ATD Blog

Don't Bet on a Miracle

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Our favorite training cartoon of all time is the two learning leaders at the blackboard. On the left side of the board they have written “Course.” On the right side: “Results.” The arrow in the middle is labeled “And then a miracle happens.”

The one leader is saying to the other, “I think you need to be a little more explicit here in step two.”

It may be funny as a cartoon, but it is a serious problem in training and development. Far too many training departments “need to be more explicit in step two.” Instead of hoping that by some miracle the investment in training will produce results, training professionals need to take more responsibility for influencing the transfer climate. Our future depends on it; the transfer climate can make or break the success of any training program.

We became interested in the problem of learning transfer twelve years ago. Initially, we thought the solution was simple: Just remind learners periodically after training of the need to revisit, reflect on, and apply what they had learned. That certainly helped. But it worked much better for some programs than for others. Why?


What we discovered is that the root causes of the success or failure of training transfer go all the way back to the initial request for training. This influences every subsequent step in the process of designing, delivering, supporting, and ultimately, evaluating the training.

Six disciplines (the 6Ds®) are essential to improve the results, and thus the ROI, of training:

  • Ensuring that the business needs that the training is meant to address are fully and clearly understood.
  • Designing the learner’s complete experience. That is, don’t stop with the training event; the ultimate  results depend as much or more on the learner’s experience before and after the training.
  • Delivering the training in ways that enhance the learner’s ability to apply the training. That means paying attention to the findings of learning research and, in general, delivering a lot less content and a lot more opportunities for practice and feedback.
  • Driving learning transfer by developing strategies, systems, and structures that keep learning top of mind and hold learners accountable for making use of what they learned.
  • Developing and deploying performance support as an integral part of the training. This might include job aids, online support, help desks, or any other means of support that will help ensure success when learners try new approaches for the first time.
  • Evaluating the outcomes in ways that are relevant, credible, and compelling; that not only show that the program is achieving the desired results, but also provide insights to support continuous improvement.

These six disciplines have proven to be a powerful—and much more predictable—alternative to hoping for a miracle to produce results. They have added real and demonstrable value to training initiatives large and small in companies around the world.

Want to learn more about how to increase learning transfer, reduce training scrap, and improve business impact?  Attend the pre-ICE 2013 Learning Transfer Certificate Program, May 17-18, 2013.

About the Author

Andy Jefferson, JD, is President and Chief Executive Officer for The 6Ds Company.  He is co-author of The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning and Getting Your Money’s Worth from Training and Development. Andy is a frequent and popular global presenter who excels in helping companies maximize the value they realize from their investments in learning and development. He is an accomplished executive with deep line-management expertise as well as experience in strategic planning, sales and marketing, productivity, and technology development. Andy views learning as a critical source of competitive advantage in an increasingly knowledge-based economy. He knows the challenges of running a company and making every investment count. Prior to joining The 6Ds Company, Andy served as the Chief Executive Officer of The Fort Hill Company, CEO of Vital Home Services, and Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel of AmeriStar Technologies, Inc. Andy is a graduate of the University of Delaware and graduated Phi Kappa Phi with honors from the Widener University School of Law, where he served on the school’s Board of Overseers.

About the Author

Roy V. H. Pollock, DVM, PhD, is Chief Learning Officer of The 6Ds Company and co-author of The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning and Getting Your Money’s Worth from Training and Development. Roy has a passion for helping individuals and teams succeed. He is a popular speaker and frequent consultant on improving the value created by training and development.

Roy has a unique blend of experience in both business and education. He has served as Chief Learning Officer for the Fort Hill Company; Vice President, Global Strategic Product Development for SmithKline Beecham Animal Health; Vice President, Companion Animal Division for Pfizer; and Assistant Dean for Curriculum at Cornell’s Veterinary College.

Roy received his BA from Williams College cum laude and his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and PhD degrees from Cornell University. He studied medical education at the University of Illinois Center for Educational Development. Roy served as a member of the faculty at Cornell for eight years, where he received numerous awards including the Ralston-Purina Research Award and Veterinarian of the Year.  He is a Fellow of the Kellogg Foundation National Leadership Program.

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