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Learning objectives are the cornerstone to any learning program. Like writing a good business plan or developing a blueprint for one of your projects, before starting out, you need to figure out where you’re headed and where you want to go.

If your enterprise is experiencing problems, it’s likely that your destination is not aligned with your vision. Every successful project or learning program is focused on specific outcomes that are identified at the outset and remain consistent throughout.

This principle is also at the heart of Lean Learning. The first Lean step is the most logical one: What is the problem? Where’s the gap? What needs to be corrected or improved? Learning objectives are sourced from a need to create a new approach to an existing process, or improve a technique or skill. How can an organization perform better and enhance the learning culture?

In an article titled, “A Day in the Life of a Learning Objective” that appeared in the October 2016 issue of, David J. Defilippo and Lisa M. Shapiro present a description of the learning objective as five concentric circles. Moving inward from the outermost circle, they suggest that “the path to the learning objective is navigated by clearly defining:

1) organizational goals
2) roles for those who carry out those goals
3) the competencies required for these roles
4) the skills and knowledge that make up these competencies, and
5) the learning objectives.” ¹

This path starts with the organization’s defined goals and moves inward, collecting data and information that ultimately arrives at the learning objectives.

Noting a decrease in product differentiation that results in an increase in competition—in the supermarket one finds not just one brand of granola bars but a dozen or more look-alikes—Defilippo and Shapiro point out that this type of competition creates a demand for companies to speed up both manufacturing and marketplace entry procedures. These demands place even greater value on identifying learning objectives by instituting a systematic process that provides effective curriculum design and development.

If your organization prodigiously follows the Four Lean Rules and Five Lean Principles demonstrated in Powering the Lean Enterprise: Fundamentals of Lean Super-Charging Your Company & Your Life, by Bill Artzberger,² chances are, you have already developed an effective system for identifying learning objectives that enable highly effective learning programs.


[1] Defilippo, David J., Shipiro, Lisa M. “A Day in the Life of a Learning Objective., October 2016.
[2] Five lean principles: 1. directly observe work as activities, connections and flows, 2. practice systemic waste elimination, 3. establish a high agreement of what and how, 4. practice systematic problem solving, and 5. create a learning organization.