A practical guide to implementing the 5As Framework for making any learning and change intervention in organizations successful.
5As Framework for Increasing Impact of Training Sean Murray interviews Steve Gill about the 5As Framework for achieving business impact from training. This is a 45 minute Webinar with several audience polls and responses to chat room questions from audience.
I had the good fortune to vacation in Spain the past few weeks. While in Barcelona, I took this photo in the Picasso Museum.
Banksy, the graffiti artist, engraved a large stone with a quote from Picasso and then crossed out Picasso's name and put his own. Both Picasso and Banksy were trying to say that one kind of creativity is presenting art in new and different ways. Picasso did this with his riffs on paintings by Velazquez and others. Banksy does this with his parodies of popular and commercial art.
It occurred to me that those of us who create tools for organizational learning and improvement also stand on the shoulders of the talented people who came before us. Kurt Lewin, Ronald Lippitt, Peter Drucker, Chris Argyris, Donald Schon, and many others, contributed the theories, tools, and techniques that are now part of every effective consultant's and trainer's storehouse. We have "stolen" their art out of respect and made it our own.
You don’t get as much value as you should out of your organization’s training and development programs In fact, the number of trainees who apply new learning in their organizations is estimated to be only about 15% to 20%. That is a sad state of affairs. The 5As Framework is a solution to this problem.
The 5As Framework is an easy to remember aid for ensuring that any learning intervention, whether classroom training, elearning, coaching and mentoring, self-directed study, internships, etc., results in participants applying what they have learned in their organizations. The Framework was created by Sean Murray and myself to help trainers and managers get more out of their investment in training and development programs.
Interest in the 5As Framework has increased recently. In part, this is because of an online course I am facilitating for ASTD titled, Developing an Organizational Learning Culture, and because of a presentation I gave in the ZingTrain Speaker Series. I want interested readers of this blog to easily find information about the 5As Framework. Therefore, I am summarizing information in this post.
Josh Bersin writes in a recent blog post titled, Why Companies Need a Chief Learning Architect, that the technology of learning (digital and otherwise) has become so disorganized, dis-integrated, and confusing in large companies that they need someone to have responsibility for managing all of the learning resources.
Learning management systems, MOOCs, simulation tools, content management systems, new content providers, social profiles, collaborative learning, video sharing, mobile learning, on-demand learning, new forms of assessment, and the use of Big Data are all changing rapidly. And companies are spending more money on training (up 15% this last year)…Added to this is the fact that most large corporations have somewhat of a "mess" in their corporate learning infrastructure.
I agree with Bersin that companies need to do a better job of integrating their various learning technologies and collaborating among departments on selection and implementation of learning interventions, but I don’t agree that a chief learning architect is the solution. As I have written before, learning is everyone’s responsibility. By putting learning resources in the control of a centralized executive, we further marginalize the activity.
Bersin’s analogy to architecture doesn’t fit in this case. He writes, “Just like great buildings, cities, and countries are designed by architects, so is great learning.” But great learning is designed by learners in collaboration with their bosses. Great learning is tailored to the needs and circumstances of the learner and supported by the culture of the organization. Great learning makes a difference in individual, team, and whole organization performance.
The architect’s goal is to design the best solution for the most people based on a current view of the future. They can’t be successful if it’s a moving target. The learning needs of employees are changing so fast that someone distant from the situation cannot know what new knowledge, skills, and abilities, as well as the formal and informal training and development methods, are required at any point in time.
I believe we should stop looking for a savior to solve every problem (i.e., chief of learning, chief of innovation, chief of creativity, chief of process improvement) and start holding every executive and manager accountable for developing their employees and improving performance. Applying the appropriate technology is simply one of the means that each of these leaders can use to that end.
Leaders need tools (See: ASTD Workforce Development Blog). Just as a carpenter wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint, saw, hammer, and screwdriver, a leader shouldn’t try to build an organization without the methods and processes that facilitate organizational learning and change.
A useful strategic leadership tool could be an assessment instrument, a visioning process, a strategic planning map, decision-making steps, a feedback structure, or any aid that helps a leader facilitate improvement of individual, team, and organizational performance. Of course, it's not the tool but how it is used that makes the difference.
