My 5 year old son is obsessed with volcanoes.

Almost every night at bedtime we are reading books about volcano facts. It’s an exciting journey for him, and I really admire the focus that he brings to bedtime story time.

As it turns out, reading books about volcanoes leads to books about earthquakes, which, in turn, lead to books about tsunamis. 

I became really interested when we got into tsunamis because – stick with me here – I noticed a fascinating parallel between these forces of nature and the work we do in the learning and development community. 

The parallel to me is the issue behind measuring behaviour change and measuring learning and development program impact. One of the challenges facing our industry as it relates to this: there is a gap between when the event takes place and when the results show up in a quantifiable way. 

This time lag creates friction.

I noticed a fascinating parallel between these forces of nature and the work we do in the learning and development community.

In some cases, from our preliminary research on this, it can take up to two years before these changes start to appear in certain KPIs. 

Back to tsunamis for a moment: 

A tsunami builds because of an earthquake under the ocean; the upwards pressure of tectonic activity creates a massive change…but not one we can easily observe (at least initially). The waves start out small, maybe only a foot or two high. It’s not until they reach the shallows that the energy transforms from that small wave, to the powerful hundred-foot wave that we associate with these forces of nature. 

The same can be said for change resulting from learning programs – the change that first occurs is not often observable. 

Oftentimes in an attempt to measure the change – if an attempt is being made to measure it at all – people tie the change back to KPIs. That’s kind of like measuring a wave’s impact by how far it landed once it got to shore – there are a number of things that happened before that… and those things take time which take time. 

Other times an attempt to measure impact is done through 360s – looking at observable behavior. This too, is great in theory but, like the tsunami, misses about 90% of the power that is (currently) hidden beneath the waves. The initial elements of change are not observable to the naked eye. 

The same is true for individuals. 

Business impact shifts require mindset shifts and behavioral shifts. All of that takes time. Time, repetition, support and courage to go through that process. 

Business impact shifts require mindset shifts and behavioral shifts.

As my son is obsessed with volcanoes, so too am I obsessed with behaviour change. With “what comes after” inspiration and good intention.

Since launching Actionable in 2008, my focus has been on understanding, sustaining and “shining a light” on those initial, internal – invisible – behavior changes that need to occur to realize significant impact down the road.

As you consider measuring program efficacy in your own engagements, it’s worth spending some time asking how you can “shine a light” on the previously invisible work participants are engaging in. 

What do you do as a facilitator to encourage the application of learning following the session? 

How do you nurture the early stage of change that takes place deep inside the individual?

I look forward to hearing from you (and am open to any great volcano book recommendations!). 

Actionable is on a mission to help boutique consultancies scale their business by giving them the tools to prove their impact.

Think we can help you? Send us a note at hello@actionable.co.

We can’t wait to meet you.