Leading Change

By: Drs. Conrad Gottfredson and Timothy R. Clark.

The following is an excerpt from The Performance Matters Podcast Series, Episode 15.

Dr. Timothy R. Clark is the founder and CEO of LeaderFactor, a three-time CEO, earned a PHD in Social Science from Oxford University, and was an academic all-American football player while at BYU.

Here, he shares his counsel on how to effectively take on, and lead, change within our organizations.

Con: Leading change is one of the many areas where you’ve had deep experience and remarkable insight. Please do share some of that experience with our audience.

Tim: I look at leading change as a gateway competency. With the twenty-first century being so dynamic, I don’t know a leader who is being paid to maintain the status quo. I don’t know that I’ve met one. I just don’t.

So what are we being paid for? We’re being paid to maintain competitive advantage in a highly dynamic, unforgiving, hyper-competitive environment. And what does this mean? By definition, it means that you are going to be leading change. So, if you can do that, you’ve got a chance. If you can’t do that, I don’t know how you survive.

Con: If you could choose any one quality that a leader needs in order to successfully navigate change in their organization, what would that be?

Tim: I think I may surprise you a bit in my answer. And this is really the subject of my latest research and my forthcoming book. I’m going to say, “the ability to create psychological safety.” And the reason I say that is because—here’s what I’ve learned over time. If you go into an organization and you see evidence of fear, that’s the first sign of weak leadership. You have to think about that for a minute.
Not only is it symptomatic of weak leadership, but it’s the thing that really shuts people down. It’s the thing that neutralizes their performance and stifles creativity and innovation.

Leaders have to be able to draw out people, draw out their motivation and their capacity and if he or she can do that, then we have a chance to do some special things.

So, I think that regardless of the industry you’re in, regardless of what your technical skills may be, and regardless of what the source of your competitive advantage may be; you have to be the architect of the culture.

You set the tone. The vibe. And the working environment. And that is what becomes the great enabler of collaboration.

Here’s the way I look at it. In any organization, you only have two processes going on. You have execution, which is the creation of value today. And you have innovation, which is the creation of value tomorrow. That’s all we do, just those two processes.

If you step back and look at those two processes, those two processes are primarily social processes. They are both reliant upon rich, high quality collaboration. Well, what do you need for that? You need psychological safety. It’s really that important.

Con: So when you say, “psychological safety,” what does that look like in an organization?

Tim: I think it means four things:

1. You feel included.

2. You feel safe enough to learn. To ask questions. Give and receive feedback. Even make mistakes.

3. You are able to contribute. To the team or the organization. To contribute to their purpose and to contribute to the value creation process as a full-fledged member of the team.

4. Safe to be able to challenge the status quo. That’s the culminating stage. That’s the ultimate stage. 

Now, all those things you have to feel that you can do it without what? Without being embarrassed, without being marginalized, and without being punished in some way.

Con: I can certainly see how that influences a group, a team’s ability to navigate change, to bring about change in an organization. You have to have that.

What are the key challenges that a team faces when approaching a change initiative?

Tim: Often there are many, but let me cite one that I think is universally a challenge that we see over and over again. And that is: the leaders who are charged with leading the change initiative, whatever it is, they are na├»ve to the disruption they are going to cause. They just don’t understand it. They don’t understand the breadth and depth of that disruption. They know it’s going cause disruption. They know that they are knocking the organization out of its orbit, but they don’t understand really the full scope of what they are doing.

So, because they don’t understand that and because they haven’t really done high-quality analysis to understand the magnitude of the disruption, they don’t count the cost and they are not prepared.
Look around at organizations across the board and what do you see? You see organizations that are littered with the failed remains of change initiatives that didn’t quite work out. Now, go look at those change initiatives and you realize most weren’t flawed, they were good. They failed on execution. They failed because they didn’t understand what they were really getting into. And they were not prepared for it.

You’ve got to go in and do what we call a disruption analysis. You have to think very clearly and carefully through different categories of disruption about what this proposed change initiative will cause in the organization as it moves through the organization on several levels. And we don’t need to get into all the details but that is an area that is a challenge we see over and over again—going in unprepared, not understanding the extent of the disruption—and not being prepared for that. And what happens? It’s a false start.

