Don’t Skimp On Discovery @ Point-of-Work

This post was triggered and complimentary to Bob Mosher’s post on 11/17…an important read that I agree with completely. What I offer today is an attempt to articulate a “Yes and…” in this post. The Critical Skills Analysis (CSA) used in the 5 Moments of Need methodology is extremely essential for distinguishing what can be addressed via formal training and what can…and should…be addressed in the workflow…not to mention where to focus priority. Check it out!


I offer an additional perspective that position opportunities that compliment this effort. The CSA should not be limited to discovery with management level stakeholders on the operational side of the business when the Point-of-Work (PoW) is where the workforce either succeeds; or struggles negatively impacting outcomes; or fails outright. We have to find the point(s) of performance impact and dig in with structured discovery to find out what caused that smoking hole in the ground.

My perspective here comes from personal experience and is offered as a potential “gotcha” in the performance assessment discovery process…including the CSA…as executed. I fell into the trap of taking management’s perspective of what was broken at PoW as absolute truth only to find the “real story” was known more fully by those with feet on the ground at the actual PoW inside the workflow.

The recent CLO Article “Deliver Us From the Classroom” shows that only 25% of learners are ever engaged in deciding the learning delivery mix. I almost choked when I saw this…not because it was so low, but the concept of having a non-learning professional deciding anything. That’s our job!

At the same time though, those non-learning professionals (our PoW workforce) are the exact people we need to include in our discovery. Maybe it’s a semantics thing, but methinks it’s OUR job to decide the mix of learning solution blend. It’s THEIR job to tell us what’s broken…that’s what they know…and if we do not include them in the discovery, we have a really good chance to miss critical information because we chose to work from a manager’s point of view…and that view was likely based at least partially on hypothesis.

Hypothesis is good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not gospel. Hypothesis shines the light on a starting place telling us which rock to look under as we dig into discovery conversation with the affected work group(s).

Here’s another “gothcha” when you run a group discovery session…focus group…or whatever you choose to call it. DO NOT have managers attend the same session with their subordinates…if it is the subordinates from whom you are expecting truth. I witnessed this first hand in a discovery session in one of my many call center assessments. The first and ONLY time we had a focus group with Center Manager and Agents we asked a pointed question of the agents and every head in the room looked at the Center Manager…and we got what the Agents felt the Manager would tolerate…not the truth we needed to nail root cause. It was mostly a waste of an hour.

The most valuable discovery is a combination where the managers can offer an educated hypothesis of what’s at issue first…combined secondly with those who are actually part of the workflow. Don’t overlook discovery from the ranks of the worker bees…is my advice.

Additionally, I’m a big fan of Bob’s suggestion to use EPSS technology for embedding performance support inside the workflow for learning as work processes are in motion. But don’t stop there with application of your PS assets. Those very same PS assets can and should also be embedded in actual formal learning…be it classroom or otherwise.

My position for many years now is to not only bring learning into the workflow as Bob suggests, but to also embed those very same assets back up stream in the formal learning opportunities/experiences outside the workflow during formal training.

I’ve experienced firsthand that by using EPSS technology in scenario-based formal learning not only shortens the time needed to train, but it establishes a thread of continuity and familiarity of workflow processes with the learners. More importantly…they learn how and when and where to access and apply PS assets during the safety of the classroom environment. Those are minimal survival skills to learn before being chucked through the window of opportunity to deal with reality back on the job. Knowledge retention is going to suck, and we already know that…so train them on using the performance support assets and the EPSS technology to save their own bacon when faced with a challenge.

That “blending” process is the basis for what I’ve blogged about – Intentional Design – in the past where the object is to intentionally build multi-use content …a create once – use many times…kind of approach. By doing this we not only promote learning in the workflow, but we can use those same assets to bring the PoW into the classroom experience in the event necessary thus killing two birds with one stone:

  • Training in the classroom on workflow-specific content
  • Training in the classroom on using the support technology and the assets in scenario-based activities. Safe practice…

The 5-Moments of Need has been at the core of my approach for several years and the CSA Bob uses is only a part of the MoN methodology. The 70:20:10 methodology has its merits as well, as does ATD’s Performance DNA. Regardless of the methodology adopted, I caution you…don’t get tangled up in the jargon or complexity of some of the processes.

For this performance strategist, the bottom-line is simple – NAIL THE UPFRONT DISCOVERY and then stay engaged to shepherd collaborative solution design…intentional design… to sustain workforce performance.

Another way to state my case is …Give due diligence to DISCOVERY…after that, knock yourself out with the methodology of your choice. Just be intentional!

I have my preferences and will discuss off-line if anyone is so moved to know.

Thoughts or questions?

Ping me…always open to conversations on this favorite topic.

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