Convergence and the Impact on Our Training Paradigm

When we are chasing sustainable business system implementation there are a number of activities organizations pursue. The traditional stand-by includes training for end-users…and I own several of those t-shirts…most reminders of a failure. Not a failure of rendering a quality training product from the teams I led, but a failure that manifests post-deployment – adoptionoptimizationsustained capability – take your pick of those three in any combination.

What we missed, despite sexy, sizzling eLearning course content and outstanding platform trainers was the nature of the environment we were targeting – deployment. We did exactly what our training scope and charter were designed to do – transfer knowledge effectively…and we did. What we did not do was drive a sustainable implementation to the point of adoption and optimization. Besides those things not being in our scope; they were not even part of our paradigm.

What I’ve just described comes out of my experience archives, but what I’m describing is not ancient history. It’s still happening, and we are continuing to do what we’ve always done. We train in excellent ways…and we continue to fail to sustain capability at the point of work. That’s what tends to happen when you’re wrapped around an outdated paradigm. If asked to point to a significant driver stressing our current training paradigm, I will argue that “convergence” is at the core. [See Figure #1]

Figure #1

Convergence is causing a collision “at the point of work” with the need to apply the knowledge that what was effectively transferred during training – at individualized moments of need – to support flawless execution within the workflow. Training does not…and cannot…facilitate convergence. It can however, contribute to a more holistic Learning & Performance paradigm that is inclusive of training. So there is hope for our paradigm…

Our problem was focusing on nailing the deployment of learning because it was our job…and then screaming over the wall to the Help Desk – “INCOMING!!!”, and it was, and it did. So we applied a band-aide on the next wave of deployment and had super-users specially trained wearing red vests and trolling workspaces looking for hands raised in desperation when a moment of need arose. No. Not sustainable. Cost alone scuttled that fix.

You might ask, “So what happened to that great training job we did?” Quite honestly, our course content did what the best training course content does…it is quickly forgotten. Knowledge retention fades rapidly if not reinforced or used even minutes after training assessments validate knowledge transfer. Give it a few weeks and a small fraction remains intact. Recall knowledge evaporates in the haze of memory overload that is a routine part of every knowledge worker’s life. Knowing that, the emphasis needs to be on what asset(s) make the most sense at the moment of need. [See Figure #2]

When a Performer confronts a “Do I cut the red wire or the blue wire” moment of need; logging into the LMS and searching for the reference knowledge buried in the “How to Disarm a Chorizo Sausage” eLearning course is not an option…especially when the fully-armed chorizo sausage they’re facing has a ticking timer attached. They simply need to know which wire to cut…NOW! That ain’t training!

Figure #2

Granted we do not run across many fully-armed chorizo sausages these days, but I think you get my drift. The emphasis in that red wire/blue wire moment of need cannot leave a critical performer to rely upon recall knowledge. And…it certainly should not default to tribal knowledge because that’s usually what happens when we cannot remember – we ask our neighbor – and hope they remember accurately. Make the wrong choice and “Boom!”‘…we have combination plate #7…minus the seafood burrito.

These red wire/blue wire moments of need are referred to by Dr. Conrad Gottfredson as the Moment of Apply. The Moment of Apply happens in the downstream, post-training, after-transferred-knowledge-has-been-forgotten, risk-laden, urgent-to-perform-flawlessly environment I call “the point of work”. The attributes of this environment include urgency to perform, business risk, potential liability, creation of material waste…just to name a few…all of which have real tangible dollars attached to less than flawless performance. That’s where convergence happens and Training is MIA at the point of work because our current paradigm does not include it.

We need some way to facilitate convergence so that performers can effectively access performer support [PS] assets that were intentionally designed to satisfy the red wire/blue wire moments. Those assets must be accessible at the moment of need. They must be relevant to the task to be performed, and there needs to be a high degree of usability. That ain’t training either, folks!

The discipline I’m suggesting that is best suited to facilitate this convergence phenomenon is called Embedded Performance Support [EPS]. EPS is at the core of an evolved Learning & Performance Paradigm. Convergence changes the rules of engagement. Convergence exceeds what training was ever intended to deliver. Convergence is individualized, meaning performers do not all have the same moments of need at the same time. Given that diversity of need, we see an immediate complication around identifying when those moments will manifest.

A Training Needs Assessment won’t uncover those discrete moments because we’re too busy nailing down learning objectives. The EPS discipline; however,  takes us to the point of work where APPLY happens and gives us a clearly targeted ground zero for performance needs assessment. That implies new discovery questions served up on a bed of performance consulting. If the rules of engagement have changed with this new ground zero, shouldn’t the roles that drive intentional design and engage at ground zero change as well? Methinks they should.

Not only who engages and with the on-board skills they already possess, we need to consider how to get the right assets into the right hands as quickly as possible. Actually, I describe “six right things” in an earlier post we need to have in place as drivers if we are to be successful with EPS integration – we need the right learning & performance assets – in the right learners’ and performers’ hands – at the right moment of need – in the right amount – in the right format – to/from the right devices.

The rage these days seems to point toward the pursuit of “agile” design and development methods, but from what I’ve experienced in the last seven conferences I spoken at over the last 15 months, the pursuit is often too narrowly focused on rapid development as the outcome.  An agile methodology need to be so much more than lipstick on the training pig. Training is not meeting the “point of work moments of need” so building training faster serves no purpose. I highly recommend that our design and development pursuits are better served if the design is intentionally targeted to reducing time-to-impact as opposed to time-to-training.

The sooner we can break out of the grips of our comfortable training paradigm and address the downstream point of work with intentionally designed, role-specific, task-centric workflow PS assets, the sooner we will be able to effectively address convergence. Until we do, we’re flirting with the makings of a combination plate.

Now I’m hungry…going to be Mexican tonight for sure…

Gary G. Wise
Workforce Performance Advocate, Coach, Speaker 
(317) 437-2555
Web: Living In Learning