“Sustainable EPS Discipline?” Or “One-and-Done?”

Recently, I learned that it takes approximately 30 square miles of ocean for a loaded oil tanker to reverse course 180 degrees. That seems like a lot of ocean, but then, that’s a lot of boat to turn around – and a lot of momentum related to the existing course direction. It’s funny how momentum proves to be the primary challenge and source of resistance when standing in the way to a change in direction. While 30 square miles represents useless trivia, the significance and parallels represented by factors of time, effort, and mind space to change direction and overcome the momentum of long-held L&D strategies are no less remarkable. If an existing L&D strategy based upon a long-standing training paradigm represents the tanker, Embedded Performance Support [EPS] represents the rudder. Sticking with the tanker analogy, a couple of Change-related questions surface as relevant – 1) “Why turn?” and 2) “By how much?”

The decision to crank the wheel for a few degrees of Change for minor course correction versus leaning into a hard turn for more radical transformational Change is the crux of this short post. Also, I will host a breakout session on “Creating an EPS Readiness Assessment” this March in Orlando at the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions/Ecosystems 2016 conference.

Why Turn?

EPS is not rocket science. EPS is not a point solution. EPS is not a technology. EPS is not a software solution. EPS is not a Captivate or RoboHelp replacement therapy. EPS is…wait for it…a discipline, and the EPS discipline contains characteristics of all of the above. Since that statement is as clear as mud, the question of “Why Turn?” is worth a first look.

The momentum in our industry to integrate EPS solutions is building rapidly, and it is neither a fluke nor a passing fad. The velocity of business demand and the nature of continuous change facing our efforts to build sustainable workforce performance are the primary drivers behind the surge in interest. Why? Because the challenge we all must face is the tendancy to rely upon the limited scope and charter of traditional training that cannot keep up with business demands for workforce agility and the resiliency necessary to answer the bell when frequent changes confront our workforce. Effective knowledge transfer, in and of itself, is insufficient to sustain performance. Training only drives potential.

If we truly seek a more agile and resilient workforce; we desperately need a more agile and resilient methodology to shorten the path to competency and ensure accurate and timely performance at the point of work. EPS answers that bell. But…before you dash off and jump on the EPS bandwagon, reread the first part of this section for the aggregate of what EPS is not. This is not a simple Change in direction; too many moving parts to make a wholesale crank on the wheel; in fact, the Change you face may be of the transformational flavor, and that’s never a quick fix. How much Change? Consultant’s answer: “It depends!”

By How Much?

It really does depend…it depends upon the state of readiness within your ecosystem. Don’t have an ecosystem? I beg to differ. Every organization has an ecosystem. The question that matters is “How optimized is it?” Treating our learning and performance environment as a dynamic ecosystem is not just a good idea; it is proving to be a source of competitive advantage. Why take 30 square miles of ocean to make a reactionary turn in competitive tactics in the business when there are much more agile and responsive ways to pull it off? In an ecosystem, we must be able to rapidly Prepare Learners and then Sustain Performers along a seamless, frictionless, and ubiquitous continuum. We must become more nimble, agile, resilient, responsive…take your pick…and the traditional training paradigm cannot render those kinds of right now results. EPS is the discipline, when fully adopted, that is designed to deliver on those kinds of results.

Enterprise-wide implications of sustainability in an EPS discipline require adopting a laser focus on driving sustainable human performance outcomes across all operational arms of the business…across the entire ecosystem. THAT statement is the driving objective, not buying into a new technology/methodology. Keys…all arms of the businessthe entire ecosystem…not just L&D and the training game.

Sounds rather holistic, does it not? Hopefully you can sense that simply being ready to dive into EPS technology may not be a wise move right off the bat. Secondary questions of; “Where are we now?” and then based upon that answer, another question logically follows; “How do we make the change so that this new discipline is both successful and sustainable?” Both must be addressed. We want a greater result than introducing a new discipline only to achieve a one-and-done result. This requires more the just being “ready” to make the leap.

Ready Vs. Readiness

Being ready to steer the boat and being at readiness to change and sustain a new course are two distinctly different states, and not knowing where you are…or understanding where you are capable of going…sets up greater odds for creating a one-and-done event as opposed to creating sustainable, EPS performance paradigm adoption. Recent conversations with EPS technology vendors bear this out; revealing experiences where in more than half their deployments the concept of reaching full adoption “never completes the turn” – a.k.a. “One and Done”. Results of that nature scream “Failure!” to me. BUT…is it a failure of EPS as a viable discipline/solution or something else? It’s more like being ready to deploy EPS and not having a plan based on current AS IS state of readiness to execute implementation to the point of full adoption.

Years ago, I hired into a new role where I inherited a training team underway with a multi-phase SAP integration that had already progressed into its second wave of deployment. I witnessed a key learning based upon the outcome they experienced from the first phase – Successful deployment does not equal implementation. They were…ready to deploy…but not at readiness to implement…and it was ugly.

In researching the deployment versus implement phenomenon, I witnessed yet another critical layer often overlooked – Successful implementation does not equal full adoption. My point is simply this –

Being ready to deploy any manner of change is not the same as being at a state of readiness to implement effectively with the ultimate goal to ensure sustainable adoption across the ecosystem’s user population.

