Define EPS Readiness Before Developing Strategy

The discipline of Embedded Performance Support [EPS] is rapidly becoming an integral part of a dynamic learning and performance strategy. Adoption of this innovative and disruptive discipline represents an organizational change management initiative whether your organization consists of 50 or 500,000 souls tasked to generate sustained business value. The first question to pursue an answer is, Are you “ready” to adopt this discipline, or are you at a “state of readiness” to adopt this discipline? Too often I’m seeing a “ready” horse before a “readiness” cart because current “AS IS” state of readiness was not clearly defined.

Pushing Disruptive Innovation?

Cultural and Strategic Implications

EPS has many moving parts, and adoption of those parts most relevant to your organization’s business requirements start with the strategic mindset providing the impetus behind when, where, and how EPS is integrated. Cultural beliefs and attitudes can either impede or accelerate adoption. Many organizations are locked into long-held beliefs that training is the default solution to overcoming performance challenges. While training can certainly contribute to closing performance gaps, sadly, the only outcome that can be consistently proven is the creation of potential. Is potential enough?

The Performance Conversation

With workforce productivity tied directly to the generation of business value, the conversation we have with stakeholders changes and must shift to a new ground zero – the point-of-work – where business value is either created…or lost. The shift, in all honesty, is moving away from training events and closer to the operational side of the business. The conversation with operations stakeholders becomes focused on what’s working – what’s not – and why not.

Expanded Discovery

To successfully affect the performance conversation, discovery must key on performance gaps that manifest at the point-of-work. This requires enhanced skills to discern root causes from symptoms. The expanded discovery effort should include both upstream and downstream dependencies to ensure the root cause(s) are not too narrowly defined. This is very important given the dynamic nature of supporting a dynamic ecosystem edge-to-edge. Defining the “edges” of the organization’s ecosystem represent a great place to start.

Agile Methods Come Into Play

The concept of “agile” is currently a hot topic in the L&D industry and holds the promise of rapidly producing training content. Again, sadly, rapid training development does not key on the point-of-work; instead, it enhances the point-of-learning…a.k.a. the creation of potential. That’s not enough! If the agile methodology chosen does not address all five moments of need that perpetually surface across the domain of your entire learning and performance ecosystem, you will be unable to address the Learner-to-Performer Continuum. The continuum represents the journey beginning at point-of-entry [onboarding] to the ultimate point-of-work [sustained competency].

Implications to Training

Adoption of the EPS discipline creates an environment where prioritization of performance results may pre-empt the training effort. In other words, the emphasis is on closing identified performance gaps with Performance Support [PS] assets as quickly as possible; training can follow on later. PS assets can be designed and developed in hours versus an 8-to-16 week effort to develop an hour-long, quality e-learning course. Why wait for an entire course development cycle when a PS asset may derive tangible impact much faster?

Plus, the bonus of an EPS approach enables integration of field-tested PS assets into the formal training event regardless of delivery venue. The integration of PS assets shifts the focus of training to better align with the 70:20:10 framework – with relevant PS assets appearing in experiential exercises that are task-based and role-centric during training. The effect of this integration often enables a reduction in the amount of time spent in actual training activities. In some cases, PS may eliminate the need for training altogether for specific performance challenges. Additionally, this approach dramatically reduces the challenging necessity of the
Performer retaining all of the information shared during training.

The emphasis shifts to the application of reference knowledge both during and after training, versus depending on recall knowledge that fades rapidly after training.

Implications to L&D Roles

Adopting EPS often feeds the fear of training jobs diminishing along with the roles of instructional design, content development, and training delivery. If anything, those roles increase in importance and scope when utilizing an EPS discipline. The preceding sections allude to the fact that there may be a degree of change involved, but look at what is happening in the operational side of the business that drives that change.

Velocity of business demand and the continuous nature of change alone are increasing dramatically. Both mandate a workforce that is more agile and resilient at a moment’s notice. The rules of engagement and the urgency to bring the workforce to a sustained state of competency have changed, and training solutions cannot be designed, developed or delivered fast enough to keep pace. EPS is a very viable and increasingly preferred engagement alternative.

