It’s All in the Numbers

For those of you that struggled through your probability and statistics courses in school (like several of us, by the way) we’d like to begin this blog with a brief refresher of a key term:

Correlation“A statistical technique that demonstrates whether (and how strongly) pairs of variables are related”

With that review firmly in mind, we’d like to pass along some things we learned from Jim Kirkpatrick recently at a Kirkpatrick Partners certification program. Operating on the assumption that anyone who reads this blog is familiar with Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels, we have taken the liberty of including it in our narrative based on our collective experience evaluating the impact of Situational Leadership® training over the years.

Level I and Level II outcomes are highly correlated – At face value, this makes sense. If you sit through what you feel is “an enjoyable learning experience,” you will probably engage, absorb and actively participate. If you do all those things (or even only two of the three), there is a high probability that you will learn something and reflect positively on the experience.

level 1 and 2

Conversely, if you attend training that you perceive to have limited relevance to what you do and, in your opinion, the learning itself was delivered in a manner that did more to distract you than draw you in, then there is a high probability that you will learn very little and write paragraphs (in bold letters with exclamation marks!) in the comments section of your Level I feedback form.

Level III and Level IV outcomes are highly correlated – Again, it is difficult to argue this point (as long as we are talking about a sustained behavior change at Level III). If you alter the manner in which you approach, react or respond to a set of circumstances or a particular situation, it is reasonable to assume that you will produce different outcomes.

level 3 and 4

For example, have you ever bumped into a person you haven’t seen in a while and noticed they had lost some weight?

“Chris, if you don’t mind me stating the obvious, you look great!”

“Well, thanks for noticing!”

“Any special secrets to pass along?”

“Not really. I’ve simply been eating less, eating better, and working out more.”


As Victor Vroom and other researchers established long ago, (Expectancy Theory) behavior is goal-oriented and goal-directed. If we alter the goal, we will need to change behavior to achieve it. On the other hand, if we change our behavior, it stands to reason we will alter our destiny as well.

There is no correlation between Level II and Level III outcomes – It would not be an overstatement to suggest that this declaration encapsulates the challenge the training industry has faced since our inception. How is what you are offering/requiring (in class, online, etc.) relevant to what learners do when they return to their division/department/territory? How will taking them away from what they are doing right now (and sending them to training) improve their ability and/or willingness to make a meaningful contribution to the cause?

level 2 and three

Realistically, and with ever-increasing regularity, those questions are not only legitimate, they are a call to action. And, fundamentally, that call to action suggests (in many cases demands) that we critically evaluate how we design and develop training because:

Currently 90% of design and development effort is focused on the training event itself – Think about that for a second. When viewed through a historical lens, it makes nothing but perfect sense. The job of the Instructional Designer is to design the training event. That event needs to be grounded in adult-learning principles, impart the knowledge it is intended to impart and build the skills it is intended to build.

But, when viewed through the lens of correlating Level II and Level III outcomes, “event-based focus” suddenly seems like playing checkers as opposed to playing chess. We don’t need Instructional Designers designing instruction. What we need are Performance Consultants designing training as the introductory phase to a change initiative dedicated to improving productivity.



  1. Reflect on the statistical input provided above:
    1. Are the numbers aligned with your experience?
    2. Which of the four statements surprised you the most?
  2. What percent of design and development time do you feel needs to be dedicated to training transfer or sustainment?