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The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning: How to Turn Training and Development Into Business Results (2nd Edition)

Wick, C. Pollock, R. & Jefferson, A. (2010). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer. Hard copy, ISBN: 978-0-470-52652-1, 357 pages, US $36.34.


Reviewed by:


Abby C. Kurtz, EdD, RN-BC




Education & Research


Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center


New York


This book is a great reference for improving the return on investment of an educational program. The premise of this book is based on the belief that corporate learning is about changing people's behavior to produce desired business outcomes for the organization. The authors argue that high-performing organizations have breakthrough learning programs that help deliver impressive business results. Hence, given the continuing reality that only about 10% of what is learned in training is applied on the job (Fitzpatrick, 2001) and the promising claim of the book, I was very excited to review it.


This book is well organized, providing an overview of the six disciplines of breakthrough learning as introduction and its subsequent chapters exploring each discipline in great depths and examples of best practices and implementation tools for each discipline. The six disciplines of breakthrough learning are as follows: define business outcomes, design the complete experience, deliver for application, drive learning transfer, deploy performance support, and document results. The authors believe that, by practicing these six disciplines, the reader will be able to design, deliver, and document training programs that produce higher return on investment. Of the six disciplines, albeit all essential, I find the arguments for defining business outcomes, designing for the complete experience, and the driving of learning transfer most compelling. Although results criteria being regarded as criteria for training evaluation are not new (Brogden & Taylor, 1950), this book was able to underscore the importance of shifting the focus of training and development from learning outcomes to business outcomes by defining a systematic process and structure to keep learning connected to and focused on the organizational purpose and desired business outcomes. On designing the complete experience, learning must be regarded as a process to improve performance and not as an event. As a process, there are essential outcomes in each of the four phases: preparation, learning, learning transfer, and achieving. As such, managing learning is a collaborative function of all the players in learning: managers, peers, trainers, and trainees. The remaining four disciplines also aim to maximize learning transfer and continuous performance improvement with their own specific tools and steps to support their aims. Most training programs incorporate many of the described strategies presented in the chapters, but the authors succinctly linked the strategies and tools with performance improvement and business outcomes.


Essentially, transfer of learning may be the primary leverage point by which training influences organizational-level outcomes (Kozlowski, Brown, Weissbein, Cannon-Bowers, & Salas, 2000), and this book was able to drive learning transfer with a comprehensive systems approach to enhancing the value of the organization's human capital in achieving the organization's mission. It is an easy read, and it presents a compelling framework for turning training and development into business results.


Disclaimer: The author has disclosed that she has no significant relationships with, or financial interest in, any commercial companies pertaining to this review.




Brogden H. E., Taylor E. K. (1950). The dollar criterion: Applying the cost accounting concept to criterion construction. Personnel Psychology, 3- 133-154. [Context Link]


Fitzpatrick R. (2001). The strange case of the transfer of training estimate. Industrial Organizational Psychologist, 39 (2), 18-19. [Context Link]


Kozlowski S. W. J., Brown K. G., Weissbein D. A., Cannon-Bowers J. A., Salas E. (2000). A multi-level approach to training effectiveness. In Klein K. J., Kozlowski S. W. J. (Eds.), Multilevel theory, research, and methods in organizations: Foundations, extensions, and new directions (pp. 157-210). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. [Context Link]