targeted learning that touches all learning styles has the best chance of impacting continual individual improvement

Continual Individual Improvement (CII)

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In service management we talk about continual service improvement (CSI)all of the time. An ongoing cycle of improvement, alignment and realignment to the needs of our business or customer. Of course our people, one of the 4 P’s (people, process, products, and partners) are in scope of such improvement too. Regardless of the industry, people are an organisations most important asset, and the continued professional development of those people must be considered. Think, ‘Continual Individual improvement’ (CII).

The future of workforce education is quite rightly changing. You’ve probably heard mention of 70-20-10(1) principles. If you haven’t, it’s essentially a reference guide or framework for categorising the learning opportunities for an organisation and its staff. (See my blog “The culture of sharing – the new world of training for IT and service management staff”).

Experiential learning

With service management staff, all manner of skills are required. Technical, service, interpersonal, business analysis and project management capabilities to name but a few. It is commonly accepted that more hands-on approaches to learning can be beneficial. In an individual’s day to day working life, learning can often occur almost without knowing. Taking those opportunities to see, try, make mistakes, repair, and reflect, supported by colleagues, facilitators, mentors, supervisors and coaches creates a working environment where learning becomes symbiotic.

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.

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 and learning by ‘doing’ principles.

A practical approach

70:20:10 is a practical approach that uses work and social opportunities to enhance learning. 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 needs 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.

  • 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.
  • 20% Informal/social, knowledge sharing and exposure through informal gathering such as Communities-of-Practice, mentoring & coaching, seminars, conferences, and reading.
  • 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.

Overhauling traditional learning

Despite my assertion that the formal training is the smallest part of this equation, even the formal classroom training course is evolving with more emphasis on blended solutions using gamification, eLearning and even social collaborations.

In my role working with an Accredited Training Organisation accredited training (usually part of the 10%) is undergoing an overhaul. One example is an approach we are using for delivering the AXELOS ITIL® Foundation course in IT Service Management. This is based on the concept of blended learning and the flipped classroom which aims to incorporate the ‘best of both worlds’ (i.e. face-to-face for a more personal touch and an opportunity for human interaction but with ubiquitous access to aid flexibility.

The flipped classroom(2) describes a reversal of traditional teaching where students gain first exposure to new material outside of class via eLearning and then class time is used to do the harder work of assimilating that knowledge through strategies such as problem-solving, discussion or debates.

The structure of the Foundation course under the new format is as follows:

  1. First, Trainer led (classroom and virtual classroom option) ‘service management’ (not just ITIL) induction’.
  2. Leading to, accredited syllabus based ITIL Foundation certificate eLearning videos.
  3. Followed up at various stages throughout the eLearning with trainer led collaboration ‘hangouts’ (virtual/and/or classroom).
  4. Then, the Examination to obtain the qualification.
  5. After a gap (anywhere between 1 to 6 months) a service management based simulation game to put the theory into practice.


This approach has been well received, it accommodates different learning styles, it provides for a more flexible approach and can also reduce time and cost. It does require organisational buy in and some cultural change which should not be overlooked. In our environment in particular this was a move from a hand held tutor lead approach into a more practical, individual owned experience.

This change to the approach for delivering these courses wasn’t one that could just be imposed on our staff. It was run as a formal project with the usual project artefacts including a stakeholder map and communications plan. Our communication was focused on what this meant in supporting the longer term direction of our organisation, an intentional change. It was fully supported by the leadership team. There was extensive communications before and after the launch, with some amendments made as a result of student feedback.

Going forward our plan is to create similar solutions for other training courses, (accredited and non-accredited). Our particular focus right now is it look at the new AXELOS ITIL® Practitioner qualification which lends itself to this approach as the syllabus recommends ⅔ of the course duration should be dedicated to practical elements.

The future…

Multi-facetted approaches are necessary for education and learning in the future. Implementing any new approach requires a strategy and service design.

The key to success is balance. There is no question in my mind of the benefit of tutor lead training. However, it isn’t practical or effective in all situations and a balance between this more traditional approach along with blended solutions, flipped classrooms, and technology based facilitation, social and e-learning need to converge to build a continued professional development approach for the modern workforce.

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Michelle Major-Goldsmith

Michelle Major-Goldsmith is currently Manager of Service Management Capability at Kinetic IT in Perth, Western Australia. Michelle has been in the industry for over twenty-five years; formerly Director of Training at UK service management company Sysop and Head of Desktop and Mobile Computing at RAC Motoring Services. More latterly Michelle has been engaged as an ITIL trainer and service management consultant working with a range of clients globally. She was awarded IT Service Management Trainer of the Year in the UK in 2010 and honoured by the British Computer Society in 2011 as IT Support Professional of the Year. She is extensively published within the Service Management Industry.