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ATD Blog

The Power of the “Yes, and” Approach

Monday, April 22, 2019

Performance consultants often receive client requests for tactical solutions where little to no evidence indicates that those solutions would have any impact on business or performance outcomes. With those cases, performance consultants should always attempt to reframe the requests into opportunities that will strategically align their work with their clients’ goals. By reframing tactical requests into terms of desired performance and business results, performance consultants often can influence their clients to pause until the needs, gaps, and root causes of the issue are understood well enough to ensure that their work will benefit the client’s organization.

Sometimes, however, clients are set on a course to immediately implement a solution, and performance consultants are unsuccessful in their attempts at reframing their requests despite some pushback. When that happens, a maxim applies: “The client isn’t always right, but the client is always the client.” If performance consultants are to continue the relationship, they must help the client implement their solution. But, because they know that a single solution implemented in isolation is unlikely to address the root causes for a given business issue, performance consultants should seek to take additional actions that will increase the likelihood that performance and business gaps will be closed. This is called the “Yes, and” approach.

“Yes, and” means just that—YES, we are moving forward with the requested solution, AND we are asking the client to take some additional, related action(s) with us to increase our chances of success. Some examples of “Yes, and” actions that can be used in combination with learning solutions are listed below.

Before the Learning Solution Is Implemented:

  • Agree to pilot the program. Also agree in advance that you will measure the results that are obtained from this initiative (at least through Kirkpatrick/Katzell’s Level 3 evaluation) and that the client will meet with you to discuss the results. Determine if the return that is being received warrants continuing with the learning solution as currently planned.
  • When conducting a learning needs assessment or obtaining information for case studies and exercises to be developed, ask for information about the work environment of the employees who are to be developed. If any barriers are identified, discuss with the client what can be done to minimize the potential impact.


During the Learning Solution Implementation:

  • Near the close of the program, ask participants to identify organizational enablers and barriers to using the newly acquired on-the-job skills. This can be done as an exercise or as a stealthy addition to a Level 1 reaction evaluation. Summarize what you learn and provide the client with the information, facilitating a discussion regarding possible actions that may be taken to overcome the barriers and how you can support the client in that effort.
  • For synchronous training events, ask the client to participate. The client can kick off the program, providing the business reasons for why this learning initiative is important and what they anticipate people will be doing as a result of it.


Following Implementation of the Learning Solution:

  • Conduct brief follow-up calls with some participants to identify how they have applied what they have learned. Also inquire what, if any, barriers they have encountered. Summarize your findings and meet with the client to discuss them.

Gaps in business and performance results have multiple causes. A single solution is unlikely to be successful in closing those gaps. When a client demands you implement such a solution, using the “Yes, and” approach can create opportunities to bring additional solutions to bear—which will greatly increase the likelihood that results will be achieved.

About the Author

Chris Adams is a performance consultant and instructional designer with more than 20 years of experience helping clients engage people, apply processes, and implement technology to improve human and organizational performance. He is currently a senior consultant for Handshaw Inc. in Charlotte, North Carolina. Chris was co-inventor of Handshaw’s award-winning software, Lumenix, one of the first content-managed platforms for e-learning. He has been a featured speaker for a number of ISPI and ATD chapters, and has presented at regional and international conferences such as Training Solutions, The Performance Improvement Conference, and the Coast Guard Human Performance Technology Conference. Chris holds degrees in mass communication and instructional systems technology and is currently a doctoral student in the instructional design and technology program at Old Dominion University. 

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