Implications of New Technology

All organizations, big and small, have technology woven throughout the fabric of their ecosystems. Whether technology is as basic as MS Office software at the core or involves massive ERP or CRM integrations supporting business operations; an investment has already been made. The thoughts of additional investment when none had been planned can often be seen as an insurmountable roadblock to adopting EPS.

So…step away from the technology funding request until you leverage what you already have in place to build a viable and compelling business case. Funny thing happens to the purse strings when a solution can be proven to show a significant return on investment. Suddenly, the funds are “found” because a strong, evidence-based business case justifies additional investment.

Depending on the size of the organization, new technology may or may not be an absolute requirement. EPS, when properly introduced however, should start small and scale. This means that a small proof of concept appropriately selected and sponsored can demonstrate the return necessary to facilitate the case for funding. In many cases, the proof of concept requires little, if any, investment in technology. Early adoption may firmly gain a toe-hold and serve to accelerate the momentum behind placing a compelling, hard-dollar business case on the table to request funding.

Choosing the Right Technology

With today’s diverse vendor platforms, which by the way seemingly have new entrants popping up like mushrooms, the evaluation and selection of the “right fit” is no small task. Electronic Performance Support System [EPSS] technology may ultimately be required to fully integrate EPS capabilities across a large enterprise. The danger is highlighted in the cart-before-the-horse graphic above.

The real work up front is not so much related to selecting the right vendor as it is identifying the relevant business requirements of the L&P ecosystem that the EPSS will support.

We can all recall hearing plenty of horror stories of how so many organizations came to hate their LMS platforms. I’ve seen percentages of over half actively making plans to change vendors, and I would wager well over half of those dissatisfied LMS owners were “ready” to buy-in early because it was a great idea…and the industry trend…but had not done their homework to the extent of being at a state of “readiness” to make an informed decision.

EPSS technology represents another opportunity for history to repeat itself. And what makes that even more critical is that we are not focused only on training the “KNOW” aspects of workforce readiness, we are at the point-of-work where the “DO” aspects of performance are at risk…as well as the creations of business value…or the loss of it. In reality, if we have not defined the “DO” first, we are not even close to having an informed technology conversation with any vendor.

Technology must accommodate business requirements; not the other way around.

The trick in the EPS world is knowing which requirements are relevant, and with brand new capabilities, those requirements may have much more to do with business process automation than with training. Keep in mind that EPSS is a different technology from LMS altogether, and in many cases, with the newer capabilities I’m seeing in the market, business process guidance, business rules, prescriptive support, enhanced push capabilities, and cross-platform process automation are becoming a really big deal.

What I just called out are capabilities that address “DO” at the point-of-work, and the “KNOW” acquired during training is a secondary application. I hope you can see that what is quickly becoming apparent is the shift where training is actually becoming a by-product of integrating EPSS technology; not the primary driver.

These new EPSS platform capabilities showing up dramatically broaden the business requirements that must be considered when building the use case for evaluation and selection of a vendor. Talk about changing the rules of engagement; EPSS is quickly becoming a hybrid business tool capable of addressing significantly more than the five moments of need specific to learning and is firmly positioned as essential driving performance productivity at the point-of-work.

These new enhancements found in some of the vendors’ platforms open up the scope of discovery to address point-of-work process flows that directly tie to productivity gains inherent in the actual workflow interactivity across multiple systems and/or databases. Truly, EPSS can no longer be viewed through the lens of enhancement to training or limited to the common-to-all capability of contextual delivery of PS assets at the point-of-work. The EPSS game plan has evolved deeper into business operations and overlooking those opportunities may translate to overlooking the real pay-back in EPSS technology

Beginning the Journey to EPS Adoption

In the previous sections above, I hope you can see that adopting EPS as an enterprise strategy and the eventual EPSS technology implications are indeed a journey that should start small and then scale with additional applications and increasing incremental user adoption as implementation spreads. Avoid the urge to “boil the ocean” because it is tempting to just implement and move on. Don’t even think about it – too many moving parts.

EPS represents an innovative disruption to creating sustained capability at the point-of-work and for maximizing productivity of the workforce across the enterprise. But…adoption does not happen overnight. Remember, this is a journey and a commitment to change at an organizational…and some would argue…at a transformational level.

