70-20-10 Rule

Learning new skills and new ways of doing things creates the foundation for organizational change. If the individuals in organization continue to behave in their old ways or backslide into them, no amount or reorganization or rewards will make change stick. For lasting change whether growth related or remedial, the 70-20-10 rule applies.

The 70-20-10 Rule provides a simple guideline for effective development: 70% on-the-job/hands-on assignments, 20% working with others, 10% formal coursework or training. The key, then, to behavior change is not a killer course, though that helps, but the support and opportunity for practice provided after training ends.

The Center for Creative leadership developed the 70-20-10 Rule based on 30 years of research into executive growth. However, if you think about how you learn new skills, this rule applies to most new skills.

It may help to think of this Rule in chronological order: 10-20-70. The formal learning comes first. You take a class, watch a video, or have someone¬†teach you. You learn the skills, you may even practice the skills. Then you go back to work and what happens? You use the new skills for a while, but things get busy and you start reverting back to your old ways and maybe, if you’re dedicated, a couple skills stick. But you just spent 8, maybe even 16 hours in the class. Shouldn’t you (and your company) get more from the training than just a few new skills. Or is anything truly better than nothing? Seems like a waste of training budget to me! (Read: The Case for Bite-Sized Learning) That’s where the 20% comes in.

The 20% provides support and accountability for using the new skills. This could be the next level manager (NLM) watching and coaching, a formal coach, a buddy from the class, or better yet, a coworker or colleague who already practices the new skill and can coach you and hold you accountable for the 70% of application and practice.

Breaking out your organizational challenge into discreet behavior changes may feel like a cumbersome, time-consuming approach, but in the long run can save time and money.

For more information on the 70-20-10 Rule, visit the Center for Creative Leadership site.

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