The manager connects the pieces of 70-20-10

 “Practice doesn’t make perfect: it only makes it permanent. Practice is repetition, and if you repeat the same mistakes over and over again, you will just become very good at making mistakes. Along the way, you might learn a thing or two. Some single individual might get a revelation and be hailed as a genius. But for the most of us practice only make us good at doing something bad. If perfection is your goal – and I’m not sure it should be – then it is practicing perfection that makes perfect.”

David duChemin

What the best-selling author and photographer David duChemin says rings true to me and this strikes me as something that has been indirectly suggested in posts from my fellow L&D bloggers, but it hasn’t been expressed properly. I’m not bashing anyone but it deserves to be properly announced:

For the 70-20-10 model to work as intended in a workplace setting it needs a manager holding it all together. The manager is what connects the pieces of 70-20-10.


In post two in Jay Cross’ brilliant must-read “50 suggestions for implementing 70-20-10” he states the following:

“People learn by doing. We learn from experience and achieve mastery through practice.”

Jay Cross

This is unfortunately not true. Yes, people CAN learn by doing, but people can also make the same mistakes over and over until they die of old age. Of course we CAN learn from our experiences but that often require some sort of guidance or coaching. The old idiom “practice makes perfect” is just plain wrong.

In post five in the series Cross says something that indirectly expresses the opposite of the above quote:

“Managers have to learn how to develop their people. (…) they will set examples for their team; they will foster experiential learning by leading their team to tackle new challenges (the 70), by helping them reflect on the lessons of experience and by coaching them at every step (the 20), and by showing them how to get formal learning on the subject (the 10).”

Jay Cross

Further on he says that managers are also the ones that should make explicit why they’re assigning particular projects, formal training or tasks – what they expect people to learn and what sort of debrief that will occur after the specific assignment.

For us to not just learn how to do the same mistakes over and over, but oh-so-fast, it requires something more. Something guided. Cross continues to state that if a manager set clear objectives and expectations and how they’ll measure performance: they’re much more likely to succeed and will outperform their peers by 20%.

Cross even defines a manager as “someone who develops others by challenging them with assignments that stretch them to the point of flow.”

In his conclusions Cross mentions that Charles Jennings ( provides 5 bullets for the L&D people out there in the world and their role in helping managers learn that:

  1. People learn from experience.
  2. Managers shape the experience of the people on their team.
  3. Experience coupled with reflection sticks lessons in memory.
  4. Daily mid-course correction is much more powerful than after-the-fact reviews.
  5. Every project they assign is a potential learning experience for their team members.

I would have liked it better if 1 and 3 here was one bullet: People learn from experience if it’s coupled with reflection that sticks lessons in memory. That might be academics but the thing is, if we exclude the influence of the manager – the 70-20-10 model doesn’t work at all. Or rather, it will fall apart because it’s the manager’s role to shape the experience of the people on their team into something that provides value to the organization and fosters better performance.


As Jennings stated: It is the manager’s role to shape the experiences of their team, to coach and keep their employees reflecting on what they’re doing. And, what people mostly miss regarding the practice of reflecting on your own actions is that, while you should of course try never to repeat the same mistakes over and over it is even more important to repeat what you did right. Was something a success? Great, how can you assure that you can repeat this next time?

Coaching questions like these are very hard to remember yourself but if the manager includes this in his/her repertoire the big “70” will gain a lot more traction. When the 70 works it’ll strengthen the 20, provided the manager assures transparence and a high level of employee influence. Furthermore, if the 20 works the employees will know what is required of them in terms of performance and any formal learning programs they attend will have the fertile soil to not just be a waste of resources.

I’ll finish this post by a last quote from Jay Cross:

managers and supervisors are the linchpin to developing new talent.