Instructor Led Training (ILT) V2.0

By Bob Mosher

There’s never been a better time it to be offering Instructor Led Classroom Training! Now, after reading that, you may be checking the author’s name on this blog! Bob Mosher praising the classroom? Yep, it’s really me—the person who was once called “The Classroom Hater Guy”! I’ve attempted to clear up that misunderstanding many times. So let me say yet again that the classroom is one of my favorite delivery mediums available to those whom we serve. My issue all along has never been with the modality, it’s been with what it’s become. In many instances it has become a dumping ground for everything needed to be “learned”, in way too short of a time and, because of this, in a format that’s instructionally broken. Ok,,, Well, that might be where the “Hater Guy” part came from. ;) With all that said, back to my original statement, and let me try and clarify my positon. With all that’s at our disposal as learning leaders it’s time to take a hard look at the existing ILT model and introduce ILT V2.0.

Now, before we dig a bit deeper into this you may be asking why a topic that seems fairly pragmatic warrants such strategic attention? I’m not talking about the changing the logistics of delivering ILT. This isn’t about scheduling trainers or equipping a classroom with technology. It’s about an L&D Departments overall role in helping redefine a paradigm that’s been a foundational tool in our toolkit since the dawn of time. That type of change starts with us, and if I’ve learned anything in my 36+ years in L&D it’s that change doesn’t come easy, especially when it involves changing something as entrenched as the ILT model. Yes I know, we’ve tinkered with it a bit with efforts like the flipped classroom and blended learning, but this is a much larger change than either of those. This is positioning ILT in a very different way.

We need to change three things in order for ILT V2.0 to be actualized. The first is to stop talking about it so much. Let me clarify. If the classroom is going to be allowed to do what it needs to do, it has to stop being what we always lead with. In most learning organizations, whether we want to admit it or not, ILT is still what starts the conversation and is the centerpiece upon which everything else is based. If ILT remains there it will never be given the time and space it needs to evolve into a powerful new model. We also need to remove the following words from our daily vocabulary – “course”, “lesson”, and even “training”. Because we use these terms so frequently we often predetermine our deliverables before we’re allowed to position ILT, and all that’s at available outside of it, in the appropriate way. In other words it puts our buyers in a “I’m getting 5 days of ILT,,,” mindset and it makes it harder to reposition ILT in a new way.

Second, we need to strengthen our non-ILT deliverable’s design and technology capabilities within our learning teams. If ILT V2.0 is going to be actualized, it needs to offload all it has been asked to deliver to other trusted and proven modalities. Building out these new capablilities is going to take leadership, time, money, and frankly courage. The learning learners we’ve seen successfully champion these efforts are what I’m calling Courageous Leaders. They have a vision, have become learned in the 5 Moments of Need methodology and related technologies, and are willing to lead their teams in a change management initiative that may be difficult and disruptive. We’re talking about reinventing ILT here! It will involve guiding many key stakeholders – ID’s, Trainers, our “buyers” and even the learners! We need to introduce and build new deliverables that fall under a discipline called Performance Support, and I don’t mean a simple Job Aid. I mean the robust discipline of Performance Support that involves tools such as Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS’s), Learning Experience Platforms (LXP’s), Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning tools, and Social/Collaborative Learning Platforms. These are the tools that will allow ILT to migrate from V1.0 to V2.0. and here’s the kicker – They need to be brought to the front of the line with ILT seen as a tool used in support of them, not something that continues to be built and positioned ahead of them.

This fundamental shift in focus is what allows the third change to occur. When we lead with 5 Moments of Need design and tools, ILT is allowed to take a new and powerful supportive and foundational role. It becomes the means not the ends. ILT V2.0 is a place where learners come to know just the critical skills needed to begin the journey while being taught these other workflow embedded tools that enble them to make the rest of the journey. This is no small feat, but it involves freeing ILT from the “Cover it all” strangle hold it’s under now to a place where experimentation, failure, creativity, and innovation is encouraged and even taught!

ILT V2.0 is here to stay and plays a new and powerful role in the learning ecosystem, BUT it needs to be championed by the L&D department if it’s going to have a chance to be realized. The potential is limitless and gives ILT a new and invaluable position in our overall solutions. Are you ready to champion the change?

Read, watch, and listen for more on The 5 Moments of Need.

Copyright © 2022 by APPLY Synergies, LLC 

All Rights Reserved.

Standing Still is No Longer an Option

By Bob Mosher

As many of you know I’ve been at this for a long time, 36 years to be exact. How is that possible? I have seen some amazing changes in L&D during that time. I remember standing in front of a group of trainers showing them how we could “transform” their classrooms by putting all of their transparencies into a new tool called PowerPoint. Well, those days are long gone, and we have been through a number of transformations since. Change is a constant and my experience is that L&D isn’t very good at it. Well, if we thought PowerPoint, the internet, or e-Learning were transformational and a challenge, we haven’t seen anything yet! My belief is that we’re sitting at a tipping point like none other in our history.

Why? Because the next big change strikes at the heart of how we’ve defined ourselves since our inception. You see, even with the transformational modalities and tools I’ve described above, the locus of control was still squarely in our domain. We were still creating a learning solution that was a training-first deliverable. It focused more on knowledge and skill gain, than on workflow application. Clearly, we HOPED that some type of transfer occurred, but the journey started with our deliverables, were created and maintained in our design shops, and were delivered via our platforms and trainers, be them live or digital. Those times are about to change dramatically, if they haven’t already. The question is are we ready?

With the new emerging design methodologies, technologies, and learners Workflow Learning is the brave new frontier. What is workflow learning? It’s when learning and support solutions are designed to begin on the job and WHILE the learner is doing their job. Notice the emphasis on the word while! Many of you may say that this is what e-learning enabled? Not exactly. Tools like e-learning made learning available IN the workflow, but the learner still needs to leave the their work to consume it, even if they are still sitting in front of their computer. Leaving work isn’t always a physical thing. I can still be sitting at my desk but required to mentally leave my work to find and consume a learning or support asset. In true Workflow Learning, that doesn’t happen. When the “lesson” is over, work is also completed.

There are a number of things driving this change. The first, and most important, is the learner. They come from a world, thanks to technologies like smartphones, where learning and support are at their fingertips and consumed in the flow of life. This has created an expectation that learning programs found at work will be equally as intrinsic. It has created a much more independent and inspired learner. One that has little patience to wait for, or leave work, for training.

The second, is the technology. There have been a number of remarkable breakthroughs in learning technologies that make Workflow Learning a reality, and there’s no sign of this slowing down any time soon. Here are a few to watch:
  1. From an LMS to an LXP (Learning Experience Platform): The LMS is a well-established platform, but it sits alongside a crowded field of other content repositories that have long since overwhelmed our learners. Since platforms like SharePoint hit the scene organizations have been stockpiling learning and support assets like never before. The problem is not their availability, it’s finding the most current and efficient one. LXP’s have emerged as a powerful technology that sits on top of the LMS, and the other repositories, and allows learners to have access to, and even the creation of, content like never before.
  2. From e-Learning to EPSS (Electronic Performance Support Systems): EPSS’ have been around since the early 90’s, but today’s technologies look NOTHING like the original platforms. Their ability to embed in the workflow and broker into technologies like the LXP, LMS, SharePoint, and many others finally enables true Workflow Learning WHILE a learner does their job.
And finally, the third is methodology. Agile Instructional Design is here to stay. Waterfall approaches just can’t keep up with the rapid change of work, and the demands of the learner described above. It’s time we take a good hard look at our dated design approaches and let many of them go.

One of my favorite quotes is by a gentleman named Denis Pombrant, “Change is difficult. It’s hard, and people avoid it when we can, but change eventually happens when the consequences of standing still look worse than the consequences of taking a chance on change. … It’s time for all of us to change -- standing still is not an option, and we can only imagine the disruptions ahead.”

More resources on The 5 Moments of Need.

