Corporate L&D has always played a strategic role in shaping an organization’s workforce. From the 1900s when billion-dollar companies like Ford, AT&T, and Motorola pioneered the concept of workplace learning to the highly specific learning strategies and instructional design frameworks that we use today, L&D has come quite a long way. Over 100 years in fact!

However, while we are aware of the role that corporate L&D plays, many organizations often find it hard to structure an L&D program properly and effectively because they fail to find the answer to one fundamental question. How do you accurately define the goals of a corporate L&D program?

The answers to this question have always been quite elusive. This is why we asked this question to a CLO who has been in the learning and development industry for over 40 years, in the latest episode of our podcast –  ‘The Digital Adoption Show’. Dr. Roy Pollock, the CLO of the 6Ds Learning Company and our guest speaker, summed it up, quite precisely, in 3 simple sentences.

“In a business setting, you are in the performance business, not the training business. Don’t think of your job as delivering training. Your job is to help employees perform on the job. The real goal is performance.”

Dr. Roy Pollock has been in the L&D space for over 40 years and has co-authored the best selling book – The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning. How to Turn Training and Development into Business Results. Dr. Pollock has a unique blend of experience in both business and education. He’s also a popular international speaker, consultant, and a passionate professor with extensive experience in business management, learning and strategy development.

In our discussion with Dr. Roy, we’ve talked quite at length about how he perceives L&D in a business setting and you need to design your instructional design framework to realize business growth and profitability.

Here’s the TL;DR version with the key takeaways from the podcast.

  1. A glimpse into the Six Disciplines that forms the foundation of breakthrough learning.
  2. Similarities between the 5-stage framework for accelerating product adoption and the 6Ds
  3. The two key questions employees must answer to test the effectiveness of their training
  4. Ensuring learning transfer in the most effective way possible so as to ensure it stays with the learner permanently
  5. Deploying performance support and how Whatfix plays a valuable part in it.


We’ve heard plenty about your book on the Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning. Could you brief us on what these six disciplines are?

The Six Disciplines are the answer to a question we asked, nearly 20 years ago. Why do some L&D programs and change initiatives have so much more value than others even when they use similar instructional design frameworks and training techniques? Even within one organization, there are differences between programs that add value and those that don’t. We studied highly effective training programs and found out that there were six things that highly these programs did that differentiated them from the rest.

We’ve since continued to write, teach and learn about them. The Six Disciplines are as follows.

  1. Define the business outcomes.
    We’re in the performance business, not the training business. So, it’s absolutely critical before you even begin to design a program, that you understand what it is that your business is trying to accomplish in terms of performance. Everything else will depend solely on these objectives.
  2. Design the complete experience.
    What this means is treating learning as an ongoing process and not as a one-off event, recognizing that what happens before, during, and especially after training makes a real difference in whether it adds value or not.
  3. Deliver for application.
    Design your instructional design framework and all of the supporting materials in a way that makes it easy to apply. Value is created only by the application of the learning, not by its acquisition.
  4. Drive learning transfer.
    You need to put in place, systems and processes to make sure that learning is in fact, applied when people return to their jobs. That’s the only way in which your instructional design framework adds value.
  5. Deploy performance support.
    Give people the tools, the information, the support they need to perform flawlessly in their jobs in real-time.
  6. Document the results.
    Ask the important questions. Was your instructional design model able to deliver what it promised? Did you achieve the desired performance objectives? If so, what can be improved and if not, what went wrong? It is important to assess the outcomes of any initiative that proves to be worth the investment, and then also provide the information to improve the next generation.
“Your value is how much you actually help achieve business results, not how much training you deliver.”

At Whatfix, we’ve identified a Five-Stage Framework for accelerating product adoption. Our framework includes Design, Develop, Deliver, Analyze, and Iterate. Do you see similarities between your model of 6Ds and ours?

Both models recognize that the real value comes from on-the-job application. So it doesn’t matter how potentially useful a new software system is, or what people learned in a training program. The instructional design framework you choose can only repay the cost of investment when they’re actually put to work. Driving performance is a process and not just an event. Both the 6Ds and the 5-stage framework for product adoption, recognize that the instructional design framework has to first focus on adoption and application, that we’re not simply in the business of transmitting knowledge. Instead, we’re in the business of changing performance in a way that helps the employee and helps the organization succeed.

