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.
While visiting Spain, I learned that in the 10th and 11th centuries the City of Cordoba was a model of peaceful co-existence among Moslem rulers, Christians, and Jews. All lived, worked, and studied together. It was a time of major advancements in literature, science, and arts. What did they know about collaboration that is so difficult for us?
(Image from Wikipedia)
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.
Organizational culture has become a hot topic in the popular business press. Recently, GM’s culture has become front page news with calls for greater transparency and open communication, and with claims that culture is what got the company into trouble with government regulators and customers.
It’s easy to talk about culture, and blame culture, and say that culture should be changed. It’s quite another thing to actually create a different culture, especially in old-line, hierarchical manufacturing organizations like GM.
One way to transform culture in this kind of organization is for leaders to start inviting honesty from each other. A story is told about Mulally at Ford Motor that exemplifies this shift. Shortly after he was hired as CEO and had his first meeting with his executive team, one of them said that he was going to delay production of a new vehicle. Everyone around the table feared that the executive would be fired, which would have likely been the case in the old Ford. To their surprise, Mulally praised the executive for what he had done and this led to more executives communicating problems when they occurred.
Honest and open communication allows for collaboration which is critical to good problem-solving and decision-making. Miki Kashtan, author and consultant, writes in the New York Times:
When leaders commit to involving the whole group, organizations are transformed. Although collaboration — or “laboring together” (collaborare in Latin) — isn’t easy, it becomes easier the more we welcome differences and even conflict in service of a larger whole. The results are higher trust, increased productivity and rich creativity.
Of course, there are always risks in asking questions for which you don’t know the answers from people who may or may not want to collaborate. It’s possible they will tell you something that you don’t want to hear or something that will open the door for others to say something you don’t want to hear. Maybe what they say will create conflict or require you to take an action that will be uncomfortable for you to do.
These are possibilities. However, knowing the truth and driving out fear and worry from the culture will result in a highly productive work environment. This means collaborating with stakeholders and showing them the respect that they deserve.
Peter Drucker, considered the father of modern management, is famously credited with saying, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Probably no better example of this is GM and how it has handled the problem with ignition switches in the Cobalt. Coming out of the government bailout the company had an excellent strategy: build high quality, fuel efficient cars that meet the needs of all segments of drivers. The only problem is the company culture has been a barrier to this strategy.
Now the culture seems to be changing under the leadership of GM's new CEO Mary Barra. Prior to her appointment the company was all about no-bad-news, a focus on cost-savings, and maximizing shareholder value at the expense of quality.
What it now needs to prove is that it makes cars that will cause us all to forget about the Cobalt. That’s when we’ll really know if it has changed.
I’m afraid that making great cars will help but it’s not the whole answer. In a business and product as complicated as an automobile, problems will continue to come up and it will be how GM responds that will tell us if the culture is truly changing. Will the company encourage employees to speak the truth? Will the company be transparent internally and externally?
Transparency is a cultural issue. When problems arise it often is because individuals with something to lose hide bad news from other people who could use that information against them. It may make an executive look bad if he speaks up about a problem so he keeps things to himself. Self-protection trumps organizational health.
The solution is not easy. The correction begins at the top. The CEO must hold herself accountable. Apology and amends will follow, but again these are initial steps. The cultural change must be instituted throughout the company. The CEO must become the public face of transparency that is, rooting out trouble and seeking remedies.
The crisis in GM presents Barra with an opportunity to accelerate movement towards a different culture. Editors of Crain’s Detroit Business write that Barra now has “…a powerful hammer to pound away at needed culture changes.” Let’s hope that not only Barra, but all of the leaders within GM recognize that it’s about culture, not strategy.
I was surprised (closer to shocked)to read that McKinsey & Company, Bain & Company, Goldman Sachs and other companies are using SAT scores to screen job applicants. That is a misuse of the test and a disservice to the applicant and to those organizations.
Apparently, some HR managers claim that this practice is okay because they use the score in combination with other factors. However, if they are using the SAT to sort applicants and disqualify some, then it doesn’t matter what other factors that are being used - they are using the SAT inappropriately.
