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Create a Flow-of-Work Coaching Experience

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Use the Owens-Kadakia Learning Cluster Design Model

The learning landscape has changed in recent years. The one-and-done, one-size-fits-all approach to learning doesn’t consider who the learner is or create meaningful behavioral changes that positively affect business outcomes. Coaching opens the door for learning to go beyond simple training.

With the digital revolution, learning has become immediate and takes place in real time. Organizations need a modern approach to learning that provides a broader array of pathways to support the various ways learners want to learn and guide them to learning assets they will benefit from and want to apply. Talent development professionals play a key role in meeting this need.

The Owens-Kadakia Learning Cluster Design (OK-LCD) model, introduced in the book Designing for Modern Learning: Beyond ADDIE and SAM (ATD Press) written by Crystal Kadakia and Lisa M.D. Owens is a holistic answer to many of the most pressing challenges L&D professionals encounter, illustrating how to:

  • Engage learners.
  • Adapt learning to the flow of work.
  • Build a culture of continuous learning.
  • Coach leaders’ emotional skills development.

The OK-LCD five-action model builds on the best of existing training models to effectively leverage new technology and multiple learning assets to provide a learner-centric performance road map for creating authentic learning experiences.

The OK-LCD model calls for a new deliverable for learning initiatives: rather than just a course or a program that measures participation, it consists of a learning cluster that measures transformation. A learning cluster is composed of multiple learning assets, such as job aids, blogs, classes, e-learning modules, podcasts, infographics, books, and more.

A Larger Learning Opportunity With the OK-LCD Model

As an executive coach and owner of an online coaching practice, I used the OK-LCD model to coach leader-developing empathy skills. My client’s L&D manager connected him with me for a deeper dive into his emotional intelligence self-assessment scores derived from his organization’s internal leadership program.

But his scores were just a small indicator of a larger opportunity. Our conversation uncovered my client’s interest in empathy and his curiosity about its role in the workplace.


Demonstrating empathy struck a chord with my client. He made a commitment to check in with his staff on a personal level every morning. It was an assignment that created a higher-order goal in the form of a strategic performance objective (SPO), a key new concept from the “change on-the-job behavior” action, one of the five actions that make up the OK-LCD model. The model focuses on using SPOs to identify the behaviors learners need to perform to impact business results positively.

In the case of my client, his development was guided with a learning cluster that included the book The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier, author Brene Brown’s video clip that explains the difference between sympathy and empathy, and an action plan for implementing empathy on the job in the flow of work. We then discussed each of these during three months of individualized coaching sessions in half-hour increments, which also served as an accountability mechanism for changing his on-the-job behavior.

Applying the learning cluster design model from OK-LCD created a safe environment for my client to learn without being pulled away from his work setting at length. In return, he maintained a high level of engagement throughout the coaching period.

Driving Performance

To improve on-the-job performance for a particular capability, we must go beyond delivering end-of-class objectives in one-and-done training events. In an era of unprecedented change, the learning function within an organization is more crucial than ever. It will no longer be enough to reinforce quality, routine work in a structured, systematic way.

Hermann Ebbinghaus’s forgetting curve posits that roughly 75 percent of new information not applied within six days is forgotten. Additionally, L&D professionals need to contend with learners’ multitasking (and their wandering minds) that is likely to hijack attention in a formal, solitary learning environment.


Getting and keeping the learner's attention is critical to their acquiring new knowledge and modifying behavior. A one-on-one setting creates a best-case scenario for this to occur by grabbing the learner's attention to convey the value and relevance of the content to the learner.

Further, meeting the needs of nuanced learners in the flow of work can drive performance more rapidly than waiting for a training course or workshop to be developed.

L&D professionals who enlist the help of an accomplished coach well versed in the OK-LCD model play an essential role in protecting their organization's investment in education.

The Bigger Reward

The leader I coached developed into an empathetic leader to whom his team felt comfortable approaching, which immensely improved team dynamics. Ultimately, he was able to create a culture of psychological safety, which helped him—and his team—perform better and contribute more to the organization’s success.

Lifelong learning is no longer optional. A Pew Research Center survey revealed 73 percent of adults consider themselves lifelong learners. Every workday brings with it new business challenges and development opportunities. By helping your leaders learn and adapt in real time, you help your organization build a competitive advantage in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

About the Author

Jennifer Zach is a coach, thought leader, and believer in human potential. She is the first in her field to combine coaching with modern learning. Zach takes a whole-person approach by incorporating somatics into her work with clients to help them reflect, navigate change and challenges with wisdom and discernment, and enjoy life and work.

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Thanks I loved the empathy video!
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