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Book Review: The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning

What’s the single biggest reason corporate training initiatives fail? Organizations doing training for the sake of training, rather than as a means to achieve specific business outcomes. For this reason, every person who is involved in a corporate training initiative – as a sponsor, leader or participant – should read the book, The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning by Calhoun Wick, Andy Jefferson and Roy Pollock.

This book is a guide for approaching training as a process, to help align training with desired organizational and individual outcomes.  It promotes and outlines a structured view of training, including all aspects of a complete learning experience. It is transformational, and will aid the learners and organizers in any training environment.

There is something of value in this book for senior leaders, middle managers and individual learners of organizations, large and small. It sets expectations, defines the process and provides the measures of achievement that often seem elusive to training efforts.

For a brief description of the specific “D’s” see below:

D1: Define Business Outcomes: Deciding to engage in training should begin with the business results desired, including what the learners should be able to do differently and better to achieve those results. Once everyone involved understands the business value, it allows for greater buy in.

Business outcomes are not the skills participants will achieve with the training; they are the value the participant will gain once they use the skills—such as increased customer satisfaction and increased profitability.

D2: Design the Complete Experience: Converting learning into business results is a process, not a one-time event. During this stage the before, during and after period of formal instruction is completed.

D3: Deliver for Application: What are the sellers supposed to do differently and better?  Well-designed learning experiences use adult learning principles, connecting the learning with real business issues, and motivating learners by answering the question, “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM)

D4: Drive Learning Transfer: Great learning alone is not enough to drive change. Learning and development fails with the lack of serious post training follow through. Putting this in place, and actively encouraging and managing the process ahead of time, will ensure the transfer process from classroom to real-world usage.

D5: Deploy Performance Support: Getting better requires practice, feedback and support. Managers have direct impact on whether the learning is applied or scrapped. This stage is to increase the probability that learners will be successful when they try to apply new skills to their work.

D6: Document Against Business Outcomes: Documenting against the original desired business outcomes is critical to support a cycle of continuous learning, innovation, adaptation and improvement. Make sure you decide (or understand) WHAT to measure before you decide HOW to measure results.

Regardless of your experience or position in an organization, this book offers valuable advice for how to ensure your corporate training initiative is a success.

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