Evolving ISD Adoption for a Performance Paradigm

Maybe a better title would posture “performance think” instead of “performance paradigm”. Even better, what if the “I” in “Instructional Systems Design” was changed to “Intentional Systems Design”? Am I suggesting the application of lipstick on the traditional ISD pig, or something radically different? Yes! Both! We need core ISD expertise reshaped with the “Intent” to drive sustained workforce capability beyond the classroom to a new ground zero – the Point-of Work.

Performance Think

In a previous life I introduced electronic performance support (EPS) to support an upgrade of a PeopleSoft/Oracle ERP system including the integration of the LMS with the new Talent Management Suite. On the heels of this upgrade, the elimination of 16 legacy system with a new electronic medical records (EMR) system followed. There was no question Point-of Work support was going to be essential if we had a prayer of reaching full adoption of either initiative. What stood in the way was Training Think, and not just in the heads and hearts of L&D, but in the expectations of the IT Help Desk and even the managers of the units affected by this massive change in operations.

Historically, all users were trained on the new systems…and with very good training content. Tradition also followed a path where the Help Desk function staffed up with extra SMEs and descended on a large conference room to set up the “War Room” where 100 phones and work station were placed to handle the flood of end-user calls for help. This was tradition. Tradition based upon Training Think.

I had two key eye-opening conversations; the first with the Sr. Director of Enterprise Learning…the group responsible for training design, development and delivery. The second conversation was with the Sr. Director of IT Support. Both conversations confirmed their end-game desire to drive end-user performance, but both only looked through the lens of Training Think.

Re-read that last sentence…”both conversations confirmed the desire to drive end-user performance”; the problem was this, neither one considered where evidence of performance results would manifest…the Point-of-Work. Both were willing to bet the farm on the traditional Training Think myth that “Training Drives Performance” when in fact, training can only drive POTENTIAL. Performance results are ONLY manifested at the Point-of-Work where the workforce actually DOES something and either creates tangible value…or degrades it

Performance results at the Point-of-Work are not congruent with current “training solution venues” (a.k.a. classrooms, WBT, VILT, or blends of all). As a result, we are left with a significant capability gap in the downstream, post-training work context…and not to mention the additional expense of a hundred souls in a War Room trying to help with what traditional training could never deliver in the first place.

Performance Think envelopes the Training environment seamlessly, frictionlessly and ubiquitously along WITH the Performance environment; hence the rise of the label of dynamic learning and performance ecosystem. It’s not that Training is a waste of time, it’s about integrating intentional design where the Point-of-Work is actually embedded into the Training content and venues with the intent to prevent Training from becoming a waste of time. My point is that Training is only part of a performance solution. The Ecosystem demands a consistent thread of learning and support opportunities across all five of Gottfredson’s Moments of Need that surface in a development path to competency from Point-of Entry (Training) to the Point-of-Work. (See Figure #1)


Figure #1

Note in this graphic that the intentional design path BEGINS with moment #3 – Apply. That starting point for design and development considerations is at the core of the Performance Paradigm. The path a Learner takes begins at moments 1&2 at the Point-of-Entry, but the intentional design methodology flips all that to ensure the Point-of-Work is reflected in the Point-of-Entry. This concept of insertion of WORK into LEARNING is consistent with the 70:20:10 framework as well. Why not deliver a dose of the “70%” during the “10%”?  Why not equip the Help Desk, managers and mentors with the “70%” assets as they collaborate in the “20%”. Can you see how intentional design tracks with the entire Learner-to-Performer Continuum? No wasted motion. No redundant content development. Likely a significant reduction in actual Training time….significant reduction in SEARCH time…significant reduction in content development time. And the list goes on…

Perceived Threats and Blind Spots

As we approached the huge training demands of these system integrations, I had a hallway conversation the Enterprise Learning lead I mentioned earlier. She described a unsettling staff meeting where the new EPS technology I had introduced as Sr. Director Learning Architecture became a topic of conversation. She shared that several IDs and a couple platform trainers expressed concerns that they were about to be replaced by this new EPS technology. Wait…what?

IDs and platform trainers both become even more necessary when intentional design is adopted.

