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 Chris@5momentsofneed.com and Bob or I will contact you directly to brief you on your options for participating.  Looking forward to your note! 

[1]Clark, Timothy R. and Conrad Gottfredson. In Search of Learning Agility.The eLearning Guild. 2008. For a downloadable copy, see https://www.elearningguild.com/publications/index.cfm?id=17
[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.

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