Have You Discovered Your Discovery Gaps…Yet?

This title does not represent a casual suggestion; rather, it conveys some urgency that directly impacts any L&D Performance Solution you attempt to build. So…if your L&D practice is primarily oriented toward building only training solutions…and have no inclination to build anything else…then this post will be the equivalent to sand in your shorts. On the other hand, if the solutions you seek to build are directed toward driving and sustaining workforce performance at the Moment of Need and at the Point-of-Work, you may discover you have a discovery gap that needs to close…yesterday.

I just read the LinkedIn 2017 Workplace Learning Report surveying 500 L&D professionals in the U.S and Canada and saw some current state statistics that were shocking:

  • 92% of executives agree there is a skills gap in the U.S. workforce. (Not shocking)
  • 90% of executives say that L&D programs would help close the gap. (Not shocking)
  • Business impact is the #1 measure desired by executives. (Not shocking)
  • Wait for it…

“Holy Metrics & Measures miss, Batman!”


How can this be? But wait a second…we have good data…plenty of it. Check these stats…500 L&D Professionals surveyed were asked, “What are the top ways you measure success of L&D at your company?”

  • 55% have qualitative feedback from attendees at instructor-led events.
  • 54% have positive feedback from managers that employees are more productive.
    • How productive and for how long remains unmeasurable…tell you why in a sec…
  • 45% have satisfaction ratings at instructor-led events.
  • 34% have qualitative feedback from online courses.

I’ll spare you the other 10 additional data points of useless data circling the drain that only serve one purpose – They make the case for additional Level 1 & 2 evaluation data points…and NOTHING that shines the light on that outrageously low measure of delivering evidence of business impact of “8%”.

I’ll ask again…“Why only 8%?”

Answer:  There are no other data points sought beyond measuring ACTIVITY specific to training events held whether ILT or online.

“Why else?”

Answer:  Performance at the Point-of-Work is not being measured. Period. At least not by L&D…

“Why not?”

Answer:  It’s not on the L&D radar…or if it is…L&D is not prepared to measure it. It’s not in traditional L&D scope or charter…and that’s a problem of some urgency.

“Why not?”

Answer:  You don’t need tangible performance KPIs to build Training solutions. You just need to know what knowledge and skills need transferred…then…did they get transferred…can we prove they were transferred…was the transfer process full of fun and frolic…did participants like the instructor…were the chicken tacos delicious…would you be so kind as to recommend this awesome learning event to a colleague…do you give a rip…would you come back for more?

And then we measure things used to justify L&D existence and protect budget allocations like…how long was the course…how many courses did we build…how many butts in seats…how many completions…how many different innovative venues did we use…or whatever other non-business impacting BS we capture just to prove how busy L&D really is at effectively and efficiently transferring knowledge and graduating…wait for itPOTENTIAL…out of our L&D factories.

Whew…sorry yet another rant…

POTENTIAL?  Yes…POTENTIAL…that’s exactly what training solutions deliver. And we note that nearly everyone, according to this survey, is looking for tangible evidence of business impact. And business impact “ain’t measured by potential…” Hence, only “8%” are happy campers!

C’mon, man! Performance does NOT happen and is NOT measurable until an employee actually “performs” at real work, real task-level execution, that generates or protects value at the Point-of-Work. And if we are not prepared to measure business impact that “8%” will stand as a measure of L&D’s failure to step up…and step out toward where performance matters…Point-of-Work.

If we do not accomplish discovery at the Point-of-Work, we can only guess at performance outcomes or task-level work requirements, who actually does the work, required resources, tools, systems and/or moment of need support needed to pull it off in a sustainable manner. THAT’S a discovery gap. And it’s urgent we close it sooner than later.

You’ll Need a Map

Now before we dash out to the Point-of-Work and start-measuring-every-damn-thing, there should be some structure in place that separates things for which you can train…from things you cannot…most of which directly affects business impact…with measurable KPIs. The structure I reference consists of a number of Performance Drivers and Restrainers, and for argument’s sake, they are defined by commonly found attributes discoverable in any L&D ecosystem and across any workforce discipline.