EPS is not integrated as a sprint; rather, it is a well-thought out long distance commitment, and this is exactly why EPS falls under the strategy umbrella. Adopting is not a tactical technology purchase decision; rather, it is a strategic initiative targeting workforce performance across the entire learning and performance ecosystem. That said, EPS must earn its place in the strategy, and that requires a deliberate change management effort to elevate and promote adoption. Every adoption effort, despite similar goals, will, in every case, require an accurate assessment of the organization’s “AS IS” state of readiness.

You really need to assess readiness from cultural vision at leadership levels to defining an actively engaged governance; from parsing out diverse learning demands to leveraging legacy assets applicability post-training; from outdated linear design, development, and delivery methods to aligning a newly-found agility with the organization’s evolving technology footprint; all these attributes must be defined. The obvious objectives are to identify existing gaps and map tactics to close them through an evolved mindset, expanded skills, tactical methods, and technology.

All of these attributes should be assessed well in advance of entertaining thoughts of buying into bright shiny new EPSS technology. In fact, everything up to the point of considering a potential vendor’s platform will actually define the “sweet spot” the vendor’s platform needs to meet. Therein lies an additional challenge – each vendor postures a different sweet spot in their offering despite appearing similar with many other feature functionality.

The evaluation and selection process, given the diverse feature sets of the vendor offering, will be better served with a Use Case approach than floating an RFP to a handful of candidates. To build an effective use case, you need to know in advance what operational requirements you have that can potentially be addressed by their technology. Again, this is not like purchasing a new LMS; EPSS is more complex in scope and capability, and aligning your identified business needs with the different vendor sweet spots should be entrance criteria for a vendor to be considered.

Consider an EPS Readiness Assessment As a Starting Point

My recommendation, given the holistic nature of this effort, is to invest in an EPS Readiness Assessment on the front end of your journey to ensure you firmly define your “AS IS” state of readiness, and the multi-faceted operational considerations necessary to raise your readiness to ensure you make informed decisions regarding all the interdependent moving parts of the EPS discipline, not just the EPSS technology.

Vendors may offer to do an assessment of sorts for you; however, the effort may be biased in the direction that better aligns to their technology platform than it is for meeting your business/operational requirements and the associated methodology implications critical to optimizing the technology. Remember, they are in the business of selling EPSS technology while your organization is in the business of driving sustainable and profitable operational outcomes.

The concept and availability of independent EPS Readiness Assessments are new. The implications of surviving Change when introducing disruptive innovations are not. Having successfully integrated EPS technology several times in the last ten years, I can attest to the importance of clearly knowing your current state and taking steps to address relevant gaps to minimize the disruptions that follow. And I cannot emphasize enough that with new EPSS vendor capabilities, identifying operational business requirements…beyond the more familiar aspects of training tactics…are more critical than ever before.

I welcome inquiries regarding your organization’s learning and performance readiness in the event the journey to EPS adoption becomes part of your map to future competitive advantage.

Gary G. Wise
Workforce Performance Strategist
(317) 437-2555

  1. July 8, 2015 at 10:29 am

    Hello Gary;

    Viewing this movement from traditional LMS usage toward the utilization of Enhanced Performance Support is sort of like seeing two large battleships trying to navigate the same narrow river.

    Stupid metaphor? Maybe.

    I am known for viewing things “differently” as attested by my friends but seeing how corporate “group think” has operated regarding LMSs in the past it is not unlikely that the next stage in adopting EPS, it if gets that far, will be a lot like the last stage of using standardized eLearning. No new thinking here, only change out the players by changing the names and that should do it. Get the next big industrial-sized package taking months and years to implement and then sit back and congratulate ourselves in being “progressive.”

    Now don’t get me wrong. I definitely think EPS as you have stated it is a better way. Being strongly influenced by the Constructivists out of Indiana University I can get behind the basis tenants. But I also view this as a Web Developer, having worked with CMSs since their inception and LMS since their conception. I look at them as merely tools, maturing scripts that hard working coders have created for other purposed and not “solutions” for corporate project managers.

    Simply swapping out one bloated LMS script with another is like using the latest bloated Adobe product boasting it can do what Webbies were doing in the last century and charging a thousand dollars to boot. (That’s true BTW.)