SAP, as an example, is an enterprise software application. EPS, though it also has technology and software implications, it is first and foremost, a discipline. Both SAP and EPS, however, share common truths – they both have enterprise-wide integration in their scope. And it is a fact both share implications of Change…and in many cases, that Change has earmarks for being transformational in nature. The journey required for standing up a sustainable EPS strategy is not as simple as making a new software purchase and training users how to use it successfully; hence, a key difference between a SAP implementation and the discipline of EPS.

With the growing interest in EPS and a widely diverse vendor population, it is way too easy to view EPS software as a purchase transaction. As diverse as the number of vendors, there is as much diversity in the core competencies of each. Similarities exist across all of them, but some distinct features distinguish one over another in many cases – and this fact alone is a key driver for having your business requirement ducks in a row before you start shopping. A comprehensive readiness assessment is the best way to establish AS IS and map an intentional migration path to SHOULD BE, and,  when you don’t know what you don’t know about a new discipline and what you can do with this new technology, making a purchase decision can be a crap shoot at best.

EPS can often improve training content development and that goal is a very valid and commendable objective, and who’s not ready to pursue that kind of outcome? The problem with zeroing in on that benefit totally misses the mark of what the EPS, as a discipline, is capable of accomplishing. Defining what is possible by fully adopting an EPS strategy within the L&D operational workflow requires an “AS IS” assessment of where the organization is day one. Additionally, the operational capabilities of L&D need to be assessed in the broader context of the performance paradigm that holistically embraces the entire “edge-to-edge” learning and performance ecosystem and that’s broader than the scope of our traditional training paradigm.

Again, this is not like buying an authoring tool, though several vendors have that capability. Not being at readiness opens the door to falling prey to an attractive sales pitch that winds up forcing you to fit your business requirements into the vendor’s technology. Optimally, you want to have defined your learning and performance requirements in a holistic roadmap to drive an informed decision to buy into a technology that accommodates where you are at GoLive [deployment]; how you want to migrate [implementation]; to the desired state of routine application [adoption]. Optimal decision making begs for assessing your readiness to make an informed decision.

Assessing Readiness

An EPS readiness assessment defines the “AS IS” current state of learning and performance across the organization’s entire ecosystem. I’m convinced EPS, when properly integrated, is a key strategy scoped to address edge-to-edge ecosystem requirements for learning and performance…and yes…that is inclusive of training. Granted training may not look and feel the same as it does not, but do you really need 30 square miles of ocean just because it’s there?

If there are edge-to-edge implications, any assessment effort should have a similar footprint and be accomplished looking through a learning AND performance ecosystem lens. Here are several key areas that should be included in the assessment:

  • People
    • Learners / Performers
    • Supporting Roles
    • Clients/Customers
    • Vendors/Suppliers
  • Content
    • Moment of Need Integration
    • Agile Design & Development
    • Delivery Methods & Content Utilization
    • Performance Support Maturity
    • Content Sources & Accessibility
    • EPS Scope & Viability
    • Single-Source Documentation
  • Process
    • Performance Assessment Methods
    • Alignment & Prioritization Protocols
    • Learning Governance Structure
    • Change Leadership Practices
    • Cross-System Workflows/Processes
    • Existing L&D Workflows & Protocols
    • Competency Definition & Alignment
  • Technology
    • Enterprise System Inventory & Roadmap
    • Cross-System Workflow Dependencies
    • Learning & Support Resource Access
    • Learning Mgmt Maturity/Roadmap
    • Information Repositories & Roadmap
    • Collaboration Platforms & Roadmap
    • Mobility Integration & Roadmap
    • Performance & Utilization Data Reporting
  • Measurement
    • Learning & Performance Evaluation Practices
    • Business Metrics Used for L&D Priorities
    • Task-Level KPI Identification Practices
    • Key Metrics Tied to Performance Results
    • Learning Content/Asset Utilization
    • Performance Support Asset Utilization
    • Performance Dashboard Integration


These categories listed above may or may not offer many surprises, but the discovery within each is considerably more robust than evaluating the effectiveness of the incumbent L&D organization’s contribution and/or a specific training initiative. Though I did not include a specific category labeled “culture”, the findings of an EPS readiness assessment – in the aggregate – define where an organization’s culture is with respect to embracing a dynamic learning and performance ecosystem.

At Learning Solutions & Ecosystems 2016 in Orlando in March, the breakout session – “Creating an EPS Readiness Assessment” and will go deeper into some key tactics for building an assessment including:

  • Building EPS context into the organization
  • Enabling seamless access to content across the Learner-to-Performer Continuum
  • Discovery and consulting implications
  • Determining EPS viability
  • Building in agility across content, methods and performers
  • Utilizing metrics, measure and performance analytics

Completing a readiness assessment benchmarks the AS IS state of the ecosystem. The results can then be mapped across an EPS maturity matrix developed by the Performance Support Community. The matrix defines characteristics found at progressive levels of maturity and serves as a useful roadmap to full adoption of the EPS discipline.

As always, thanks for reading, and feel free to comment and/or question as the mood strikes.

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