Where We're Headed

This blog is excerpted from episode 25 of the Performance Matters podcast where Bob Mosher speaks with Elliott Masie, host, speaker, and curator of many Learning and Development events, around where we as an industry have been and where we’re headed.

Bob Mosher (BM): I can’t think of a better way to kick-off our first “Industry Matters” episode than with my friend, mentor, and one of my heroes in the industry—Elliot Masie.
Elliott Masie (EM): Absolutely an honor Bob. And for everybody listening, Bob is my mentor! I think what we ought to know in the world of learning is that mentorship is never a one-way process. We give to get and we get from giving. So, it goes both ways.
BM: Through the consortium, the many conferences you host, the journeys across this globe you take, and the work you’ve done from public to private to government, you see across the industry like no one else, in my opinion. You’ve seen where we’ve come, some of the wrong turns we’ve taken, how we have gotten here intentionally, and how sometimes by kind of tripping over ourselves.
Please share your view of how we got here and where it’s taking us.
EM: If we go back to the beginning of my time in this field, what our field was about was very specific job training. Everything we did in Learning and Development was really about training somebody to do a job to a very specific set of criteria, and for the most part, to do it either in a “one size fits many” or an “on the job, shoulder-to-shoulder, very personalized” way.
Over the years our workplace changed, and it changed what the learning field was. Bob, you were very much in the middle of the growth of the computer training industry, particularly once PCs came out.
Then, we weren’t necessarily training people for their jobs, we were training them for systems, for capabilities, for capacities, and we were training them on tools that may or may not be used directly for a specific job. This put a lot more pressure on us. We had to accept a lot more ambiguity, you know.
We then moved from a “computer training” focus to where work in the workplace was much more agile, where things evolved to where now we were teaching people for readiness. We were training them to get ready to do something even if they were not yet doing it, even if the organization was not yet doing it, and we were teaching them to teach people to go into a workflow or work environment and need to learn as that changed and as that evolved.
And all the way through that, we’ve made the shift from developing to a job to also developing a capacity for an individual. And then how do we build a collective of the workforce.
I will say that “tomorrow” is an interesting question. Just last night I sat with a number of workplace learning leaders from around the world working for labor departments. I was there with McDonald’s and a few other corporations and they kept asking us, “Okay, what do we need? What does the worker of tomorrow need?”
I think they were wanting us to say something like, “Well, they need to learn coding.” Or “They need to learn X.” And what we said to them was, “We don’t really know.”
What we do know is that we need a worker who comes ready to work, ready to communicate, and ready to learn how to perform in an environment that’s going to change pretty rapidly. It was not what our government colleagues wanted to hear. Yet I think they got it in the end.
BM: You were the first to, in my opinion, coin “personalized learning” and “finger-tip learning.” You pushed us on “Big Data.” I think the learner would laugh at the difference between what we in the learning world call cutting-edge, like LXPs and these other acronyms that they are throwing around, and the apps we use on a daily basis to get from A to B, or check our health for example.
Why do you think we, as an industry, have struggled with taking these things from an obvious reality to implementation? Where do you think the struggle comes from and how can we get beyond that? Or be better at it?
EM: The problem, Bob, and you’ve seen this at various conferences that you and I have helped host and keynote, is that it’s much easier to talk about doing something than to do it. You probably have all gone to a workshop on how learning is changing and have the person get up and use a PowerPoint presentation to tell you how learning is changing.
BM: Right!
EM: There is a delta. There is a gap between our aspirations to be different and the extent we are tribally locked in. Then, many of us teach the way we were taught. Many organizations use the word “agility”, but the structure doesn’t promote that. And I think one of the really interesting ones—and it does go back to data—is that we’ve looked at all the wrong data. Look, I could beat up Kirkpatrick but he’s not the problem.
What we have is that we often try to measure our delivery rather than measure our impact. And if we were to measure our impact, and if we had really good trustable and immediate data, we would do it very different.
So, let’s just imagine that you were in charge or running orientation and onboarding and you were literally able to get, a week after an orientation program, to see the extent to which those individuals had integrated into their workplaces. They felt comfortable being there, they were aspiring to “x” and you might actually start to say, “Well, I got to this point, but I would actually like to be better. What could I change about what I do?”
And I think our problem is that we are still in the publishing mode in work. We know how to tell our stories, how to put up our slides. We even know how to have them turn to each other and do a work activity together. But we’re not really basing it on what personalized learning is all about.
And what we would argue in those situations is very simple. Let’s teach them what they really need to know now. Let’s index it against what they know already. Use the language. Let’s prepare them so they are now able to learn it more at that moment of need or change. And let’s look at—from a user design point of view—when am I giving them information, examples, that aren’t sticking. They’re just not sticking.
BM: Love that! Let’s pivot on this content a little bit, Elliott, if you don’t mind. You’re gracious enough to invite me into your curation lab and I so enjoy it because it’s a fresh look at a topic. Can you share with us some of your takeaways from that lab? What’s the reality of content curation? Because it’s the backbone of “personalized.”
EM: Yeah. A lot of stuff—
BM: It’s getting us away from “everything’s a course, everything’s a PowerPoint.”
EM: Yeah. I try to use examples from outside of our Learning world. Everybody that has ever stayed at a hotel, nearly all of us, has trouble with the TV. It’s a different cable system and you can’t figure out where your regular news or real estate show is. But my problem is I’m often in an area when the weather says there’s a hurricane coming in “Chanooza County” and I don’t know what county I’m in and I don’t know whether to duck or what.
This is what curation is about, Bob. Meaning that the learner has an avalanche and an overwhelming panorama of content. The key is not to give them more but to give them the right stuff in the right format at the right moment. And then to make sure you get the right impact with that. So, I use the word “optimize.”
Now our dilemma is that nobody owns curation in organizations. Maybe—and it’s always a difficulty—somebody will say, “Oh, by the way, we’re using LinkedIn learning for curation.” And I go, “No, you’re using LinkedIn learning for their collection of content. And that’s great. But they’re not curating the PDFs from the safety department. They’re not curating the TED Talks that people are watching. So, we don’t yet have a curator.
Probably I can think of five major Fortune 500 companies that have a curator. And the other piece of this is that—and this goes back to—people learn differently. Some person really wants to see a bulleted, 16-point step-by-step, some want to see an infographic, some want to watch a video, some want to have a job aid that’s right next to them.
And in the old days, they were lucky to get one. Now, if they go to Google or Bing and they type in the topic, they are liable to get a hundred and fifty—and some of it is crap. Some of it violates the standards of their organization. Some of it is fake news. And some of it is awesome. But there’s no “Yelp” for content.
This is the overwhelming element and bluntly, nobody can lock the gate anymore. Even if you build a firewall, they’ve got a device in their pocket that doesn’t stop at the firewall.
I actually believe that we may get to this, Bob—and that is to provide more and more curation at the individual level rather than at the enterprise.
Where in a sense, the learner has a curation tool and then they wire in filters and recommendations and other things from their organization.
BM: Wow! Hey, my friend, as always, I’ve so enjoyed the conversation. I so value your friendship and our relationship. Congratulations on the fifty years. I’ve been blessed to be a part of some of that and I can’t wait for the next.
For Elliott and Bob’s entire discussion, along with insights from Elliot’s new book, “Everyday Learning”, download or listen to the entire episode. And 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.

