SD in Action

Chunking & Sequencing With the CSI


Preparing a training for a new group of participants? Figuring out how to chunk and sequence your content? The Spiral Dynamics Change State Indicator (CSI) can be your best friend helping you to prepare. It is the Trainer’s secret weapon when it comes to knowing your audience and matching your approach to their needs, where they are. 

Have you ever been presenting content, really gotten into it, connected all kinds of cool ideas, felt brilliant, then looked around the room to see blank but polite stares? It might not be you and it might not be the audience. What it might be is the chunking and sequencing of those ideas and how you fit them to the audience.

A Refresher

Think of Chunking and Sequencing like eating a meal. Have you ever taken a bite that was too big and you could barely chew and swallow or so small you could barely taste it? Chunking is like preparing the bite so it is the perfect mouthful – not too much or too little, but just right. Your content needs to be presented in bite-sized morsels for maximum enjoyment: chewing sensation, ease of swallowing, and ready digestion.

Sequencing is like the courses: soup, appetizer, salad, main, and dessert – they come in order. Food is delivered for optimal taste and dining experience. Wine is paired with to bring out the best flavours of each. Cheese and chocolates reinforce the sensation. Your content, activities, and pace need to work together in an optimal way to bring out the best in your training “dinner party” so the participants enjoy the explosions of taste and then absorb it thoroughly feeling neither over-stuffed nor still hungry.

What are you “chunking and sequencing” in your training? That all depends on your priorities and objectives. If your content is primarily information consisting of data, research, and comparisons, you’ll organize that differently than if your priority is to transfer a process or to create an experience. If you are focusing on skills, you might want to consider how to layer one to build the foundation for the next. You can also put participant learning styles front and center. In training transfer, the information, skills or processes may have their own limitations, and you may need to combine these.

How to Tailor to Your Audience

Whether your content “chunks” focus on information as a priority, process, experience, or skills, participant learning styles and preferences always need to be considered.To help you with this structuring, the CSI includes some scoring patterns which can guide you to chunk and sequence congruently for your participants.  In honour of our Australian colleagues, we’ll label these preference patterns Kangaroo and Wombat.  

Kangaroo-preferenced learners don’t mind your jumping around, making big leaps, and challenging them to keep up with you. The bigger the chunks, the more they get to put them together. The more exotic the pairings, the more they will enjoy your program. Make sure you make space for them to leap from one chunk to another and exercise their muscles on their own terms. For the Kangaroos, you’ll need to sequence in a way that keeps things interesting, active, and a little unpredictable if you want to hold their interest. Be prepared to follow them and supplement their learning when they hop off on tangents, which they will.

Wombat-preferenced learners need content in manageable chunks: a steady course, grounded, straight to the goal, not a lot of hopping around. The Wombat has short legs, is close to the ground, and built like a tank so it will go right through obstacles on the way to its goals. If you don’t manage your training carefully, that can be Kangaroos or you. As you lay out the chunks for Wombats, keep them compact and clear, not vague and fuzzy. Since the Wombat can’t see well, make sure to point out how the chunks meet and fit together; lay out learning like a trail of crumbs to follow since their sense of smell is amazing. Sequence your content in a logical and connected flow by tempting with one manageable and tasty content chunk which leads to the next. Remember, the short legs mean that long leaps won’t work.

You might have both Wombats and Kangaroos in your room and they can get on together very well if you put things together elegantly.  

The Disclaimer

Obviously we’ve over-simplified a fairly complex and nuanced approach. Learners can be part Kangaroo and part Wombat, and preferences can morph from one to the other depending on the “states” of the learners and the nature of the learning – content or process? You can have both Wombats and Kangaroos in all the colours of the spiral, so this is not system-specific. Teaching/learning needs to be tailored with the levels of existence in mind, as well, since complexity, abstraction, I-orientation or we-centeredness also play roles in the training experience.

The CSI is mostly used by coaches and OD consultants working on change processes. Both want to understand how much change their client can absorb, what strategies need to be timed for the particular phase of change, and how far they need to go – keep the client engaged and not so alien so as to lose them.

As a trainer, the CSI can also tell you what you need to do to prepare for your audience and prepare your audience for you. If you mess it up and your sequencing isn’t well thought out and your chunks are the wrong size, and if you don’t frame it specifically to Wombat needs and Kangaroo preferences, then you run the risk of having less impact or losing your audience completely and letting loose a Tasmanian Devil or two.

Kangaroo or Wombat? Knowing something about this in advance will give you the time to prepare properly, chunk your approach in a way that meets participant needs, and help you to design an optimum sequence for that group.  Small adjustments can increase the odds of a better learning experience and greater appreciation of your approach. Remember to chunk smaller and more specific for Wombats, and sequence flexibly for Kangaroos and you’ll get rave reviews.   

  1. Berndt Forssell
    Berndt Forssell08-13-2012

    I enjoy this interesting reading about these exotic Austrailian animals and how we can find and meet them also in our training rooms.
    The text is easy-to-grasp and illustrates in a good way a big challenge (and opportunity) for us as trainers, and how our knowledge about SD and CSI can be used for enhanced learning experiences. Both for participants and for us trainers.


    • Harshit

      By the way did you know Wombat scats (i.e. turds) are square? Not sure how that is phsgloioyically possible but they are. They shit everywhere and it doesn’t roll away.The poor poppets are also suffering from Wombat Mange, which has become the biggest threat to wombats besides us humans running them over and destroying their habitat. Wombats have no immunity to the mange mite which may have been introduced to them by the foxes crawling into their burrows. If not treated, the mange causes the wombat to suffer a slow and painful death. The female mite tunnels into the skin of the wombat and lays its eggs below the surface, causing lesions and thick scabs form over Womby’s body that can become infected and eventually it dies.There are some treatments to kill the mites but this involves capturing the wombat and giving it a bath in a special lotion. And at 40kgs a pop, good luck pinning one down!

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