Copyright © 2022 by APPLY Synergies, LLC 

All Rights Reserved.

Change is Hard, but Well Worth the Journey!!

By Bob Mosher and Conrad Gottfredson

I know we talk an awful lot about Performance Support and related tools (EPSS's) on this forum.  I totally get that since the name of this community IS the Performance Support(PS) Community :)  BUT with that said, one of my favorite things about designing for the 5 Moments of Need (5 MoN), and including an EPSS in the blend, is the power and flexibility the approach brings to the classroom.

I've shared before that I was once categorized as "the classroom hater". Reading my own blogs and articles I GUESS I can see where that perception came from.  To set the record straight, that couldn't be further from the truth.  In fact, I still believe that the classroom brings certain elements to learning that, at least currently, no other modality can, such as empathy, real-time troubleshooting/feedback, and experiential expertise, just to name a few.  What I DO hate about the classroom is what we've done to it.  It has all too often become a dumping ground of too much content that's "taught" in too little a time limiting its ability to use of the power learning approaches I've listed above.  PS can do amazing things to solve much of that, freeing the classroom to do what it does best!

The fundamental problem is that too many L&D professionals and organizations still see PS as an add-on to there existing approach.  They want PS, but they're not willing to do anything differently to their training models and methodologies. They just want to "add" PS to the workflow and hope it all works.  To do PS right, you have to look at all 5 MoN FIRST and adjust accordingly.  I recently had a student in one of my workshops say, "I get and agree with all that you're saying, BUT the problem we face is we have too few resources, time and money to ADD this.  My department is already taxed to the max meeting the demand we have to create our current Training materials".

Ok, let's examine this statement a bit more.  In order for ANY L&D department to move to a true 5 MoN approach they need to change two important things - their mental orientation to what it is they build, AND a shift in the methodology to build it. Let's examine both for a bit.

The fundamental mistake this VERY qualified and well intentioned L&D professional was making, and we see this often, is evaluating the impact and addition of PS from a "training first" mindset.  When Con started his journey in creating the 5 Moments of Need methodology he realized a few fundamental truths - IF adopting the 5 MoN was going to work, that journey had to follow 3 rules:
  1. It couldn't take more time then current design models
  2. It couldn't cost more than current design models
  3. It couldn't need more resources than current design models
When we've seen the 5 MoN and PS implemented CORRECTLY we've seen it hold pretty true to these rules, if not cut down on a few of them.  BUT that starts by NOT designing for Training first!  If you do, PS will always be seen as an add-on and not an enhancement to an existing model.  Few have extra time, resources, or money for an add-on! If the gentleman referenced above keeps starting with tackling his current training load (and approach) first and hoping to get to PS later, it will never work!  Now, I'm NOT saying this change is easy and won't come with some "pain and sacrifice", few change efforts do.  Others on this community who've made the transition can jump in here, but many will say that the road to the 5 MoN didn't happen overnight, or without any angst.  Those who've stayed the course have arrived at an amazing place, but it took work, commitment and flexibility.

A second part of this journey is trusting the model and some of its strongest attributes.  One of the game changers is Critical Skills Analysis (CSA)!  CSA let's you create a TRULY blended approach to an overall Learning and Performance solution that allows the classroom to do all that it's called to do.  It also lets you reduce classroom time by 50% on average freeing up many resources and time needed to create this new blend.

This is all about change!!  About adopting a new view and approach to L&D.  That journey is an evolutionary one, not a revolutionary one.  The best part of this journey is that you can take it one step at at time and not upset the apple cart along the way.  Those who have done it have created change one proof of concept, and project, at at time.  Each one day arriving at the point where their solutions truly shifted to one that was "performance first" in analysis, design and delivery!

More 5 Moments of Need Resources.

Copyright © 2022 by APPLY Synergies, LLC 

All Rights Reserved.

Time for a Change!

By Bob Mosher and Conrad Gottfredson

Change is hard, especially in the Learning & Development (L&D) Field!  The irony of this revelation is that those of us in the L&D profession are supposed to be in the business of helping our learners navigate change!  We want our learners to be flexible, dynamic, self-motivated learners.  Yet, my experience is that we are often our own worst enemies at exhibiting these same characteristics. Con and I spend a lot of our professional life being invited into organizations by the L&D department to help them introduce and adopt new learning technologies and approaches, and when asked which stakeholders are often the most resistant to these changes, it’s the L&D team itself that tops our list.

This is a problem since, in my opinion, we’re facing one of our toughest internal transformation challenges we’ve ever encountered - moving from a training deliverable focus to a workflow embedded/performance focus.  According to the recent 2018 Annual L&D Bench marking Report from Toward Maturity, we’re sailing into a “perfect storm” of both desire and skills when It comes to enabling this transformation.  The reports shares that 98% of top organizations name “Improving Organizational Performance” as a top priority, with the L&D department following suit at 93% listing “Integrating learning into the workflow” as one of its priorities.  All good right?  Not exactly. The issue is that there is a large variance between the desire and the ability to deliver with “supporting workplace learning” listed as one of L&D’s weakest skills!  How do we manage this mismatch?  Its starts with a few fundamental changes.

I’m going to be a bit general with my first recommendation, but we have to first realize, and accept, the need for a fundamental and significant change in the first place.  As I mentioned earlier, we're often invited in by the L&D department, but when change needs to occur they are the one who puts up the greatest fight.  What we've learned is that many don’t truly want to change. What they want is a validation that, with minor tweaking of a few operational processes, their current instructional methodologies, and existing learning technologies they can have their cake and eat it to.  Workflow based deliverables aren’t training deliverables. It’s that simple!  You will include or embed a degree of training in there somewhere, but training isn’t the focus. It’s part of the supporting cast, it’s not the lead actor.  The sooner we realize that the sooner we’ll begin to turn our thinking, analysis and efforts to focusing on creating workflow deliverables in the first place, and not just massage older efforts in a new way.  The change starts from within and it starts with our willingness to change in the first place.

The second thing I see creating this disparity is our constantly defending old and outdated models.  Ok, deep breath, here it goes – Let’s look at approaches such as ADDIE, examine where they came from, and exactly what they’re good at creating.  I can feel the irate comments coming!! ;)  Now I hope you’ve read enough of our blogs and know us well enough to stay with me on this one.  I’m NOT blasting ADDIE or saying that it doesn’t have its place.  What I am saying is that a methodology designed to meet a learning need from over 40 years ago probably targets a different time for our learners and the organizations we support.  The deliverables, primarily training, are not the deliverables of workflow learning.  A new focus and methodology needs to be examined and adopted, and the good news is that many are emerging and being used right now such as our own 5 Moments of Need approach.  Many organizations, large and small, are becoming "5 Moment of Need" design departments.  The challenging reality though is that studies out organizations like ATD on the use of various ID approaches find that a large majority of us still use ADDIE as the primary approach to our design work, while newer approaches such as SAM (Successive Approximation Model) and the 5 Moments, just to name a few, still sits at a much smaller percentage.  We need to own the fact that this brave new world won’t appear without the adoption of newer approaches on our part.

Finally, it’s tough to beat Dustin Johnson (DJ), the current #1 golfer in the world, or at least he was when this blog was written, with wooden shafted clubs. When it comes to performing at the optimal level, equipment matters.  That applies to the equipment and tools we use as well.  If you want to lead with workflow deliverables, we need to design first and foremost with equipment and tools that enable and create workflow learning deliverables.  There is a whole host of incredible new authoring tools emerging that help create workflow learning.  Now you’ll notice I put tools last!  Back to my golfer metaphor, I’m not going to beat DJ, with even the best clubs out there, because I don’t have the golfing skills to do it. In other words, my 2nd point above trumps tools!

Workflow learning IS transformational right now and will change the L&D landscape forever. It’s here and growing.  The questions are will we change, do we know how to make the instructional change, and are we adopting the tools to enable it?

More resources on The 5 Moments of Need.

Copyright © 2022 by APPLY Synergies, LLC 

All Rights Reserved.