I think both models recognize the importance of spacing learning out over time. In particular, providing post-training support as an integral part of the learning to results process and that what happens after the training isn’t an afterthought. It really needs to be built into the process from the very beginning. The 5-stage framework emphasizes the importance of analyzing the training’s impact, not merely its delivery, not just how many people were trained, how many elearning courses were completed. But whether it really did make a difference. Both the 5-stage model and the 6Ds, emphasize the importance of getting insights so that we can improve the execution of subsequent iterations. Fundamentally, the ideas and approaches are very much in alignment with both the instructional design models, and if followed, will help companies increase the risk and the return on their training and development investments.

The instructional design framework you choose can only repay the cost of investment when they’re actually put to work.

In your book, you talk about two key questions an employee must answer. Can you say more about them and relate them to the two models?

For training or for any other change initiative to succeed, employees have to make the decision to change the way they do their work any time they are faced with performing a new task. This moment is what we like to call ‘the moment of truth’

They have two choices. They can perform it the new way, or they can perform it as they’ve been doing it in the past. If they continue to do it the same old way, their performance will continue to be as it was and no value will have been added.

So, in order for an employee to choose to perform in a new way, they have to answer two questions in the affirmative.  Can I do it the new way? And will I do it to do the new way?

When they think about whether they can do it in the new way, it is important to understand whether the training was purely theoretical or if it actually helped them in application. Once the employee decides to perform a task in the new way, the next question is whether they will make an effort to do it the new way. In this case, there needs to be a motivation for the employee to prefer the new way. You need to have in place, reminders, incentives etc. Something beyond the training itself to encourage employees to make the effort to change. Essentially, any instructional design framework needs to make sure that it addresses the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) factor.

For training or for any other change initiative to succeed, employees have to make the decision to change the way they do their work any time they are faced with performing a new task

What does the discipline, Driving learning transfer, entail?

Value is only created when I transfer what I have learned out of any kind of training program or on-the-job training or any other onboarding initiative. When we say learning transfer, we don’t mean from the instructor to the learner, we mean that the person transfers the learning out of the learning environment into the work environment because it’s only when they are implemented in their work that it adds value. So, we need to design mechanisms and instructional design frameworks, as part of that total learning experience to make sure that people are reminded of the need to use it, they are supported in their need to use it, and they’re held accountable for using it. If they don’t, they can learn all sorts of new skills, they can learn new attitudes, they can learn new knowledge. What matters is what percent of the learning was used on the job in a way that helped achieve business goals. So there lies a very real opportunity for learning professionals and HR professionals to think more holistically about what can we do to foster the transfer and what can we do to support people as they attempt to apply these new skills in such a way so as to ensure employee success and drive performance.


There’s one particular thing that piqued my interest here and that’s knowledge retention. What I’ve read on this particular subject is that, most of us, after one hour, retain less than half of the information. After one day, we forget more than 70% of what was taught in the training. Then after six days, we forget 75% of the information in the training. What are your thoughts on this?

What you’ve described is the Forgetting Curve. It was first elucidated by a German named Ebbinghaus over 100 years ago. What he actually studied was how people remember lists of nonsense syllables. And what he discovered, of course, is that if you work hard, and memorize a list of just nonsense syllables, then you forget them very quickly, particularly if you do it just once. What we need to bare in mind now after another hundred years of study is that the situation is more complex than what he studied.

There are specific things we can do to help people better retain and use information. Now, one of the most important principles is called the Spacing Principle. And that is, to revisit a topic several times with intervals in between, because every time you revisit a topic, you enrich the neural pathway to it, which makes it both easier to recall and also deepens your understanding. Spacing out and revisiting topics makes them more memorable and easier to recall. So, what we need to do when we teach is to come back to topics and find ways to interact with the learner once they return to work to bring that learning back to mind. Spacing out the learning has a very powerful effect on counteracting the Forgetting Curve. The other thing we can do is enrich the number of connections, the more connections you have, the easier it is to recall and then apply a learning in the right situation. So we should intentionally build our training and post-training support in ways that help people make multiple connections to give them a mental framework, a way of thinking about it. In the instructional design framework, we need to give learners a structure that enables them to think about the topic. Use a lot of examples and illustrations, and particularly those that are relevant to their job and company, making it easier to recall. And since it’s tied to other things they already know and can remember it makes it easier to bring it back in the future.