By using strategic leadership tools effectively, organizations benefit in at least seven ways:
Employee attention is focused on the same strategic task; their priorities become less scattered and diffused which increases the likelihood that you will get the best thinking
Everyone is clear about the beginning and end to the task as defined by the tool; they are not wasting energy on figuring out where to start and when to end
Participation and interaction increases as everyone’s Ideas and solutions are made visible through the structure
Stakeholders are all using the same language in doing the work; terms are defined within the context of the tool which promotes understanding
The task is no longer personal; it’s about following the tool’s process to achieve organizational success; it's not about any one person’s agenda
People who need a lot of structure in order to feel comfortable, have structure
People who need permission to be open and honest, have it; the structured process gives them that permission
It’s not that you can’t find tools in organizations. The problem is that usually they are owned by HR, or Training, or Quality Control, or some other department and are not used for learning and change by management. We need to get these tools into the hands of leaders so that the entire organization can benefit.
It seems to me that we are witnessing a profound shift in thinking about how companies should be organized and managed. It would be easy to trivialize this movement by attributing the change to stereotypical Millenials who want work to be fun and want to have a voice in decisions from the moment they are hired. But that would not explain what seems to actually be happening. Leaders in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, who have prior experience in many different kinds of organizations, are intentionally creating truly unique work environments that are structured differently and operate differently from mainstream, bureaucratic, business-textbook organizations.
These leaders are asking why a business has to be autocratic, hierarchical, and controlling. They are wondering how a traditional structure that was designed for consistency, predictability, and minimal risk can achieve creativity and innovation. They are raising doubts about workplace cultures that make people miserable and don’t allow them to achieve their full potential.
It used to be that the only businesses that didn’t operate from an org chart were small, family-run enterprises with a close-knit, caring atmosphere. But now we see large scale enterprises intentionally creating cultures that are aligned with what they want to accomplish rather than simply adopting the structures typical of organizations that have come before. For example:
Menlo Innovations - In the Menlo culture the message to employees, both implicitly and explicitly, is that everyone is learning together how to best serve clients while creating a work environment of joy and meaning. CEO Richard Sheridan describes this culture in his new book Joy, Inc. He explains the “rituals and artifacts” the culture: from the hiring process when prospective employees learn how to fit into Menlo, to paired employees who learn how to work together on job tasks, to an open workspace with no offices, to constant conversations among employees during the workday, to lunch n’learns, to storytelling, to leaders setting an example for continuous learning, and to presenting “The Menlo Way” to other companies and to the public.
Zingerman’s Community of Businesses – As described on their Web site, the ZCoB is a family of eight businesses all located in the Ann Arbor area and reflects the novel strategy for business growth created by Zingerman’s Deli founders Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig. Rather than replicating their deli through the franchise model, Paul and Ari instead chose to develop new, independent businesses, all rooted in our local community that work together as one organization. Each business is operated by one or more managing partners who share ownership and put their particular expertise to work in the day to day running of their business. The idea for the ZCoB was laid out in Zingerman’s 2009 vision, written by Ari and Paul in 1994 and highlighted in Bo Burlingham’s 2003 article for Inc. Magazine, “The Coolest Small Company in America.”
Zappos – From an article in The Washington Post: The Las Vegas-based retailer is now going even more radical, introducing a new approach to organizing the company. It will eliminate traditional managers, do away with the typical corporate hierarchy and get rid of job titles, at least internally. The company told employees of the change at a year-end meeting, Quartz first reported...The unusual approach is called a “holacracy.” Developed by a former software entrepreneur, the idea is to replace the traditional corporate chain of command with a series of overlapping, self-governing “circles.” In theory, this gives employees more of a voice in the way the company is run...According to Zappos executives, the move is an effort to keep the 1,500-person company from becoming too rigid, too unwieldy and too bureaucratic as it grows.
These companies are not only being innovative in their products and services, they are applying innovation to how they do their work. They are aligning form with function (and values) in order to continue their success. This is more than incremental improvements to their organizations. These companies are implementing radical changes to create cultures in which employees feel respected, take risks, are continuously learning, are helpful to each other, and are joyful at work every day.
Taking a cultural point of view of leadership, Mike Hyattlists the things you need to do to retain your best people. While reading his list, I would keep in mind that losing someone is not always a bad thing. First of all, even though the person is talented that doesn’t mean he or she is a good fit in your organizational culture or with the work that needs to be done. And secondly, some people need to move on to other organizations (or school or family responsibilities) in order to advance their careers.
However, if keeping talent is an issue for your organization, Hyatt provides guidance. He writes:
…if leaders spent less time trying to retain people, and more time trying to understand them, care for them, invest in them, and lead them well, the retention thing would take care of itself.