I'm Sick of Trends!

By Bob Mosher

Trend articles, blogs, and columns are like “New Years Resolutions”.  They come and go every January through around April.  I Googled “Learning Trends in 2019” and was greeted by 466,000 hits.  Really!  Now before I upset any of my colleagues who have offered trends, I’m not faulting the effort or sincerity of the intent. I’m just sick of trends in general.  That’s no one’s fault. It’s a fault in our industry.  A trend is defined as “a general direction in which something is developing or changing”.  That definition implies that the “thing” exists and it’s generally developing or changing over time.  Here’s my issue with our industry and trends.  They rarely truly change, and if they do it happens way to slowly. So in the spirit of bucking the trends (sorry for that) I’m simply going to offer 5 things I wish we’d just take up a leadership position with, and DO!
  1. Stop using the term “Blended Learning” when it often isn’t – Blended Learning has been around for a long time!  It started out as a way to augment classroom instruction with online materials, and frankly it hasn’t changed a lot since.  Shortening a 5 day class to 2 and using e-learning to supplement the missing 3 days is not blended learning.  The word that I take issue with is “learning”.  The word learning encompass a lot more then just the content covered in training, it covers all 5 Moments of Need.  For a learner it includes the entire journey of being trained, transferring what was learned to the workplace so it can be performed correctly, and then sustaining the information over time as it changes, and the learner matures in their ability to perform.  Designing deliverables that encompass the entire journey is blended learning, and often well beyond where our current efforts leave off.  Let’s redefine the discipline and add a host of other tools and approaches that go way beyond what we offer today.
  2. Get out of the training business and into the performance improvement business – I had a colleague recently share with me that he wanted to get his L&D department out of the “order taking” business and be allowed to do more things. If you want to take different orders, you have to change the menu.  One of the drawbacks of our success over the years, it that it’s painted us into a corner when it comes how our deliverables are perceived.  Like it or not L&D has a long history of delivery great training.  Who remembers corporate universities?  I mean brick and mortar universities.  Some still exist and do amazing things.  The problem with that success is that we have positioned ourselves as something removed from the business and offering deliverables that don’t map to the workflow.  Let’s keep offering training, but as a last resort.  That doesn’t mean training will or should go away.  It just means that our focus and engagement with the business should be dramatically different.  What if we build workflow performance-based deliverable first and supplemented with as little training as possible?  Con and I got out of the training business 10 years ago, and it’s been a rewarding ride ever since. Come join us!!
  3. Standardize on terminology – This one drives me crazy! We’re in the education business. Our job is to unclutter the cluttered, simplify the complicated, and bring structure to chaos.  If that’s the case, can we please stop renaming things, and inventing terms before we have a clue what they really mean, or how they’re best built and delivered?  If we can’t clearly explain it, how can we build it?  Case in point, AND I’m gonna get hate mail for this one, but can someone explain to me what micro-learning really is?  Not your definition, but our industry’s?  That’s my point.  I’m not faulting the power of whatever micro-learning is.  My issue is that if you visited 100 different L&D departments across the world and asked them to define micro-learning I’m afraid at what you might hear.  Again, I’m not picking on micro-learning specifically, or it’s potential. I’m anxious with our inability to standardize on terminology across our field and it’s causing some serious confusion.  The definition of Performance Support is one of my favorite pet peeves.  It’s NOT a job-aid!!! That’s the deliverable.  Performance support is a well vetted discipline that encompasses social, mobile, EPSS’s, job-aids and a whole host of other powerful tools!  Ok, I’ll stop… Rant over!
  4. Put methodology ahead of technology – We like toys and technology. We live in a time when learning technologies are growing at a rate that has surpassed our ability to keep up.  On one hand it’s the most exciting time to do what we do.  On the other hand, we’re spending millions, if not billions, on platforms we really have no idea how to use.  This is where the vendor community could really step up and help.  They create these things for a living, and most are amazing.  The problem is that we’re not in the technology business.  We’re in the instructional methodology business.  These tools are enablers, not ends in and of themselves.  We need to take a breath and better understand how to use the array of tools that exist and are coming at us at a record pace.
  5. Research and understand how to analyze data to defend what we do – Finally, data… We have TONS! Do we really know where it’s coming from, what it represents, and what to do with it?  I’m the first to admit that this is my blind spot.  Analytics, and the constructive use of them, are key to our ability to get our arms around all I’ve describe, and quantifying what we do.
Ok, there you go!  Let’s throw the gauntlet down in 2019.  Let’s move into a revolutionary time when we buck the trends and truly redefine what we do and how we do it.  The time is now and well overdue.

More resources on The 5 Moments of Need.

Copyright © 2022 by APPLY Synergies, LLC 

All Rights Reserved.

Reducing Wasted Work Time

By Conrad Gottfredson

There are many threats to an organization's ability to perform its work profitably. Wasted work time is a big one. And in the realm of wasted work time, there are key areas where workflow learning can provide significant relief. In a recent article, How Workflow Learning Can Power the Classroom, I describe how, on the average, half of the work stoppage associated with traditional learning events is unnecessary—in other words, a waste, and how workflow learning can eliminate that waste.

A second, huge area of waste is the time employees spend trying to figure out how to perform their jobs including searching for the right information resources needed to close that gap.

Regarding this, here are two questions every organization interested in profitability needs to answer:
  1. How much work time are our employees spending trying to figure out how to do their jobs?
  2. To what degree are they spinning their wheels looking for the information they need rather than efficiently moving the work forward with 2-click access to just what’s needed at the moment of need?
We’ve had a good idea of the wheel spinning part of this cost for a long time. In a 2012 study, McKinsey found that employees spend 1/5th of their work time searching for the information resources they need to perform their specific job tasks. One workday wasted per week is beyond significant. But the waste is actually much more than that. What McKinsey didn’t measure was the added waste time spent by employees trying to translate the information resources they eventually access into effective job performance, or the time wasted if they involved others in the search and eventual support.

The good news is 5 MoN Workflow Learning Solutions, when properly designed and implemented, can eradicate most of this wasted work time. Although traditional knowledge management efforts can play a key role, they are generally missing a vital approach that directly attacks this huge threat of wasted worktime. This approach is part of the 5 Moments of Need “EnABLE” methodology. It’s called the “Performance Support Pyramid.”

This Pyramid provides a framework for supporting job performance via an EPSS (Embedded Performance Support Solution.) An EPSS serves as a Digital Coach that performers can access anytime, anywhere, to help provide them 2-click access to just what they need, at their moment of need.

The Performance Support Pyramid is a resource management hierarchy that addresses the evolving information requirements of employees as they perform each specific job task. The following graphic shows this layered approach describing how each layer can provide fingertip access to a specific category of information resources that employees need as they perform their work.

The top of the pyramid addresses the need to provide employees contextual access to the cascading levels of support resources that follow. The workflow process is the primary context for accessing all job-task level support. As noted, there can be other contextual ways to access resources, as well.

As you study the pyramid above, note that at the moment of Apply, performers need contextual access, within 2 clicks, to specific step guidiance for doing what needs to be done, represented here as the “Task” level. Once performers have accessed the steps for a given task, they may also need access to all the resources that support the effective completion of that task found in the layers that follow. The Pyramid framework provides a systematic approach for accessing four categories of information resources:
  1. Supporting Knowledge
  2. Reference Resources
  3. Learning Resources
  4. People Resources
These categories are shown in the Pyramid as different levels based upon the degree performers need to stop their work to actually act upon those resources. As you move down the pyramid, there is generally greater work stoppage.

So, here’s how the Pyramid works.

The performer accesses a high-level view of the steps (Quick-steps) for a specific task via a work-flow map.

Once performers access a high-level view of the steps for a specific task (within two clicks), they need an optional single-click access to detailed instructions for performing that task.
If, performers know what to do, but lack specific knowledge needed to support their performance, then they can, with another click, access resources that reinforce the knowledge needed (i.e., Supporting Knowledge.)

