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Reviewing for Results

Roger Greenaway's Active Reviewing Tips 9.1 ~ ISSN 1465-8046
A free monthly publication from Reviewing Skills Training

ARTips 9.1  Reviewing for Results


The previous issue 'Reviewing for Fun' is now at

~ 1 ~ EDITORIAL: Don't rush over the bridge!

I promised to provide a 'balance' to the previous topic of 'Reviewing for Fun'. But if you were expecting this issue to be about 'reviewing for misery' you will be disappointed ;-)

This issue is about using reviewing to get results. The process of getting there can still be fun - so don't trash 'Reviewing for Fun' just yet...

The way I was introduced to reviewing was to see it as a BRIDGE between past action and future action. The sequence was this:

                Do -> Review -> Apply

which could also be expressed as

            Action -> REVIEWING BRIDGE -> Future Action

If the connection between 'action' and 'future action' is fairly clear, maybe we should pass quickly over the reviewing bridge?

Not so fast! Many people live, grow and work on this 'bridge'. For many people, what they do on the bridge is closer to their everyday world than what happens on either side of the bridge.

I am thinking particularly of how much time some people spend in meetings. (And if only these could be more fun and effective!) I am also thinking of how people respond to everyday experience at work, or as they go about their daily lives.

On some training programmes the closest resemblance to the workplace is the review meeting itself. The programme designer may have created some wonderful workplace simulations. But how often does it turn out that the review meeting on the BRIDGE in between the simulations is actually more 'like work' than the simulation being reviewed?

Whatever 'results' you want from reviewing, don't rush over the bridge, because you may be rushing past the very result that you are looking for.

And what results might you be looking for?

Improved communication skills?
These are needed and developed on the 'reviewing bridge'.

Improved empathy and understanding of others?
These are needed and developed on the 'reviewing bridge'.

Improved cooperation and teamwork?
These are needed and developed on the 'reviewing bridge'.

Improved negotiation skills?
These are needed and developed on the 'reviewing bridge'.

Improved influencing and leadership skills?
These are needed and developed on the 'reviewing bridge'.

Improved team or organisational climate?
These are needed and developed on the 'reviewing bridge'.

Improved skills in giving and receiving feedback?
These are needed and developed on the 'reviewing bridge'.

Coping with uncertainty and managing change?
This is needed and developed on the 'reviewing bridge'.

Learning to learn?
This skill is needed and developed on the 'reviewing bridge'.

You can find fun on the bridge too!

What CAN'T you find on the 'reviewing bridge'?
Keep your eyes open for results while on the bridge as well as when you have reached the other side. Don't rush over the bridge!

This way of thinking (more haste less speed) is continued in the article following these 10 tips, called 'BACK TO THE FUTURE' - an alternative way of going places - that works!


1. Raise expectations. Tell participants how similar training events have had a positive impact in the workplace, or find someone from their workplace to say so.

2. Read out messages of support from key people at work, including statements from participants' line managers describing how they will support transfer after the training.

3. Promote transfer as a learning process and not simply as the implementation of a plan. Train learners to use reviewing skills for learning from future experiences.

4. Ensure that participants have souvenirs from all stages of the learning process: what they did, what they experienced, what they learned and how they will approach the future.

5. Provide participants with a range of strategies for approaching the future with confidence. Ensure that each individual has a plan that plays to their strengths for achieving their learning goals.

6. Break down transfer into a stage by stage process. Prepare learners for each stage so that they know what to expect and what to do at each stage of transfer.

7. Present transfer as an uneven process in which there can be setbacks as well as successes.

8. Present transfer as a creative process. When an action plan is an outline, creativity will help to fill in the blanks and provide solutions along the way.

9. Use a different word for transfer! 'Transfer' is a misleading umbrella term, so describe the actual skills or actions that learners will need for achieving the desired result, such as:
'Get support. Experiment. Get feedback. Reflect and retry.'

10. Do something NOW that will help you transfer what you have learned from 'Active Reviewing Tips' into successful action.

These 10 tips are adapted from my article on Training for Transfer for Fenman's Train the Trainer publication. See:


A logical starting point for getting results is (in the words of Stephen Covey) to 'start with the end in mind'. But you cannot always see the end clearly when you are at the beginning. You may need to clarify your goal during your journey. In developmental programmes (though not in training programmes) the changing or modifying of a goal can actually be a sign of progress.