I’ve reworded Hyatt's items to say what you should do.
1. Unleash Their Passions
2. Challenge Their Intellect
3. Engage Their Creativity
4. Develop Their Skills
5. Give Them A Voice
6. Show Them You Care
7. Lead Them
8. Recognize Their Contributions
9. Increase Their Responsibility
10. Keep Your Commitments
Not only you, all managers should be doing these things. That will create a culture that will retain talent, as well as develop talent, be a joyful place to work, and achieve the goals of the organization.
Throughout 2013, I used this blog to illuminate important leadership and management issues. The topics ranged from changing organizational culture to evaluating training programs to making managers responsible for employee learning to creating a learning culture.
As a way of review, I’ve selected five blog posts from the past year that seem to have had the most interest for readers. Here are the links with a short excerpt from each post:
People act on the basis of tacit knowledge but they are often not aware of how daily behavior is shaped by this knowledge. It’s simply “how we do things here.” Underlying beliefs, assumptions, and values become routines that, over time, go unchallenged. Those routines may or may not serve the best interests of the organization and its customers. Culture change must confront the link between the thinking that drives behavior and the effects of that behavior on organizational success.
Managers of employees have a critical role to play in employee learning. Managers are in the best position to help employees acquire the knowledge and skills they need to be successful. By asking questions, by assigning opportunities to apply knowledge and skills, by modeling expected behavior, by providing timely information, by coaching application of learning, and by giving performance feedback, they can facilitate learning and, therefore, performance improvement of their direct reports.
Learning and the retention of learning cannot be left to trainers alone. Organizations as a whole must create an environment that supports the learning process. Leaders must make learning a core value, managers must facilitate and support learning for their direct reports, trainers must provide learning interventions appropriate for the content, and learners must participate enthusiastically in the process. Retention of learning is a systems problem, not an individual employee or individual trainer problem.
Culture used to be considered a byproduct of organizational life. Today, many companies are being quite intentional about culture. So, how do you know what kind of culture you have and, if you want GreatWallPicture1 to create a learning culture, how do you know when you have one? Dharmesh Shah, Founder and CTO at HubSpot, gives us a way to think about this. He writes, “The true nature of your company – and its culture – is determined by how you instinctively react.”
After reading Joy, Inc. and visiting [Menlo Innovations] on several occasions, I believe the key to Menlo’s success is its “learning culture”. This is an intentional culture a la Edgar Schein's three levels: (1) the deep underlying beliefs and assumptions that are often difficult for insiders to articulate; (2) the values and principles that structure action; and (3) the symbols and artifacts that are visible on the surface for all to see. In the Menlo culture the message to employees, both implicitly and explicitly, is that we are learning together how to best serve our clients while creating an enjoyable and meaningful work environment.
In an article for T+D titled, A Closer Look: Myths vs. Reality in Training, Pat Galagan presents a number of provocative challenges to popular assumptions about training and learning. One of these “myths” that grabbed my attention is, “Performance management can be improved by installing the right software to manage performance data or changing the way people are rated.” Galagan writes that recent research suggests that the reality is, “Human nature plays a bigger role in performance management than any process or software.” This observation flies in the face of popular rating and ranking systems and software designed to track course completion and goal attainment.
Galagan references the writing of David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work. In an article for the NeuroLeadership Institute, Rock and co-authors present the case that the most important factor in improving performance is a person’s belief system. They write:
Research suggests that people’s beliefs about whether intelligence or talent is born or can be developed, dramatically impacts the success or failure of a whole performance management system.
Based on Carol Dweck’s work at Stanford, Rock and his co-authors say that employees can be divided into two groups: those who believe talent is “fixed” and those who believe people can develop their brains and abilities. The problem is that most performance management systems reinforce the belief that talent is fixed and that people can’t change and, therefore, fail to encourage development. These systems are used to monitor achievement of goals, not progress toward goals and not shifting goals, sending the message that the organization only cares about a static set of competencies.
I’ve written previously about the importance of creating a learning culture in organizations. Performance management systems that are based on the talent-is-fixed belief are a barrier to creating a learning culture. If Rock and his co-authors are right, employees are being discouraged from admitting failure and exposing their short-comings. That would be an admission that they don’t already have the talent, which, if talent is fixed, would mean that their future in the organization is limited.
This explains much of the resistance to learning and change that is evident in many organizations today. A fixed-talent mindset, expressed through the culture of the organization and demonstrated in the behavior of its leaders, prevents employees from taking steps to continuously improve themselves, their teams, and the organization as a whole.
