Aligning inputs and outputs of a change campaign

Inspired by the four levels of Kirkpatrick and the article Making Corporate Learning Work by Shlomo Ben-Hur & Nik Kinley I came up with a new model this morning. From the latter the inspiration was the following quote (amongst others):

academic learning is primarily focused on inputs, what is taught and what is learned; but corporate learning should be primarily interested in outputs, how the things we learn are used, and how they can be of value to individuals and organisations.

From the “Four levels of Kirkpatrick” I’m using the concept of aligning all results with critical behaviors and, if it’s needed, what knowledge is required to be learned to pull that new behavior off.

Let’s combine these two concepts and look at how input/output often is misaligned:

a-b-with-inputs-outputs

All change campaigns aims to get from today, point A, to a desired goal, point B. To get there we need to create a series of Inputs that pushes us in the direction of the desired goal in point B. What really drives the change however is the outputs, the changes in behavior and their results.

And keep in mind that:

  • The inputs are actions that always cost money or other resources
  • The outputs are results that make money if they occur.

In a classic L&D department the inputs are things like webinars, e-learning and workshops. For a marketing department they might be brochures, documentation and exhibitions. These are things that are the “go-to-solution”. We start with creating these content bearers before really knowing what outputs we want.

But, wait a minute, why don’t the inputs drive the change? If we look at learning as an input (via e-learning or whatever) it’s not the knowledge itself that drives change but how it helps you towards a more productive behavior. One could argue that it’s better to learn as little as possible as long as you actually change to a beneficial behavior… as much as possible.

Classic outputs are for example: shorten sales process, increase quality and fewer customer complaints. What’s interesting is when we look at how each output is supported, i.e. is there a specific input or range of inputs for each and every output? Sadly it often it looks like this:

misalignment

There’s a gap between the input and output as they don’t really align. They’re misaligned since no-one has really mentioned that we should be looking at results for our brochures. We can easily calculate how much each and every brochure costs to produce, translate and print but we cannot show you what they do to shorten our sales process. Why? Well, we didn’t produce the brochure for that reason… We must have a brochure, don’t we? So… we produced one…

We too often put the highest focus on our standard inputs without aligning them with the money making outputs we need to reach our campaign goal in point B.

aligned-inputs-outputs

Above is the ideal situation where the several inputs have been aligned to support a single output. This should be repeated on the other outputs as well. In most cases it doesn’t need as many inputs to make it happen since that output might be easier to accomplish, e.g. with great coaching alone we’re almost there.

Below is the complete model that shows where we find ourselfs often. Take a look and feel free to come back with any comments.

input-and-output-misalignment-model

More information regarding the Four levels of Kirkpatrick can either be found at the previously linked wikipedia article or by reading the tree planting example.