Is Managing Learning Enough…Or Is Broader ACCESS the End-Game?

Actually it’s NOT an either or question, but…I must add to the title right up front to provide a hint of where I’m going…ACCESS is not exclusive to learning. A few years back I was at a Masie conference and was blessed to sit in a breakout session featuring Larry Prusak, a former IBMer, billed as a Knowledge Management guru. I was on an L&D oriented mission to find a short cut to “knowledge assets” because our LMS was the equivalent of a black hole.
We were sitting in a room full of folks shopping for LMS and/or LCMS technology along with a handful of vendors of both of those technologies. What Larry said warmed my heart and left an imprint I have yet been able to shake. He said, while wagging his finger at the vendors in the room, “Shame on all of you vendors who are touting your Knowledge Management capabilities. You cannot manage knowledge…you can only manage access to it.”

FYI – “Working Knowledge” is a great KM source by Thomas H. Davenport  (Author), Laurence Prusak

I haven’t been able to shake what Larry said, nor do I want to at this point, because I’m convinced ACCESS to knowledge is not too dissimilar to ACCESS to learning. Okay, let’s stop right there…

Access to Learning! In the event your brain immediately visualized training courses or learning events residing on your LMS…we have a potential disconnect here because “Training” in any form represents only the 10% in the 70:20:10 framework. To make that reality even uglier, the 10% falls into the +/-5% of our 2,000 hour work year that Bersin’s research says we receive each year in the form of formal learning [Training].

So what? That +/- 5% begs for what I felt was not part of Bersin’s research…and leaves an obvious question – “What about the “OTHER 95%?” The “Other 95%” lives in the 70% bucket of 70:20:10 and represents what I choose to call the Point-of-Work [PoW]. I also refer to PoW as ground zero and is critically important because that’s where performance results are generated…where business value is generated…or botched. Yes, the +/- 5% is important, but where should we begin defining the 5%? Should it be embedded within the “other 95%”? I say yes. and providing ACCESS to those task-level assets that support PoW…the “other 95%”…should be a primary driver for what we build as solutions.


What’s the Big Deal About ACCESS?

Hang with me on this post because ACCESS truly is a big deal, and it’s waaaay bigger than what your LMS was ever designed to address. Speaking the words “managing or enabling easy access” is easy to say, but there are considerations that come along with it that may complicate or misdirect the path to “easy” if not considered…and many have little to do with the actual assets being sought…believe it or not:

  • WHO is the learner/performer/end-user and WHY are they seeking the asset in the first place?
    • We are ALWAYS learning, but learning in the Point-of-Work context while performing at task-level should also be featured on the menu. This is about DOING work. Too many times the training paradigm blinds us from that fact, and the learning solutions we build to promote KNOWING miss the mark of creating and sustaining performance as the ultimate goal.
  • For WHAT purpose? Is there a “moment of need” to be satisfied?
    • Conrad Gottfredson of APPLY Synergies states there are five moments of need…some falling into the 10% bucket of the 70:20:10 framework and the rest falling into the 70% bucket where the Point-of-Work adds the potential for overlaying urgency to perform, business risk, value creation/protection, material waste avoidance, etc. Defining the moment of need at PoW is not an optional effort.
  • HOW MUCH information is required to satisfy the need?
    • What IS the real need? Is it knowledge? Or is it the ability to apply knowledge when the brain cannot retain it? How is the performance context at the Point-of-work driving/restraining the need? How do we know how much of the information asset is required to satisfy the “moment of need” if we have no clue what performance is required, or the complexity attached to the performance?
  • In WHAT FORMAT will be most effective for rendering the asset?
    • Is the learner/performer sitting at a desk, or 30-feet deep in a man-hole, or working in an ICU at the bedside? Are there bandwidth issues that pooch the use of video? What other environmental attributes of the PoW and/or Moments of Need that drive a format decision?
  • From WHAT DEVICE is the request originating?
    • Not only that, but what device(s) may be in service that can make a request to “Pull” assets? Is it a BYOD environment? Does the design need to be responsive? Are requests always inbound making the transaction a “pull” or is there a need for an outbound capability to “push”? And speaking of devices, what business applications and/or repositories are being used to accomplish the work?
  • Are the assets ACCESSIBLE enough at the moment of need and from PoW?
    • Is navigation a class-five cluster#$%@ or can the learner/performer get to what they need in three clicks or less? Can you minimize the number of good people clicking down into SharePoint along a crumb trail that winds and weaves so deeply they are never heard from again? This question also is compounded by environmental attributes of urgency and risk. Could the moment of need be a “hair-on-fire-moment” and getting lost in SharePoint or the taxonomy-free Black Hole [also known as the Corporate Intranet or Portal from/to Hell] are not viable options. What are the business impacts of search delays?
  • Is the asset BUSINESS RELEVANT?
    • Did the asset undergo Intentional Design Methodology for consumption at one or more moments of need? This question also overlaps the question about quantity…are the assets robust enough without including SME instructions on how to build a watch when only the time is requested? If Stop, Drop & Roll can handle the burning-hair scenario, logging into the LMS to launch a Fire Safety course is not a relevant option. We ONLY know this if we have identified the attributes specific to PoW and/or Moment of Need.
  • Are the assets EFFECTIVE?
    • How can we tell if evaluations (at least) at Level 3, and preferably Level 4 are not available to capture? That ain’t happen’ when discovery results are gained through a limited scope Training Needs assessment. We need KPIs at PoW and benchmarks from which to compare post-application results. Even more important, and often earlier in the search for results, is an open feedback loop from the end-users to asset owners to gather answers to, ”Was the asset effective at your moment of need?”

