“The Future Ain’t What it Used to Be”

By: Dr. Conrad Gottfredson

Yogi Berra got this right.  Events can change the future. We’re just experiencing that. Certainly, the future of organizational learning isn’t what it was three months ago.

Keith Keating's recent LinkedIn posting of the “15 Evolutions of Learning” suggests a current state that at first read appears to put us in a place where we ought to be.  It reflects a thoughtful analysis of trends emerging from traditional learning chatter. But Covid-19 has changed the future of what learning needs to be. It is forcing needed shifts in Keith’s “Now” list below.   I’ve provided brief descriptions of a “NEW FUTURE” state that modifies Keith’s list just a bit.

Today, more than any other time in the history of organizational learning, we need to recognize that performers need to know and do to perform effectively on the job.  When all is said and done, this is what organizations need from us: an adaptive workforce that is performing effectively all the time no matter where they are. This can only happen if employees have the knowledge they need as they perform in their flow of work at the moments of Apply, Solve, and Change.  What organizations don’t need are workers performing job tasks with limited supporting knowledge.  For example, it’s dangerous to perform a blood transfusion if the person performing that task doesn’t understand blood type compatibility.  Learning  “What to Know” and “How to Do” are both required to achieve effective knowledge enriched job performance.

Forty-five years ago, I watched, with interest, the battle between behavioral (instructional/teacher centered), cognitive (learner centered) and experiential (performance centered) theorists.  All three areas of research made sense to me.  They still do.  Real growth and development doesn’t happen unless the learner chooses to learn and there are many things we know, from cognitive research, that can facilitate how efficiently and effectively learners learn.  In addition, there are principles of instruction/training that absolutely facilitate efficient skill development. There are many things we know, from behavioral research, that can facilitate how efficiently and effectively we teach and train people.  Of course, in the case of experiential learning theory, the learning/training principles associated with cognitive and behavioral camps are useless unless all of it is orchestrated properly to enable effective job performance (where experience is primarily developed.)
What’s desperately needed today is an ecumenical approach that doesn’t pit teaching against learning.  What we do shouldn’t be centered on one side or the other.  Instead we need to effectively employ the fundamental principles of teaching and learning in our efforts to enable effective performance, collectively and individually in their flow of work.

In recent months, we have watched organizations move into triage mode shifting learning from Brick and Mortar to Virtual.  Although this rapid move is completely understandable, most organizations are awakening to the reality that all learning moved all online isn’t an effective approach.

Workflow learning is learning while working at the 5 moments of Need. It is made possible through the discipline and associated technologies of performance support. We recently spoke with a visionary leader who the past few years has developed his organizations capabilities to learn in the workflow.  His company had a department whose work stopped completely due to the Covid-19 outbreak.  Because he and his team had established a performance support infrastructure to enable learning in the workflow, he was able to completely pivot the work of that entire department into a different work-stream in a matter of days.

We have over 10 years of experience blending learning events (whether brick and mortar or virtual) with workflow learning.  The outcomes have always proven superior. It’s what’s needed today and going forward.

There is no way to accomplish all we need to accomplish in a timely manner with the limited resources allocated to Learning and Development. So when we step into the world of workflow learning we need to be prepared to collaborate with the full range of players in the business in order to get the job done and sustain and optimize our solutions long-term. This may include SMEs but is most certainly not limited to them. Business Matter Experts can include high performers who are actually doing the work, front-line managers, and anyone else who participates in the work that’s going on. This is a crucial shift that requires our partnering with the business in ways we haven’t traditionally done.

Never before has the need for employees who can adapt to change been more valued, and needed.  Today, a person’s competitive advantage isn’t defined only by formal credentials, or by informal skill inventories.  Both can actually be helpful.  But today, an employee’s value to the organization is also determined by personal learning agility—meaning the ability to adapt—to unlearn, relearn, and then perform effectively at or above the speed of change. 

