Design to Measurement: An Instructional Designer's 5 Moments of Need Journey

This blog is excerpted from episode 19 of the Performance Matters podcast where Bob Mosher speaks with Sue Reber, one of the world’s top 5 Moments of Need Designers, on: the 5 Moments methodology, how it differs from other approaches, and the how and why around shifting mindsets to performance-first.  

Bob Mosher (BM): One reason I’m so excited about this particular episode is that we’ve interviewed Con from a theory perspective and as the visionary. We all know he’s a pioneer in this stuff. We’ve interviewed organizations who are well on this journey, and the Leaders in those companies who have the vision and such. Clearly, you are a leader when it comes to design and development. Sue, you’ve mentored so many, you’ve been a part of the certificate program and others, and we’ve just watched you mature in your development as you have been along for this ride and gone through all of this. So many on this call are ID’s and early in the journey, and having a true Senior Developer’s perspective on this is so important. So, let’s start with how you got here; give us a bit of your background in how you arrived to where you are today. 

Sue Reber (SR): It was all a little bit of luck, actually. I started out as a high school English teacher graduating from college at a time when there were literally hundreds of applications for every teaching position. I did teach for a few years. But I didn’t like it very well. I loved the teaching partbut not the administrative stuff that went along with it. 

So, I started looking for a job that would use my education background and allow me to write, and I fell into a job as an instructional designer, as you know, for Logical Operations. And that was the beginning of it allso many doors opened and it was a total blessing to wind up there. I got be an instructional designer in a company where there was a good foundation in training and that helped me a lot. They facilitated me in getting my master’s degree and introduced me to performance-based, problem-based learning with LearnPro, our case-based learning model, which I managed. And that, really, is what started me on my journey toward performance-based training as opposed to knowledge-based training. 

BM: Let’s run with that a bit. You mention hitting this important pivot where you realized that training alone is not enough, or a “training first” mindset is not enough. Tell me, why does The 5 Moments of Need, which you are so good at, work for you as a designer? What is it that makes it so unique to you, or has helped you change that mindset? 

SR: It makes me think about the performance first. It’s really all about performance, right? The 5 Moments help me think about that from what it is that people need to be able to do and all the different contexts in which they need to do that work—whether it’s apply or change or learn something new. When you think through what it means to the learner, you’re going to come up with a solution that will far better meet the needs of the performers rather than meeting the needs of the trainer or what the business thinks the performers need. 

BMCan you do performance support for soft skills? 

SR: You can absolutely do performance support for soft skills. In fact, it’s more important to do performance support for soft skills because we have a hard time with that even in our business world. It does require a bit of a mind shift because a lot of times in soft skills you’re talking about guidelines you need to identify and apply. But there is still some skill that you need to be able to perform with those soft skills, such as active listening. 

BMSo, let me ask a question around your response. This real pivot on training first versus performance first is really at the heart of the whole thing. And “tasks” leads us to “measurement.” Sue, my gosh, we’ve been chasing this “ROI” acronym forever. And when I had a training first mindset, I struggled with—agree or disagree with them—the higher levels of Phillips and Kirkpatrick.

And somy “aha!” in this journey is that training often gets unfairly positioned as being able to directly measure or influence higher level Kirkpatrick or Phillips. I think, candidly, understanding the 5 moments, that training can’t stretch itself into those areas.  This is where performance support comes in because when you move into the workflow, and you want to get into those higher levels, you have to be where the performance occurs. Sue, help us understand, from your opinion, how has the shift to 5 Moments helped us look at measurement differently?  

SRWhen we are building training, we are generally looking at measuring the training. if I’m talking Kirkpatrick—we have Level 1 smile sheets, Level 2 skill checks. Then we might even go beyond that like we tried to do with LearnPro, where we went back after the fact to people on the job to see if they were able to translate—transfer—what they learned. But it’s not measuring the performance, it’s measuring the training, right?  
I don’t know that the business really cares about the training. They care about how the performance changes as a result of the training and I don’t believe it can change as a result of the training because training is an event and performance support is a way of life. Right? You’re integrating it right into the way you work and you’re not just measuring a single moment in time.  

For more on Sue’s take on measurement, usage, and assets—as well as her biggest takeaways from her journey to-date—download or listen to this entire episodeAnd be sure to subscribe to The Performance Matters Podcast to stay up-to-date on all the latest conversations and guests in the 5 Moments space.