Con: That’s very interesting. Any other challenges?
Tim: Let me give you a lens to think about this, and all the listeners. I want you to think about any change initiative that you may be working on. And I want you to think about the way that change initiative sinks into the organization. Change means that you are taking an organization that’s in a state of equilibrium or relative equilibrium and you’re disrupting. So it goes into a state of dis-equilibrium. And then you are going to try to get it back to a new state of equilibrium but better—after the change. Well, think about how change settles into that organization.

For Tim’s explanation of changes’ three phases, drop into the podcast and start listening at the 10:47 marker.

Con: You know, Tim, for a long time I’ve been working with organizations and their whole change approach has been to just have a communication strategy, you know? That’s how we go about it. Clearly, there is so much more to it, if you really want to have change work, to navigate that journey of change.

Is there anything else you want to share with our listeners before we close today?

Tim: Well, to that point, Con, maybe build on that a little bit. What’s funny and ironic about change is that people resist what they agree with. Now you have to think about that a little bit.

When it comes to change, people resist what they agree with, what they think makes sense from a logical, rational, intellectual, strategic standpoint, you can get them to agree with a course of action that you’re going to take or you are taking. And they will say, “Yeah, it makes sense. I think we should do that. That’s the logical thing. This change makes sense in so many ways.” And you can go through the analysis, you can go through the rational, and they will nod their heads and they are going to say, “Yeah! I agree. I agree. I agree.” And yet they will resist what they are agreeing with. Why is that?

Because they are processing it on an intellectual level. But they are also processing it on an emotional level. It is disruptive to them. So, think about the ways the change is disruptive. It’s disruptive in so many ways—socially, economically, politically, geographically. It’s disruptive in every way. So even though we agree with it, we often can resist what we agree with. Having a communication strategy for change is fantastic, but there is a lot more to it because there are three units of analysis when it comes to change. There’s the organization, which we understand. Then there’s the team. The team is the basic unit of performance in every organization. And then there’s the individual.

The change leader in the 21st Century has to become competent—perceptive and competent—at all three levels to help people to move forward. The individual level, the team level, and the organizational level.

Con: Tim, thank you so much for sharing your insights and remarkable experience.

We look forward to all that lies ahead. This is Con Gottfredson and Dr. Timothy R. Clark, founder and CEO of Leader Factor. Thank you, Tim, for being with us today!

Listen to the full episode and be sure to subscribe to The Performance Matters Series for all the latest conversations.

Workflow Learning: The Four Fundamental Principles

By: Dr. Conrad Gottfredson and Bob Mosher

The following is an excerpt from The Performance Matters Podcast Series, Episode 13.

Let’s jump right into Bob and Con’s discussion around workflow learning…

Bob: Today we’re going to take a strong run at what’s becoming a super-hot topic in our industry that is being currently called “workflow learning”. I think it’s really important to take the time to step back and be sure our industry has a clear understanding of this.

“Workflow learning,” isn’t just about making information available in the workflow. It’s enabling a learner to learn or be supported while doing their work.

eLearning, for instance, has thrown around the acronym JIT, or just-in-time learning.  We’ve agreed all along, eLearning does provide ease of use and is clearly a powerful economic model for not taking people out of the workflow for three to five days. But here’s the thing. You still have to step away from your work, in this case, cognitively. For example, you’re not leaving your seat but you’re not performing your work anymore. You’ve launched an LMS to consume.

True workflow learning is done in parallel, not to the side. It’s done while getting work done. It instructs, informs, and supports—three, frankly, different things, all while doing the job. Con, do you agree?

Con: This is a crucial distinction. There is a great deal of misunderstanding in our conversations around workflow learning because of it. Real workflow learning is learning while working. That’s genuine workflow learning. Many people, in their approach to workflow learning assume all learning in the workflow constitutes workflow learning. Micro-learning in the workflow can be a rudimentary form of workflow learning. But the real power of workflow learning is what you said. It’s enabling people to learn as they do their work so that they don’t have to stop work in order to learn. And that’s the distinction.

Bob: I really like this distinction. “Informing” and “supporting”, while performing work is a powerful way to learn.