If we encourage learners to think about learning as a cyclical process that is driven by their questions, then we should expect their questions to change as part of the learning process. David Kolb's widely used model of experiential learning names the questioning part of the learning cycle as ACTIVE EXPERIMENTATION. The active experiment results in experience followed by reflection and learning which leads to the next experiment - with a new or revised question.

As learners become more proficient at learning from experience they do not simply acquire new knowledge. They also practise experimenting, sensing, and reflecting and they may well acquire new skills in each of these areas. Through such practice, learners become more talented at every stage of the cycle. They become better at learning from experience.

If learners are better able to learn from experiences in the future, they will be better equipped for dealing with the unexpected when they are trying to apply their new learning. It seems to be a huge oversight that only a small percentage of training programmes prioritise developing people's competence as experiential learners. Surely we want people to learn at work, from their work experience, just as we want them to learn from training experiences when training? One of the greatest needs for learning at work comes immediately after acquiring new learning that is to be transferred to the workplace. Except for the most basic, routine skills transfer is itself is not a copying process but a learning process.

The reviewing exercise 'BACK TO THE FUTURE' is a direct challenge to the stay-focused-on-your-goal and stick-it-on-your-bedroom-ceiling school of thought. It has grown out of a question I have been asking for some time:

'How does (past) experience help us achieve (future) goals?'

Goals might well arise from past experience, but how useful is past experience when we are actually working on achieving a goal? How can we use past experience to help us reach our chosen destination?

I recall a story I heard from a friend, Gabriel da Fonseca, who is a martial arts instructor. As a 12 year old he was keen to practise as much as he possibly could to work his way through the grades to a black belt. This intention was challenged by his master who told him a story about a student who wanted to be the best karateka in Japan. The student thought that the more he practised the sooner he would reach his goal:

'I really want to be the best', he said. 'I'm ready to train mornings, afternoons and nights. That's how much I want to reach this objective. How long would it take?'

'At least 20 years', answered the master.

'But Sensei, every time that I tell you I will work harder, you tell me it will take longer!'

'The answer is simple: if you have both eyes on the objective you will have none left to find The Way'.

BACK TO THE FUTURE takes this idea further because we also need a third eye to look backwards to be sure that we bring from the past what we need for the future. Because we don't have eyes in the back of our heads, this exercise involves a lot of movement so that the goal achiever has sight of past, present and future while on their journey. (Perhaps this is the difference between cycling forwards and pushing forwards?)


When you focus on getting 'results', you tend to look FORWARDS in time, think about the results you want and work out a plan for getting there. And in the plan you might well set goals and objectives to help you to achieve the results you want. Thinking about results is typically FORWARD thinking.

But what if BACKWARDS thinking could help you get the results you want? In other words, how can reviewing what you have already done or experienced help you achieve the goals and results you want?

In fact it rarely happens that the journey towards your goal is completely unknown territory. Based on what you already know from past experience you can probably make fairly safe predictions about what's going to happen. When mapping out the future how much do you (or should you) pencil in from the past?

BACK TO THE FUTURE is a paired exercise that requires a rope (or other line) of at least 4 metres. One person describes the goal or result they want to achieve. This goal is represented by a word or symbol at (or near) the future end of the rope. The rope represents the journey that the person will take towards their goal. The obvious starting point is the other end of the rope. But I ask people to stand a few paces in from the end, because it is rarely the case that people start at the very beginning of a journey. People often choose goals that they are already on their way to achieving.

To check this out I ask the learner's partner (who is the 'facilitator' or 'coach') to invite them to turn round and look BACK towards the beginning of their journey. The coach then asks questions such as:

'What personal skills, strengths, values, and motivations do you already have that will help you on this journey?' (Best asked as separate questions.)

'Apart from setting this goal, what else have you already done to help you achieve this goal?'

'In what ways have other people or other external factors helped you start your journey and get this far?'

'Where you are right now on your journey?'