Every experience of our life contributes to our learning.  When we perform successfully, fail at something, overcome a challenge, adapt to a new way of doing something, or seek additional understanding or knowledge, we are learning through experience.  Why, because we are integrating and encoding that experience into our remarkable receptacle called a brain
It isn’t enough to just capture content or knowledge. We need to capture experience in a way that allows transferal of that experience to other workers. Fortunately, workflow learning methodologies requires us to map the workflow where experience is best developed.  This mapping and the associated technology provides the infrastructure we need to then capture best practices and lessons learned from the most experienced performers and make that experience available to others at the moment of need.

Most approaches to blended learning remain tightly tethered to a formal learning experience facilitated with multiple formal learning modalities (e.g., blending eLearning, OTJ Coaching, video learning, Instructor-led training (virtual or face-to-face), etc.. A true blend of learning must take into consideration the entire learning process across all 5 Moments of Need.  For example, a complete learning solution must support learners as they transition from the initial stage of learning New and/or More to the Moments of Apply and often Solve as they begin to transfer what they have learned in their flow of work. Furthermore, as learners become more proficient in applying the knowledge and skills they learned during training to the work they perform, there are often times when performers must change how they go about their work.  In those instances, they need to unlearn and relearn while performing work in the workflow. 

So, the real blend must include provision for supporting performance and learning in the flow of work while working.   

It isn’t and shouldn’t be about Push or Pull.  Both are needed.  I’m a huge proponent of adaptive learning (which is a push.)  And, the smarter our solutions become the greater opportunity we have to deliver informed push. But at the Moments of Apply and Solve, especially, performers need the capability to pull what they need, within 2clicks, 10 seconds. 

A properly designed EPSS is a digital coach that is available all the time wherever technology can go. This certainly doesn’t rule out managers providing coaching. But frankly, a digital coach is often more reliable and more up to date as well as more present. Besides we need self-reliant performers in the workflow. And we know that in today’s world, we can’t guarantee that a manager can be present, every time a worker needs coaching.

A mentor provides life and work guidance; opens up opportunity and makes growth and development resources available.  Mentors inspire, lift and motivate. They clear the path for fueling employee engagement.  Managers are in the best place to do this kind of mentoring.  This is something that managers can do that technology can’t duplicate very well, if at all.  

In ever changing work environments, scheduled learning certainly isn’t responsive enough.  A personal disposition towards lifelong learning is a great step forward, but can carry with it lethargic learning practices.  What’s needed is a daily commitment to dynamic learning.

At any moment, organizations must be ready to respond to a crisis or threat of any magnitude.  In 2008 Timothy R. Clark and I authored a research report addressing this very need.  In that report, Tim provided the following questions to help employees and their leaders determine the degree that they were dynamic learners.
  1. To what degree do I look to myself rather than the machinery of the organization to govern my growth and development path?
  2. To what degree do I have a personal growth and development plan?
  3. To what degree do I aggressively embrace feedback?
  4. How collaborative am I in my approach to learning?
  5. How proactive am I in how I learn?
  6. How fast am I at unlearning?
  7. How comfortable am I with failure?
  8. To what degree do I use failure as an opportunity to learn?
  9. How confident am I in the very act of not knowing?
  10. To what degree do I believe that the biggest job risk I can take is to cease to grow?

There’s certainly required learning.  I’m all for desired learning.  But at the Moments of Apply and Change, especially, there is “needed” learning to fill the learning gap that has suddenly surfaced in the flow of work. This is what Learning at the Moment of Need is all about. 

We’ve always advocated a performance rather than training focus.  But, it’s always been performance in the context of the workflow.  It’s possible to focus on performance and miss the workflow.  I’ve seen many great performance based courses that fail to align to how learners need to perform in their flow of work. We know that results in a disconnect when learners attempt to transfer what they learned to their actual jobs.

Outcomes actually might work here as long as those outcomes deliver business impact. Traditional learning has struggled to directly connect to business impact.  But, the moment we step into the workflow with a performance support infrastructure, we have in place the ability to measure impact targets such as:


A focus on consumption is definitely short-sighted when it comes to developing, expanding, and reinforcing the growth and development of people. Engagement is a much wiser focus, with this caution.  Traditional approaches to employee engagement generally involve an industrial model of dependency where organization assumes primary responsibility for fueling employee engagement. 