Granted the work they both do evolves and changes, but neither role is threatened. That said, the fear of unknown change may represent a promote fear that is a key subject to address through robust organizational change communications, but that’s another post entirely. Bottom line, both roles are critical to adopting an intentional design methodology, and with a new paradigm comes change.

A few days later, I managed to get myself invited to the IT Support team meeting where they described the game plan for the SME-facilitated system training and the post-training War Room roles. I apparently stepped on a land mine when I asked the SME-facilitator lead where would they integrate performance support (PS) into the training programs. I was informed that “PS is only a post-training issue” and would be discussed when the War Room set up was addressed. Doink!

Not to be deterred, I asked another question…stepped on another land mine. The room gasped and sphincters bit the chairs when I asked what part of the SME training assets would be in the hands of those in the War Room. The reactions evidenced the importance of robust organizational change communications had reared its ugly yet essential head yet again. IT not only had a blind spot about the collaboration between their Training function and the Help Desk, they missed the synergy existing within single-source documentation and a huge multi-use Performance Think methodology inherent in intentional design. Enterprise Learning and IT Support were on two separate islands in the same ocean. When I pointed out the obvious redundancy of effort, I became an even more unpopular guest. Needless to say, I was uninvited to future meetings.

Intentional Design as a Discipline

Intentional design as a discipline? Quite simply, the “intent” behind intentional design is less about traditional ISD tactics and more about enabling sustained workforce capability at the Point-of-Work. I’m not saying traditional ISD skills are obsolete; rather, that they are too narrowly focused. Shifting focus to the Point-of-Work changes the rules of engagement with the assets (content, media, collaborations, resources, etc.) developed for application by Performers at the Point-of-Work…AND at moments of need that are as diverse as the number of roles in the work context. If the rules of engagement change to this degree, so too must our approach.

Therein lies the basis for a discipline that calls upon new performance consulting skills to identify root causes behind performance gaps. Therein lies the basis for a holistic discipline that embraces seamless, frictionless and ubiquitous access for the right learners and performers to the right learning AND performance assets, at the right moment(s) of need, in the right work-context friendly amount, in the right effective and compelling format, to/from the right devices and apps. That ain’t training…but the intentional design discipline embeds these “right” attributes “intentionally” across the entire Learner-to-Performer Continuum to address all five moments of need. To me, that’s not just a tactical process, it is a discipline.

Yes, a discipline. A discipline that expands a Training Needs Assessment into a Performance Assessment; a discipline that necessitates performance consulting prowess and skills as part of the L&D toolbox; a discipline that looks first at the cause of performance gaps before knee-jerking into a training solution; a discipline that tries to minimize training time and replace it with those “right things” at the Point-of-Work and at the moment of need. And finally, therein lies a discipline that enables a willing consideration that a training request may well not need a training solution. BUT…that potential solution outcome does NOT put ISDs or Trainers out of work; instead, a performance solution builds a better bridge between learning and work, not to mention a partnership validated by tangible performance results.

Closing Thoughts

If you are a regular reader at Living In Learning, some of this is not new information. Methinks it worth repeating however. because a paradigm shift of this nature is an iterative process impacting long-held Training Think and migrating it into Performance Think. Despite the shift, both have intentions to drive sustainable results. The only problem is that what we seek through Training is outside of the scope, charter, and often, the skillsets within L&D.

Changing a paradigm is never easy. Consider Henry Ford when he asked people what they wanted – FASTER HORSES – was the response. Don’t we get a similar response in L&D? Have we not responded with “faster training” with micro, nano, bursted, non-linear MOOCs, mobile, wearables…and who knows what comes next? Yes, these enhancements are indeed faster, but the end result is still training…and we need more than the promise of potential.

We need to be more intentional with our solutions, and that can only happen if we equip ourselves to look through a performance lens to enable agility and resilience in our Performers that are critical to sustaining workforce capability of the Point-of-Work.

Return to your homes. There’s nothing more to see here, but please consider the intentionality behind how you respond when the next stakeholder comes to you and asks for a faster horse.

Gary G. Wise
Workforce Capability Architect
Workforce Capability Solutions

(317) 437-2555