Or, if performers need to access specific “Reference Resources” to support them as they complete the steps of the task (such as tools, templates, policy statements, job-aids, answers to frequently asked questions, etc.,) then a different click would provide immediate access to a listing of these kinds of reference resources.

And so it goes down the pyramid, accessing “Learning Resources” and “People resources” specific to each job task. Each cascading layer represents the possibility of a greater level of work interruption. But, at the moments of “Apply,” “Solve,” “Change,” and “Learn New & More,” there isn’t the luxury of time to search through endless hits offered up by search engines, wander through websites, or dive down into a learning management system to find, and then plow through, an e-learning module to get to just what is needed. Performers require intuitive, immediate access to the steps of any job task with two clicks. Then, according to the specific “Moment of Need” they must be able to get to the other resources shown in the Pyramid and then translate those resources into performance within ten seconds. This “Pyramid” approach provides a consistent framework for accessing different types of resources. It makes possible immediate, tailored access to “Just what’s needed, at the moment of need, to get the job done with a minimum of wasted effort.

 An organization is competent to the degree its people individually and collectively succeed at their work. Information chaos threatens any organization’s capacity to become and remain competent in the work they do. The PS Pyramid alleviates all of this. It systematically orchestrates information resources in a way that addresses the dynamic information requirements of people as they do their work. Our work is to make sure this happens and that we do so as efficiently as possible. This layered approach should guide how every organization provides fingertip access to the specific information resources performers need to do their work.

More resources on The 5 Moments of Need.

Copyright © 2022 by APPLY Synergies, LLC 

All Rights Reserved.

How Workflow Learning Can Power the Classroom

By Dr. Conrad Gottfredson

I spent six years of my life in post-graduate study emerging with a Ph.D. in Instructional Psychology and Technology.  I’ve devoted 35 years since, enriching that degree with real-world experience in the arena of organizational learning and workplace performance.  At the heart of all I’ve learned in these 38 years are two realities
  • Methodology powers learning
  • Real-learning happens while working

Methodology Powers Learning
Learning is a partnership between the learner and the methods we employ to help learners optimally develop, maintain, and expand upon the knowledge and skills they need to perform effectively on-the-job.

The following table shows six fundamental instructional approaches we know, through applied research, facilitate learning.  Whenever these methods are orchestrated properly, learners stand a much better chance of learning than when we fail to employ these methods properly or at all.

Instructional Methods Learning
Deliver Content Capture and contextualize the content to specific on-the-job performance
Provide Examples Translate examples into contextualized understanding and response
Practice Internalize understanding
Generalize skills
Internalize skills
Contextualize skills
Integrate skill-sets
Integrate Review Master and Automate skills and knowledge
Check for Mastery Verify understanding and mastery
Identify areas for improvement
Give Feedback Assess and alter current skills and knowledge

To the right of each method in the table is a partial description of the learning side of instruction.  Most certainly, this learning side is no small fete.  The entire basis for Instructional Systems Design (ISD) is the assurance that the methods on the left facilitate the learning processes on the right.  Compelling research confirms that this is the case.  Methodology can and does make a difference in the speed and degree to which people learn.

There was a time when we had the time to build and implement instructionally sound learning solutions.  These solutions fully employed these instructional methods to help learners master what they needed to learn.

This isn’t the case today.  The extent of what people need to learn has expanded and the time we have to help them learn has diminished—dramatically.  The result?  Although some L&D groups may still attempt to design solutions that call for full instructional treatment, in actual practice, methodology is mostly abandoned.  The pressing demands of time limits instruction to lengthy presentations supported by slides with infrequent questions and a few occasional activities.  Most often lost in this compressed time frame are rich integrated practice exercises accompanied by meaningful feedback.  Feedback, by the way, is one of the most uniquely powerful gifts a trainer brings to learning. It’s the force multiplier of learning and is the single most powerful instructional method for accelerating learning.   

The good news in all of this is there is a way to add back time for methodology without adding more time to training. The solution is “Workflow Learning.” Workflow learning occurs while people actually perform their work.

Real Learning Happens in the Flow of Work
Recently our youngest son drove one of our cars through a large body of water that had accumulated in a parking lot following a massive rainstorm.  As the cold water flushed up and around the heated engine, it stopped – for good.

We paid to have Jason receive the best driver’s education possible.  He sat through all the classes.  Scored well on the tests and did well in his “on-road” driving exercises.  He qualified for his “Learner’s Permit.” This allowed him to continue learning to drive while in the flow of traffic.  The permit required that he always be accompanied by an experienced driver to provide on-the-road coaching.

Jason’s mother started as his driving coach. But, recognizing that her feedback was primarily panic prompted, she quickly reassigned the job to me.  I vividly remember riding with tongue biting silence as Jason transitioned from what he had learned in the classroom to actually becoming a competent driver.  The classroom with its “on-the-road” driving activities was a good start in his learning process.  But that’s all it was.  His “real learning” to drive happened over time while in the flow of traffic (i.e., the Flow of Work.)

This doesn’t mean he didn’t need the class.  He did.  Competent performance, on-the-job, can certainly start with formal learning. But, deeply rooted, connected learning requires ongoing application in the flow of work.  It’s here where all the nuances of the real-world hone, reinforce, expand upon, adjust, internalize, integrate (I could go on) what was and wasn’t learned during “training.”

Also, people are most receptive to learning while in the workflow.  They have clear context and compelling need.  What they don’t generally have is someone to safely coach them through job-tasks (which is especially vital when the critical impact of failure is significant to catastrophic.)  Here’s why organizations need Embedded Performance Support Solutions (EPSSs.) And, in addition to supporting performers in the workflow, these “EPSSs" can help restore the time required to recharge the classroom with the right mix of methodology.

An EPSS provides 2-click/ 10 second “task-level” access to all the resources an employee needs to perform effectively on-the-job.  We use a rating scale, similar to the following, to identify the tasks that people can safely learn while in the flow of their work (using an EPSS.)  At whatever moment in time they need to perform any task rated a 4 or lower, they can simply use the EPSS to “coach” them as they perform the task.  If they make a mistake, that’s ok.  They’ll learn from it while in the context of their workflow.  And will more readily remember it because it happened in the context of their work.  Failure, when the consequences are low, can be a most effective teacher (unless the consequences of failure are high.)

By shifting all the skills and knowledge we can safely into the flow of work, to be learned while people are doing their work, we regain classroom time for methodology.  This makes sense, because the skills, left for the classroom, are rated 5 through 7.  They are those that not only require the right mix of methodology, but also justify the investment in that methodology.  And if, by some chance, a business leader wants to reduce the training time for these skills, you can just ask, “Which of these ‘high risk’ skills do you want to leave to chance?”

I don’t know if Jason’s instructor warned him about driving through massive water puddles. If so, Jason clearly forgot or didn’t pay attention.  Forgetting happens following every learning event, no matter the methodology.  This is why an EPSS is such a vital component in the learning blend.  For the classroom to have full power, it must extend its reach into the workflow. This can happen by pushing reinforcement of that learning into the flow of work employing an EPSS to “coach” people at every ongoing moment of learning need. This “Digital Coach” (i.e., EPSS) provides just-in-time performance support for every job task including those critical impact of failure skills you’ve targeted with effective methodology on the formal side of learning— just in case learners forget, didn’t pay attention, things change, or something goes wrong.

On the average, half of the skills covered in traditional formal learning can be safely pushed in their entirety into the workflow. There, performers learn those skills with the help of a “Digital Coach,” as they do their work. This is real workflow learning—learning while working. As we extend our reach into the workflow with the power and gifts of a “Digital Coach” we can free up time on the formal side for methodology. What a great thing! Anything less than this is a waste.

More resources on The 5 Moments of Need.

Copyright © 2022 by APPLY Synergies, LLC 

All Rights Reserved.

