Why Technology Matters with Workflow Learning

This blog is excerpted from the Performance Matters Podcast episode titled “Why Technology Matters with Workflow Learning” where Con Gottfredson, Ph.D., RwE invites his colleagues Carol Stroud and Sue Reber to discuss the critical role that technology plays in enabling the 5 Moments of Need framework.

Conrad Gottfredson (CG): Our focus is making sure that organizations can implement the 5 Moments of Need framework and enable workflow learning to ensure that people learn to perform. That is solved through what we call a Digital Coach, which makes sure that within 2 clicks and 10 seconds, performers have what they need to do their jobs. Also, there is Targeted Training—only for tasks with a Critical Impact of Failure that merits stopping work to learn. All of this is enabled through technology. Today, we want to help you look at technology through the framework of the 5 Moments and figure out how to see it all. Carol, I'd like you to briefly introduce yourself and then tell us how we can look at this technology landscape with all that's going on and make sense of it.

Carol Stroud (CS): That's a that's a big question, Con. Hi, my name is Carol Stroud and I've been working with this methodology for almost 14 years, working closely with Con on lots of different projects, but also being out and about working to implement it in different organizations. I've certainly experienced many kinds of environments in terms of the different puzzle pieces that fit for each one. From there, I started to understand that I needed to learn the methodology. I did that and then found that once I started to apply it in an organization, there was a ripple effect. It wasn't just about doing the methodology, because the outcomes were so different: I wasn't doing eLearning anymore. It was it was a very different focus. I had to figure out how we could actually implement the methodology across a variety of different areas. One thing that we always hit upon was the technology issue. How well did it fit in an organization? Did they have what they need? What did we actually need to implement in order to produce a successful solution?

With all that experience and working with Sue and Con on different projects, we decided to put together an implementation framework for the 5 Moments of Need. That framework—captured on strategic, tactical, and technical levels—helped us start to wrap our arms around what implementation really takes. Then, another layer went on top of that implementation framework, which was a maturity model that lets us help people figure out where their organization is in terms of maturity and implementation. There are four levels from the very beginning to the very high end, and descriptions across those four levels to explain what it looks like when you're at the very beginning of the process, and what it looks like when you're rockin’ at the other end.

Technology is a huge piece of that conversation. In our process of putting together what we call “technology ecosystems”, Bob Mosher, Con, Sue, and I had some spirited conversations about how to break those down. We came up with three main areas to address when we talk about technology:

  1. Content, solution development, and maintenance. How do you create your content and maintain it?
  2. Delivery and optimization. How do you actually deliver the content or the solution and optimize it?
  3. Track, measure, report. How do you approach these key elements?

We carved out those areas in this way because when we look at the maturity levels of organizations, in some cases, all people can do is produce content. Maybe it sits in a PowerPoint and maybe it’s delivered via email once it becomes a PDF. Even though it’s low-tech, it still provides task-level support; it still works and can be effective. This example gives us some of the background as to why we look at the three different areas: content development, content delivery, and how to actually track, measure, and report.

We put these lenses on top of all sorts of different technologies. As Con said, initially, we were talking about a Digital Coach and Targeted Training. But as we started to learn more and talk to different people, we figured out that there's way more to this (things like adaptive learning and different tools we can use to embed learning in the flow of work, which make for a comprehensive series of Venn diagrams that we've put together). Our overall intent for this work was to put some categories together and group certain types of technologies into, for example, a Digital Coach category or an LCMS category, etc. We wanted to map how all sorts of different technology comes together and overlaps in a full 5 Moments of Need solution. We just needed that foundational framework for us to be able to speak the same language. Often, when talking about technology, people have their own perspectives and might misinterpret that someone only means “this” (a very high end, integrated solution) when in actual fact, the organization might not have that capability (they only have a very low end, disintegrated solution). The question becomes, “How can we produce good solutions using ALL types of technology?”

CG: Technology is important. Certainly, it's vital. But not all organizations have access to all the technology they need to do everything they want to do. One of the great advantages of working with Sue Reber is that she's always looking, as does Carol, at how to implement and take advantage of the technology an organization already has. Sue, as you have worked with organizations and considered all the technology out there, what's the greatest challenge you see as organizations work to step into 5 Moments of Need capability (and getting the technology there to help them do that)?

Sue Reber (SR): Organizations have this tendency to get wrapped up in the technology: what is it that we're going to build this 5 Moments of Need solution in?! And that can really hurt you when you're trying to come up with a good solution, because the methodology is really based around a workflow, right? You can use any technology. You just need to start with what you have available and go from there. You don't need to be thinking about technology before you've actually implemented the methodology and applied it to get to your workflow solution.

CG: Carol, I remember watching you at a time when there was no technology, and you took the methodology and solved the problem with a book of answers.

CS: I did live that dream, but it speaks so successfully to what Sue was saying. We were pushing for a technology solution and designing and working that way, but about six weeks out, it became apparent we weren't going to get there. I still had the task of providing support to people at the time they were going to need it, so I looked at the design of what we had put together (intending for it to be put into the technology) and decided we could actually create a print version. We had a workflow. We had tasks identified. We knew what people needed to do and what they needed to know about to go ahead and do it. So, within those six weeks, we were able to put together a print solution, which was still effective because it followed the methodology. It supported workers in the days of their new hospital opening. Interestingly, it quickly went from print to a digital version as a PDF that went onto their SharePoint site. Gradually, as the organization matured, different technologies were used. But that's a great example of “start where you are". Have a solid design based on the methodology and the Rapid Workflow Analysis, and then learn to build as you move through those stages of maturity in the implementation framework.

CG: Sue, if I want to build a Digital Coach and you tell me that methodology is the key, what do I need to have? What do I need to be able to do with that methodology using technology?

SR: You need to be able to support a workflow. We have a workflow map because everything is based on the workflow with our methodology. And through that workflow, within 2 clicks or 10 seconds, we can get to the support for every task, and all the support for a task is available from the task itself. There is also immediate access to any supporting resources for that task. This structure is going to be consistent. And the other critical piece is being able to support all different audiences. Whether someone is an expert or just starting out, we want to make sure to get them the support they need as quickly as possible so they can get right back to work. If you think about it that way, the technology itself is not as important. And you know, Carol talked about a print version. I've built Digital Coaches in PowerPoint, we've built Digital Coaches in SharePoint, and we've used a whole host of different technologies (from low tech to high tech) to build effective support. But the key thing is that it's all built around the workflow and what people do on the job. Ultimately, you will evolve to where you're employing software designed specifically to help you create, maintain, and deliver a Digital Coach. But what we want you to understand is that it's methodology that matters. You can start from where you are. You can look internally at technology, and you can prove it and grow. As your functional requirements increase, you can look at other technologies, right?

CG: Yes, but those technologies must be founded upon the right methodology. Is that what you're talking about, Sue?

SR: Yes. They're not the driver for the solution. The workflow is the driver for the solution: what people need to do on the job.

CG: As we as we talk about technology, it's exciting stuff. I mean, there are amazing things happening technologically. But we also see a lot of decisions being made around technology with no forethought. So, what is it that we need to do with that technology from a methodology perspective? It is just so crucial that we are driving our technology decisions based upon what it is that we need to be able to do. Technology enables methodology and methodology ensures that technology is worth the investment.

Listen to the full episode for more guidance around leveraging technology to enable the 5 Moments of Need framework in your organization!

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