Fixing Performance Should Trump Training as a Priority

Why build training content as a priority if there is an asset you could build that closes an existing performance gap? I’m not saying “forget training”; rather, I’m suggesting that closing the performance gap should be FIRST PRIORITY. Designing and building an asset to support performance at the Point-of-Work is actually one of the first steps that shape the core premise of Intentional Design. (See Figure #1) AND…the asset may well wind up in Training…just not as a priority.

Meeting learning objectives is critical – no argument there – but shouldn’t meeting performance challenges be a more urgent priority? Certainly it should! So why is first choice to address performance gaps with development of a training course?

From my experiences across multiple organizations, the breakdown is not one of deficient design expertise – it’s the too narrowly focused, and the long-held design paradigm based on the myth that training drives performance.

Training does NOT drive performance – Training drives potential

Performance happens at the moment of need #3 – APPLY…or moment of need #4 – CHANGE…or moment of need #5 – SOLVE…and these consistently manifest downstream from Training at the Point-of-Work. The Point-of-Work is outside of the scope and charter of the Training paradigm, which focuses on moments of need #1 & 2. Point-of-Work is Ground Zero for a Performance Paradigm. (See Figure #1)


Figure 1

Ground Zero IS the Priority

In the Intentional Design model shown in Figure #1, discovery begins at ground zero – the Moment of APPLY. The concept of discovery is a performance consulting assessment versus a training needs assessment.

The difference?

There are several key areas to be assessed:
What performance is deficient? (Task-centric, role-specific)
Who are the Performers & support roles? (Primary, secondary, dis-associated audiences)
When does the performance breakdown? (Event-triggered, frequency, etc.)
Where does the breakdown manifest? (In workflows and geographically)
How does the work happen? (Systems, tools, information content/resources used)
Why give a rip? (Define value, cost of deficiency, cost to fix, business risk & impact)

What’s interesting to note in the list above overlaps with a Current State Readiness Assessment tool I follow consistently. Truth is a Current State Assessment is EXACTLY the kind of assessment you should be doing with any performance challenge that surfaces.

We must find details around what’s broken and why? What are the root causes? Are they people-related? Are they caused by broken processes? Content that takes too long to find…or is no longer current because no one owns it? Technology getting in the way…or lack of the right technology…incompatibility with end-user devices? And so important to assess are the metrics (KPIs) that need to be benchmarked to provide a point of reference when performance improves.

Intentionality Reigns – It Must…

The truth is now out…the overlap between a Current State Performance Assessment and Performance Paradigm Discovery is very…intentionallyINTENTIONAL.

It MUST BE intentional in order for the design, development, and delivery of the right assets at the right moment(s) of need. Another thing to note is how portable and applicable the Current State Assessment really is.
Current State Assessments are a perfect fit for addressing Organizational Change Initiatives just as much as following the same regimen in response to a Training Request.

In other words, making performance a priority is a protocol…a repeatable discipline that should be foundational to any Learning & Development organization.

Below I’ve illustrated the “intentional overlap” showing Current State categories as they align with a Performance Assessment discovery regimen:

People – aligns with WHO
o Learners / Performers
o Supporting Roles
o Clients/Customers
o Vendors/Suppliers

Process – aligns with WHAT, WHEN & WHERE
o Performance Assessment Methods
o Alignment & Prioritization Protocols
o Learning Governance Structure
o Change Leadership Practices
o Cross-System Workflows/Processes
o Existing L&D Workflows & Protocols
o Competency Definition & Alignment

Content – aligns with HOW
o Moment of Need Integration
o Agile Design & Development
o Delivery Methods & Content Utilization
o Performance Support Maturity
o Content Sources & Accessibility
o EPS Scope & Viability
o Single-Source Documentation

Technology – also aligns with HOW
o Enterprise System Inventory & Road Map
o Cross-System Workflow Dependencies
o Learning & Support Resource Access
o Learning Mgmt. Maturity/Road Map
o Information Repositories & Road Map
o Collaboration Platforms & Road Map
o Mobility Integration & Road Map
o Performance & Utilization Data Reporting

Measurement – aligns with WHY
o Learning & Performance Evaluation Practices
o Business Metrics Used for L&D Priorities
o Task-Level KPI Identification Practices
o Key Metrics Tied to Performance Results
o Learning Content/Asset Utilization
o Performance Support Asset Utilization
o Performance Dashboard Integration

So…How Overlapped is This Overlap?

Not every sub-bullet in each category is relevant to every performance challenge. “Governance”, found under PROCESS, is a perfect example that may not have any relevance to an operational performance challenge. On the other hand, if the performance challenge is a cross-discipline workflow breakdown in the process of maintaining currency of content, there may very well be a Governance issue to address. My point being…not every sub-bullet is relevant on every assessment. My thinking is…it’s easier to cross one off as irrelevant, than to overlook it altogether as a root cause contributor.

Closing Thoughts

My networking groups and my own personal experiences reveal a consistent desire by leadership to drive performance in our workplaces. But…Something is missing! The unspoken part of that revelation should not be to just “drive” performance…but to “sustain capability”. No one really talks about “sustaining” performance; only about improving it. Improving performance is good, but sustaining it is better, and sustaining it is a continuous process…not a training event…and it happens at the Point-of-Work.

With technology available today that can embed performance assets directly into workflows at the Point-of-Work; I’m confounded by the pitiful rate of adoption to use this technology.

Methinks adoption is not so much a technology-adverse challenge as it is a cultural recognition of the limits of a traditional Training Paradigm. While that may be true, I have experienced first-hand that it’s more than recognition – it’s the challenge of the Organizational Change Management initiative required to move beyond the embedded expectations that Training Solutions are the default Go-To priority.

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