Con: Oh, yeah! Because in traditional learning we have what we call “train”, and then the learner has to transfer it to their job. That is, contextualize it to their own work. When you have real workflow learning the transfer inherently occurs while learning. There’s no stopping work. There’s no real transfer stage. So, it’s faster and more economical in terms of the learning process. It’s absolutely more powerful—as long as it can be done safely.

Bob:  Con, you talk about context a number of times. It’s only since I’ve gotten into this deeper and have been involved in The 5 Moments, watching the methodology play out, that a huge “aha!” came to me. I realized, as an ID, how very little I knew about the workflow. I knew what the SME wanted me to teach. I knew what the SME wanted me to have people understand. I knew what software to use. But that’s not workflow. That’s what is inflicted on the workflow and has to be contextualized.

Con: I have yet to walk into an organization that truly understands their workflow. And that’s startling. Tragic, really. How does an organization really take control of how their people do their work if they are blind to just that—the workflow?

Traditional approaches in instructional design employ traditional job task analysis. But, unfortunately, this approach fails to organize those tasks into a workflow process. You have to map the workflow because this mapping is what creates the context that provides your learners with just-in-time access to just what they need, at the moment they need it, in order to be able to learn in the workflow.

Bob: So Con, “If it’s not embedded in the workflow, it doesn’t work.” Meaning, we have to be sure we understand the context of the work. That’s the workflow. But there’s also the physical context in which the learner can consume. If it’s a system, embed it.

Con: Yes. The only way I can learn as I do my work is if I have access to what I need, to do that learning, as I do my work.

Bob: It’s in this next principle where I think most of us go wrong. We embed well, we make things contextual, but then we pile on. There’s this misconception, in my opinion, about adults and adult learning. How could more not be better? They are adults—they can handle it—well, that’s wrong. A lot of the real need is driven by the context. If I’m in one of The Five Moments of Need—let’s say Solve—I am not in the mood for an asset that’s going to take me twenty minutes to Solve. This principle of Just Enough and The Right Kind of Just Enough is so important.

Con: That’s why we talk about “2 Clicks—10 Seconds.” The “2 Clicks” is getting to the needed information, while the “10 seconds” is the time it takes for me to translate that information into action. So we really do need to be able access just what I need, at my moment of need to help me get the job done—and in the process, learn by doing.

Bob: So let’s wrap up the four fundamental principles with one I know is near and dear to your heart—content management—aggregating content, currency, trustworthiness, maintenance. These principles are sort of foundationally building one on the other but in the end, if what I call up is wrong or if what I call up is old, I would never go back. Con, tell us a bit more about this discipline around currency and trustworthiness of content.

Con: This is the elephant in the room—keeping solutions current. When you step into the workflow, there is no room for people to be accessing information that is inaccurate. We’ve got to take steps to keep the solution meaningful, vibrant, and up-to-date. The good news is that performance support methodology and technology can enable that in ways that we haven’t been able to historically. We have to bring to this world of workflow learning strong content management practices. We can’t ignore it.
We have to step in and partner with the business in that journey, or we will fail. Workflow learning takes us into the world of the organization, and its business, and we have to have practices that let us partner with the business in keeping things current, vibrant and meaningful.

Bob: So, friends, I want to conclude with one last thought, or myth, if you will. “We have workflow learning because we have this really remarkable coaching program.” Disclaimer, we are not knocking coaching programs. But, in the context of what we just got through discussing, that is not what a coaching program does.

Con: Correct. A coach isn’t always around when I experience my moment of learning need. The cost of coaching is so high—I’m tying down another human being to be there to coach me. Then coaches, depending on the day, can be very good or they can just take me to a place that I hadn’t ought to go! Sure, coaching is a very powerful thing, but you can’t scale it to meet all the needs that people have in terms of workflow learning. It’s “just not gonna happen.”

Bob: This discussion is one we have to continue. It’s fundamental to going forward in the Five Moments and effectively doing it.

Listen to the full episode.

Train Transfer Sustain | Moving Past the Training Event

By Dr. Conrad Gottfredson and Bob Mosher
You’ve trained them. Now what? They go back to their desks, immediately apply what they learned, and voila—increased performance. Not quite.
There’s more to it than just the training event. In fact, there are two additional phases in the learning ecosystem that must be addressed to achieve learning success.
Train. Transfer. Sustain.

