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What Do You Do with Outcomes?—Training

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Image courtesy of Pixabay

You’ve made the leap and mapped the outcomes for your critical roles. Now what? In this installment of our mini-series, we discuss the use of outcomes for designing and developing training programs.

Most corporate training programs focus on building large libraries of generic courses designed more for adult education than for improved performance. Those courses build general skills and knowledge and are not intended to help people perform better in their specific roles.

Outcome-based courses, on the other hand, are specifically designed to help someone produce each of the critical outcomes associated with his or her individual role. As an example, let’s say a key outcome for a project manager is to produce a project plan appropriate to manage the project. Applicable courses or modules might include the following:

  • fundamentals of successful project planning
  • how to write a project plan
  • how to implement a project plan

Of course, there may also be a series of courses that help with the foundational skills and knowledge elements behind each of those outcome-based courses. An example might be a technical writing course to help build writing skills. But the bulk of the focus and the real value is in the how-to courses that help people consistently produce the key outcomes to standard.

This may seem to be common sense but, as usual, common sense is anything but common. In one case, a large organization had over three thousand courses in their learning library, but not one of them focused on helping people produce the outcomes gleaned from their top performers. In other words, there was a key outcome that helped people be successful, but the organization did nothing to help people produce that outcome. Thankfully, once that gap was understood, the organization quickly moved to develop and launch courses focused how to consistently produce the key outcomes determined by the TOPS analysis.


Questions to ponder:

  • Are your training courses specific to the needs of your performers? Or are they too generic to make a difference?


So What Do You Do with Outcomes?

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Over the last year, we’ve spent a lot of time discussing outcomes. We’ve talked about what they are, how to map them to a specific role, and what difference focusing on outcomes can make to an organization.

Let’s assume you’ve made the mental leap and are now on board with the value of mapping the outcomes for each critical role. Here’s the next key question: now that you have the list of outcomes, what do you do with them?

We tend to be very practical in our approaches. So at this point in our discussion of outcomes, we want to focus on some very practical applications.

In this series of blog posts, we’ll talk about several specific applications of outcomes:

  • designing, developing, and deploying training
  • equipping people to produce outcomes
  • hiring people most capable of producing outcomes
  • measuring how well the outcomes are produced
  • coaching people to produce outcomes

A significant body of literature is already available for each of these areas, and we will not be trying to duplicate any of that information. For example, an entire industry has been built around coaching, coaching techniques, and so forth. We will focus on how to integrate outcomes into a system of coaching and how doing so makes the coaching better and more effective.

If you have any specific questions or areas you’d like us to discuss as part of this series, please let us know. You can e-mail us at


Role Clarity

clarity“In the Florida State University study, less than 20 percent of employees are certain they know what is expected of them at work each day, with the majority reporting varying levels of clarity concerning responsibilities, ranging from ‘some’ to ‘complete’ ambiguity.” (See more at Business News Daily.)

What an amazing statement! Put another way, over 80 percent of people don’t really know what their jobs are—what they are supposed to produce to be successful. How can that be? Have leaders simply not told them? Or could it be that the jobs have never been documented in an understandable way?

Or maybe the reason doesn’t really matter. The fact that the situation exists at all should be enough to spur us into action. And the action needed is to document, explain, and then reinforce exactly what is expected from each person in his or her job.

Document. What is the job? What are the outcomes that should be produced? How often should they be produced and to what standard? What tools, information, and relationships should be used to produce those outcomes?

Explain. Clarify, not just by handing someone a vague job description but by sitting down and discussing each outcome in sufficient detail that each performer understands it and is able to start working toward success.

Reinforce. Conduct frequent, regular coaching sessions designed to help each person produce each outcome to standard. Or course, this means each outcome should contain objective and measurable standards that both the performer and his or her manager can use to gauge success.

Document, explain, reinforce. Three simple steps you can take immediately to improve your teams’ results.


Questions to ponder:

  • Do your people really know their jobs? How can you be certain?


Knowledge versus Performance


In the automotive industry, painting cars is a critical and exacting process. So much so that the technicians don’t actually paint the cars, they coat them, a subtle but important difference. Of course there’s paint involved, and that paint is sprayed onto the cars—and that is the source of a key lesson about knowledge versus performance.

Within the training required of the paint-booth operator was a somewhat lengthy course on paint viscosity. It turns out that different colored paints have different viscosities leading to different spray characteristics—different enough that imperfections in the finished paint job could result if the operator wasn’t careful. Hence the course in viscosity. It was naturally thought that an operator who understood viscosity thoroughly would be better equipped to anticipate and eliminate any possible issues. In other words: superior knowledge would bring superior results.

To confirm this hypothesis, interviews were conducted with the operators who consistently produced the best results in the paint booth, such as fewer imperfections and higher quality finishes. If the hypothesis about superior knowledge was correct, those top operators would also be the most knowledgeable about paint viscosity and the potential implications in the paint booth. Imagine the surprise when just the opposite was discovered. Those top operators not only didn’t have superior knowledge about viscosity, they claimed knowing more would not help them in any way. But how could that be?

Instead one of the top operators pulled a simple cotton swab out of his pocket and said, “What I know a lot about is when and how to clean the nozzles to get the best possible results.” In other words: superior performance trumped superior knowledge!

Which would you prefer among your top performers: superior knowledge or superior performance?



Question to ponder:

  • Are you training your people to have superior knowledge or superior performance?


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