Okay, I think my point’s been made…there’s more…

The additional discovery required requires a Performance Assessment.

The information we’re after to answer the bell exceeds what the LMS can access….waaaay bigger…and well out of scope for Training-only solutions.

Having said that there is a “Page Two” to this story. What I just shared with you is to set up what follows. Sorry…am not done with you yet. I want to address how we manage through the phases of solution roll-out; standing the solution on its feet; and ensuring the solution can be accessed to ensure it stays on its feet.


Deployment, Implementation, Adoption, & Sustainment: None of These Phases Are Optional

What follows is a brief story I’ve been a part of several times, and am willing to guess many of you have as well. Imagine a large training development project on [insert topic of your choice here]. For me, I’ll choose a roll-out of Epic, an Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system. It was huge. It took months and unfolded in multiple phases.

Relax. I’m not going to drag you through the rituals and human sacrifices to get to GoLive, but I will highlight several phases any project launch goes through. I’m not turning this into an IT GoLive missive; rather, I want you to consider what the content (ASSET) implications are across the phases. ACCESS evolves by degrees as your rollout rolls. Quite honestly, that evolution matters little if 7-right things don’t line up first regarding the assets that need to be accessed:

  1. The right assets need to be…
  2. Accessible by the right user
  3. At the right moment(s) of need
  4. In the right amount
  5. In the right format
  6. To/from the right device(s)
  7. With the right tangible evidence of impact

See this post – 7-Right Things Road Map for details…

Do you see training in the list above? It’s there…two of the 5 moments of need are included…you can relax…storyboards are not threatened…re-prioritized maybe, but still necessary.



Deployment represents a major milestone for both the business stakeholder and the Training team. Often there are one or more big gala GoLive parties with clowns, 3-bite shrimp, and face-painting. I’ve been a participant in many of these in my career, and have even been to a couple that had an open bar after the we cut the ribbon to a training launch and/or system GoLive to the user population and delivery to the business. Deployment is a chance for many involved to breathe out and reflect on a job well-done. BUT…Deployment is not the end, it merely marks the beginning. GoLive means keep going.


This critical activity is where we often find reactionary damage-control and a mad scramble by support staff, help desk, and assorted subject matter experts. We also find a hostile gang looking back at Training with disgust written on their faces inferring we did a lousy job of creating a state of readiness in the workforce. Excessive finger pointing prevails and every effort is taken to place the blame on somebody…anybody…so why not Training?  After all, they touched the workforce last.

The hard work of assessing accessibility, relevance and effectiveness usually happens here. Actually, if pilots and iterative intentional design methods had been followed, we would already know most of this, and fine-tuning and additional iteration would be minimized. If it’s a system launch [like an EMR] we all know screens change…the stable system is NOT anywhere close to stable in terms of screen look and feel. Therefore, every Captivate simulation gets queued up to re-record the whole freaking thing because a fifth item was added to a 4-item drop down. In some cases, it seems like implementation never ends…no party…no shrimp…or clowns.

And don’t forget that screams of “INCOMING” to the IT Help Desk do not constitute implementation.