Time to Include the BME

By Bob Mosher

A quick story I recently heard from a colleague. “I was facilitating a design meeting to help create a course for New Managers. In the room sat my my traditional stakeholders: SME’s, or Subject Matter Experts.  Coincidentally two new managers were also invited to sit in and listen.  One and a half days into what felt like an amazing data gathering exercise, one of the new managers spoke up and asked if they could share an observation.  They said, “Although all of this information is amazing and will ultimately make me become an effective manager, my BIGGEST concern is surviving my first 30 days without being fired or sued!  You just filled 4 whiteboards with tasks each of you do every day. I hope to get there someday as well.  The problem is if this is the class you’re creating for me I’d be overwhelmed by noon of the first day, and wouldn’t be able to use most of this anytime soon”.  The room sat there dead quiet.  The SME’s looked at each other and didn’t really know how to reply.  As far as they were concerned, eveything they had been shared was important to a New Manager.  What would they dare skip?  We ended up starting all over with the new manager leading the discussion and the experienced managers adding color commentary. We ended up refined the 4 boards of content down to 1, and reduce what would have been 3~5 days of training down to 1~2.”

Does this story sound at all familiar to you?  I bet it would to your learners. Let me be clear, NOT the SME’s, but the learners!  For years, our design models and processes have pivoted on gather SME’s in a room to help us design our deliverables, and they still continue to be a valuable contributor. However, this story introduces a new stakeholder, and one that was instrumental in making this New Manager program successful – a BME or Business Matter Expert.  A BME is the consumer of the program.  They are the individuals that want to become a SME someday, but are miles from that in their development and ability.  They are also the ones we’ve been over teaching to for years and, as this one so amply stated, been overwhelming at the same time.  Introducing a BME into your design models will have a few powerful results.

The first will force you, and your SME’s, to take a closer look at the word “important”.  To a SME all tasks are important, but to a BME certain tasks are critical.  There’s a difference.  Frankly, all that it takes to be a good leader is important, but only certain tasks are critical to survival. The rest can be learned later in the workflow where learning it optimal.  How do you differentiate from a design perspective?  Criticality is defined by the result of failure.  Tasks where the impact of failure is hurtful, destructive, or unrecoverable need to be taught.  Remember the words of the BME in the story: “my BIGGEST concern is surviving my first 30 days without being fired or sued!”  Those task are critical to a New Manager!  The rest should be supported and learned on the job.

Thus my second point.  Using a BME it will force you to design a true blended learning program that includes both training and performance support deliverables.  The elephant in the room for years has been that our SME help us design deliverables that over teach.  We, and I include myself in that pronoun, have been overburdening our classes, e-learning, and most every training deliverable we’ve ever built, with too much content.  That’s because a SME can handle everything.  A BME can’t.  They will force you to move the non-critical tasks to the workflow to be learned later.  They know how much they can handle and will want support learning the rest when it’s time.  Performance Supprot is the tie that binds. It’s the missing link in a true blended learning solution.  When married with training, and introduced as a support tool in the classroom, performance support allows the classroom go from 3~5 days of too much content to 1~2 days of critical and must know information.

Finally, it will create a stronger relationship between L&D and your lines of business because you will pivot more on the true workflow than an assumed one.  It has always amazed me how little we know about the workflow our learners return to.  We know what it should be, or ultimately could be, based on the SME’s view of the work, but that’s not the true workflow a BME comes from.  Many SME’s have been removed from the workflow a BME tries to survive in each day.  Great sales reps become sale managers and are removed from the field.  Great employees become great leaders and promote themselves out of the daily duties of a frontline manager.  The list goes on and on. These rock stars become SME’s.  Unfortunately, most have understandably lost the perpective of the new learners they once were. Adding a BME to your design mix will introduce you to the realities of the line of business in ways we haven’t understood, or been a part of, in years.

I’m NOT saying that SME’s are going away!  They are still an important part of our design process, but with workflow learning coming of age, as well as the incredible embedded learning technologies that can support it, we need to reorient ourselves around the realities of the workflow as it exists today.  The BME is the new stakeholder that has to be a part of the process.

More resources on The 5 Moments of Need.

Copyright © 2022 by APPLY Synergies, LLC 

All Rights Reserved.

A Case for Targeted Learning

By Conrad Gottfredson

I was recently helping an organization develop a graphic that represented all the components of their learning ecosystem.  In the graphic I distinguished the formal learning section with the heading “stop work to learn.” A member of the client team took exception with the label.  “We can’t describe what we do like that,” he said. “Our business leaders won’t like it.” He insisted we change the label to “Formal Learning” to soften this reality. This was and always has been a mistake. We need to boldly face and justify the business realities of what we do.  And the reality of most of what we do under the banner of formal learning requires employees to stop their work to learn. There are most certainly skills that merit this investment, but not all of them.  Throughout the last 30 years, it’s been our experience that, on the average, half the skills in an organization’s training curricula could be pushed out of the formal side of learning (where employees have to stop their work to learn) into the workflow to be learned while they perform their work.    

The discipline of performance support enables our ability to do this.  I’m not describing micro-learning here, where employees pause their work momentarily to complete a brief “learnlet,” or “learning burst.” That’s a small part of workflow learning. In 1990, Gloria Gery introduced the power of an EPSS as a tool that can enable learning while employees do their work. Here’s what that looks like:

An employee is in the workflow and her job requires her to complete a task she’s never performed before and has had no training in to do it.  Within two-clicks she accesses the quick-steps for the task.  She begins following those steps to perform the task. Step 3 seems a bit complex so she clicks on that step to access greater detail.  On Step 4 she needs to make a decision based upon company policy. She clicks on the policy link which opens the corporate policy guide to the specific paragraph she needs to review. Once she completes all the steps she clicks on a link that opens up a checklist for her to review to make certain she has completed the task appropriately.

The example above is most certainly a workflow learning experience. This capacity to push learning entirely into the workflow reducing the time employees need to stop their work to learn is transformational. It is in every organization’s best interest for us to do this to the extent we can do so safely.

Whenever we pull an employee away from work to learn, we have the responsibility to ensure that it is well worth that investment. There are, most certainly, job tasks where that is the case.    We have developed rating scales like the following to help us determine which tasks and their associated supporting knowledge justify work stoppage in order to learn.  We employ credible SMEs from the business side to make these ratings.

Recently I discussed, with a group of ISDs how these critical impact of failure ratings can help identify skills that can be exclusively learned while employees perform their jobs.  They were so shrouded in a learning mindset that it kept them from grasping how this can be done.  “What about context?” they asked.  “You can’t teach one task in isolation of its other tasks. You need to teach them in context of each other.”  I agree. But that doesn’t mean we need to spend formal learning time teaching those other tasks.  We can use “context maps” like the following to help learners understand how any given task fits relative to other tasks in the overall workflow process.

Context maps allow targeted learning—where employees learn specific tasks, where the critical impact of failure is significant to catastrophic. They also develop an understanding of the workflow process and how the tasks work together in any given process.  All of this is facilitated by a workflow map and an associated EPSS.  Learners become familiar with the EPSS as they practice the critical impact tasks, gaining confidence and contextual understanding with each practice activity they complete using the EPSS.   Sill integration occurs in the workflow when employees use the EPSS to complete the tasks together using the EPSS.

Now, clearly, good judgement needs to prevail here.  But that judgement needs to be tempered with understanding of organizational costs associated with stopping work to learn.  If you’re still skeptical after reading this blog, then please know that this isn’t theory – targeted learning is a proven practice that allows us to bring greater efficiency and integrity into the learning and performance solutions we develop. 

Copyright © 2022 by APPLY Synergies, LLC 

All Rights Reserved.

The Next Great Challenge for Performance Support

By Conrad Gottfredson

I recently observed 12 highly experienced and committed subject-matter experts facilitate a three and a half-day course. They were parachuted in to provide this training not far from my home here in Utah.  They brought with them rich experience from their various areas of expertise which they shared with the class as they moved through hundreds of slides.  Some facilitators had stronger presentation skills than others. The nature of the learning experience varied by facilitator.  On the average, a third of the time was devoted to sharing real-life experiences with limited learner interaction.