Can you explain in detail about the Fifth Discipline – Deploying performance support?

If we focus on the idea that our job is to help people improve their performance, in a way that helps them in their career, and helps a company achieve its goals, then we should give people whatever support they need to perform flawlessly, on the job every time. Now, human beings are very good at remembering the gist of things. But when it comes down to remembering actual details, it can prove to be quite hard. Instead, if you were to learn in a way that were to include multiple steps, it overloads working memory. And it gets even more difficult if you have to remember both the steps and how to perform them. To make it easier for learners, you can give them a checklist, give them a step-by-step procedure, a flowchart or an algorithm.  So performance support is just about asking a single question. How can you get your learners the right piece of information at the moment of need outside or in addition to training to drive performance?


Do you think Whatfix would be valuable in enabling the Fifth Discipline?

Great performance support has a number of attributes. One of them is availability. Information available precisely when and where I need it. The more easily and quickly a learner can access the information, the more likely he/she is to use it and the more effective it’s likely to be. Gottfredson, and Mosher wrote a book called Innovative Performance Support. And in it, they said, the more embedded, intuitive and tailored support is, the higher the probability that performers will see value in it, and engage in it at another time. So, we need support to be available quickly, easily specific to the task you’re working on. We can use that to drive performance. This kind of support where it’s available when needed, it’s specific, it’s tailored, it’s quick, is exactly what we’re talking about to drive performance. And it’s complimentary to training. In some cases, we can even reduce the amount of training if we have the right support. And so yes, Whatfix, with its just-in-time, in-app contextual help and personalized experience would be highly valuable in enabling the Fifth Discipline.


I happened to notice that in the diagram of the 6Ds, most of the disciplines are shown in our timeline from left to right. But D4 that is, driving learning transfer and D5, that is, deploying performance support are stacked one above the other. Why is that?

6Ds of learining

It was intentionally done to make the point that D4 – driving training transfer is holding people accountable for using what they learn. You see, it should be unacceptable for an employee to go to training, and not do anything with it. So if you go to be trained, you should be held accountable for using it. But if I’m going to hold you accountable for using it, then I should do everything I can to be sure you have the information, the tools, the support, to succeed. What we found is that you need to deploy disciplines four and five simultaneously. They’re complimentary, and they’re synergistic. You get greater value, if you give people great support, for example, with a system such as Whatfix, and at the same time, you expect them to perform before you hold them accountable for transferring that learning to the job. So the two need to work together. And we illustrated them as a stack rather than as occurring one after the other to make the point that they’re complimentary. They’re a pair that support one another and give the best possible results for the company and the employee.

“You get greater value, if you give people great support, for example, with a system such as Whatfix.”

So, Roy, we are going to have a rapid-fire round next and I want you to pour out the first idea that comes in your mind about the next questions that I have for you.

In all the years of training, which is the one method that is your absolute favorite.

Mentoring. Now, I love training and interacting with people. I like teaching over the internet. But what I really like most is the opportunity to work with a group of people over time. So that I can share what I’ve learned during the course of my career. And I can see them, help them grow and offer advice and suggestions and challenges and questions in real-time.

I’m sure that there are many influencers who might have influenced and inspired you. Could you share some of the names that top that list?

Jorge Valls. My boss at SmithKline Beecham and the finest manager I ever worked for. I’ve had many wonderful mentors, but Jorge is special. He taught me that great managers are great teachers. I never left his office without having learned something. And I guess the most important thing I learned from Jorge is that the more knowledge I gave away, the smarter I became.


Out of all the books you’ve written, which one is your absolute favorite? And which one would you recommend everyone listening to this to read?

Well, I think you can start with the book called The Six Disciplines. It really lays out what we have learnt. It represents about 15 years of knowledge working with companies around the world and describes each of the disciplines in more detail. It includes ideas for actions includes ideas for management and for the learning professionals. So I think that’s the best, most readable and complete. And people around the globe have told me that they found it very helpful. So that would be my favorite.


What is the one word or phrase that comes to mind when I say digital transformation and adoption?

Adapt or die. What I mean by that is that the World Economic Forum’s the future of jobs report says that more than half of all jobs are going to require significant rescaling and upscaling in the next five years, you’ve got to be flexible, you’ve got to be open to new ideas, and you’ve got to keep learning or risk being obsolete. That’s why Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft said, always keep learning, you stop doing useful things if you don’t learn.

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