Readiness – Set – Go: Pursuing a Sustainable EPS Strategy
The path to shifting a long-held training paradigm to a holistic learning and performance paradigm is not a task for the faint-of-heart. Trust me on this…I have the scars to prove it. The greatest challenge I encountered in my own journey reveals there is more Change Leadership related implications than anything else. To compound that challenge, defining a “how to” road map is a tough nut to crack because every single deployment…then implementation…then fully enabling sustained adoption… is unique to the organization making the climb to the summit. So…do we avoid the “climb”, or is there a path that can embrace the diversity of the Change implications that will manifest?
Personally, I don’t think it is a question of “Do we make the climb or not?” My answer to this question may be skewed a bit from drinking the EPS Kool-Aid 12 years ago. In other words, I am a firm believer of what EPS adoption brings to the organization, and I don’t think we have a choice. It’s not a question of “IF” we step away from base camp of familiarity, but “WHEN”.
Keying on the “WHEN” question, and having reached this summit three times now, being ready to step up and being at a state of readiness to step up are two very different things. The scars I’ve earned over the last decade remind me of this fact. To be honest, I would not trade in a single scar because each one provided another level of clarity and an even greater conviction that the odds increase significantly for a “one-and-done” deployment if readiness is not fully established first. In short, simply being ready is not enough.
This post tracks with two of my scheduled presentations this year at Learning Solutions/Ecosystems 2016 in Orlando on 3/16 and then again at FocusOn in Austin later this June. Staying consistent with a ten-step Change Leadership model I follow, everything starts with changing the conversation. We should strive to effectively position that EPS adoption is a rapidly approaching future state that lies beyond the scope and charter of the traditional L&D training paradigm. It gets even tougher when you open your mouth make a bold statement that “Training does not drive performance – It drives potential!”
Effective knowledge transfer is in the primary scope and charter of a training paradigm. And that’s okay because training delivers on that outcome…and we can prove it with Level 1 and Level 2 evaluations. BUT…it’s not enough! Truly, if the ultimate objective is sustained workforce performance, we need to be focused on where sustainability happens – @ the Point-of-Work. That ain’t trainin’ – It’s EPS!!!
An early task to tackle involves changing not only the conversation, but the attitudes and beliefs that we’ve been selling stakeholders for years. I must confess my own guilt of advocating this promise of performance for most of my L&D career…pre-Kool-Aid…of course. So how do we change the conversation?
Many years ago Henry Ford said, “If I had asked them what they wanted, they would’ve said faster horses!”
We get a similar response when we ask stakeholders what they want – they want faster training! That response is based upon what they know…what they’ve been told…what they’ve been sold…by L&D for so many years. Sadly, many of us in the L&D profession are stuck in that same paradigm. The fact that you all are here in this rapidly growing PS community tells me recognition is building around the fact that faster horses will not win this race to adapt to critical business demands like:
- Velocity of demand
- Continuous change
- The race for competitive advantage
- Sustained workforce capability
And it is the last item on that list that enables the rest by delivering consistent evidence of agile, resilient, and measurable outcomes. Oh…and that all happens @ the Point-of-Work.
Readiness Assessment Scope
After stumbling and learning my way through three corporate opportunities to make the climb, I’ve developed several key areas that should be considered for discovery in an assessment. One guiding principle that needs to be established right up front involves defining a reasonable scope for the assessment. To that end, take into consideration that failing to embrace the concept of “starting small and then scaling” implies that whatever assessment approach is followed should be flexible enough to address a range of scope potentials. What follows shows ranges from largest to smallest, and I can say with certainty that bigger is not always better.
- Ecosystem-wide – this may be the end game, but not advisable to go nuts and try to eat a whole elephant in one sitting.
- Business Unit Specific – much more reasonable, and should represent a visible and costly pain point for the business.
- Project Level Application – even safer, and again, should be visible and quantifiably painful to the business.
- Training Requests – yeah…believe it or not…the assessment works for training requests when EPS is in the mix…and should be used on every request when there is a workforce performance component targeted for impact. There may be an EPS application…maybe not, but how would you know if you didn’t assess the potential? [Editorial rant: And if there are no performance outcomes targeted by the training request, I would ask, “Why the heck are we wasting precious training resource dollars in the first place?”]
Best advice: Take into account consideration that failing to embrace the concept of “starting small and then scaling” can lead to disaster. So…whatever assessment approach is followed, it should be flexible enough to address a range of application.
