phases of development.
  • Cause learner engagement through compelling methods and content.
  • Create conversation through various forms of interaction.

We also utilised the work of Rob Brinkerhoff and created impact maps and designed each global program using the three phases of development including pre, during and post.   By doing this we were able to ensure participants came ready to work on results that mattered to them, and we also built in peer coaching and dialogues with their managers and/or coaches.   We took time to think about transfer and application before participants were even invited to any of our enterprise offerings.   Our mantra was “make learning a part of work, not apart from.”

I would like to think I missed the obvious as we also did significant work helping our leaders at all levels from individual contributors to executives understand where development happens and how to extract learning from their work in more conscious ways.   I had originally considered this work to be where we really helped others understand how experience is the best way for people to develop and that learning is always possible in a ubiquitous and personalized way in every conversation about work.    In a book that has a wealth of relevant and useful information in it, Experience – Driven Leader Development by McCauley, DeRue, Yost and Taylor published in 2014, the questions we have taught our leaders to ask before, during and after a work assignment was featured.  

I allowed myself to not look at the whole of various strategies for development.

Being asked to zoom out and speak about our results by Heather Rutherford really helped me understand more fully what was happening and how we were building the 70 and 20 into the 10.  Taking time to reflect even more about how we were thinking and acting and talking about this in conversations really helped.    This is why saying yes to requests to speak is invaluable as it affords one the change to take time, reflect and comprehend at deeper levels.

The beauty of 70:20:10 is when it is seen as integrated and one speaks about it descriptively.   I almost missed the opportunity to fully realize what we were doing and am grateful that Heather asked us to talk about our efforts in developing others.   

I now encourage people to first think about what is already happening in their organizations or what they may actually being doing in their development programs as a way to build from versus assume there is no foundation.  

As a final thought, I often wonder if those of us in the field have spent too much time talking about whether something is formal or informal, blended or not.   If learning is happening does it matter what we call it?   And honestly, our colleagues do not say, “I am now in formal learning or informal learning.”   They care mostly about whether they have new insight to apply or specific actions to take that will have a positive effect on their relationships and work.

I know sometimes separating something into components and using language to do so helps and yet I have personally learned that when I do that and then do not step back to see the larger picture I may be missing a remarkable view.

Teresa Roche is Vice President and Chief Learning Officer at Agilent Technologies, Inc.  In this role, she is the lead architect and portfolio manager for the company’s leadership development solutions.   Teresa has a passion for collaboration and learning as she is interested in how individuals and organizations develop the capability to interpret an evolving and complex environment in order to take effective action.  
Find Teresa on Twitter: @teresaroche    



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