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The Culture of Sharing – New World of Learning for Service Management Staff

Creating learning opportunities that allow people to learn in the manner that worked best enhances the ability of your team to learn new skills

Capabilities are the organisation’s most important asset

The performance of any organisation depends not solely on process models and governance structures but on capabilities. It is recognised that in an organisation, the people (and therefore their capabilities) are its most important asset. On that basis, the continued professional development of those people, including those working in service management, needs to be seen as a career-long journey in which the need to incorporate opportunities to learn far outside the traditional classroom environment is important.

The best way for a person to learn depends on the person. It is well known that people have different leaning styles that work better for them; often a mix such as visual, logical, aural, physical, verbal, kinesthetic, some of which may be dominant.

You may have heard of 70-20-10(1) principles. (See my next blog – Continual Individual Improvement) If you haven’t, it’s essentially a reference guide or framework for categorising the learning opportunities for an organisation and its staff. Even if these numbers mean little to you, you may have seen the focus on ‘the culture of sharing’ (2) where learning and building sustainable knowledge is the focus.

Outcomes are about a feeling or an experience

For service management staff the focus is on gathering skills to support their roles, which today are largely concerned with delivering a service focused experience, supporting customer outcomes. With IT staff, many skills are required to allow them to engage in a service focused world. A great deal of service delivery isn’t isolated to products. Products are usually manufactured or created. Services tend to be activity based and outcome rather than output driven. Outputs are more concrete.

Outcomes are about a feeling or an experience the recipient has: they need both knowledge of the requirement and experience to create. This is where more hands-on approaches to learning can be beneficial. In an individual’s day to day working life, learning often occurs almost without knowing. Taking those opportunities to see, try, make mistakes, repair, and reflect supported by colleagues, facilitators, mentors, supervisors or coaches can create a working environment where learning becomes symbiotic. Indeed some of the current service management approaches such as DevOps or Agile site experiential learning and iteration at their core.

We know that learning of any kind is highly contextual. We may be able to learn some principles and general concepts in a classroom, but we only embed the ‘real’ learning (not just understanding) by putting those principles and concepts into action. In fact, there is no other way to demonstrate that learning has occurred than by assessing actions. If our behaviour changes, and we can show our ability has improved, learning has occurred. If our actions and ability remain the same, then we may assume no learning has occurred.

One of the 70:20:10 model’s most powerful uses is to help extend learning beyond the more formal classroom and structured training environment in favour of an exploration of the many learning opportunities that occur in the working day through social interactions, on the job activities, gamification and learning by ‘doing’ principles.

The format of 70-20-10

70:20:10 is a practical approach that uses work and social opportunities to enhance learning. With regard to the 70-20-10, the numbers may change depending on what you read but the concept stays relatively the same; that is formal training (the ‘10’) should be only a minor part of organisational learning and performance improvement and that experiential and social learning in the workplace can provide the majority of learning experiences.

In a 70:20:10 environment, building capability becomes more of a responsibility for the individual (rather than a centralised, organisational L&D department). Whilst the organisation still need to ensure a culture of continuous development is supported at an organisational level, the onus falls to the individual to take control of their learning and seize opportunities to learn far outside of the classroom using multiple access points and modes of learning.

  • 70% Experiential/on the job-learning and developing through day-to-day tasks, challenges and practice. The largest part should be spent on ‘on-the-job’ training/learning. This is situation and individual dependent and thus difficult to structure and control (although not impossible) perhaps using tools such as manuals and instructions.  This is about peers, colleagues, and managers (multi-access points) of an individual helping or teaching staff to do their job. If this is to work well this teaching activity has to be deliberate and planned. For instance if you’re rolling out a new IT application (perhaps an SOE) part of the service transition should include the on-going support of staff through hands on training, work instructions, instructional videos, buddying (coaching systems, …).
  • 20% Informal/social, knowledge sharing and exposure through informal gathering such as Communities-of-Practice, mentoring & coaching, seminars, conferences, reading. This again has multiple access points and is sometimes also referred to as relationship-based and is particularly relevant in team environments. This is about knowledge-transfer; attending Seminars, Industry Forums, Conferences etc. can fall into this category (as does reading a blog J). To make this a bit more tangible various organisations (like the various computer societies, project management institutes and for instance AXELOS) have applied CPD (Continuous Professional Development) whereby staff or participants needs to ‘score’ a certain amount of ‘points’ in order to reach or maintain a certain qualification or standard.   Each informal activity attracts a certain number of points thus encouraging staff to undertake these. It also allows a certain level of central coordination in terms of who has scored how many points (and who is still short) and what kind of activities are ‘popular’.
  • 10% Formal/Structured training. This type of educational activity can be relatively easily structured, controlled and centralised. Employees are sent to courses, records are kept, and certification is obtained. There will likely always be room for this approach. It becomes most beneficial in a controlled environment where qualifications rely on syllabi and structured learning outcomes.

The point here is that we need to identify and catalogue the value of the many learning opportunities (multi-model) which often get overlooked. In the modern workforce where time and resources are limited, looking for opportunities to extend capability outside of the traditional classroom and even outside of the working day can be valuable.

The future…?

Learning is about successfully gathering, processing and reflecting upon information. Organisational learning needs to keep pace by acknowledging the multi access points available for gathering and processing information. The forward thinking organisation is aware that transformation within the L&D department is necessary. Multi-modal approaches are the future of continual professional development of people and their capabilities.

Implementing the 70-20-10 concept is a good start in realising the opportunities to learn well outside of the more traditional approaches. It embraces both the culture of sharing and acknowledges the huge amount of learning opportunities which extend well outside of the traditional classroom environment.

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