Think of your learners as ‘performers’, now set them on their journey with the overall destination being competency.
To become competent in our ever-evolving business landscape, performers must clearly master things. You have to train people up to a point of mastery. You definitely do not want a pilot flying a plane without first mastering the lift and landing.
One of the challenges of the journey to mastery is that learners achieve a level of mastery at different rates. So, in any given event, in any given period of time, you have a range of mastery levels that happen and are happening.
Then, within this range, we also have the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve. This is where performers, once back to work, begin to forget, at a very rapid rate, whatever it is they have mastered and learned in their event-based experience.
So how does one ever get to their destination—competency? It’s one thing to master something, it’s another to be competent at it. Take for example a story Bob tells on this topic, he received an A+ in accounting while in undergrad, but there was no way he was prepared to actually do your taxes. Mastery did not transfer to competency.
The journey does not end at mastery; your performer must get to some level of competence. This stage is a crucial one as it is where all the different “mastered” pieces are integrated together to form a whole. And they are integrated through our experience as we apply those mastery items to our job, all while adjusting and adapting them.  
Transfer is a challenge for performers as they refer back to the training event where “they practiced in class” “were given real-life scenarios” “put in a hands-on lab that simulated the workflow…”, trying to make sense of it all.
But, at the end of the day these are all still practice situations—not the actual workflow.
To further complicate things, not every performer’s workflow is the same as the next, and your workflow today is different than tomorrow. So, making that journey of taking whatever it is that is mastered, integrating it with one’s existing skillset, and becoming competent, more skilled, more able to do what is needed to do on the job is no small feat!
And to complicate things, what is current ‘now’ may not be current an hour from now. So, it’s not only how a performer transfers to competency, but how do they remain competent? To become a better performer over time—that’s the Sustain stage.
And the driver of that stage—the element of change.
When we do things over and over again, we master things. We become competent. Then it changes. That challenge of overriding old skill sets with new skill sets is the greatest learning challenge that there is. You really can’t train your way out of it. No organization can afford to do that.
So, to unlearn and to relearn that is the real challenge.
The need for Train, Transfer, and Sustain has been around forever. People have always had to leave an event and be on their own with their newfound skills and knowledge. We haven’t, and aren’t, giving people the tools to truly navigate the transfer and sustain stages.
But with the 5 Moments of Need Methodology, we do.
And we do so by focusing on the Moment of Apply and building solutions and tools to support people at the Moments of Apply, Change, and Solve. Then, their digital coach if you will, is with them at the critical stages of Transfer and Sustain.
We can intentionally make a difference and it changes everything. It brings greater efficiency to every part of that journey through Train Transfer and Sustain.
The journey’s destination is again, competency and the time to competency. With the Five Moments of Need approach, and Train Transfer Sustain as your deliverable, we see time to competency reduced considerably due to what is enabled beyond the Training stage.  
This blog was excerpted from Episode 3 of our Performance Matter Podcast.
To learn more about the Moments of Apply, Change, and Solve visit our resources page.

Saving the Classroom

By Dr. Conrad Gottfredson

In this vital work we call training, we design, build, deliver, manage, and maintain courseware. We make it available 24/7 via eLearning, mobile learning, virtual, and traditional classroom instruction. We chase every opportunity we can find to enhance this courseware with ever emerging capabilities like Gamification, collaboration, and communities of practice. We blend it, personalize it, and attempt to measure it.

Sadly, in most cases, these remarkable courses we build and implement end up yielding limited business impact. The learners we train too often falter and even fail to perform effectively on- the -job. Most of our failure is masked by highly motivated people who eventually figure it all out. And, luckily, we don’t really see it because of the significant distance between our learning events and the time and places where our learners actually attempt to apply it.

None of this is intentional or derelict. There are good reasons why these consequences have happened historically.  But there is no good reason why it is continuing to happen. New methodology-enabled by emerging technologies can and is breathing life into organizational learning and its impact on the business. Technology is transforming learning professionals into strategic partners with the business. It’s virtually eliminating the fundamental threats that have kept training from reaching its full potential in organizations. Here’s how that’s happening.