    It doesn’t impress me much.

    It is kind of funny to watch from the sidelines as I shake my head in amazement at all the rhetoric and meetings and budgets to do what anyone with a text editor and knowledge of current Web technologies could do in a week. How can I say that? Because I have done it!

    But that is beside the point.

    The real point is all the “sound and fury signifying nothing” as eventually the same people who installed the last phase of bloat-ware will be doing the same thing and bastardizing the technology to fit their corporate models.

    “How do you measure Enhance Performance Support?” they ask.

    “We spent how much time and money and we don’t even know if it works.” another laments.

    But no one asks the question that needs to be asked. “Will anyone use it IF it is developed…or even know how?”

    “Oh, we can train them with [PowerPoint or Activate or Storyboard or some other mega-expensive, last century technology bloated eLearning package] to use it.” And they won’t think there is a contradiction of processes at all.

    I know I wax poetic but maybe poetry is just another kind of EPS, something we remember when needed that will enhance our performance as it did the Greek and Roman soldiers as they conquered the world.

    Okay, I guess I should just go back into my cave, talk to my daemon and try not to drink any hemlock.

    Take care my friend or you too will eventually be charged with heresy.

    • July 8, 2015 at 11:46 am

      Hey Larry, always good to have you surface on a post…especially when disruption to long-held paradigms hang in the balance. I too have seen so many different spends and investments of precious dollars and resources in attempts to wring from training what we all seek – performance results – and all we ever get is verifiable potential.

      Whether we are MOOCing or MICROing or WHATEVERing to training content…it’s still training. Back in the day, nobody wanted cars…only faster horses…because they lived in a horse-drawn paradigm. Henry Ford was a heretic in that regard. Funny thing, even the newer LMSs are showing signs of handling performance support assets, but in reality, they are still LMSs.

      I just spent a week in Austin at the Performance Support Symposium 2015 trolling the vendor hospitality suites and was blown away with some of the new capabilities that did not exist 90 days ago. And the vendors who did not have those capabilities had them on their development road map. I am rapidly shifting my focus to the operational side of the business because EPSS is going to have primary application there. The EPS discipline that will support the EPSS presence on the operational side will profit from learning assets that have an operational application during the knowledge transfer functions of training/learning. And…methinks…that is going to redefine the face of learning. I find that exciting.

      Don’t go too deep into that cave, brother, because it’s going to be a party, albeit a disruptive affair at the least, and I’d hate for you to miss it.

  2. July 22, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    Hey Gary, I got a question.

    As you may have guessed I whole-heatedly agree with you that EPS as you call it is much better than what passes fir training today. I might prefer to call it ‘just in time’ learning but that belies my manufacturing background.

    However, and here comes the question, if you are to implement this using vendor products that are really only re-hashed ideas in very bloated and expensive dress, you might be able to go about and have everything in place for launch and then you might find yourself asking yourself; who will operate it?

    You are fighting the battles now to verify it’s benefits to the powers that be and maybe winning the war on that front and there may even be talk about buying into it with an actual budget, but who is trained to do this now day after day?

    Frankly I don’t think you will find very many people, if any at all, that will understand your ‘new’ emphasis and be able to implement it as you envision it.

    I come by this from all the interviews I’ve had recently, and they have been with major pharma and financial firms, showing me that IDs are so far behind where you are going that they look like Volkswagens at Daytona.

    These are people believing fictional explanations about learning from the ’50 and thinking PowerPoint is the de-facto software for eLearning and they are NOT going to get where you want to go. They won’t even know what PLANET you’re on.

    You just can’t count on there being people who understand this. Nor can you count on the money being there.

    I have had a very rude awakening lately my friend. Things have changed. The work world is not what it used to be. I’ve learned that doing the job and doing it right is not the aim anymore, no sir re; being comfortable with your co-workers is. The sly smiles and the knowing glances between millennial interviewers as they say you are too ‘outgoing’ to be an Instructional Designer or who’s final plea to a recruiter is to find someone they are ‘comfortable’ working with, these are the people who you think will understand this totally new way to NOT do instruction? Really?