We are living in a time of disruption and discontinuity.  This absolutely requires an engaged workforce where employees own their own engagement; where their engagement generates from the inside out. This alters the role of the organization.  The organization must empower employees to fuel their own engagement by removing all barriers that can interfere with this ownership.  (See https://www.amazon.com/Employee-Engagement-Mindset-Potential-Everyone/dp/0071788298 )

Real learning is anything we do to develop, expand, or reinforce our growth and development in any and all aspects of our life no matter where it occurs.

There’s nothing wrong with event-based learning as long as it’s instructionally justified. And, we have been embedding learning in the workflow for many years.  We’re seeing wonderful tools that provide tailored rapid access to the full range of learning deliverable.  What’s unique about true workflow learning is that learning occurs while employees are actually performing the work of the organization.  This workflow performance learning is the missing capability required for these changing and challenging times.  It’s not a replacement for all the others options we have at our finger-tips, but as a key blending partner with all event-based and workflow embedded modalities.

I hope these NEW FUTURE comments will open the door to the rich and necessary discussion. We need to fearlessly take on this vital journey. We must boldly and thoughtfully move forward.

For more resources, attend our upcoming virtual/in-person Summit, visit our website, and join the conversation.

Copyright © 2022 by APPLY Synergies, LLC 

All Rights Reserved.

Improving Overall Performance at Volvo North America

This blog is excerpted from episode 29 of the Performance Matters Podcast where Bob Mosher speaks with Mary Ruth Bell and Diana Gallant, of Volvo Trucks, around what drove them to move their instructional design to The 5 Moments of Need methodology.