McKinsey’s 5 Moments of Need Journey

This blog is excerpted from episode 23 of the Performance Matters podcast where Bob Mosher speaks with Katie Coates, Senior Learning Manager at McKinsey Global, on her organization’s 5 Moments of Need solution, the business drivers for this shift, their journey thus far, and the lessons that have been learned along the way.

Bob Mosher (BM): Today—one of my favorite subseries, Experience Matters! We are honored to be joined by one of our heroes in this industry—Katie Coates from McKinsey.
She is one of those rare L&D leaders who is not afraid to risk—not afraid to fail forward if you will, and truly is a leader in all that she does. Katie, welcome!
Katie Coates (KC): Thank you so much, Bob! It is great to be here with you. Thanks for that wonderful introduction, I’m honored.
BM: So, deserved, and on that note, would you give us a bit more about your background and the current state of your team, so we have a better understanding of the current lay of the land there at McKinsey?
KC: I’ve been in Learning and Development for over 25 years. Currently I lead Learning for our Internal Firm Services. So about 13,000 professionals in our IT, Human Resources, Talent, Recruiting, Finance, all of the organizations that support our business. Our team—right now, we’re pretty new so the firm has recently started investing more in this area. I have one curriculum manager that works with me and a couple of delivery folks that help us deliver our programs.
BM: So, why The 5 Moments? Could you give us a little bit more about the journey that brought you to this approach?
KC: Our managing director talks a lot about the pace of change right now. It’s moving faster than ever before. And it will never be this slow again. And when we look at the complexity of the world and of our work and of our requirements, we really must start thinking about how do we do this? How do we become more flexible, more agile? How do we really focus on performance of our people to give them the skills and the knowledge, the mindset, that they need to really perform in this environment? As you know, we spent some time learning from you and Con about The 5 Moments of Need, and really looking at our internal Learning group and how we focus on performance first, instead of training or education. But really, what does it mean to actually do your job? I think that’s critical given the business environment now.
And we are in a space where we are in test and learn modes. So, we’re trying all kinds of new strategies; The 5 Moments of Need, Performance Support, bringing learning into the workflow. It’s just pivotal.
BM: I love the blend! It’s all part of that journey of what true blended learning is. So, Katie, tell us a bit about what have you worked on? What have been your milestones, projects, or even outcomes that have helped you and your organization mature in this thinking?
KC: We provide consulting services. We help organizations solve wicked problems. And part of the deliverables that our consultants provide to clients are written materials. These are PowerPoint presentations, or we call them pages or decks. And one of the first things that consultants learn when they join McKinsey is how to create pages in the McKinsey way, in the McKinsey format, and the McKinsey methodology. And what we found is that there is so much out there—even if you do know PowerPoint—when you come into McKinsey, there is a McKinsey type of PowerPoint—all kinds of add-ons and things like that. There’s also a way of thinking about creating and structuring documents. So, we use logical structuring for how we build out our pages. And the logic that’s around that—top down and bottom up—type of logic. So, there’s a lot for a new consultant to really wrap their head around as they start to do this type of work.
So, the very first project was to create a performance support tool which is very different from what we’ve seen out there. We’ve seen a lot of support tools out there that are helping sales professionals, but this was more about taking a softer skill, if you will, and building it into a performance support solution. And we built it.
It’s a small window that pops up with the consultant as they’re working on the PowerPoint and it walks them through “How do you produce a page?” “How do you choose the type of chart you want to create?” “How do you create that chart?”
We provide them with tons of resources and example pages they can pull from and leverage to create a new page. It’s very, very powerful.
We rolled it out as part of our new hire orientation, so when they join they get access to this support tool. To-date we’ve had around 8,000 professionals touch this tool. And, as expected, they use it for quite a bit of time after they leave the new hire orientation and then it kind of dwindles down. But that’s kind of what we expect to happen over time.
BM: So, what’s your feeling, Katie, about soft skills? Because one of the big things we hear often in performance support is, “Yeah, you guys, I get it. The pop-up thing. You’re embedding it in PowerPoint. Get that. The old days of RoboHelp or even Help itself within software. But you can’t do this for soft skills.”