Whilst answering these questions people are often surprised to discover just how far they have already travelled. If surprised in this way, the person on the rope should be encouraged to show this by moving BACKWARDS towards their goal. This can also represent their discovery that the goal is closer (more easily achievable) than they initially thought. It is also likely that the conversation has made the person more sharply aware of what they need to do to mobilise and harness the supporting forces that they have just identified and described. This readily produces ideas for the next steps to take towards their goal.

>From this point on, the process could revert to a 'normal' goal-setting exercise. But there is still plenty of scope for 'backwards progress' towards the main goal. If the coach treats the next step as a mini- goal, they can continue a similar line of questioning:

'What factors that already exist will help you make this next step?'

'What have you already done that will help pave the way for making this step?'

Another line of questioning (other than searching for helpful factors and achievements in the current situation) is to ask about similar situations:

'Have you ever achieved this kind of goal before? What factors helped you achieve that goal. Do any of those factors exist on this occasion?'

'Have you ever attempted achieving this kind of goal before? How can you use your learning from that experience help you achieve this particular goal?'

'Have you ever thought about setting yourself this kind of challenge before? What has changed that has made you ready and willing to commit to this goal now?'

'What do you know about your strengths as a goal achiever that are going to help you achieve this particular goal?'

'What do you know about how you deal with your weaknesses as a goal achiever (if any) that could help you achieve this particular goal?'

Every so often, the person can be asked to glance at the future again. The coach might ask:

'What are going to be the most critical or important steps?'

'What do you expect to find most challenging on the journey towards your goal?'

The answer to any such questions is often in the form of a mini-goal (or can readily be re-expressed as one). As soon as the coach has a new mini-goal, the pattern can be repeated, with the walker facing the past and being asked a review question that invites them to draw on past experience or to identify helpful factors or forces that already exist.

At the end of this session, the gap between the person and the goal should be much less. The walker should be in an even more positive frame of mind having narrowed the gap and having been talking about all the helpful factors that already exist and the helpful moves they have already made. The journey will be shorter and they will be approaching it in a more resourceful way.

Unlike the 'future walking' exercise, their physical movement towards the goal is not a rehearsal for steps that they will make in the future. In this case, the steps represent what already exists. The process is a discovery and appreciation of what already exists. Their movement along the line represents a more accurate view of their current position. (Tip: don't get too hung up about the exact position on the line because the quality of the conversation is more important. It is the movement within the exercise that helps to focus thoughts and raise the quality of conversation.)

You can, of course follow this exercise with 'future walking' (an active reviewing exercise that brings force field analysis alive). There is nothing wrong about walking into the future. But the exercise just described is about walking into the present and discovering where you really are in relation to your goal. In most cases, this process will reveal that you are much closer than you thought. But the exercise cannot 'go wrong'. If people discover the opposite - that the distance is actually greater than they first thought, that is also useful learning that will help them achieve their goal. I have yet to experience such a backwards move - it is simply a possibility.

BACK TO THE FUTURE has just been described as a paired activity, but there is no reason why you cannot try this alone. If you don't like talking to yourself (or being seen talking to yourself) just hold a mobile phone to your ear as you walk backwards to the future! Where two people have a shared goal, it becomes a co-coaching exercise, asking questions such as: 'What have you or we already done/experienced/decided that will help us achieve our goal?'

Added since original publication ...

Thiagi has come up with a very elegant way to the future using reverse psychology (which sounds better than 'backwards thinking'). First you create a LAOG (the reverse of a G O A L). A LAOG is the opposite of your goal i.e. it is a goal that would take you in the opposite direction. Now you have fun brainstorming lots of ways in which you could achieve your LAOG. After this craziness, you now try reversing all those weird and wonderful ways in which you could achieve your LAOG (i.e. ways in which you could sabotage your original goal). To see a worked out example and a more complete explanation see Thiagi's description of Double Negatives.