Bob Mosher (BM): Today is one of my favorite topics that we have been having more and more lately because it also one of your favorite topics. It’s one of our highest rated podcast series, and that is Experience Matters. And today we are fortunate to have two wonderful colleagues, dear friends, and frankly, real experts at this: Diana Gallant and Mary Ruth Bell, both from Volvo Trucks North America.
Why don’t we start with each of you sharing a bit about your backgrounds, organization, and the makeup of your team.
Mary Ruth Bell (MRB): Thank you, Bob. I have been with Volvo for 32 years, with the last twelve of those years being spent with what’s called our Trucks Academy. When you typically hear the word “Volvo,” people think of cars, but we support the truck side of the Volvo family. Specifically, we support our dealer organizations, so we are not training or responsible for training the internal employees, we have dealer groups throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. Diana and I got paired up several years back on a couple of projects and she started encouraging me to think around The 5 Moments of Need. So with that, Diana, I’ll toss it over to you to give your background.
Diana Gallant (DG): Thanks, Mary Ruth. I have been a practitioner of Instructional Design for about 20 years now, and in 2017 I discovered The 5 Moments of Need Certificate Program. And as Mary Ruth said, I immediately went to her as not only her as a subject matter expert but to her as an instructor delivering a lot of the instruction for the Academy, and I said, “Mary Ruth, we need to do this together. This is what we’ve been looking for.” So, in my 20 years of instructional design, I just felt like we’d hit the jackpot. So that is what jumped us into the journey. It started with the Certificate Program.
BM: Brilliant! So, let’s jump in, what have been the business drivers for causing you to use The 5 Moments and how has it helped in your design?
MRB: It was during The 5 Moments of Need Certificate Program that Diana and I both were in at the same time, and we had a project on tap that we felt would be an excellent opportunity for the methodology. We were working with our Service Advisor Group and it was a strange business dynamic because we saw that need and we struggled to find a business owner for that process.
So, Diana and I just kind of took the reins and said, “Okay, we’re going to go about this a tad bit differently and we’re going to go ahead and create The 5 Moment of Need structure for this instructor-led event.” It has been extremely well received within our organization and so by that success story we have been able to move forward, and we now have business partners that are asking for us to use the same methodology to create new courses.
BM: Please tell me a little bit about your own change in thinking. You are both wonderfully steeped—obviously from your pedigrees, resumes, the training. Will you both share how this has changed your thinking and what that journey was like to shift and go in this direction?
MRB: So, here’s the most profound change that happened to me. Being an instructor/facilitator and the subject matter expert, I obviously wanted to teach everything I knew to every student that walked through the door. And honestly, it was like a fire hose.
The biggest “Aha!” moment for me during the Certificate Program that I have been able to use going forward and still today use, is the criticality—what is the criticality of what you are trying to get across. It just made so much sense and it helped to simplify the experience both from the facilitator side as well as, I believe, from the learner’s perspective.
BM: You know, I love that perspective because it still complements the classroom, doesn’t it? And as trainers—I don’t know about you—but I know for years, I stood up there knowing in my heart and staring at those faces that I was probably at times over-teaching. I probably a lot of times was going into way too much content, but we’ve got them for that rare moment, and we’ve got an outline to follow.
I think so often that 5 Moments is looked at as an anti-classroom model—or against ILT. But we’ve found that when you do 5 Moments in the right way—to your perfect example—it really does take a lot of burden off the instructor, and lets the classroom be more of what it probably should be.
So, Diana, give us a little bit about your journey. What’s your mindset been like in going through this with all your experience and background?
DG: I’ve always had a performance-based mindset, so it’s like I’ve been chasing models that sort of focus on that. I think the piece that struck me so much about the methodology for 5 Moments is it goes right straight to the heart of what does it take to perform in a role, of the supports around, with the knowledge, et cetera, that need to support that performance. And I think one of the most powerful aspects that we’ve really grabbed onto is the visual component of making invisible things visible in terms of workflow.
BM: I love that!
DG: Not only do the visual maps and these cognitive maps that are such an important part of the methodology—not only does that help me as a designer understand the job from a holistic perspective—but it also builds this bridge of understanding with performers who, when they see the visual maps of what we put in front of them and ask them to validate, suddenly there’s this effortless connection of, “We’re partners in this and, oh my! You really understand our world!”
And it shows that we’ve really made that attempt to understand their world, which helps in building the trust and collaboration right from the get-go. To me, it just gets right to the core of performance.
BM: We’ve had more SMEs, like you guys, tell us over the years that after going through an RWA they have truly been able to see the nature of the work that’s performed every day. So, Diana, I love your point about the fact that this really makes the work transparent to both those of us who are designing it to meet the need—but also to the organization at large.
So, friends, tell us where you are today. Give me an update where you are in the journey as of now.
MRB: Well, we are in a really good place right now. We have a new director that came on board about six months ago and completely understands performance support and the underlying methodology. He is supporting Diana and I in a big way. In the past we had a bit of a challenge getting traction for the software requirements, so we did kind of a homegrown, interactive PDF type activity for one of our projects. It’s good, but it’s not excellent.
But this new director is giving us—not exactly free rein—but certainly more opportunities to research the technology. Though in Diana’s words, “it’s not necessarily the technology, it’s the methodology that’s important.” And I think we’ve had to keep that flag ahead of us just to keep going as we’ve met the ups and downs of pitfalls, maybe, is the way to say it.
BM: Sure! And there are some! There’s no doubt. It’s growing for all of us, for the L&D team as well as  for the organization. And I applaud the fact that you have a director in there that gets it.
So, what has it been like to bring change of this nature to Volvo? You were steeped in training, a lot of Instructor-led Training. So, this is really a dramatic culture change, if you will, for Volvo. How did that go? What was it like to go through that part of bringing the organization on board?
MRB: The biggest challenge for me was that people still want to test, they want to prove. They want this hundred-question test to prove that somebody can do something. And Diana and I have met quite a bit of resistance from the fact that the performance support is more in the moment. And testing is not appropriate.
BM: Yeah. As we all know, those kinds of tests or even that kind of overt performance, particularly maybe, right after a class or a lab—might show a moment of time but it really doesn’t show the application of things going forward with the use of the EPSS. How has the EPSS been addressed or accepted within Volvo? Is that a new term for your folks? Did you have to kind of bring that whole thing on for them to understand?
DG: We’ve always led in educating our stake holders, whether they are the business, or our own team, or the performers themselves. We always lead with the methodology before we even talk technology. Because if we don’t get the methodology in place then you’re just throwing a tool at it and it’s not going to accomplish anything.
But I would like to say the proof is in the performance, just hearkening to Mary Ruth’s statement about testing and how people are constantly asking for it. You know, we kind of redirect the conversation to help them understand how they can really get more targeted to business outcomes by looking at the proof in the performance.
To hear Diana’s proof in the performance example and Mary Ruth’s advice for getting started on shifting to a performance-first organizational strategy, download and listen to the full episode. 

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Performance Matters Podcast to stay up-to-date on all the latest conversations and guests in The 5 Moments space.
To try your hand at empowering the flow of work with an actual project, join us at our upcoming Summit.

Copyright © 2022 by APPLY Synergies, LLC 

All Rights Reserved.

Designing for the Performance Zone

This blog is excerpted from episode 31 of the Performance Matters Podcast where Bob Mosher and Carol Stroud, senior consultant at APPLY Synergies, discuss letting go of the training mindset and moving to a performance-first way of thinking.

Bob Mosher (BM): Welcome friends, to another Performance Matters Podcast. Today, we are talking Strategy Matters with a dear friend and one of the rock stars and earlier adopters to this whole thought—Carol Stroud. Carol, welcome.
Carol Stroud (CS): Hi Bob, it’s good to be here today.
BM: Carol is one of the early folks to get into this. Can you tell us a bit about your journey? How did you get here so people have a context of your framing of what we’ll talk about?
CS: Right on. I came from a traditional instruction design background. I completed a master’s degree way back in the ‘90s in what I thought was forward thinking which was eLearning and distributed learned. I was fascinated by how someone could learn through the interface of technology, that’s why I went into the eLearning world. I hung around in there for a while—about eight or nine years. I worked in academia mainly, different universities and colleges and then worked for a book publisher who wanted to put online courses on in conjunction with books they were publishing.
So that’s where it started out. But I found that I didn’t have access to lots of great technology that allowed me to build highly interactive learning situations. Most colleges and universities I worked with were designing basic eLearning and I found that that was pretty limiting in terms of what I was able to produce.
After academia, I moved into the corporate world, thinking, for some reason, that applying these principles in the corporate world was going to be different!
It turned out, not so much. Because corporately, they were really stuck on regulatory training and tracking whether it made any impact to performance didn’t matter.
That’s where I started to lose hope, certainly around the implementation of eLearning.
So, I started to do more research and found Bob and Con out there talking about performance support; this is what it means, this is how to do it, and that’s how I ended up joining one of your first workshops at Masie—way back in 2008. That was a major shift for me. Once I heard about The 5 Moments of Need, that’s where the coin dropped for me.
BM: It’s really wild for me, Carol, because I listen to these stories and we’ve interviewed others who have gone through a transformation and we all seem to come to this epiphany. So, tell me one thing. Why do you think L&D folks struggle with this performance mindset shift though? What do you think is the turning point, or new lens, with which they need to look at this through in your opinion?
CS: I think perhaps it is a letting go of old ways of doing things—there is that sense of insecurity when you must do things differently. Right? And go, “Oh. Well. This isn’t the way I used to do it.”
But I think in a lot of cases, and it’s not just the L&D folks, it’s organizations who perhaps have a sense that things need to be done differently but they don’t know what it looks like.
And if you can see what it looks like, and what I’ve found with L&D folks, if we talk about what this looks like to support performance in the flow of work, then we are able to connect their current skill sets and how they can be still used, but used differently, that allows for a rapid turnaround in terms of being able to get a solution out there quickly. I think that’s the missing piece. I think that a) they need to understand what it looks like, and b) know they are still valuable in the process. Because if you bring something in new, they may feel that “Oh, I don’t want to learn something new and my skill sets aren’t of any value in this process,” that’s not true. We still use those skill sets. We just use them in a different focus in order to make it happen.
BM: One of my favorite things that I have ever heard you say is that there isn’t a problem you haven’t been able to solve with this.
CS: Oh! Yeah!
BM: And your face lights up when you say it. Can you elaborate on what that means to you as a designer?
CS: Yes. Where that came from was, I started out in organizations and they would come to ask for a solution for what they felt was a known issue. An example was, “Our staff are not using this particular piece of equipment very well. We want to do training on it to improve that performance gap.”
So, it started with lots of known things. “Oh, we know about this one. Can you help us with that? We know about this one. Can you help us with that?” And moved to, “Well, we’re going to design this (in this case, a brand-new building) and we are going to integrate several services into this building because we want it to be a one-stop shop for our, in this case, patients. But we have no idea how to do this. But we have a vision for doing something differently.”
From those conversations we ended up saying, “Okay. So, let’s do an RWA—a Rapid Workflow Analysis. Let’s describe what we mean by doing things differently. What is that performance?”
We got all the right players in the room, all the different perspectives in the room. And we walked through describing what doing things differently in this facility would look like.
Once we were able to get that articulated, then we knew what we would support. Right? Then we knew how they could bring their new technology in and how was that going to play into it. And then, how would we develop performance support so everyone would know how to do business in the organization which they were going to be brand new at.
That’s when it became apparent to me, “This can solve any kind of problem!” Because, whether we have a sense of what the issue is, or whether we have a sense of what we don’t know, the systematic nature of the methodology exposes these new ways of doing business—by the subject matter experts in the room. It’s their process. They owned it. They helped articulate it. We got to their consensus on it. It wasn’t us coming in and telling them, “This is the way you’re going to do it.” Because the process is facilitated, they developed their new solution. We just brought a way to the table to help them articulate it.
I always ask, “Okay, what’s the problem?”
BM: In this methodology, and people ask all the time, “How do you walk into companies you don’t know and do this?” Why, in your opinion Carol, are we able to do that?
CS: Because of the way this works. Yeah. Because we are the facilitators of the process. We don’t own the content; we are uncovering it. We know the questions to ask to help pull the content out of those people who own the process. So, you’re right. We don’t need to know. We’re not the subject matter experts in any of these areas.
BM: Carol, we haven’t talked in this half hour or so once about a course in eLearning an LMS or even an EPSS, right?
CS: Right!
BM: Those are the tools in the toolbox. But what we’ve talked about is a fundamental shift in how we become a partner to the business. What we understand about the business and what we help them understand about themselves. And most importantly, what we help enable the worker to do.
CS: Correct.
BM: And that’s why all of us got in this. I know I did.
Carol: Yes. And clearly there’s a big gap in what you can accomplish in a training situation with all the human factors that are involved with that, right? Like how much can somebody actually learn in “x” number of hours or even in twenty minutes of something. And then not apply it. And then try to apply it three weeks later. Well, of course, there’s no retention. There were all sorts of failures in that process for why it wasn’t going to work.
The weakest link is the human being in all of this. We have a certain ability—capability—in order to learn and understand and retain and recall. And when you put that all in the context of daily work and daily lives and the—you know—the stresses that are out there. That all impedes on our little weakest link. So, one of my favorite writers is Steve Krug and he writes about usability, particularly around the design of websites. But his books are called Don’t Make Me Think [Don’t Make Me Think and Don’t Make Me Think Revisited].
There you go. Don’t make them think. It doesn’t mean handholding. But it does make it as simple and on point and targeted to what it is you need them to do. And you cannot do that if you don’t know what they are going to do. So, let’s start at the very basics and identify that performance. Then everything else lines up. But without the performance I think you’re just still in the swirl--training swirl—out there.
For Carol and Bob’s entire discussion listen to the entire episode and don’t forget to subscribe to The Performance Matters Podcast to stay up-to-date on all the latest conversations and guests in The 5 Moments space.

To try your hand at empowering the flow of work with an actual project, join us at our upcoming Summit.

Copyright © 2022 by APPLY Synergies, LLC 

All Rights Reserved.