The SAT should not be used in this way for three reasons. First of all, job applicant screening is not the purpose for which the test was designed. The test was designed to give high schools students and college admissions staff an additional indicator of academic success. In combination with high school grades, the test is probably the best indicator we have for success in the first year of college. That doesn’t mean it’s a good indicator of academic success; it just means it’s better than anything else that can be easily managed by college personnel.
Another reason the SAT should not be used for hiring is that although, as a group, people who score high on the test are statistically more likely to do well in school than people who score low, that doesn’t mean this is true for an individual job applicant. Statistical significance (better than chance) is not the same as practical significance. Someone who scores low on the SAT (or any achievement test) could become a wonderful employee and someone who scores high on the SAT could become a terrible employee.
And the third reason is that test scores are just not good predictors of workplace performance, unless, of course, the job task is to do well on tests. The best predictor of job performance is job performance. Companies like Menlo Innovations have job applicants do the job for a few months before they make a hiring decision. In this way, they can look at culture fit as well as competencies.
David Brooks, in his column in the New York Times titled “The Employer’s Creed”, urges employers to look beyond grades, perfectionism, and projected image of job applicants, and look for traits such as being passionate about something, doing the right thing, showing social courage, being willing to speak the truth, overcoming setbacks, and being honest about themselves. About grades, Brooks writes:
Don’t mindlessly favor people with high G.P.A.s. Students who get straight As have an ability to prudentially master their passions so they can achieve proficiency across a range of subjects. But you probably want employees who are relentlessly dedicated to one subject. In school, those people often got As in subjects they were passionate about but got Bs in subjects that did not arouse their imagination.
I understand the need to efficiently sort through hundreds, maybe thousands of job applications. But using SAT scores is a careless and unprofessional way to do this. Companies that use SAT scores to screen applicants will eliminate from consideration some of the best people in the pool.
Even though there is a trend toward open-space workplaces, views about the effectiveness of this design vary widely. Fast Company editors Jason Feifer and Anjali Mullany take up this debate in a FC interview for an article titled, “Two Cube Dwellers Argue Over Open Offices. Who's Right?” Their differing views on the matter do an excellent job of identifying the issues involved in the open-office controversy.
Jason Feifer: I witness an inability to concentrate, lack of privacy, and absent sense of ownership--which is a problem given that I occupy this space for the bulk of my waking hours. But the business community insists this is good for me. Supposedly, by all of us being mushed together instead of provided the pleasure of private offices, we're to form a beating heart of collaboration. And yet, because we're sitting together, we're doing everything we can to create the sense that we're apart.
Anjali Mullany: Where I sit, we don't wear headphones very often, and my team interacts a lot. In fact, we found that the built-in barriers between our desks were an impediment because we couldn't see each other when we spoke, so we recently had them removed. We made that decision together, and the feedback from team members has been positive. Instead of IM'ing each other, we're talking in person. It's way more efficient and less maddening than having my Gchat icon flashing all day, since I already suffer from multitasking overload, thanks to email, Yammer, Campfire, social media, and multiple browser tabs. When we do wear headphones, we take it as a sign that the person doesn't want to be disturbed unless it's urgent.
Despite these disagreements, it’s not one-size-fits-all. Leaders have to decide what kind of design will work best for their organizations given the culture that they want and the strategic goals of their businesses.
Rich Sheridan, in his book Joy, Inc., describes the intentional culture in Menlo Innovations that is a variation on the open-office design. The purpose of the Menlo workspace is to facilitate teamwork, information sharing, and problem-solving in order to develop the best software solutions for their customers. Prospective new hires are given some time to try out this environment before they are hired. They know that their workplace design is not a good fit for everyone and some people walk away after deciding that they don’t want to work in that kind of environment.
I can identify with the positions of both Feifer and Mullany. For some tasks I have appreciated working in an open office environment with few barriers between me and my co-workers and for some tasks I have appreciated being able to isolate myself for a few hours. I’ve had employees who would go nuts in a private office and performed best when they were in the middle of the action, constantly shifting their attention among tasks and bosses. I’ve had other employees who could be good team members but needed time to themselves and could not function well in an open office all day long.