There were 27 learners in this class from 10 different locations.  They represented 12 different divisions of the organization and were split between two different job roles. The work experience of participants ranged from one year to twenty.

 Throughout the course I worked closely with a most remarkable, highly-qualified, learning professional. He has deep experience with the subject matter but is also a gifted trainer. He is the course owner and this course is his “baby.” He is as committed to the course as any parent could or should be to a child.  And more importantly, he is totally focused on making the course a meaningful experience for its participants.

I have seldom observed a class of participants more committed to learning. Everyone was as engaged as they could be in their learning experience.  Why? Because the course addresses knowledge and skills where the critical impact of failure, for the most part, is significant to catastrophic.

Next week I will report to our client on the learning efficiency and instructional integrity of this course. I will certainly want to acknowledge the remarkably good things that I have noted above. But as I viewed this course through a 5 Moments of Need lens, it is anything but efficient and lacks instructional integrity.

Sadly, this is the case with most formal learning efforts. It’s not the fault of the trainers.  It’s what the course is lacking that diminishes its effectiveness. Failure to include the right level of performance support threatens the instructional integrity of any course. Formal training, at best, initiates the learning process. In these environments learners seldom learn all they need to know and be able to do.  And, what they do learn, they begin forgetting before the course finishes. 

Furthermore, without a performance support infrastructure in place, learners struggle to navigate through the badlands of “remembering and transferring” what they learned to their actual jobs.  This journey through the transfer phase of learning is difficult, time-consuming, and fraught with high probability of failure. And, the threat doesn’t end there. Once learners have forged their way through the transfer phase, they face the ongoing challenge of integrating and optimizing their newly acquired knowledge and skills in ever-changing work environments. 

So, no matter how engaged learners were in this class, and how effective their trainers were, the return on that instruction wasn’t even close to what it could or should have been. I say this because I happen to know how the discipline of performance support can exponentially improve the efficiency and effectiveness of courses like this. I know how effectively people can learn in their workflow, as they perform their work, with the help of an EPSS.  I also know how virtual synchronous learning can, at times, be even more effective than face-to-face learning when combined with an EPSS.

We face two challenges in order to develop solutions that accommodate all 5 Moments of Need. The first challenge, we’ve actually made great headway addressing.  We know today, how to design performance support solutions, including and especially an EPSS.   We have the know-how and technology we need to design, build, implement, and maintain solutions that enable effective performance all the time, anywhere. This has been the great challenge we’ve been pursuing rigorously for decades.  And we’ve cracked this code.

It’s now time for us to systematically take on the second great challenge. For many organizations, performance support is treated as an add-on to training.  But what they need to do is consider is how a performance support solution can influence how they go about training.  This is a game changer: taking advantage of the capabilities of a performance support solution to bring greater learning efficiency and integrity of formal learning solutions. 

Learning efficiency focuses on the investment time, resources, and efficiencies associated with the overarching solution approach. Learning integrity addresses the application and/or misapplication of instructional methodology.

Here’s the good news regarding our ability to optimize our formal learning solutions through the discipline of performance support.  We have a great deal of experience, already, doing this.  It hasn’t been our focus because of the heavy lifting required to get up and running with the right performance support infrastructure.  But if we want to cost-justify the investment in this infrastructure, we actually need to address this, sooner rather than later.

We have more than a decade of experience validating that, on the average, half of the skills addressed in formal learning courses, can be removed from those courses and pushed into the workflow for employees to learn as they do their jobs (with the help of an EPSS.) We also know, through experience, that the time it takes to achieve effective performance in the workplace can cut in half. Furthermore, an EPSS provides trainers the opportunity to focus their remarkable skills beyond presenting to higher skill development practices.

We have made great headway in developing and proving a methodology for designing, implementing, and optimizing performance support. It’s time to turn our attention to doing the same for the formal learning side. These opportunities and more are where we need to also turn our attention.

More resources on The 5 Moments of Need.

The Siren's Song - Thoughts on Making the Transition to 5 MoN

By: Doug Holt

“Come closer, famous Odysseus – Achaea’s pride and glory – moor your ship on our coast so you can hear our song! Never has any sailor passed our shores in his black craft until he has heard the honeyed voices pouring from our lips, and once he hears to his heart’s content sails on a wiser man.” - Homer’s Odyssey

Like the sailors of myth, learning professionals have been seduced by their own version of the Siren’s Song and under its influence are unwittingly running their “ships” – learners and organizations – aground upon the shoals of unfulfilled expectations. That “song” is the deeply ingrained training department/university model that holds our industry hostage against progress and so entices those it touches that we as a profession should consider adding “Proud Member of the Stockholm Syndrome Association” to all our marketing materials.
Borrowing from comedian Jeff Foxworthy, you might be an Association member if:
  • It’s not a big deal to you that artistic renderings of learning events from the Middle Ages look a heck of a lot like the learning events of today.
  • You aren’t aware of current work-learning research or are aware and ignore it.
  • Training is your purpose as a learning professional.
  • You’re sure the next training fad will be “it!”
  • Kirkpatrick Levels 1-4 (or 5) is the Bees Knees.
  • You believe true ROI is…darn it…just not possible because training outcomes are dependent upon SO many external variables.
Let’s say though that you’ve begun to imagine breaking free of The Association. Perhaps you’re even entertaining impure thoughts about leading an organizational transformation to a performance-based orientation to learning. Great! But what’s the next step? How do you begin the transformation?  
Having once been at this very same jumping off point and having then confidently (but erroneously) taken next steps in the entirely wrong direction – and being hopelessly lost at times – “begin the transformation” almost didn’t happen. But then it did…gradually and then suddenly (hat tip – Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises). In the spirit of trying to help others better navigate their “begin” moment, I offer the following lessons learned:
  • Invest your time and professional development dollars in getting up to speed holistically on the 5 Moments of Need (5 MoN) methodology.
    • Corollary: Allow yourself to be confused as you learn. It all makes sense eventually.
  • Don’t waste your time trying to explain the shift to a performance-based approach. Just assume that the broad community of stakeholders won’t actually “get it” until you have a no-kidding demonstration product to show them that’s applicable to their work.
  • Target an individual stakeholder in an underserved area of your business as your partner. The underserved are more likely to be willing helpers and will appreciate getting top-of-the-line, impactful learning support in return.
  • Get started but start small.
  • Work under the radar.
  • It’s much harder than you think. Stick with it anyway.
Following this approach, my very small team has completed or is scheduled to complete: (1) RWA’s (Rapid Workflow Analysis) on all four of our major career fields; (2) the construction of a prototype EPSS for one of those career fields and the initiation of work to build it out into the “real deal;” and (3) the buildout of our first-ever 5 MoN-based class. All of this occurred in less than a year, starting from zero, and was accomplished by people who all have significant “day jobs.”
We are succeeding. You can too!

More resources on The 5 Moments of Need.

When It Comes to Higher Order Thinking, Performance Support is a No Brainer!

By Conrad Gottfredson

Automaticity is the ability to do things without occupying the mind with the low-level details required, allowing it to become an automatic response pattern or habit.  Research suggests that 70 percent of our work skills have elements that are automated.*

Competent performance requires the automation of “low-level details."  For example, it is unsafe to consciously occupy our minds with the rudimentary skills of driving.  Anyone who has been in a car with their son or daughter after receiving a driver’s permit understands this reality. I’ll never forget my high-school drivers-Ed experience when one of my classmates drove off the road because of her limited experience navigating the space between two cars moving towards each other in separate lanes at 55 miles per hour.

I was recently driving to join my wife and oldest daughter for her birthday celebration dinner at a restaurant in another town.  I was consciously aware of the road and traffic but because of my many years of experience, my rudimentary driving skills are automated.  This made it possible for me to drive safely, be fully aware of the limited traffic around me, and still engage my mind in higher order thinking.  At the time, I was considering ways my wife and I could help our daughter through some difficult challenges in her life.

