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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

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Monday, July 23, 2012 11:59 PM
I love this! I think it is so true. What I am running into though is an executive team that wants our training team to justify the training we are providing. In essence, they are asking us to show them that we have a measurable effect on the bottom line. It seems like they want us to discount what other departments are doing. It is so frustrating! Do you have any thoughts as to how to respond to this?
Tuesday, July 24, 2012 4:24 AM
Doesn't this Quick Tip rather mis-represent isolation? According to my understanding, it is about identifying, understanding and respecting the various factors that contribute to the bottom line. Isolation (if done properly) enables us to account for our endeavours in a much more transparent way and provides the data to help us make intelligent decisions about quality improvement and investment.

Contrary to to the Quick Tip, isolation is all about valuing the contributions made by leaders, managers, participants and others. Any evaluation report that recognises these different inputs is actually isolating the effects of a training program (or other human capital investment) vis a vis other important contributions.
Thursday, August 16, 2012 9:56 AM
Hi Francis. I feel your pain! We hear this a lot. Professionals like you around the world are being pushed for evidence of business value. The truth of things is that the executives and program sponsors are 'moving their flags of expectations' higher and higher up the Level 4 mountain faster than the training industry is responding to providing what they are demanding. Specifically, number of participants, smile sheet scores, pre- and post-test scores, competencies, etc. are no longer convincing them. They want to see change at L3 and corresponding results at L4 - exactly as you say!

I do read something in your statement/question that I think is the key to your future success (or failure) and others like you. The "we" you refer to seems to be 'training providers'. Therein lies the key. If that is what "we" is, or how you define and execute your purpose, you are indeed in great jeopardy. What you need to do is move from developing and delivering training to becoming learning and performance consultants. This means spending more time with the business leaders and supervisors, impacting their world, not defending yours. Email me directly at and let's set up a time to discuss, ok? Jim
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