TRANSFER PLANNING: using both learning plans and action plans

CARROTS & STICKS: anticipating the rewards of successful transfer

HARNESSING SUPPORT: involving all with a stake in your success

POETS ARE MASTERS OF TRANSFER: making transfer a creative process

E-TRANSFER: using group creativity to set up suitable e-support

MAKING LEARNING STICKY: seeking extra uses for what you learn

BACK TO THE FUTURE: assessing what to take on your journey

FUTURE WALKING: bringing force field analysis alive

PESSIMIST vs. OPTIMIST: exploring different scenarios

GOAL KEEPERS: practising transfer with learning buddies

APPRECIATIVE REVIEWING: building on success during transfer

TRANSFER SOUVENIRS: include souvenirs for all learning styles

METAPHOR MAP: mapping where you have been and where you are going

Tantalised? Full descriptions of the transfer exercises listed above are not included in this (already bumper-sized) issue of Active Reviewing Tips. Some descriptions can be found by searching my website. Most are included in my two day trainer-training programme on 'How to transfer learning and give your training lasting impact'. I clearly believe that useful learning comes from reading, but I also believe that learning from direct experience is even more useful ;-)

~ 5 ~ DYNAMIC DEBRIEFING (part one)

Starting with this issue, I am publishing (with permission) a series of extracts from my chapter on Dynamic Debriefing that is included in Mel Silberman's 'Handbook of Experiential Learning' (due out April 2007).

DEBRIEFING IS IMPORTANT. Many writers say so. But few writers explain why debriefing is important or what it involves. A recent survey of journal articles found that: most writers, while emphasizing the importance of debriefing for a game or exercise, do not fully describe the debriefing process, or explain why it is important - it is simply assumed to be important. (Markulis & Strang, 2003). An international survey of 'exemplary practices' in the field of experiential training and development had even less to say about debriefing - just these two words: 'Debrief appropriately' (Bronson et al., 1999). Sound advice, but short on detail! This chapter is intended to raise your sights higher than debriefing 'appropriately': it aims to help you debrief effectively, inspirationally, and dynamically. The chapter begins with the basics about debriefing and its facilitation before introducing various models of debriefing. This is followed by 'the experience of debriefing' and why this perspective matters when debriefing experience. A section about sequencing in debriefing is followed by descriptions of dynamic debriefing methods - showing how the theory can be applied in practice.

Debriefing is the facilitation of learning from experience. Debriefing can be used to assist learning from almost any experience. The experience might happen at work, in the community, or as part of an education or training program. Most of the examples in this chapter refer to the debriefing of training exercises, but they can be readily applied or adapted to other situations. The various roles in which people may want to help others learn from experience include parenting, coaching, mentoring, supervising, managing, instructing, counseling, teaching, training, and facilitating. Debriefing skills and methods can be useful in all such roles, but the emphasis of this chapter is on debriefing in group settings.

Sometimes, a lively discussion can bring a sense of action to the debriefing: 'Without the sense of action to the debrief, it is often a lifeless, futile exercise. . . .The experience can come alive in the debrief. The experience can be relived. The discussion is not a static, safe, merely cognitive exercise. It has feeling, anger, frustration, accomplishment and fun' (Schoel, Prouty, & Radcliffe, 1988, p. 166). But dynamic debriefing is more than a lively group discussion. When a debriefing is truly dynamic, each person is fully engaged in the learning process and has some influence over its direction. The experience being processed is probably being relived and communicated through visual aids, movable media, and physical action as well as through words. Of course, the spoken word can be very engaging, but by placing a variety of tools for communication and learning in the hands of participants, the facilitator increases the chances that everyone (not just the most reflective and articulate) can participate in a full and meaningful way.

DYNAMIC DEBRIEFING aims to engage the whole person as an aware, active, and self-directed participant in the process of learning from experience. This involves learners in expressing, examining, and exploring their experiences in ways that enable them to learn, grow, develop, and make changes in their lives. 'DYNAMIC' primarily refers to the nature and degree of the learner’s involvement in the learning process, while 'DEBRIEFING' primarily refers to what the facilitator is doing to enhance the quality of the learning process. The first list below shows what can be achieved through effective debriefing. The second list shows how a more dynamic approach can produce even better results.

Through EFFECTIVE DEBRIEFING you can . . .

* Add value to what is already happening
* Increase awareness of other perspectives
* Develop communication and learning skills
* Help learners clarify, achieve, and even surpass their objectives
* Use success or failure as a source of learning and development
* Make benefits tangible and generate useful data for evaluation
* Improve prospects for the effective transfer of learning
* Show that you care about what people experience and value what they have to say, and that you are interested in the progress of each individual’s learning and development

Through DYNAMIC DEBRIEFING you can . . .

