Invest in Doing

By Bill Wilder, Director of the Life Cycle Institute

"I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand."
You have heard this quote often attributed to Confucius.

What does this statement really mean to learning and change management professionals?

If you are investing in training to change behavior a significant portion of your investment should be focused on “doing”.

At the Life Cycle Institute we refer to this as the Application phase of 3A LearningSM: Align, Assimilate, Apply. When we invest in learning we invest with the objective of changing behavior to produce desired results. Achieving desired results requires “doing” something different, i.e. changing behavior.

To achieve behavior change you must focus attention on getting participants to start “doing” things. In other words, invest in doing.

Among the investments you will want to make is time for the trainer (referred to as facilitator from this point forward) to provide individual coaching as people begin to apply what they learned in the classroom.

The facilitator will guide participants to document two or three SMART goals they can achieve within the first 90 days following the class. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

The facilitator should have a list of no more than six categories that each participant’s goals can fit into. For example, the goal categories from a coaching class may include active listening, goal setting, development planning, feedback, or conflict resolution. The goal categories should be consistent with the class learning objectives and include elements of the class content and desired behavior changes.

Within each goal category should be two to four specific, measurable goals. Goals should reference specific opportunities to apply the course content in the workplace. For instance, the active listening goal category may include a goal of documenting six individual meetings that follow the active listening checklist provided in the class within the next four weeks. Another active listening goal might be to deliver a one-hour lunch and learn within the next 60 days for direct reports on the process of active listening learned in the class.

During class, participants can choose from the predetermined goals or write their own, but they must adhere to the goal categories. Participants should be encouraged to write their own goals, while being mindful that goals must meet the SMART criteria, be achievable within 90 days and apply content learned in the class.

After class the facilitator will follow up with each individual every two weeks to discuss the progress in achieving the goals. Ideally you will have five follow-up sessions, taking place every two weeks. If all five meetings cannot be achieved, even one or two sessions will have impact.

Follow-up sessions can be individual meetings or group sessions. The advantage of group sessions is that participants can learn from the experience of the cohort. There are some other advantages to a group approach. It imposes some pressure to get something done, as participants will be accountable to their peers. Next, it is easier for the participants’ manager(s) to participate when they only have to present at one meeting, rather than several.

The disadvantage of the group approach is that meetings will be longer and coordinating schedules of the entire cohort is almost always impossible, so you will miss some folks.

The important points are to simplify the goal setting, focus the behavior, and celebrate early success. These are the hallmarks of a successful “doing” investment.


For more information about how the Life Cycle Institute can help your learning programs yield more effective results, please contact us at 800-556-9589 or [email protected].

Bill Wilder, M.Ed is the founder and director of the Life Cycle Institute, the learning, leadership and change management practice at Life Cycle Engineering. The Institute integrates the science of learning and the science of change management to help organizations produce results through behavior change. You can reach Bill at [email protected].

© Life Cycle Engineering, Inc.

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