3x3 Walkthrough — How to Create Compelling Content for Employees in 9 Words

Charbel Semaan
Jun 2, 2017 · 4 min read

Forget learning objectives. Forget scaffolding. Forget instructionally sound content.

The majority of employee training and learning programs fail because the creators don’t answer an essential question:

What’s in it for the learner?

Further, the failure is in poorly articulating what’s in it for them.

You explain it too slowly or out of context.

How do you get to the point and make a course, video, or workshop worth your employees’ attention?

Let’s look at a related world:

After you download a mobile app to your phone, you often see a series of screens explaining what the product is and how it’s useful.

You swipe a few screens and then get to a “Get Started,” “Sign Up,” or some other variation of a call-to-action. This is called a product walkthrough.

Tom Cavill, a designer based in London, created a framework that uses constraints for clarity.

He created the 3x3 Walkthrough framework to focus his explanation and storytelling of a new app he launched.

You can use the same 3x3 Walkthrough to create compelling training programs, courses, and workshops.

One of my favorite ways I’ve used this framework is to pitch internal initiatives to stakeholders.

It helped my teams distill the essence of our talent development initiatives so the stakeholders and execs became champions and sponsors of them.

Here’s how you can use it internally too…

How It Works: Constraints for Clarity

The 3x3 framework constrains you to three questions with only three-word answers per question. See the breakdown below:

What? (What does your product/program/project do?)

  • __________
  • __________
  • __________

Why? (Why does your product/program/project exist?)

  • __________
  • __________
  • __________

How? (How is your product/program/project different from what exists?)

  • __________
  • __________
  • __________

Make no mistake, this is hard. Here are two common hurdles I’ve seen and experienced myself:

  1. You’ll likely fill in the “What” with your “Why.” Here’s an example to use as a model: LinkedIn connects the world’s professionals. Why? To make them more productive and successful.
  2. You’ll likely type/write and erase. Type, erase. Type, erase. That’s okay! Come up with a word bank by listing all the words and phrases you think are associated with your product/program/project.

Use the 3x3 in Talent Development

How could this work for an upcoming program you’re creating?

Let’s look at two examples.

The first is for a common leadership development issue high-growth teams face. The second relates to sales training.

3x3 Walkthrough for Leadership Development

A common challenge high-growth teams face is developing leadership skills in younger employees when the company is growing rapidly.

These young stars quickly move into leadership roles, but they don’t have the support and opportunity to learn how to be good managers.

Many companies adopt the same old approach to building leadership programs. Take what other people are doing, find the latest popular leadership framework, force people to go through workshops, and then expect them to become great managers overnight.

Instead, if you understand what’s really going on in your organization, you can use the 3x3 Walkthrough to distill a highly relevant leadership program like the following:

  • Why: Equip new managers
  • What: Leadership foundation program
  • How: Daily micro habits

3x3 Walkthrough for Sales Training

The fastest way to bore your sales team with training is to offer “Sales Training 101” or “Advanced Product Features.”

I’m sure you can think of similar or worse examples.

Instead, name your courses based on the context for which your sales team needs the content. Using the 3x3 Walkthrough, you could end up with something like:

  • Why: Ramp inexperienced SDRs (sales development representatives)
  • What: Daily guided experience
  • How: Targeted at college grads

Now you’ve focused this program on college grads joining your sales team with little to no cold-calling and cold-emailing experience.

The lessons in your First 100-Day Program, for example, could be named “How to Get Your First Appointment in 5 days” instead of “Cold-Calling 101.”

Why? Your new SDRs want immediate results to feel like they’re performing well. They don’t know what “Cold-Calling 101” means to them.

Next Steps

Take time today to think through the what, why, and how of taking your talent development to the next level. This is essential to your business.

You’ll then have the foundation from which you’ll build a compelling case to your business leaders. The case for human-centered learning design as the future of business growth.


Thanks for reading. TalentGroove helps you elevate employee learning with proven frameworks used at Google, LinkedIn, Medallia, Yahoo, and more.

Charbel Semaan

Written by

Founder+Designer @Sprintwell. Mentor @500Startups.

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