Full system adoption is ultimately what we seek in terms of end-user engagement. Actually, I would say adoption has been reached if we have succeeded in creating sustained capability at the Point-of-Work. Adoption is an outcome – a final state – where work tasks are routinized and users willingly execute their assign tasks. I’ve heard this phase being described of the process becoming routine or technology becoming transparent…or invisible…meaning user just do it without really thinking about it; kind of like handling the routine of email. Adoption means things are “business as usual” despite being in a new state.


Recall when I said “it seems like implementation never ends”, well it doesn’t. While the user population is sustained in function, there is a back office component that often gets overlooked – content and its non-static currency. Who does that? Who owns it? Is there a sustainable protocol for handling updates, changes, deletions, and even curation of new related/relevant content to sustain the currency of an asset library in an expedient manner? Staff this function like a boss; it’s critical and it can wreck the business if neglected. Here’s proof…

True story. I did some consulting for a large client in the insurance industry in 2015 supporting their call center training function. Training content used reference documents on policy rules and regulations were paper-based. Some genius decided that keeping 800 agent binders that required updates (often daily) was killing too many trees, so they put it all online in SharePoint…added a table of contents by policy name with an active link to each policy doc.

The trees were relived, but the call center agents were starting to disappear into SharePoint for an extended period of time and not returning to the client on hold in a reasonable timeframe because they could not find what they were looking for. Like I said, content was indexed…BUT…many of those documents were 90-pages in length. The agent could get to the document with one click, but where in the 90-pages was the answer? Scary. Agent to client, “Let me quickly scan these 90-pages for your answer, and I’ll be right back with you…Tuesday…in time for NCIS.”

But it gets worse…those same policy assets doubled as training content. Not a bad theory on the surface; performance support SHOULD be embedded into training where it’s relevant.

Another genius decided that keeping training updated should default to the trainer for the class impacted by any changes. The changes arrived several times a week, sometimes more than once per day. The only problem to overcome was a minor fact that the trainer was…wait for it…TRAINING, and the first phase of new hire training lasted 3-weeks. Who has time to update training while your day job requires being a SME for 8-hours spewing insurance spewage in front of a classroom…every day…for 3-weeks?

In effect, the “sustainment” of content was not taken seriously. The protocol was flawed. It did not carry the urgency it needed. It was not staffed accordingly. The result…training was delivered with outdated information to a user population who needed the real deal right up front every time for every client. Bad info in, equaled bad info out, equaled hacked off clients…cancellations…low customer satisfaction scores…poor employee satisfaction from frustration due to verbal abuse by angry clients…employee turnover churned out the door…but hey…at least there was job security for recruiters. T’was an ugly tale…


Closing Thoughts

That was a longer than usual post, so I’m sorry about that. But ACCESS to ASSETS is only as critical as those ASSETS being the right ones…at the right time…right amount…yada…yada. I won’t repeat the rest, but there truly are those four phases of developing and launching a project from a content [ASSET] perspective that are indeed a big deal, and I’ve not even addressed all the pre-GoLive gyrations here related to designing and creating the content assets themselves. I purposely did not want to distract from the fact that ASSETS have a life cycle that lives beyond the tasks of uploading and managing/administering it in the LMS.

As Larry Prusak said, You cannot manage knowledge…you can only manage access to it.” Again, this is not about knowledge management, but when you consider “knowledge” is what we’re after to the extent that the end-user of that knowledge can actually DO something with it. DOING something with it takes more than just managing it where it lives. Go back to those questions and the concept of 7-right things; ACCESSing the right assets makes “RIGHT” an even more critical success factor wouldn’t you agree?

If these were only course-level assets to corral, I’d never have written this blog post. But it’s not that simple. The asset mix to sustain a learning and performance ecosystem is a cat herder’s nightmare, but if we can keep those 7-right things top of mind as a guide, we have a semblance of an ASSET road map to deploy, implement, adopt, and ultimately sustain as necessary to deliver effective, relevant and ACCESSible ASSETS at the Point-of-Work and Moments of Need.

Personally, I’m convinced after working to sustain workforce capability at PoW for many years that the core “DO” for L&D is to get DISCOVERY right…and at PoW to uncover critical Moments of Need and the root causes behind why they are “moments” in the first place. As a performance consultant and coach, it’s what I do. Interested in learning how to approach discovery using a Performance Assessment? We should chat.

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