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Jackie Clifford

Clarity Learning and Development


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What are we trying to achieve through learning interventions?

Jackie Clifford explains what we can do to help enable team members to turn knowledge into action when returning from learning interventions.

As I was reading Robin Hoyle’s recent article on 2023 L&D trends I was struck (not for the first time) by the section on impact. Robin talks about “measuring value in improved performance and capability” and reminds us that we should always consider what we are trying to achieve through learning interventions – for individuals, teams and our organisations.

This led my thoughts to a question that, to me, feels important. 

What we can do to help ourselves?

How do we turn knowledge into action? 

I love to gather knowledge and information – whether that be via an article, a book or a podcast. I often have that moment where I say to myself ‘I’ll try that’ and then I forget what it was that I was going to try!

Similarly, I love to attend learning events and will often walk away with an action plan which remains in my notebook and is not translated into the ‘something’ that I was going to do. That doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a great event. It simply means that my action plan was not a true plan for action…

I know that I’m not alone in this. I talk to many learners who have the best intentions in the world, but as soon as they are back in their working environment, they revert to business as usual.

With this in mind, I wondered what we can do to help ourselves and support line managers to enable their team members to turn knowledge into action.   

How do we get more congruence between what we know and what we do

How do we ensure that new knowledge informs future actions – in ourselves and in others?

I believe it starts with knowing what we are trying to achieve (this was something that Robin also mentioned in his article). 

So much has been written about goals and objective setting that I wonder if we are now overthinking the concept.

What am I setting out to achieve?

Intention setting

What if you were to ask yourself, or your manager was to ask you, ‘what do you hope to achieve by attending this workshop?’ before you head off or log on to your learning event; would that trigger some useful thinking? 

Even better, what if your manager spent some time discussing this before you were even booked onto the workshop?

For me, this links through to the idea of perspective reflection – something I’ve mentioned in previous articles. If I can take a moment before taking action to ask myself ‘what am I hoping to achieve here’ I will probably be more focused and relate my actions to a larger picture. 

So, a useful question – on both a micro and macro level – is ‘what am I setting out to achieve?’ with a follow-up question of ‘how does this link to the overall goal/purpose?’

This question can then be the jumping-off point for some further questions. The questions below are evolutions from the Five Questions that Sara Thorpe and I write about in our little book ‘The Five Questions System’ and can be used as self-coaching questions or can be posed by a manager or colleague during a short conversation:

Question #1

Once I have gained this knowledge, what am I going to do with it? Why am I going to do this?

By considering the ‘why’ we are linking back to the earlier question about what I am setting out to achieve.

Question #2

How am I going to apply this knowledge on a daily basis?

This question prompts consideration of applying knowledge on a regular and consistent basis. It also helps us to consider what might get in the way of our plans to apply our knowledge.

Question #3

How will I measure the impact of my actions?

With this question, we are focusing on our measures of success. We can link our thinking around this question back to what we are trying to achieve and consider whether our proposed action will result in this. 

Question #4

How am I doing?

This question is posed once we have taken some action. We can ask ourselves the extent to which we have achieved our desired impact and consider what we might need to change in order to do so.

Question #5

What next?

With this question, we decide whether to keep on going with the actions that we are now taking or whether to change direction a little. The answers to question 4 will help us to make this decision. 

There is nothing magic or mysterious about these Five Questions; yet time and time again, when I use them or offer them in slightly different formats to others, they have proved extremely valuable.

Why not try them for yourself the next time you come across a useful nugget of wisdom or a new bit of knowledge that you want to apply? And why not let us know how you find them by commenting on this article?

Interested in this topic? Read How to measure the effectiveness of coaching interventions?

One Response

  1. Thanks for these thoughts,
    Thanks for these thoughts, Jackie (and the name check!)

    On similar topics about impact and transfering learning into workplace action, I have recently published a conversation with Professor Robert Brinkerhoff and with Emma Weber, author of Turning Learning into Action.

    Next in the series is a conversation with Dr Ina Weinbauer-Heidel of the Institute of Transfer Effectiveness in Austria – published soon.

    You’ll find them here:

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Jackie Clifford


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