The Goal is Speed to Proficiency

ASPTwo very intelligent colleagues of mine, Christy Keener and Tom Hilgart, introduced me to this simple yet extremely useful model for thinking about what it takes to enable a person to be ready for their job.

Awareness is “knowing about.” It’s the ability to define terms, know where resources are located, explain a business process or guideline. For example, employees need to understand the policies related to personal time off; failing that, they need to know where to obtain this information. Awareness is often associated with some of the lower order verbs in Bloom’s taxonomy: the ability to state how many days off I will accrue this year, and to list the times when PTO is not required (for instance, bereavement leave). For some things, awareness suffices.

For other things, skillfulness is needed – the ability to apply defined processes and procedures in standard situations. This is often true when a person is supposed to refer complex situations to someone else. For instance, a Level I Customer Service Rep (CSR) should be able to quickly, confidently, and accurately use the job aids and past knowledge to answer a defined set of questions related to the product he is supporting. She should in addition, recognize calls that she is not qualified to answer, and be able to escalate the call to a Level II CSR.

For our purposes, we can think of proficiency as the ability to do a complex task independently in novel situations. Another way of thinking about it is that proficiency comes when we shift from asking for assistance to providing it to others. It is when a person is proficient at the various tasks comprising her job, that readiness has been achieved.

So if we are in the readiness business (, we really need to start by understanding what readiness entails for each job that our audience does. We need to base our planning for becoming a learning organization on an understanding of what skills and knowledge are optional, and which ones are vital. We need to understand which areas a given person needs passing familiarity with, and where proficiency is required.

Achieving proficiency takes time and effort – on the part of the organization and on the part of the learner. Make no mistake, for those critical skills, it won’t just be about training. It will be a continuous learning process that may involve formal and informal learning, social learning, performance support, coaching.

If you agree that the fundamental purpose of the learning organization is to promote readiness, then the primary goal should be to develop speed to proficiency in our interventions, recognizing that proficiency may take weeks or months to achieve.


Abstracted from a forthcoming book on learning effectiveness  (c) Bill Bruck, Ph.D., 2015

RSS Feed



Find it!

Theme Design by