The Learning Loop Approach to Learning and Development

IMG_5170The Learning Loop game took me 25+ years to develop….. but only an afternoon to design. The game has been described using the following words:”Fun“, “Exciting“, “Inspiring“, “Motivational“, “Engaging“, “Practical“and “Packed full of ideas“.

In years gone by, people have described my workshops as “Creative“, “Engaging“, “Informative” and “Practical“.

You may be forgiven in thinking it is all about the buzz and maybe there is nothing solid behind it…..however you would be mistaken….

As a former engineer, I have often thought that my approach to learning and development has had a strong structure behind it. I have always had a deep sense of “Beginning with the end in mind“. No self-respecting engineer would ever embark on any project without a very clear picture of the outcomes…..and the same goes for my Learning Loop approach.

So in case the words “Fluffy”, “Fun” (if “fun” is a bad word for training in your mind!) or “Superficial” come to mind, let me share with you, what lies beneath the “Learning Loop Game“, a brand new way to do “Train-the-Trainer”.

1. Everyone(in L&D) understands the whole of the learning cycle

I might even take the brackets out and change this to “Everyone understands the whole of the learning cycle”. If the whole organisation understands:

  • What it means to do a needs analysis (not just an LNA)
  • How stakeholders need to be engaged for learning to imbed (and for meaningful evaluation)
  • How to write strong performance objectives and great learning objectives
  • How evaluation is everybody’s business
  • How line managers should play a big part in the learning process

….then……could we then see a time where L&D would be seen as a change agent rather than a cost? Would we then see the business, truly partnering with L&D to imbed the learning into the organisation? Could we then justify our spend on learning, knowing that we could deliver a return on investment (ROI)?

2. Stakeholder engagement and management skills are developed

As an L&D professional, I should be able to:

  • Recognise who my stakeholders are
  • Know how to nurture the influential and supportive ones
  • Know how to stop the unsupportive ones from getting me down
  • Speak their language
  • Ask the right questions to engage the stakeholders and extract the real issues
  • Demonstrate value to the stakeholders
  • Justify budgets

Am I right?

3. L&D use a consultancy approach when asked to design and deliver learning

So often stakeholders come to L&D with a ready thought-through solution with timescales and delivery methods. L&D do not always get to do an un-biaised needs analysis, which may uncover organisational, process or resourcing issues that mask themselves as learning needs. This leads to solutions, not quite hitting the mark and therefore a lack trust in the L&D contribution. Good consultancy skills with strong questioning skills, can help to uncover some deep seated issues, that may be masked by other symptoms.

4. A good needs analysis leads to a solid(meaningful) evaluation and appropriate design.

Given the opportunity to use a triangulation approach to needs analysis (using 3 methods to find agreement on the real issues), L&D can at the same time, visualise the possible outcomes and the benefits to the organisation. With this “end” in mind, the learning can be focussed on what is actually needed rather than what we think (or others think)  is required.

5. There is an explicit and practical objective setting process.

“By the end of the workshop, the learners will be able to understand the 5 principles of customer engagement”.

Not an atypical objective, but can it be measured? Do line managers ever sit down with the learners to set performance objectives before a workshop? If not, then how is the impact of the learning measured? If the organisation, as a whole does not have an explicit method for setting objectives, then how does change (in line with strategy) become a reality? How do we turn organisational goals into real outputs from our staff?

6. Learning interventions are underpinned by accelerated learning principles.

Accelerated learning has been show to improve learning retention by as much as 300%* and cut trainer preparation down by as much as 30%**. Who would not want to incorporate principles, which have the learner at the centre and retention as a priority?

I would love to hear your thoughts on the “Learning Loop Approach”……. am open to discussions, debates and anyone who disagrees!

*Elliot Masie in a study on IT training

**Debbie Meddins, L&D Manager from ATOS

LL smallNext Learning Loop Workshop 12th-13th October in Leeds, at The Studio

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