Automaticity does have a downside.  While driving and engaging in this higher order thinking, I automatically drove in the direction I most often drive on that road and passed the turn that would take me to the other side of the town where the restaurant was.  I hate backtracking. I knew where the restaurant was and I knew where I was.  So, I decided I would turn onto a new road I had never taken through an area that a few years ago had been farm land but now is a series of developments.

As I drove through this unfamiliar area, navigating my way out of several dead-end streets, I was forced to stop my higher order thinking processes.  My mind was compelled to figure out how to get to where I needed to get.  I then had a brilliant idea.  I stopped the car, entered the address of the restaurant into my GPS.  Immediately I had the guidance I needed and I was able turn my mind from trying to find my way and instead to another line of higher order thinking—that led to this blog article.  This experience triggered an innovative thought.  I hadn’t considered, until then, how performance support frees up cognitive load making it possible to think about more critical thought patterns – like traffic, safety, problem solving (our daughter’s needs), and innovation (the role of performance support in making it possible for people to engage in higher order thinking.)

There is compelling evidence that performers spend a high percentage of their work time searching for information to perform their jobs.  Some estimates are as high as 30 percent of a typical workday.**  This is clearly wasted work time, where people stop their work to find what they need to do their work.  Certainly, this challenge alone justifies the need for performance support.  But my experience suggests another dimension of waste in the workflow – unnecessary time spent in tactical thinking such as “remembering and transacting the steps of a specific task, navigating through software, or completing a form.

In the same way that I was forced to devote my thinking processes to finding my way through a maze of unknown streets, tactical thinking on-the-job ties up working memory and in so doing limits a performers ability to transition to higher order thinking.  This is wasted thinking time and it can impact the success of an organization.

An EPSS provides performers 2-click/10 second access to tactical guidance performers need to successfully perform their job tasks, at their moment of need, in the way they need. When we provide performers this level of "GPS" support, we free up the ability for performers to focus their minds and efforts on fulfilling the actual vision, values, and mission of the organization.  They are free to formulate constructive ideas and adapt or develop practices that can lead to greater profitability, innovation, and contribution.  Unleashing higher order thinking to bring about these benefits obviously takes more than performance support.  But whenever the minds of employees are bogged down in the thinking required to perform the tactical work they are doing, they obviously can’t enter this higher realm of thinking.

Here’s an actual example from our work. We recently paused a Learning and Performance Transformation project with a client who hasn’t yet grasped the significance of their need to free-up the higher order thinking capacity of their employees. The client is a retail sales company with more than 2,000 stores and over 300,000 employees in North American. They asked us to help them develop and implement a 5 Moments of Need Learning and Performance strategy. As we began the project, it became clear to us that they were oblivious to this fundamental need to “free-up higher order thinking.” The future survival of the company depends upon its customer facing associates developing their own capacity to engage with customers, determine specific needs/requirements, and then provide those customers the service/care they need. What this client couldn’t grasp is their associates are cognitively unable to focus on these higher order consultative skill development requirements. Why? Because they are cognitively overwhelmed by their tactical work requirements (e.g., stocking shelves, checking signage, cleaning up their area of responsibility, transacting a product sell, etc.)

We jumped into the project and helped map the tactical work requirements for every department of a typical store. We developed a Proof of Concept for an Embedded Performance Support Solution (EPSS.) We did our best to help them recognize how the EPSS could be a “Digital Coach” that would provide “GPS” like guidance to help associates effectively perform every tactical job task they have in their respective work assignments. The potential of this “Digital Coach” to free-up associates from the tactical skill quagmire they were in and allow them to, in turn, focus on the higher order thinking required to actually help their customers would have been transformational. Unfortunately, a reorganization at the highest levels of the company interrupted our efforts. Hopefully, as the reorganization dust settles, their learning team will have the opportunity to actually put this plan into action. They won’t get to where they desperately need to be without doing so. That’s because, the higher order skills they need their associates to perform are currently blocked by the lack of performance support for the tactical work of the organization.

There are many reasons why organizations need to develop their capacity to develop and implement solutions that accommodate all 5 Moments of Need. This is one of them. When it comes to higher order thinking, It’s clear to me that investing in performance support is a “No-Brainer.”

More resources on The 5 Moments of Need.


It's Time to Give Learning a Seismic Nudge (part 2)

By Conrad Gottfredson

The previous blog introduced five competencies to guide us, as a community, in a vital discussion regarding where our trends need to lead us as a profession. We suspect that this discussion will add to and adjust these five competencies, but they are Bob’s and my best effort to articulate where The 5 Moments of Need can and should take us. We are advocating that it is in the best interest of every organization to:
  1. Produce 5 Moments of Need solutions that deliver measurable organizational Impact
  2. Foster a performance mindset.
  3. Optimize learning in the workflow
  4. Establish and sustaining fully integrated 5 Moments of Need technology infrastructure
  5. Implement agile ISD practices.
As we have already mentioned, we are soliciting your collective wisdom to help us not only hone these competencies into a unified vision of where we should be going, but to also unite our efforts in fueling a seismic nudge— a nudge significant enough to forever change the course of learning development. This can only be done by first vetting these 5 competencies in light of how they could prove to be strategically relevant in our work. Here’s a first pass at describing this:

1—Producing 5 Moments of Need solutions that deliver measurable organizational Impact

The 5 Moments of Learning Need provide an overarching framework for helping employees become and remain competent in their individual and collective work. Specifically, they are the moments of:

Because a 5 Moments solution extends L&D’s reach into the workflow via an EPSS, it provides unprecedented opportunity for continuous measurement and reporting. The following figure shows some of these outcomes categorized into 5 areas.

A 5 Moments Solution extends our reach into the workflow—where we can actually measure performance. It allows us to automate the gathering of meaningful data that can readily provide insight for improving and justifying the investment an organization makes in learning and performance development. The more mature an organization is in its EPSS production capacity, the more prepared and able it is to do this.

2—Fostering a performance mindset.

On the whole, L&PD has been negligent in addressing the most critical moment in any person’s individual learning process – their moment of “Apply.”  Preparing learners for this vital moment should have always been at the heart of our efforts. This is when learners meet the realities of what they actually learned, what they didn’t learn, what they have forgotten, what they have misunderstood, the unanticipated nuances, and the challenge of a constantly changing performance landscape.

Our work is to develop solutions that ensure people can perform effectively when they are called upon to act. We need to put and keep our sights squarely on the “Moment of Apply.” In the past we might have been able to ignore this vital moment and still somehow stumble on into successful performance, but the nature of the workplace today demands that we focus squarely on enabling effective performance.

What is more, today’s work environment doesn’t tolerate learners stepping out of their workflow to learn unless it is absolutely vital to do so. And the actual nature of 21st century learners is resistant to learning options that are delayed and removed from the here and now. They are self-directed, adaptive, and collaborative in their approach to learning.  These millennial learners will ultimately abandon outright our formal learning solutions if what we provide them fails to efficiently prepare them to effectively perform at their moments of “Apply, Solve, and/or Change” Why, because when facing a traditional course that fails to do this, today's learners are predisposed to simply walk away and look elsewhere for the shortest path to effective performance.
The following table shows the difference between a traditional learning mindset and a performance mindset.  No L&PD team can hope to transform itself into a strategic necessity in their organization without fostering this mindset shift within the L&PD Team, its key stakeholders, and throughout the organization. 

Learning Mindset
Performance Mindset
Our organization views training as the primary means for achieving effective on-the-job performance.

Our organization views training as just one of the means for achieving effective on-the-job performance.
We primarily focus is developing learning solutions.

We primarily focus is developing performance solutions.
Training is the default solution when there is a performance gap.

By default, we check to see if effective performance can be achieved without pulling people away from their work.
The training arm of our organization views its work through the lens of designing, producing, and implementing courseware that is aligned with business needs.