You need to be intentional about workspace based on the culture you want to create and the performance objectives of the organization. You also need to take into consideration the differences in the ways individuals prefer to learn and work. This might mean building in options so that people can change where they work given the nature of the task and the desired outcomes. A default design of all private offices, all cubicles, or all open office, without consideration of culture, might be expedient but it will not help to maximize learning and performance.
According to the 2013 State of the Industry report from ASTD, instructor-led programs continue to be the primary method for training and developing employees. The researchers estimate that 70% of training in companies is instructor-led. The content of these programs runs the gamut from basic skills to executive development.
Although classroom-based training has declined over the past few years and some of the instructor-led training is done electronically (i.e., elearning), the predominant method is still sage-on-the-stage. Given that only 15% to 20% of the participants in these programs will end up applying their learning to achieving the strategic goals of their organizations and ASTD estimates $164.2 billion was spent on training in 2013, a rough estimate of training dollars wasted in 2013 is $92 billion (.80 X [.70 X $164.2 billion]).
EQMentor lists seven reasons for the failure of traditional, instructor-led training and why alternative methods, such as mentoring and coaching, are needed. To paraphrase EQMentor:
Emotional intelligence, one of the keys to personal and professional success, can’t be developed in a one-time program. It must be developed over time with the encouragement and assistance of others.
In order for training to be useful, it must occur close in time to when it is needed. Scheduled training programs can’t be timely.
Instructors, alone, can’t ensure that knowledge transfer occurs. Even if learning occurs during the course, that is no guarantee that learning witll be applied on the job.
Today’s highly complex organizations, with their shifting customer demands and competitive pressures from around the globe, have rapidly changing learning needs that require agile learners and agile interventions.
The cost of learners traveling to events off-site, in terms of time, money, and effort, is not worth the investment if the goal is improved organizational performance.
Programs that are designed for large numbers of employees are not designed to fit the different learning styles and content needs of different learners in different situations. While intending to be efficient and cost-effective, these programs fail to meet everyone’s needs.
Because these programs are removed from the day-to-day activities of the workplace, they lack relevancy.
The way to address the failure of traditional, instructor-led training is to end our reliance on these programs and develop a culture in organizations that supports continuous and agile learning. This kind of culture integrates many different methods of learning (including mentoring and coaching) into the daily activities of the organization. In this kind of culture, learning from action is highly valued. People, in the course of their workday activities, are taking risks, reflecting on their experiences, and using that awareness to improve performance. In this kind of culture, formal training events only occur when it is determined that this is the best method of learning given the learning content and goals of the organization.
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.
Why do employees have to suffer in cheerless, hard-driving, demeaning workplaces? Where is it written that organizations have to be autocratic, bureaucratic, silos of competition? What makes founders of new companies and captains of industry hold onto the reigns of control as if the people they’ve hired are incompetent fools?
I understand the need to feel in control. And I understand the fear of not succeeding and the fear that others will. These are human traits that some leaders are able to manage effectively but many others are not. Many leaders have great difficulty believing that their job is to make the people around them successful and great difficulty trusting the people they have hired.
Trust is your first design choice. The answer to the trust question will shape all the subsequent choices that you make in the design of your organization and its future path in the market. Trust will determine your ability to leverage new ways of working and the future of work in your organization. Most importantly, trust determines whether you can ask your people to help.
If you don’t trust the people around you, then you have no choice but to create or maintain a traditional, hierarchical, top-down structure. That’s how you keep control over people you don’t trust.
However, if you do trust the people around you, then you have options for the structure of your organization. You can align that structure with your values and your strategic goals. There are examples of companies that are doing this effectively. For the most part, their designs are emergent; growing out of the values and beliefs of their leaders.
Another structure that is attracting much interest of late is holacracy, especially since the Zappos CEO has made it public that this is what he intends for his organization. This structure is similar to Quinn’s “adhocracy”, an environment in which people self-organize in teams around purpose. In theory, hierarchy is absent in this type of organization.
The point is that you have options depending on the values and goals of your organization. You can create an environment in which employees feel respected and valued and feel joy in coming to work each day. This isn’t easy because of our natural tendency to want to feel in control and, for some, the difficulty in trusting others. But if you want to get the most out of our organization, you need to work at overcoming these fears.