Threat #1:  Too much to train and not enough time

There was a time when there was enough time to learn what needs to be learned.  In our world of rapid change, we no longer have the luxury of enough time to learn. While the scope of what people need to learn to keep current in their jobs has increased, the time allocated to learn it has decreased. This presents a particular challenge especially with live classroom instruction. There is too much content and not enough classroom time, a situation which often pushes trainers to skip content or rush the learner in an attempt to cover it all.

See if this real-world example sounds familiar. A Learning and Development (L&D) group recently celebrated the reduction of a 5-day course to 3 days with what appeared to them to be no loss in learning outcomes. But here’s what really happened. Analysis of the course revealed that the instructional integrity of the course didn’t change—hence no loss in learning since there were few if any outcomes planned in the first place. In both the 5-day and 3-day versions of the course, learners were exposed to 1.8 slides per minute. These slides were content intensive, requiring instructors to devote 80% of the instructional time just presenting the content. Here’s what the allocation of instructional time looked like:

with the content to facilitate learning
how to Performing the Actual Skills
the Skills with Direct Feedback
Reviewing/ Reinforcing
what was Learned

This is anything but an effective allocation of instructional time. In the contribution hierarchy of skill development, presenting is at the bottom of the list. Yet, as can be seen in this example, presenting is displacing the other vital contributors. 

Here’s how technology can help bring greater instructional balance to the allocation of learning time. Gloria Gery, in 1991, introduced a new learning modality designed for the workflow called an Electronic Performance Support System (EPPS). She defined the EPSS as a technology-enabled tool that “provides on-demand access to integrated information, guidance, advice, assistance, training, and tools to enable high-level job performance with a minimum of support from other people.”
We are now seeing an emergence of EPSS technologies and associated methodologies that are proving astonishingly effective in lifting the content presentation burden from trainers. This frees up instructional time for more effective learning experiences within the classroom. In this “flipped” classroom, instructors bring the EPSS into the classroom and use it as the primary means for learners to access the information they need in support of practice activities with highly interactive discussions around those activities.

In the “flipped” approach, participants learn primarily by “doing and discussing” rather than mostly “listening.” The table below shows the times and percentages of the 2-day EPSS course compared with the previous 5- and 3-day versions of the course. 

5 Day Course
3 Day Course
2-day EPSS-supported Course
1000 + slides
600 slides
75 slides
33 slides per hour (1.8 per minute)
9.6 minutes per slide
Present Content
Practice with Feedback
Notice how much more time is spent reviewing and discussing the content on each slide.

Here is more good news. Although some skills merit the investment of formal learning, others don’t. These skills can be safely learned in the workflow with “2-click—ten second” access to the required information in the EPSS.

Because the EPSS can travel with learners directly into the workflow, not all content requires attention during the formal learning experience. Prioritizing classroom content to just the essentials allows significant reduction of the “time away from work to learn.”  Hence, in the example shown above, the 3-day course was reduced to 2 days by completely flipping the learning methodology within the classroom.

Threat #2:  Too Disconnected from the Actual Workflow.
Transforming the classroom into a learning experience dominated by practice does not guarantee effective learning. Practice delivers value to the degree it realistically addresses what people need to know and do in their workflow. Herein lies a second great threat to training effectiveness. Practice in the classroom too often lacks workflow fidelity, where what we train people to do is what they actually do in their work.  This is due, in part, to a flaw in traditional ISD methodology. In an effort to write learning objectives that can be measured during training, those objectives, for the most part, fail to describe what performers really need to do in their work. Take a look at the following list of verbs often used in writing learning objectives:

These verbs are far removed from describing what learners need to actually do in the workflow.

Consider the thousand-slide course referenced earlier in this article. In the effort to reduce the course to three days, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) offered up 221 learning objectives. Only 40 of the 221 (18%) learning objectives targeted actual job tasks. And, those 40 objectives directly related to only 14 of the 59 (24%) actual tasks that learners needed to be able to perform in the workplace. The learning objectives approach failed to identify Fifteen other tasks, that would result in critical to catastrophic impact if ignored.

