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.

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