With the journey you’ve been on, particularly in this first project, what are your feelings on that—what I frankly call a myth about performance support?
KC: It took some convincing for me too, right! I had to dig into it to really figure it out. But you can break anything down into a process. So, we took this and we broke it down into, “How do I create the story line--the story I’m trying to tell? How do I design the page? Then how do I produce the page?”
So, when we did our Rapid Workflow Analysis (RWA), we looked at this and we broke it down into those three big process buckets. And then within that, you go into “What are the key activities and what are the quick steps for those activities?” Then you use the pyramid approach of “What else do you as an individual need? And what other resources do you need to complete the task?”
So, you can break it down. I’m working on another project right now. We’re just in the beginning stages but we’re trying to provide support for all our people managers—our people leaders. We call it “How do I?” “How do I hire someone?” “How do I develop them?” “How do I evaluate them?” “How do I expand them and help them grow in their career?” And then, “How do I handle issues?”
BM: Let’s now talk a little bit about lessons learned. So many people that listen to theses podcasts are not 5 Moments enamored yet, or they are growing into it. You’re a bit deeper into the journey but obviously, as we all do, you still have things to learn.
But think back. What would you do differently sitting where you do now when you look back on the journey?
KC: I think it is about communicating clearly throughout the process. One of the big hiccups we had in the first project was with the learning leaders across the centers. My thinking was more versed in The 5 Moments and in performance support solutions. And when I described this, they got it, but they were having a really hard time seeing it in action. I ended up having to go to India and get my hands into it with them. I think if there was something we had to do over around communication with that team, is it would be in person—really working hands on together. It is the Learning team you really must convince and educate. I think that’s one big area where I would have done it differently. I would have had a few more examples and clearer communications with that group to help them really understand what this all meant.
BM: So, I’m just starting out, let’s say. I’m thinking about going this way. You sort of spoke to that in the longer journey. But the feedback we get is that these stories are so empowering to folks. It builds their courage, right? They hear this and go, “My gosh, I want to be there someday. But frankly, I’m way back here.”
What would you tell yourself in that first day you sat in that seat listening to this methodology for the first time?
KC: Well, I would say, starting small is important. You really pushed us on this. You start small. You pick one thing that you can really work on and do the proof of concept. That was really powerful for us, to do something very small.
So, we took one piece of the written communications and built it out. Then we tested it with learners. We had learners help us develop it—that is key. You have to have the business matter expert, someone who really understands and is in the guts of the business, as part of the design journey and process. We also tested early and often with our learners. That really had an impact on us being able to do this, and do it effectively, then get it out the door. I think that’s one thing.
Secondly, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. It’s the crawl-walk-run model. We’re in walk now and I’m comfortable with that. I think it’s a good place to be. So, I think sometimes when you put pressure on yourself, you think you’re going to do this quick and get it out the door and everything’s going to work perfectly.
But it takes time to build the story, it takes time to get everybody engaged in this, meaning your business leaders, your Learning and Development professionals, your learners—and your managers of the learners too. They are important in this process as well. Then all your coaches and trainers and facilitators—all of those. There are a lot of stakeholders you have to engage. And when you start small you can start to do that more effectively.
That’s my advice. Learning a lot through our work with you, Bob—it’s really about how you pick something small, test, and learn. You’re going to fail. Fail early. Fix it. Get back on things and make it work.
BM: It’s a wonderful pace to go. Sustainability is different than a flash in the pan.
You, in your journey, have taken that crawl-walk-run approach, building on clearly understanding that you have to be successful in each of those efforts, but the broader win is keeping your eye on that bigger picture in the landscape all the time.
KC: That’s right! That’s absolutely right.
BM: We cannot thank you enough, Katie, for the wonderful leader that you are, for the risks you take, for the way you and your organization are so wonderful at sharing your story so that others to can learn.
For more around the projects McKinsey have—and are—taking on download or listen to this entire episode. And 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.