PS: If you enjoy this post, find more at ! DS

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:


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:


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.

Take a look at the complete model below and feel free to come back with any comments.


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.

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  • So what needs to change in your mind Henrik? Is it a cultural thing, a capability issue or is it just too much effort to truly measure the outputs? I know its probably easy to say its a combination of all the above and more. That's the easy way out though...if we are going to change this where would you start?
  • I wish that there WAS more reference to continuous improvement and measurement of change in behavior in all organizational change. From my experience, that's mostly not the case though. Most people race to provide solutions to problems and don't analyze what's actually required to reach the goal. That is, we get the A and the B and start looking at inputs but seldom do the whole B<Outputs<Behaviors<Inputs<A analysis. Since people are what organizations are built out of, that's also the way most organizations work...

    When it comes to L&D and marketing departments, there's no discussion at all I think. Most of them definitely focus on inputs instead of outputs but I wish they’d implement your suggestions on how to do it instead.

  • Yep got you - this graphic illustrates the alignment well.

    Linking this back to your earlier graphics there is still a doubt in my mind over over the low focus reference in outputs area and feel there should be some sort of reference to continuous improvement or at least a change in behaviour in the outputs e.g. what you'll see as a result of the coaching.

    If the reference to low focus is the focus usually given by L&D after the inputs then I understand and agree in the past the "stand and deliver then disappear" methodology is often why the gaps appear (and stay) in the first place. If there is a much higher focus on the outputs it will close any gap much quicker. That's the challenge!

  • Hi Mike,

    You're all correct in your assumption. The focus should of course be on a clearly stated goal (B) and then the leading indicators/outputs that gets you to that goal. aligned-inputs-outputs.png?width=300

    I forgot to add this illustration (I've since updated my model at my blog's) that also points out that you could have several inputs aligning with a single output, thus all working together to making this happen.

    What we always must avoid is doing the inputs we've always done a la checklists. Getting a "I must be done since I've done the glossy brochure and the heavy duty manual".

  • Hi Henrik - interesting post thanks. I think what you've highlighted here is something that happens in a lot of organisations. That the solution or input is a) actually needed to make the change b) the right input to make the change c) that one input / solution in isolation will NOT drive the necessary changes. If these three things aren't right then there will always be a gap as we're not approaching it in the right way. By starting with the outputs e.g. the desired change you can then minimise the mis-alignment and gap by meeting the need with the right input.

    I'm not 100% clear on the focus though as surely the outputs should be a higher focus than the inputs and whilst the inputs do have some sort of cost (not just monetary) associated e.g. resource, it's the outputs that represent true organisational value?

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