* Reduce the gap between talk and action
* Provide more ways to communicate, learn, and develop
* Engage everyone fully by involving all learning style preferences
* Give better access to intuitive and tacit knowledge
* Stimulate more powerful learning experiences
* Generate more effective learning from experience
* Pay more attention to the experience of learning
* Allow more realistic testing of future plans
* Increase the range of strategies for the effective transfer of learning.

... to be continued in the next issue of Active Reviewing Tips where you can read about 'The Role of the Facilitator' - another extract from my chapter on Dynamic Debriefing in Mel Silberman's 'Handbook of Experiential Learning' (2007). See Amazon.co.uk:
http://digbig.com/4rwnf or Amazon.com: http://digbig.com/4rwng


I apologise to UK readers who did not receive notification of open workshops in the UK that have already happened this year.

Workshops scheduled for 2007 are happening in:

Bangkok, Thailand
29-31st March 2007

Macau, China
mid May 2007

Copenhagen, Denmark
4-8th June 2007

Bucharest, Romania
mid-August and
20-22nd September 2007

** Please contact roger@reviewing.co.uk if you want more information about these events or if you are interested in hosting an open workshop closer to your home - or a customised trainer-training event for your organisation. **

I am also providing sessions on reviewing as part of the following event:

Outdoor Facilitation: 9th - 11th May 2007
An Open Trainer-Training Programme at Log Heights, Ripley, UK
A highly interactive, informal, indoor and outdoor 3-day learning experience for facilitators.

Log Heights has since evolved into
- same castle, same Shirley, more twist


My favourite international experiential learning conference comes to Scotland at the end of April, for which I am part of the organising team. How about joining us?

The 11th EEEurope Meeting is at Dounans, Aberfoyle, Scotland, from April 26 - 30, 2007 (pre-conference April 23-26)

The event includes an international dinner with food and drink (and people) from 18 countries, and (naturally) a ceilidh and other festivities.

The amazing variety of experiential workshops already includes:

* Singing as teamwork
* Moving Theatre
* Reflective learning for consultants and researchers
* Erving Goffman
* How to use the present and barely unknown resources to create wonderful connections
* Creating the space in the 'outside' to work with the space on the 'inside'
* Seeking New and Better Ways of Learning
* Outdoor cooking methods for intercultural learning processes
* Augusto Boals' Forum Theatre as an experiential learning tool
* Dilemmas in Outdoor and Experiential Learning
* Natural Environment as a metaphor for life stories
* Taking Indoors Outside
* Experiencing EQ Outdoors
* What are a team?
* Discovering Another World: experiential learning as a powerful learning tool

To view descriptions of all 36 workshops, the latest information, the people involved and to see the venue and activities take a look at: http://www.eeeurope.org as soon as you can because ...

If you are thinking of coming, decide soon because Late Bird prices begin on March 20th! Also there are not many places left.



During a training programme try to provide a whole range of learning opportunities that suit a variety of different learning styles. This 'something-for-everyone' strategy helps to engage all learners while also extending everyone's learning skills. But you do not want transfer to be the weakest link in your programme...

** You can strengthen this link by ensuring that the transfer process plays to the learner's strengths. **

Some learners will want lots of practice, others lots of feedback, others lots of encouragement. Some will need a single detailed plan, others might want contingency plans, while others may prefer to dive in and have a go. Find out what kind of support is going to be most helpful to each individual. Will it come from their boss, from their immediate peer group, or from a trusted mentor?


391 has been sent to Save the Children since January 2006 thanks to everyone who has been shopping at the Active Learning Bookshop. Please suggest any new titles that you think should be included in the Active Learning Bookshop. The section most relevant to this issue of Active Reviewing Tips on REVIEWING FOR RESULTS is: http://reviewing.co.uk/reviews/evaluation-transfer.htm
The main Active Learning Bookshop index is at:

If you have other purchases you want to make at Amazon please go there via http://reviewing.co.uk/reviews Not only do you get a good deal, so do children around the world who need our help. I worked for Save the Children for 4 years so I know about the value and quality of the work they do.

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