The SMEs also identified 181 objective statements that only addressed 27 (15%) of the 69 actual concepts that learners needed to understand in order to make correct decisions. These 181 objective statements focused on differentiating, identifying, distinguishing, listing, describing, summarizing, understanding, and explaining. These are cognitive objectives, not behavioral objectives. They may be measurable, but they are most certainly disconnected from much of what learners need to know to perform effectively in the workflow.

There’s much more to this disconnection than Bloom’s Taxonomy, however. The distance from the classroom (virtual or not) to effective on-the-job performance is vast. In formal training, we pull people away from their work and to the best of our ability create an environment that mimics the real world. Then we attempt to train them. But at the moment when the training/learning experience ends, whatever they have learned enters the “forgetting death spiral” which is the third threat.

Threat #3:  Too much forgetting, too fast

Learners vary in how much they learn while participating in any formal learning course. Whatever they learn, though, rapidly evaporates following the learning event. The rate of evaporation depends upon whether the instruction was superficial or methodologically sound and upon the complexity of the knowledge and skills.10 In short, forgetting happens and most of the time it happens quickly. The following graphic shows how, at the end of training, memory immediately begins to deteriorate and within a few hours, much of what was “learned” is gone.
Our learning solutions need to counter this reality and intentionally assist learners as they transition from learning to performance on the job. Leaving the situation to chance is both risky and costly.

A task-based EPSS can interrupt the forgetting curve and bridge the gap between the training event and the workflow, shortening the time from the start of a course to successful on the job performance.

While formal training is an important part of any learning and performance support strategy, if that is all you provide, then it is more difficult for performers to transfer what they have learned to their jobs. It is not enough to only provide formal training for performers. Formal training does not take place in the context in which performers will use the skills they are learning. Without on-the-job performance support, it will take performers longer to transfer what they have learned to their jobs and they may not remember all of the pieces of specific tasks they need to perform.

At each stage, performers need different types and levels of support. Understanding the different stages of the complete learning journey is critical to designing a learning and performance support strategy that not only meets the needs of all performers but also addresses strategic needs of the organization. Intentionally addressing all three stages of Train, Transfer, and Sustain frees performers from the burden of remembering and remaining current. It reduces time they take to step away from their work to learn, solve problems, and assist others. In its place performers can focus their efforts on the actual work of the organization—continuous improvement and collaborative innovation.
The following table shows what a complete learning and performance solution needs to include:

This stage needs an orchestrated learning experience that specifically targets job-critical knowledge and skills.
This stage needs a “familiar” performance-support solution that provides immediate (e.g., 2-click, 10 second) access to the tasks and related concepts identified in the Job Task Analysis.
This stage needs immediate access to integrated performance support solutions that provide immediate access to cascading levels of support (see the PS Pyramid below.) These integrated solutions need to provide targeted access to updated knowledge and skill requirements at the moment of Apply.
Core components include:
o   A real-time virtual, in-person, and/or self-instructional course.
o   The appropriate learning support components (e.g., participant guide, slides, activities.)
o   The performance-support solution that learners will rely upon as they enter the other two stages.
Core component:
o   The performance-support solution that learners learned to use in the “Train” stage.

Core components include:
o   Job-tailored, integrated performance-support solutions with full-pyramid support. (See below.)

Threat #4: Unrelenting change 
Skills, when performed over and over, tend to become automated—deeply rooted in people’s skills sets and performed without conscious thought.  Once skills have become ingrained into the work practices of people and organizations in this way, replacing out-of-date practices with new ways of performing and thinking becomes one of the most significant learning challenges an organization can face.

Currently, most organizations are doing all they can to overcome unrelenting change. But what’s missing is technology-enabled Performance Support. Only with an EPSS can we hope to keep constantly changing information current and accessible to our performers.

In The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway’s character is asked how he went bankrupt. He replies: “First gradually, and then suddenly.” 

This will be the case for much of what we call formal learning today unless we push our efforts more deeply into the organizational workflow and provide people with the technological tools and preparation they need to successfully perform at the Moments of Apply, Change, and Solve. This strategy must be at the heart of all we do and should always have been the case. The people we are charged to train and support deserve “immediate, intuitive, tailored aid” that is intentionally orchestrated by technology to “ensure the most effective personal and collective performance.”

More 5 Moments of Need Resources.