The model was first proposed in 1996 by Morgan McCall and his colleagues at the Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL), Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger, whose research suggested that:
“Lessons learned by successful and effective managers are roughly:
- 70% from tough jobs
- 20% from people (mostly the boss)
- 10% from courses and reading”
More recently, especially with the growth of e-learning, this ratio has been taken quite literally to mean that most learning is simply gained on the job. Unfortunately, some employers are taking this to mean they needn’t foster an environment of continuous professional development activity, such as training, coaching (well I would say that wouldn’t I?), reading, mentoring – you name it. ‘They can just get on with the job then!’. However, such laissez faire is missing the point entirely – because to be effective, learning needs to be structured and supported.
I think the ratio borrows from education theory such as Vygotsky’s idea of ‘scaffolding’, when someone (the manager) supports another to progress towards the next level of performance or ‘Zone of Proximal Development’.
So what does that mean in practice for managers?
My tips for managers are:
- Think about your own experience – what have you learned from tough job assignments recently? How have you applied that learning? What lessons from others do you apply (probably every day and without thinking)?
- Consider your team members’ workloads – how many of those tasks are stretch or tough jobs?
- Spend 1:1 time with your team regularly where the focus of the conversation is not just the task but also their learning from it. Use coaching questions to help them reflect, learn and progress.
- Keep the organisation and business needs in mind when discussing development needs – what needs to change or improve? How will the employer benefit? This will help identify measures for whatever learning activity is undertaken – whether that’s a work assignment, a secondment, coaching or a training course.
- Champion your team members when they need training and clarify what you’ll do to support them back on the job as they apply what they’ve learned. Clarify your expectations of them as a result of the training – this is a two-way process. Manager endorsement and support for training is a major variable in whether learning sticks – or slips away.
- Give feedback. This one seems so common sense – but all too often it’s not common practice. People need to hear from you how they’re doing – don’t assume they ‘just know’.
This might seem like common sense – but it isn’t always common practice.
For more on the theory and model, a good piece by Jefferson and Pollock for ATD explores the evidence.