I’ve taken poetic license in adapting research on these attributes used by my favorite performance consultants like Joe Harless, Dana Gaines Robinson, Geary Rummler and others. They all had their lists of up to nine categories of attributes. I’ve shaken and stirred the lot of them into six categories that worked best for my practice. Feel free to further evolve the list as you see fit. Following is the list I posted a couple of years ago:

  1. Leadership– Clarity of Vision, Mission, Direction, Expectations, Business Strategy & Goals; Effective Communication & Direction; Observation, Coaching & Feedback; Leadership & Management Effectiveness, Analysis & Application of Reporting Data & Use of Dashboard Metrics, Leading Effective Change, etc.
  2. Capability– Knowledge, Skills & Abilities: Competencies & Attributes; Selection & Staffing; Performance Management; Training Programs; Curriculum Alignment/Maps/Tracks; etc.
  3. Motivation– Personal Needs; Team Dynamics; Compensation & Incentive Plans; Rewards & Recognition; Career Development; Inclusion & Wellness; etc.
  4. Process– Business Policies; Business Process Definition & Documentation; Task & Sub-Task (Methods & Procedures); Workflow Efficiency; Operational Roles & Responsibilities; Job Design; Process Improvement; Performance Assessment; Value Production & Productivity; etc.
  5. Resources– Technology & System Infrastructure; Connectivity & Mobility; Access to Content, People, Software, & Systems; Moment of Need Performance Support; Tools/Cheats/Hacks; etc.
  6. Environment– Organizational Design, Ergonomics, Metrics & Measurement Criteria; Internal/External Influences; Competition, Regulatory, Urgency & Risk; Diversity & Culture; etc.

These categories are in no particular order so don’t get all raked up in a pile if something important in your world is not mentioned until the fifth category. They are all important and some may even be irrelevant in some environments. As a side note, look where Training is buried…in Capability. Obviously, Training Solutions are only…and possibly a small fraction of…what’s restraining performance…and those restrainers are what’s on the rest of the list…and it’s going down ONLY at Point-of-Work.  Therefore, these other categories will serve no useful service to you if you have not FIRST gathered performance-related data (a.k.a. completed holistic discovery) to which you can match up findings appropriately. Matching them up leads to informed prioritization when it comes time to build the solution…the Performance Solution…and yes…Training may or may NOT be the starring role.

The Gathering

“The Gathering” is critical to building Performance Solutions versus just Training solutions. What’s gathered are data relative to performance…or the lack of it…at the Point-of-Work as driven or restrained by the attributes in the six categories shared earlier.

The Gathering process is a Performance Diagnostic that interviews targeted work groups about what’s working and what’s not at the Point-of-Work. The objective is to identify job performance requirements and valid KPIs to benchmark and measure against to determine whether or not standards/goals are being met. We question about current state (AS IS)…and future state (SHOULD BE). The gaps identified in between become performance targets for solutions that sometimes have little-to-nothing to do with training. This does not mean training is irrelevant…it simply means training by itself is not enough…not enough by itself to deliver on that “8%” business impact reporting issue I postured in the beginning of this post.

It’s About Discovery

Zero in on Moment of Need #3 – APPLY, and find out what’s breaking down. Moment #3 is ground zero at the Point-of-Work. It’s where measurable KPIs are generated…or not. What’s working? What’s not? Why not? What gets in the way? It is inaccessible information resources? Is it lousy communications from the boss? Is it technology the worker does not have? Is there a lack of bandwidth for video? Is it a portal that has no taxonomy to speak of and nobody can find anything? Does the workforce feel they were adequately prepared before being tossed through the window of opportunity and into the field? Are we even measuring the right KPIs? And the list goes on…

Notice I’m not asking anything about what knowledge or skills are needed. Notice I’ve not asked about what competencies are aligned? If I’m a solid L&D professional, I can back into knowledge and skills and competencies by understanding key elements found at the Point-of-Work:

  • What is the nature of the work that needs to be accomplished and by whom?
    • That answer shapes role capability…and that shapes skills required…and that informs critical knowledge
  • Where does work breakdown…and why?
    • “Why” defines root cause(s)…and points toward the nature of the solution to close them
  • How does the work get accomplished?
    • Information, resources, systems, collaborations, tools, etc.
  • How is business impact measured?
    • Metrics, measures, KPIs, reporting venues

Rocket Science?

Not even close, but a different lens is required. A total different paradigm is adopted that looks at the entire learning and performance ecosystem and where DISCOVERY is accomplished. “8%” should shock us into seeking out the business benefits of a Performance Paradigm if for no other reason than to protect our L&D budgets and our jobs in the future. The only L&D budgets seeing an increase are likely those who are delivering consistently on that 8%. They are showing business impact at Levels 3 & 4 and some even delivering on ROI at Level 5. I would not want to be in the other 92%…

I can imagine there are some L&D budgets increasing because rearranging deck furniture is still seen as useful and contributing to keeping the business afloat. Personally, I do not seeing that approach as a sustainable strategy going forward.

Discovery should become decidedly more holistic because the learning and performance ecosystem is holistic and represents a continuum that spans all five moments of need…not just the first two. L&D must break out of the limited paradigm of only building Training Solutions and embrace solutions designed to deliver real, tangible evidence of business impact. And that goes beyond potential…and surfaces only at the Point-of-Work.

Is discovery your gap to discover?

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