    For your sake I just hope you are in a very strong position in your company because I know many highly qualified people who weren’t and who now are unemployed and staring a not-so-nice retirement in the face. They were out there fighting the good fight, planing ahead and thinking they were going along just fine with their companies and then one Monday they find some accountant telling them their budget was cut or one of the main revenue streams was sold off and now belt-tightening measures must be implemented. And as for your pet project, well, there is just not enough money to make that many changes or to re-train the IDs or find ones that understand what you are trying to do.

    Sorry to be so much like a ‘jerk’ as these new ‘managers’ would describe me, but I think it would be uncaring of me NOT to be honest and at least give you a ‘head’s up’ before you get bushwhacked.

    Remember, It’s not the enemy that you are facing head-on that does you in, it’s the one that is behind you.

    Now I better get some sleep because I have to do some serious praying as I try to re-invent myself so I can get by. I just can’t win any of the popularity contests that would get me an ID job anymore, I just don’t look good in skirts. 🙂

    (Always here as a good sounding board as a lot of my pastor friends have found out over the years.)


    • July 23, 2015 at 7:06 am

      Larry you raise some good points, but I have to disagree with your outlook in part. EPS, or whatever we call it, is rising rapidly as learning moves closer to the point of work. MOOCs and short form learning are proof that learning is getting smaller and more focused. What it’s also doing is moving closer to the workflow…and that is the essence of EPS. EPS is the new face that serves learning “just-in-time” and that JIT model must be agile enough for the moment in time that needs to be met…and that is more often than not part of a workflow…hence the performance paradigm shift.

      Selling EPS is the “biggie” especially if you are trying to sell it to L&D. Wrong place to sell change…often too close to HR…often too locked into a training paradigm…so expect HR to stand for “heavy resistance”. EPS is becoming more of a business operations solution than it is a training solution. So move away from training. One of the best skill sets to have [or develop] is performance consulting. That’s not taking you away from the ID discipline at all, in fact it’s building on it and redeploying those critical design skills to develop PS assets for consumption under the rigors of the workflow. That ain’t training…so why try selling it to them?

      I’ve already enjoyed being bushwhacked [RiFed] from a training job and that was the best thing that ever happened to me. So am not worried about losing my job. EPS is too big and growing as the new frontier, and it and needs the wisdom of someone like me who has amassed an impressive string of failures trying to drive sustained capability via a training paradigm.

      There was a time nobody wanted cars…they wanted faster horses…because that was the paradigm. And there were all kinds of excuses. What am I going to do with my buggy whip? Well…try shoving it up your…paradigm.

      They say trying to teach a pig to sing wastes your time and annoys the pig. If training is that pig, the only thing left to do with that paradigm is put lipstick on it…and we’ve done that…with adding games to engage learners and earn badges to satisfy millennial hearts that cfy out for evidence of progress. Hey…we don’t need no stinkin’ badges…we need sustained capability and that does NOT happen in training…with or without games and badges…it happens at the point of work. So stow the buggy whip and put the hammer down at the point of work.

      [Gary just dropped the mic]

      If you need me, I’ll be out on the floor digging for root causes to real performance challenges.

      Thanks again for following the blog and speaking your piece, Larry. Always enjoy hearing from you! Good luck, brother!


      • July 23, 2015 at 9:02 am

        Love the views.

        I live just down the road from a pig farm and while I LOVE bacon they sure do make a stink in the morning. Whewwww! So I can add some very poignant ‘media’ to your analogies.

        Maybe I just have the wrong audience for my singing. No friendly chorus for me.

        I love to talk to the ‘vets’ like you because I learn so much, some where I have gone a bit off-course and need correcting, and some where I was right on. I guess I’m not totally crazy just yet.

        As I said, I am totally with you about the bennies of EPS and you know better than I the politics involved. Just keep your head down when they fight back. As Connery said in the Untouchables, ‘They pull a knife, you pull a gun.’

        I always read your posts and if I can bring a complimentary perspective I will add my two cents.

      • July 23, 2015 at 9:36 am

        Please do Larry! Am always looking for $.02 because sometimes that $.02 contribution just might trigger an entire post…thank you very much!

  1. July 23, 2015 at 9:49 am
  2. March 14, 2017 at 1:27 pm
  3. July 27, 2017 at 1:32 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: