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. 

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