At a Change Leadership workshop I held a couple years ago I demonstrated a concept around the concept of Stimulus/Response to make the point that there is more going on behind the curtain in one’s brain than you might first expect when attempting to change behavior. In this post, I will attempt to align the obvious aspects of “flight or fight” as an overlay to the value of positioning performance support over training. Imagine me going there…
The key here is making the leap from a ridiculous, tongue-in-cheek example to what confronts our workforce at a moment of need, and especially when that moment is at the point of work. Certainly, there is has to be a stimulus to act, and our hopes are that the response renders effective and efficient performance that drives tangible business outcomes. What transpires prior to those actions taking place is not as visible as the stimulus that triggers the need to act…and the ultimate results of the response action.
To make my point in the workshop, I adapted the SIER Hierarchy of Critical Listening model [Sensing – Interpretation – Evaluation – Response] that was developed in the early 1980s by the American Communication researchers, Steil, Watson & Barker. They developed the SIER hierarchy of active listening based on their observation that people recall only about 50% of the message immediately after hearing it and only 25% after two days.
Maybe it’s just me, but that’s just too close to the kind of results we get from training and the ensuing curse of flagging knowledge retention to ignore. So…here I am, fully caffeinated, making the decision to abstract an abstract by ripping off the SIER model to make another point. So hang on tight. Here’s the SIER model, and how I used it:
- Sensing [the Stimulus] – In the workshop, I called a person’s name in the back row and upon gaining their attention, tossed a ball in their direction.
- Interpretation – The person who was called then had to interpret what was happening…i.e. a projectile had been hurled in their general direction.
- Evaluation – The person seeing the incoming projectile had to evaluate their options which may have included determining…what had been hurled…did it pose an immediate threat…should they catch it…should they duck and cover…might they soil their shorts…etc. In addition, they had to include in their evaluation whether or not they had the capability to react quickly enough to affect their chosen options to react effectively.
- Response – The person had to then execute a chosen action, or, if you will, respond with whatever capability they thought they had to effectively complete what had been evaluated to be an appropriate response.
Now that I’ve already used the “T” word, I must position firmly that this is NOT about Training. This abstraction is about what happens AFTER training has been completed, and the worker is back on the job and is confronted with a Moment of Need. More specifically, they experience the third moment of need, which is also called the Moment of Apply. The worker attempts to recall whatever knowledge had been transferred during training to APPLY it on the job, but the knowledge is now locked deeply in the recesses of their mind with no hope of retrieving it without some sort of reminder or assistance…a.k.a performance support.
Given the worker is at the Moment of Apply, let’s superimpose the SIER model once again specific to the “event” taking place within the context of work [at the point of work].
- Sensing – There is a problem that a worker has just been confronted with requiring immediate action – Hair is on fire!
- Interpretation – Smells burning hair coincident with increasing pain on head
- Evaluation – Considers options:
- What should I do?
- Scream and run like hell
- Realize there is a fire in close proximity and recall the Fire Safety course in the LMS
- Log into LMS…launch Fire Safety course…scroll through to find section that addresses what to do should any part of your body catch on fire…finally find the appropriate option of Stop, Drop & Roll
- Response – Sorry Charlie…Too much time elapsed…fire went out on its own…hair is gone…have 3rd degree burns that must be treated…endure several painful skin grafts…buy a cheesy wig.
Yeah I know; this example is a bit ridiculous, but is it really that far from the reality we’ve created and perpetuate by hoping that Training is going to be enough to support urgency and critical responses at the point of work?
Do we have any way to get to Stop, Drop & Roll quickly? If you have adopted the discipline of Embedded Performance Support [EPS] and have integrated an Intentional Design methodology, and made the right Technology available, the answer is YES.
If your workforce performance readiness model is dependent upon exotic blends of Training ranging from classroom to on-line to MOOCs or mobile or wearables or any other conglomeration of formal learning the answer is a smoking, smoldering NO. Training is perfect for a Fire Safety check-box compliance course, but Training falls short when you are faced with the urgency to perform when parts of you are on fire.
To me, the key is embracing an intentional design methodology that addresses all five of Gottfredson’s Five Moments of Need:
- NEW – Learning new or 1st time information
- MORE – Learning more or enhancing knowledge at a deeper or more complex level
- APPLY – Learning applied in the context of work where worker is trying to remember
- CHANGE – Learning what to do when things change from familiar routines
- SOLVE – When problems surface that require a work-around or an alternative Plan B
The first two Moments are well served by formal learning [Training]. Moments three thru five do not. Three thru five have similar characteristics in that they all happen in the post-training work context; particularly APPLY. The worker is at the point of work and they experience a SENSING/STIMULUS that implies action. Whatever that “action” may be is something that should have been anticipated long before the event took place. That, my friends, is at the core of the intentional design methodology…intentionally examining performance requirements to define the potential for performance support and/or learning asset development.
To carry the example a bit further, the INTERPRETATION phase may well be served by Training, but when we get to EVALUATION, the worker is weighing options and choosing a course of action. They are about to PERFORM at the task level. Whatever those tasks are, and specific to the roles assigned to execute, are also part of the intentional design process. Task analysis should be accomplished along with analyzing the audience [roles] assigned to execute those tasks. Business priority should be identified specific to the tasks and the outcomes to ensure the right support is made available.
To cover the Moment of APPLY as well as CHANGE and SOLVE, an intentional design approach is critical when supporting the workflow. In the design effort, somebody needs to anticipate moment of needs [hair on fire] and then recognize there exists an acute need to enable the CONVERGENCE of the right performance support asset(s) that meet the following criteria:
- Accessible – The right assets can be accessed within 2-Clicks & 10-seconds from the right technology
- Relevant – The assets need to be design with the INTENT to resolve the moment(s) of need at the task-level
- Effective – The assets need to be designed for application given the physical attributes of the environment; the urgency of the situation; and the geography within which the event was confronted
The entire workflow needs to be assessed to identify [if an existing workflow] or anticipate [if the workflow is new] where Moments of Need will surface. That requires an intentional effort that is aimed directly at the workforce in the context of work and the effective performance of their jobs.
I’ve linked this post to an Intentional Design post launched earlier should you like to dig a little deeper into the concept. While this post has some ridiculousness build in, don’t miss the message that…reliance upon Training to drive performance at the point of work is an empty promise. Our call-to-action is to embrace a Performance paradigm and get downstream and into the post-training point of work to support our performers at their respective moments of need…and that ain’t Training.
We all experience hair on fire moments every single day and our ability to execute a quick action like Stop, Drop & Roll effectively and efficiently translates into effective loss prevention; saved accounts; business liability averted; employee churn prevented; redundant effort and rework minimized, competitive sales closed, material waste minimized…and…and…and. None of these tangible business impacts manifest during Training, and yet we continue to posture Training as the primary driver behind the business outcomes we seek.
Training shortfalls are a burning platform. Maybe, if the flames get hot enough, we will Stop, Drop & Roll into an EPS discipline and intentional design in time to avoid spending precious budget dollars to fix avoidable failures and…oh yes…the ultimate purchase that cheesy wig.
Performance & Learning Solutions Strategist