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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Next Revolution in Interactions - Suggests Major Shift in Training

In a post by John Hagel - The Next Revolution in Interactions he discusses a McKinsey article of the same title and it points to something that is REALLY SIGNIFICANT for training organizations.

The McKinsey article identifies three forms of work:

  • Transformational – “extracting raw materials or converting them into finished goods” – examples cited include “mining coal, running heavy machinery, or operating production lines”
  • Transactional – “interactions that unfold in a generally rule-based manner and can thus be scripted or automated” – examples of transactional jobs include cashiers, office clerks, truck drivers and accountants
  • Tacit – “more complex interactions requiring a higher level of judgment, involving ambiguity, and drawing on tacit, or experiential, knowledge” – examples of tacit-intensive jobs include retail sales people, customer service representatives, registered nurses and general managers

And, as we all have seen, the shift in corporations is towards more tacit work and that tacit work represents where the real value is (we optimize and automate away differences in transformational or transactional work). The McKinsey article points out:

This shift toward tacit interactions upends everything we know about
organizations . . . . the rise of the tacit workforce and the decline of the
transformational and transactional ones demand new thinking about the
organizations structures that could help companies make the best use of this
shifting blend of talent.

If this is where the real value can be built in organizations, then clearly training organizations should ensure that we are focusing our efforts on tacit work. But, I would claim that much of training aims at transactional work and some level of skill building towards tacit work. But relatively little of our dollars are spent on truly support and enabling tacit work.

Combine this with the fact that less training is going to be needed as we become better at Business Process Management Instead of Learning, and we see the fact that:

Training will be marginalized unless we become more focused on supporting and enabling tacit work.


Freddie said...

The point about tacit interactions is that training is no longer a sustainable instrument in its own right for learning. It requires a major shift towards just-in-time know-how in the context of the task. This know-how is a series of nano-decisions that leads to the best of fit outcome. By undertaking real-time recording of the interactions and automated analysis of the flows provides powerful learnings. This is demand sensing. Know-how needs to change at the speed of articulation. In other words training cannot cope with increasing rates of complexity, velocity and volatility. This is the world of tacit interactions.

Freddie McMahon

Tim L said...

If we keep refering to what we do as "training" then it (and we) will be marginalized - deservedly so.

See more at my blog:

Greg Willmarth said...

The whole “Tacit vs. Transactional vs. Transformational” concept appears to me to be simply a reflection of our migration into a services oriented economy. I am not sure that the new, big words add much clarity to this.

As to Tony’s final comment, training is not the point. To learn more, see my blog at