Changing Behavior: The Real Measurement of Success

By June 30, 2020July 17th, 2023LTEN Focus On Training


Changing Behavior: The Real Measurement of Success

Feature Story – By Cleon Wellington

We are to help our learners understand the customer’s problems and how to solve them.

On YouTube, there is a video of engineer Destin Sandlin explaining his experience learning to ride a “backwards bicycle.” When the handlebars are turned right, the front wheel goes left, and vice versa. This is accomplished by changing gears on the steering column.

Sandlin goes on to tell that he knows what to do. He could pass a knowledge test confirming he knows that when you turn right, the bike goes left. How hard can it be?

As it turns out, in his words, “knowledge is not understanding!” It took him eight months to learn to ride the backwards bicycle. After he had accomplished it, he decided to try to ride a normal bike again. At first, he could not; it took him 20 minutes to default back to how to ride a normal bike.

Destin Sandlin explains learning to ride a “backwards bicycle.”  When the handlebars are turned right, the front wheel goes left, and vice versa.

This story shows that education, as many of us know, is seldom a one-and-done event. If we are focused on enabling new skills, learners knowing what to do is not enough. We and they must be in it for the long-term. We can push information to people, but we cannot make them understand it, use it and adopt it as their new normal way of doing things. Learners must also want to change their behavior.

Striving for Understanding

“Improving the experience between the patient and the caregiver is at the heart of everything we do.”

The above is Midmark’s mission statement. For our professional education team, the key word is “experience.” One of our department’s key charters is to help sales teammates learn how to solve their clinical customers’ problems.

Our job goes beyond teaching how to sell or use products. We are to help our learners understand the customer’s problems and how to solve them, using our products in ways that customers either do not know or do not know how to put into practice.

Clinical education teams help sales teammates understand how to have clinical conversations with customers. Measuring the effectiveness of our efforts is part of our responsibility. We must be able to measure how far along our learners are on the journey of adopting new behaviors. And once they master the new ones, reinforce the behaviors so they become confident in their abilities to apply them and do not fall back to old behaviors.

Training vs. Education

There is a difference between training and education. Training focuses on teaching people specific skills, while education focuses on judgement and reasoning. You can train someone how to use a specific tool, but it’s education that enables them to analyze situations to determine which tool to use when. In both cases, it is the application of the knowledge that is important.

At a base level, it is important to know that the learners enjoyed a class or found an online module interesting. It is also important to confirm that information has transferred to the learner. But can the learner do anything different with that information? That is where the real value is found.

Understanding Behavior

When a business unit asks my team to provide training or education for a new area, the requester often says, “I want to tell them….” But I need to know what people are being asked to do differently before we can determine what to tell them to enable the new behaviors. My first three questions are:

  1. Who is the specific audience we are to focus on?
  2. What do you want them to do differently from what they are doing today?
  3. How will you measure whether they are doing it successfully?

The first question is usually easy for the requester to answer; the other two are more difficult. It is key to get the subject matter experts (SMEs) to identify the behavior changes needed and how they will know when those behavior changes have occurred. We must know what the end goal is before we can determine how to get there.

Measuring education’s success is a journey. Following Kirkpatrick’s evaluation levels, the first one is measuring the emotional reaction to the learning. Was it interesting? Did it hold their interest? We often call these smile sheets.

Level Two measures the transfer of information through true/false questions, multiple-choice, drag-and-drop, matching and fill-in-the-blank. But that does not tell us if the information transfer made an impact on changing day-to-day behaviors.

By enacting Level Three, and continually evaluating the behavior change progress, we can adjust the continuous learning as needed. And like with the backwards bicycle, the new behaviors may not be accomplished for weeks or months. Behavior evaluations are best measured three to six months into the process.

Formal and Informal

Behavior measurements can be both informal and formal. Informal measurements can include:

  • Managers observe the new behaviors in their employees.
  • Sales teammates feel more confident in having clinical discussions with their customers.
  • Sales teammates ask for more education as they find it useful to do their jobs.
  • Customer feedback indicates their problems are being solved, not just that products work.

Formal evaluation data that can be pulled from the learning platform and CRM data, which also points to the business impact/ROI, can include:

  • The initial SME stated measurements have been met.
  • The use of the education modules.
  • The learning is being applied at the correct time within the sales cycle.
  • The sales cycle has been shortened.
  • An increase in the number of target customers called upon.
  • Sales reports indicate a growing trend in clinical solution discussions.
  • Sales revenues of targeted products and services have increased.
  • Customer Net Promoter scores have increased.


We may be able to pass a knowledge test as Sandlin could on the backwards bike, but knowing it doesn’t mean we can do it. For education to be successful, it needs to have enabled new and improved behaviors. And, it must be a joint process between the education team and the learner.

Education is not just about providing information. As Steve Jacobson, CEO of Appinium, said, “It is delivering the right content to the right person at the right time to change behavior for business outcomes.”


Cleon Wellington is professional education director for Midmark. Email Cleon at



About LTEN

The Life Sciences Trainers & Educators Network ( is the only global 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization specializing in meeting the needs of life sciences learning professionals. LTEN shares the knowledge of industry leaders, provides insight into new technologies, offers innovative solutions and communities of practice that grow careers and organizational capabilities. Founded in 1971, LTEN has grown to more than 3,200 individual members who work in pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device and diagnostic companies, and industry partners who support the life sciences training departments.

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