Leaders increasingly expect their HR and learning teams to deliver tangible value to support organizational strategy. They need action that delivers results. These teams should respond in ways that support and deliver high performance at the speed required by our organizations. 

Working and Learning Are Intertwined 

Working has never before been so reliant on continuous learning. For much of the workforce, learning is the work. Without a total integration of learning and working, we will fall behind on our customers’ expectations and our competitors’ successes.

 HR and learning leaders need to adopt new approaches to work and learning with their stakeholders. To do this, they need to understand key organizational objectives, performance expectations, and the root causes of any deficiencies that may have been observed. They should then collaborate with their stakeholders to build performance solutions that will deliver improvements. We refer to the key roles in this process as Performance Detective and Performance Architect. 

Detectives and Architects 

The Performance Detective doesn’t carry out a training needs analysis. The person filling this role uses critical task analysis and other tools to develop a deep understanding of the root causes contributing to an organizational or team performance problem. 

The Performance Detective doesn’t “solutioneer” training in the way that the training needs analysis process often does—where the solution is agreed upon without any root cause or performance analysis. Instead, the Performance Detective considers the range of potential solutions, keeping the root causes of the problem in mind. The Performance Detective also works with stakeholders to address performance related problems and questions, then passes the findings on to the Performance Architect. 

The Performance Architect designs solutions to solve performance problems, not just programs and courses to support learning. A program or course may be part of the overall solution, but the Performance Architect’s remit is far wider than the 10 in 70-20-10 (structured learning solutions). Sometimes the solution will not draw on courses or programs at all. 

In fact, the Performance Architect’s initial focus will always be on the 70, because the learning that occurs closest to the point of need is more likely to create greater impact. Learning or support available within the workflow is likely to be more useful than learning carried out away from work. When learning and working are integrated, the need for transfer disappears. 

Away-from-work learning may be useful to help build basic understanding—especially when explicit information and processes are involved—but context is critical to all other learning, and almost invariably defined at or just before the point of need. 


What does this mean for designing solutions to address performance challenges and problems? It’s always best to start with the 70 and 20—the performance support and development that occurs as part of the workflow. 

The diagram is taken from our recent book, 70:20:10 Towards 100% Performance. It shows some of the work that the Performance Architect needs to undertake, including using the data generated by the Performance Detective, designing and co-creating effective solutions, and agreeing and validating the designs with stakeholders. 

The Value-Add of a 70-20-10 Approach 

The 70-20-10 approach is the perfect framework to help HR and learning leaders deliver real value. It places the focus on performance and requires new ways of thinking, practices, skills, and roles. It’s also important to note that 70-20-10 isn’t strictly about the numbers, although they are helpful reminders that the vast majority of learning occurs as part of the workflow. 

70-20-10 is a new approach built on knowledge we’ve had for a long time: that learning occurs through rich and challenging experiences, opportunities for practice, engaging with others, and reflective practices. These are the real learning activities we should be focusing on. 

There’s a lot more to 70-20-10 than just adding learning activities into courses or programs. It’s a whole new way of approaching performance. We will explain all this and more during our session at ATD 2016: Redefining the Future of L&D With 70:20:10 and Beyond.