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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Learning Objectives, Performance Objectives and Business Needs

This month's Big Question - Scope of Learning Responsibility? (see my posts: Learning Responsibility, Corporate Learning Long Tail and Attention Crisis and Long Tail Learning - Size and Shape) has raised some interesting questions in my mind. It also just triggered something for me around Learning Objectives vs. Performance Objectives vs. Business Needs.

Mick Leyden - Professional Responsibility??? tells us:
The learning professional is responsible for ensuring learning objectives are achieved regardless of the delivery mode.
This sounds quite reasonable at the surface. However, it dawned on me that if you define the scope of responsibility based on learning objectives you end up limiting yourself to focus only on content, immediate knowledge transfer, the fat end of the Long Tail Learning.

Is this possibly the crux of the issue? The disconnect I talked about in my previous post?

I would claim that willingness to accept definition of your scope in terms of learning objectives puts you in the box. To get outside the box, you need to have business needs and performance objectives.


Anonymous said...

I agree, but look at what is being measured. With learning objectives, you can achieve them through learning. Performance objectives can be measured, but learning is not the only part of the equation. There are a TON of non-learning variables and thus these type of objectives cannot be fully and directly related to learning - greatly influenced by, yes; solely responsible for, no.

Business needs will drive the performance objectives.

The way I look at it is that training is only one part of learning is only one part of the equation that makes up overall performance.

For the most part traditional corporate learning can be boxed in to 'learning.' As we expand down the tail, this learning expands to include much more than learning. For example, it can include projects, meetings, one-off questions & answers - all of which learning is a major part, but not the focus of the activity.

So if we know that we can influence learning in a traditional non-learning activity, does our scope include that as well?

I would challenge those who are stuck in the pure 'training' or 'learning' modes to step outside and see if they can make a have a bigger influence on learning - overall - by using the long tail of learning.

Mike Williams said...

I suggest adding two terms to the learning vocabulary: proficiency threshold and mastery.

The proficiency threshold is the point in time when you can successfully execute the main objectives of the resposibilities assigned to you - the fat part of the tail.

Mastery comes with time and experience. It is the things you learn along the way. It is transactional. It is experiencial. It comes from doing the basic things correctly over and over again. It comes by teaching others - it is the long tail.

I think training dollars are best spent on defining the proficiency threshhold for a job function and helping people **accumulate experience** as part of the learning process to get to the proficiency threshold.

There is a very good resource on this topic. It is a book called Breakaway written by Charles Fred. You can find it on Amazon.

Tony Karrer said...

Kevin - Good points. Yep, there are factors beyond training, and beyond learning that influence performance. I'm not sure that training focused organizations have even stepped up to focusing on learning, much less on performance.

Mike - while I don't necessarily think proficiency threshold and mastery map directly onto the fat part and the long tail, I agree with your basic idea that we might want to focus on the threshold rather than the content. And, maybe I should change my thinking about the Long Tail to not be content focused.