Learning is a process, not an event
Learning is a process, not an event

5 Steps Towards Mastery In Learning

Learning is a process, not an event.

Obtaining a certification marks the start of your journey towards mastery of any subject. Yet in many organizations it is marked as the achievement of a goal. As one of the most essential resources in a corporate environment to keep employees happy, and an expensive investment for the company, it is in the best interest of both the employer and the employee that a return on investment is evident to quantify the value of the newly learnt skill.

This post is dedicated to explore the five steps of mastering any subject in a training program, following a previous post to outline the learning process.

In summary, the learning process is a three-phase process starting with becoming aware of what you don’t know. Initially you are all excited but soon after you leave the classroom, the knowledge starts to phase, unless you continue onto the second phase, which is habit building. Finally, you reach a point where you want to give up and leave everything for a while, and on your return suddenly it is easy and you reach mastery.

Here are the 5 steps explained in succeeding in your corporate training program.

Step 1 — Be Aware Of The Learning Process

The most important part of mastering anything is knowing what is involved and what the outcomes will be. That is why we like to have a curriculum and exam, and that is how we know when we reach our goal.

Simply knowing that training shouldn’t stop once you’ve received your certification will already allow you to work towards mastery without you having to do anything. Simply reading this post will already help you on your way to mastery, but it is up to you to take the next steps.

In the corporate environment it is imperative for the team leader to allocate the necessary resources for people to continue their learning once they return from a training program or certification. Don’t only plan for the training, plan for the learning that follows the training.

The certification is the start, not the end of learning.

Step 2 — Clarify The Training Outcome

This sounds obvious, but in most environments I’ve been in, there were never tangible outcomes for training programs defined. People are sent on training because they heard other people having successes with the same certification, not because they had a specific problem in mind to solve. That is keeping up with the Jones’ and it doesn’t make much business sense, except to look cool and be able to socially connect.

What do you want to change in your organization as a result of the training? What are your business objectives and what behaviors do you want to see change?

What are the problems you are trying to solve? Training is always as a result of solving a problem, but mostly the training only addresses part of the solution.

Quantify the return on investment, and explicity specify what you want people to do with the knowledge. For an example of how I do it, you can look at a proposal for a learning centre I recently did. Slide 9 and 10 contains the business objectives and the target behaviors for this specific problem.

Step 3 — Admit To Where You Are

Like a GPS not being able to direct you to your destination without first knowing where you currently are, if you you are not honest about where you are in terms of skills and abilities, you will not benefit from a training program in the same sense as when you admit your weaknesses.

Most people are however afraid to say that they don’t know something, and employers are helpless to empower an individual if they don’t ask for help or admit that they don’t know the answer.

On the other hand, employees are afraid to admit that they don’t know because they fear the repercussions of being perceived as incompetent by their employer.

But without honestly admitting your current state or the state of your employees, you will not be able to progress and the gap between where you are and where you want to be will just get bigger and training won’t help much as it will either be the wrong training, or too hard or easy.

Step 4 — Integrate the Knowledge

This is essentially phase 2 of the learning process summarised above, where the newly acquired skills are applied in the workplace using a trial and error approach.

The biggest pitfall to be aware of during this phase is not to bite off more than you can chew.

Rather take one aspect of the training, like introducing standup meetings when implementing Scrum, and get it right before you move on, than implement everything half. It is better to learn one thing properly than 10 things half.

Just like learning to juggle, you start simple and increase the complexity and difficulty one step at a time.

Get the team to understand the purpose of what they are doing. In the example of implementing Scrum standups, first focus on stimulating movement (kinesthetic learning) in the team. Next start focusing on the purpose of increased focus of time-boxed and short meetings, and once the team is good at this, focus on breeding responsibility, autonomy and pro-activity rather than reactivity.

Step 5 — Rest and Restoration

One of the most neglected parts in any organization I’ve worked at is the time allowed for rest and restoration. But just like machinery needs downtime for maintenance, so our brains also need time to recover after an intense learning session.

When you skip this step, you risk burning out the team, and you will most definitely see a reduction in learning and productivity over time. Like pouring water through a funnel, pouring more water is not going to fill up the bottle faster, it is simply going to waste water spilling over.

Use the rest period to reflect on the completed learning and start setting goals for what is needed next, but in a relaxed environment without any deadlines or must-do tasks. Have an informal discussion over coffee, or even better, while walking down the beach to find out how effective the training was and how it helped the organization.

Celebrate your successes, and share it with the team.


Learning is a process, obtaining a degree or certification is an event at the start of the learning process.

In order to master any field, you need to allow your team to integrate the newly acquired skills following a process of trying and failing, until it becomes easier, and until your problem you set out to alleviate, is resolved.

In order to speed up, you first however need to slow down. Effective learning is not about how fast or how much training you complete, but how flexible you are in applying your knowledge to different problems.

Originally published on Medium: https://medium.com/p/5-steps-towards-mastery-in-learning-4822d61cb36f