History reminds me that an essential best practice produces a viable proof of concept first [starting small…] in order to build a business case that validates adoption of the EPS discipline […then scaling]. In fact, small solutions and large both need to deliver the same outcome – sustained workforce capability @ the Point of Work. Following are key categories of my recommended assessment approach that should be considered:
- Primary Audience & Role(s) – Targeted work group(s)
- Secondary & Tertiary Support Audiences – Help Desk, IT, managers, coaches, mentors, etc.
- Dis-Associated Audiences – Vendors, suppliers, VARs, agents, affiliates, customers, etc.
- Task-Related Workflows
- Cross-System Workflows
- Escalation Protocols
- L&D Workflows – Design/Development/Delivery/Post-Training Support Involvement
- Maintenance, Updates, Curation Protocols & Practices
- Legacy Content
- Re-Usability – Re-Purpose Potential
- Task-Specific Related Information & Data Resources
- Accessibility & Feedback Loops
- System Inventory – Enterprise & Stand-alone
- Migration Road Map – New, Changes, M&As
- Content Repositories & Road Map
- Mobility Integration & Road Map
- Collaboration Platforms & Road Map
- Current Costs/Value of Doing Business @ the Point-of-Work
- Sources of Relevant Performance Data
- Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
- Alignment of Performance w/ Competencies
- Utilization of Performance Dashboards
There are additional considerations associated with standing up a sustainable EPS practice in the organization that do not surface until growth starts to build. Another scar reminds me that standardization and operationalizing the EPS discipline cannot be overlooked. Try to avoid suddenly reaching that “Holy-overwhelming-demand, Batman” moment when your EPS solution results drive the discipline viral, and THEN you discover, often brutally, that you don’t have a back-office administration function established to sustain the administration and infrastructure –and to that point, I’m not just referring to the IT dudes responsible to keep the server alive. There are essential administrative roles/requirements that must enable fielding all the requests and changes in the EPSS configuration that surface as viral growth ensues.
Like I said, adopting an EPS strategy is not for the faint-of-heart. The path is largely uncharted. Best practices will certainly evolve over time, but often after you catch a scar or two and the knowledge is earned the hard way with a resounding, “Whoa, I’ll never do THAT again!”
My advice is to find an Oufitter who has earned scars making the climb to the summit of full adoption and make a small investment in defining your current state of readiness. Am thinking a Human Performance Outfitter would be a smart choice. Stop by my new website, Workforce Capability, and take a look at the approach I recommend.
This is so important any time there is the possibility of making an investment in EPSS technology. Our PSC community is slowly building a list of top players in the EPSS space. Any list comes with a caution – not one of them promises anything short of driving impact. My advice is this: Do you know what “impact” you need?
The Process and Technology categories I shared earlier become most important because every one of the vendors included on our list has a “sweet spot”. While there are some common overlaps in key EPSS functionality, some are better than other in execution. Some of the platforms can do amazing things with business process automation that others cannot. Some handle iOS and some do not. Some run away screaming when legacy green screen technology lurks in the workflow mix. Some do not. Some provide huge documentation benefits. Others do not. And there’s more…
Normally, the approach to making a technology purchase is to drop RFPs into the laps of the several of the top vendors. I say don’t bother…because the response will be full of “YES, we do that!” answers that basically do nothing to sort them out. What you are left with is a bag of indecision and potentially about to make a purchase decision. Congratulations, you are now set up to be the proud owner of a round-hole EPSS technology platform within which you will try to force fit your square peg business requirements. Yeah, have that scar too.
Think Use Case versus RFP. How do you develop an accurate Use Case? You invest in a readiness assessment to define what YOUR business requirements include. What’s interesting is that you will potentially discover what gaps you have in your current state that actually prevent fully defining your true business requirements. Better to know that upfront and avoiding yet another new scar.
Buying any technology before being fully informed sets you up to repeat what so many dissatisfied LMS owners did years ago in the rush to buy LMS technology because it was the new rage…only to find out that the shiny new technology wound up behind the wheel instead of the needs of the business being the driver. That is a classic illustration of being ready before being at a state of readiness.
Gary G. Wise
Human Performance Outfitters, LLC
Founder & Principal Workforce Capability Architect
Free Agent Notice:
As of March 11, 2016, I will be separated from my current employer due to a reduction in force. Fortunately I have not been separated from my vision and passion for the EPS discipline and EPSS technology. This means that my scars and I will be in play on the open market. That said, if there is interest in readiness assessments in the near future, we should chat. (317) 437-2555