Why do online shopping experiences have to be so difficult? It’s as if companies forget everything they know about customer service when they build a Web site. The IT wizards work their magic behind a curtain and the marketing and sales folks accept whatever bells and whistles are handed to them.
A New York Times article about online books quotes Peter Meyers, author of “Breaking the Page,” as saying:
A lot of these [Web-based] solutions were born out of a programmer’s ability to do something rather than the reader’s enthusiasm for things they need. We pursued distractions and called them enhancements.
This seems to describe much of what goes on in Web site development today. The gap between an elegant Web site from an IT point-of-view and the quality of experience from a customer’s point-of-view appears to be as wide as ever. The recent flap about the Obamacare Web site (www.HealthCare.gov ) and the Web-based "Common Application" (www.commonapp.org) for college admissions are just two examples. If the developers of these sites had started with a great customer experience being the end-goal, they might not have had the launch problems that occurred.
Eszter Hargittai, professor of communication studies at Northwestern University, writes:
What may be completely intuitive actions for Web designers and engineers are far from the norm for those who only use the Web occasionally and mainly do so to correspond with family members once in a while on Facebook or by email.
All organizations whether government, business, or nonprofit, need to design the Web experience for the customer, not for IT. Engaging with the Web site should be an emotionally positive experience as well as result in a successful transaction. It’s not enough to have the right boxes, right forms, and right buttons. Customers want to feel the same dignity, respect, and trust that they feel in a well-run store, restaurant, or entertainment venue.
This is not easy. I know from my own experience developing Learning2BGreat an ecommerce Web site, that trial and error, based on feedback from customers, is part of the process. What’s important is keeping the goal in mind. Is it to have something that is technically sophisticated or is it to have something that customers enjoy using? I’ve caught myself more than once being so excited about functionality that I lost sight of the goal.
Web site developers could learn much from Zingerman’s approach to the customer experience. Zingerman’s is a deli and gourmet food retailer that Inc. Magazine calls “the coolest small company in America” and is included in Bo Burlinghan’s book, Small Giants. After 25 years and many mistakes and successes, the company has figured out how to create a great customer experience. First of all, they take a one-customer-at-a-time approach. Staff have rules but they also break the rules when it meets the needs of a customer. They have processes but when a moment-of-truth arises, they do what they need to do to keep a customer coming back.
This kind of customer service is a challenge for Web sites that are intended to work exactly the same way for every customer and collect and disseminate exactly the same user information. However, they don’t and shouldn’t. This is what managers need to realize. They need to work with IT to develop a site that adapts to the needs of users from different backgrounds, motivations, and abilities. One-size-fits-all might work for ball caps but it doesn’t work for the user experience.
Should I focus on short-term results or long-term strategy?
Should we stay true to our mission or should we look for new opportunities to compete in the marketplace?
Should I take time to stay physically fit or should I spend more time at the office?
Should I delegate a task to others or should I do it to make sure it’s done right?
Should I tell my direct reports everything that is going on or should I not burden them with problems they can’t do anything about?
Should I do what’s best for the team or should I help individuals get ahead?
Should I bring other departments into our decision-making process or should I plow ahead and not use valuable time trying to achieve consensus?
Should we centralize long-range planning or should we delegate that responsibility to the departments and different locations?
Your answer to each of these questions could be “yes”. Both options presented in each question may need to exist simultaneously. The statements are paradoxes that confront every leader in organizations today. Most leaders look for a solution that is impossible to achieve and, in so doing, fail to move the organization forward.
In a new book titled, Getting Unstuck (Download a free chapter.), Ralph Jacobson takes on paradoxes and explains what to do about them.
A paradox is a conflict between two perspectives that appear incapable of simultaneously existing at the same time…yet they must. A paradox has at least two apparent options, called polarities (for example, short and long term). The effective management of a paradox requires balancing the polarities over time…
Problems have solutions. Paradoxes do not. Paradoxes must be consistently balanced. In other words, there are many issues to which the familiar either/or formula will not work. In order to work through the above issues we have to change the formula to both/and.
As organizational leaders, we want solutions. We want to solve problems, put them behind us, and move on. But the reality is that many challenges cannot be resolved. We must continually shift between long-term and short-term, stability and change, work demands and non-work demands, delegation and control, transparency and secrecy, the team and the individual, consensus and autocratic decision-making, and centralization and decentralization.
What paradoxes do you face in your role and how do you handle them?