“Those Who Seek to Isolate Will Become Isolated Themselves”

July 18, 2012

Kirkpatrick Quick Tip Vol. 2 #19

It is very tempting to want to isolate the impact of training on final organizational results, or isolate the impact of any component, for that matter. The reality is that isolation is impossible (or so difficult to accomplish that the resources employed to complete the calculation questionable), and non-productive.

Diederick Stoel, a colleague in Amsterdam, once said, “Those who seek to isolate will become isolated themselves.” We wrote this down and refer to it often because we believe it to be true.

Here is an everyday example. Let’s say that your doctor has advised that you will have a longer and healthier life if you lose 25 pounds. You decide to follow the advice, and embark on a diet and exercise plan including the following factors:

  • Working with a personal trainer to create a fitness plan
  • Exercising for 30 minutes six days per week
  • Meeting with a nutritionist for a personalized diet plan
  • Eating only the foods allowed in the diet plan
  • Drinking 64 ounces of water each day
  • Sleeping an average of eight hours per night

You diligently follow your diet, exercise and rest plan and you lose 25 pounds!

Now, suppose the personal trainer wanted to take credit for the majority of your weight loss due the excellent fitness plan he created for you 90 days ago. As the person who worked hard for three months, you might be offended by this attempt. Your point of view would likely be that your hard work and adherence to all six factors created your success.

Apply this metaphor to training as part of a large organizational initiative. Let’s say it’s a leadership program aimed at reducing cycle time to increase revenue through training, mentoring, role-modeling and increased reporting. Attempting to isolate the impact of the formal training class at the start of the initiative is basically discounting and disrespecting the contributions of other factors.

It is the same as saying:

  • “Managers who meet with supervisors to encourage and guide them, you don’t count.”
  • “Leaders who hold direct reports accountable for behavior change, you don’t count, either.”
  • “Training participants who continue their education with self-directed learning on the job, sorry, we’re not accounting for that in our report.”
  • “All of you who go out of your way to help the person next to you when things get tough, we’re factoring you out of this calculation.”

We doubt this is the message that you want to send to your organization, and to all of the people who contributed to the initiative. Instead of seeking to isolate the impact of your training, gather data on all of the factors that contributed to the success of the initiative, and give credit where credit is due. This way, your role is not simply to deliver training, but to create and orchestrate organizational success. This makes you a strategic business partner who contributes to your organization’s competitive advantage and is therefore indispensable.

Additional resources:

Kirkpatrick Four Levels™ Evaluation Certification Program – Bronze Level

Kirkpatrick Four Levels™ Evaluation Certification Program – Silver Level

Kirkpatrick Business Partnership Certificate Program

Please share your thoughts on this Quick Tip.

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