The training arm of our organization  views its work through the lens of designing, producing, and implementing solutions that drive effective performance at every changing moment.

3—Optimizing learning in the workflow

The work flow is the most effective learning environment we have.  The workflow provides:
  • Context—the reasons for learning are proximate and clear 

  • Engagement—the learner is engaged at both the intrinsic (job satisfaction, sense of contribution, and feelings of success) and extrinsic (recognition, pay) levels 

  • Reinforcement—learning is spaced and validated by success 

  • Integration—experience unifies skills into a well-balanced set 

The most effective workflow learning solutions enable learning while people are actually performing the work of the organization.  The minute people stop their work in order to learn, even if they are physically in their workflow, they are in essence stepping away from their work to learn.  This isn’t the best form of workflow learning, even if we call it “micro-learning.”  Why, because learners, after they have stopped working to learn, even momentarily, they still have to translate whatever they did learn into actual performance in their work.
With this said, small, targeted learning experiences that some call “micro-learning” or “learning-bursts” can still play a vital part in a comprehensive workflow learning strategy.  But there is so much more that we can and should do under the umbrella of “Workflow Learning.”  When 5 Moments solutions are designed with the Moment of Apply as the primary mindset, a broader, job performance-based solution emerges with significant benefits.
First: The time required for employees to stop their work to learn is, on the average, cut in half.  How?  By pushing task and supporting knowledge learning, where there is minimal consequence of failure, exclusively into the workflow.  These skill areas can be readily learned while people do their work.  This is enabled by 2-click/ 10 second guidance from a properly designed Embedded Performance Support Solution (EPSS). That EPSS, of course, needs to accommodate all 5 Moments of Need.  
Second: The time required to achieve effective performance on the job is always shortened.  The extent of this "shortening" depends on instructional and environmental factors.  But here’s what you can count on: Always, the longer it takes to achieve competent performance on the job following traditional training approaches, the greater the reduction of time to effective performance when you shift to a 5 Moments of Need Support solution.
Learning and Development stands at the threshold of a magnificent opportunity.  The stars of methodology, technology, and organizational readiness are aligned like they have never been before.  We can forever change how learning is viewed and more importantly how organizations perform at the tactical level. It all begins with a shift in mindset that embraces all 5 Moments of Need, with the Moment of Apply leading the way. This mindset shift leads us properly into the workflow with solutions that enable effective performance all the time, everywhere.  

4—Establishing and sustaining a fully integrated 5 Moments of Need technology infrastructure

Too many organizations languish in a mash-up of technologies that only support their efforts to address the Moment of Learn New and in some cases the Moment of Learn More.  But most organizations sorely lack the technology infrastructure needed to support learning at all 5 Moments of Need.  And Technology Solution Suppliers continue to boggle things through their hyper-marketing claims.  One of the most significant outcomes of this focus during our past Benchmarking Summit was the identification and vetting of a comprehensive list of capability requirements for a performance support/workflow learning technology architecture.
The 5 Moments of Need provides a framework that can/should inform learning technology decisions. This comprehensive listing of capability requirements can help ensure that decisions are not made in a vacuum or made strictly in conformance with different vendor pitches. Stay tuned for more about this.

5—Implementing agile ISD practices

The unrelenting nature of change today requires organizations to adapt ahead of change.  The very survival of organizations can depend upon the speed in which they respond to threats and opportunities in their respective markets.  This capacity to “continuously undergo re-skilling cycles to prepare for new competitive cycles—constantly re-tooling in order to maintain their competitiveness”[1]  isn't possible unless L&PD becomes more agile in its Instructional Systems Design (ISD) methodology. This methodology must:
  • Address the continuously evolving performance needs of the organization. Stewards within the learning function must tune in to market movements and trends and develop a shared responsibility with leadership for the performance challenges and opportunities they face. The learning function must demonstrate capacity to rapidly provide solutions that deliver timely, measurable performance improvement within the workflow.
  • Support all 5 Moments of Learning Need without increasing the current footprint of effort within the L&PD team . An organization cannot be adaptive if its L&PD practices are lethargic, time-consuming, and costly. To become more adaptive, some learning teams are embracing agile project management methods associated with agile software development efforts. Although agile project management practices can help, they aren’t enough. L&PD teams must also streamline their analysis, design, and development practices by consolidating them, removing redundancies, and embracing more rapid, iterative approaches. These agile practices must be highly structured but adaptable through the application of governing principles and defensible decision trees.
  • Continuously Optimize Solutions by Leveraging People, Processes, and Technology. Extending learning and support into the workflow requires L&PD teams to forge a more direct working partnership with the business. This is absolutely necessary because deliverables that support performance in the workflow must be kept up-to-date.  There isn’t a more significant methodology challenge than this.  Keeping solutions up-to-date requires developing capabilities in two areas:  (1) keeping content and resources within the solutions current and (2) keeping the functionality of those solutions relevant to the changing needs of the organization.                                                                                                                  These ongoing processes can become labor and time intensive unless they are clearly defined and automated as much as possible. None of this is uncharted territory. We have long-term experience with and now cost-effective access to Learning Content Management technologies. Process management technologies also exist.  And, EPSS authoring software is now available with capabilities that can help leverage these and other technologies to continuously optimize solutions, keeping them current and relevant.
  • Enable On-going Performance Measurement. Performance measurement is not a “nice to have.” It is a critical part of an organization’s ability to respond to change. As Peter Drucker and others have said, “What gets measured gets done. Make sure you are measuring the right things!”[2]Work performance can be measured through an Embedded Performance Support System (EPSS) and those measurements can be tied directly to bottom-line results. Said another way, The EPSS enables business leaders to see the results of measuring in the workflow. It will quickly become apparent to them that the organization can reinforce right performance by measuring the right things.
  • Establish a True Partnership with the Business. For many organizations, L&PD is viewed primarily as a service provider rather than a true business partner providing strategic benefit. In a traditional approach, employees stop their work and step onto L&PD’s turf -  their classrooms, in their LMS to gain access to eLearning, video learning, or into a virtual course. This relationship changes dramatically when L&PD extends its reach into the workflow with 5MoN solutions.   The workflow doesn’t belong to L&PD.  This requires L&PD to partner with the business more significantly to determine, plan, develop, and maintain these more comprehensive business impactful solutions. The fact that these in-the-workflow solutions allow continuous data gathering provides L&PD a way to verify legitimate business value.   

Where To From Here

We are currently working to gather together, out of our community, the most pragmatic, insightful, gifted L&PD professionals on earth who resonate with this vision of where our Industry needs to be.   And if you’re reading this, and you’ve plowed your way through to this point in the article, then that means you’re made of the stuff we’re looking for.  We would love to have you join us in a flat-out pursuit of this transformation.  We already have some amazing professionals who have been doing this, for some time, within their own organizations—with great success.  We know this, because we not only see it, we also have benchmarking data to support it. But, it’s time to pick up our speed, lengthen our stride, and combine our collective experience to bring about a seismic nudge to accelerate our industry’s journey to the level of 5 Moments of Need competence described in this blog.    
We have the beginnings of a bold plan that will require our collective talents to nudge our industry onto the path where it needs to be.  We know that plan can only get better and more potent if you join us.  This isn’t for the faint of heart.  But we can’t imagine anything more rewarding professionally and more needed.  If, after reading this blog you agree – then send us a note and we’ll brief you on what we’re thinking and you can let us know what you think and if and how you’d like to participate. Just sent a brief note to and Bob or I will contact you directly to brief you on your options for participating.  Looking forward to your note! 
More resources on The 5 Moments of Need.
[1]Clark, Timothy R. and Conrad Gottfredson. In Search of Learning Agility.The eLearning Guild. 2008. For a downloadable copy, see
[2]The origin of this saying may go clear back to the 1500s and has been attributed to Drucker, Tom Peters, Henry Ford, Lord Kelvin, and others.