It’s Time to Go Ninja!

Who “woulda thunk it” possible to be swept up…or is swept out more appropriate…into the chaos of three corporate downsizing events in less than seven years? Could that even happen to the same guy? Oh, but yes it can…and it has. You’re reading his words right now. January 26th is when I will be jettisoned through the window of opportunity yet again. The frequency of being jettisoned could cause one to pause and reflect, asking “Why me?” and question “What did I do? …or not do?”  The first time around, I went through the routine stages of the grieving process. The second time…not as much. This time around…I get it. It’s time to go Ninja!

Granted the black pajamas are a bit over the top, but they help make the statement that going Ninja is something different. Different? Yeah… maybe even radically different, and that’s exactly what needs to happen in many HR-owned L&D organizations…different…radically different.

The challenge most face? Different means change, and that scares the crap out of a lot of people and promotes paralysis and the clutching of known training paradigms like flotation devices in a water landing. It’s a simple equation though…change…or downsize as traditional HR-based L&D becomes irrelevant.

Here are a few things I’m convinced need to shift and/or evolve including:

  • Evolved L&D skills to include performance consulting
  • Evolved discovery methodologies to accomplish holistic learning AND performance assessments
  • Evolved design to support the entire learning and performance ecosystem
  • Evolved delivery techniques beyond instructor-led and exotic on-line and micro training blends
  • Evolved application of learning and performance assets at Point of Work and Moment of Need
  • Evolved capture and analysis of performance metrics to support data-driven decision-making
  • Evolved utilization of technology to accommodate all of the above
  • Evolved ownership of L&D…from HR…to Business Operations where performance matters most

A recent CLO article, “Deliver Us From the Classroom” does a good job of describing what we need to evolve from…classroom training…which still represents 79% of the delivery used today and projected to remain so over the next 12 to 18 months.

I also just read a new CLO article, “Classroom Learning: Ditch the Knowledge Dump, Mix it Up” where two gentlemen I follow closely gave several snapshots of “different”. Bob Mosher was quoted regarding the struggle to break away from classroom training as the mainstay delivery model stating…there’s a lot of conservatism about changing the classroom model. “The primary reason is that’s not how they were raised to do it,” he said. “If that’s all they do, it’s hard for people to figure out how to do it differently.”

Elliott Masie added, What has changed, he said, is the training’s duration, style and delivery. Most classroom trainings have become shorter and more interactive, experience-based or action-based.

So…do we nuke the classroom? Hardly; but it needs to evolve, and nothing short of ninja tactics are going to make a lasting change. But…BUT…changing the classroom, despite the focus of these articles and the accurate assessments of these two thought-leaders, it’s still not enough. We have an entire ecosystem to address and the classroom represents only a single fringe environment where learning takes place. Even then we must recognize that classroom, online and other blends still only produce one thing – Potential.

Measurable PERFORMANCE Results
…only manifest at the Point of Work
…when knowledge is retained long enough
to apply it during a Moment of Need
 …and preferably within three clicks or less.

Seriously, if your hair is on fire, what good is a fire safety course on the Learning Management System [LMS]? And who gives a rip if it’s more socially engaging when delivered via a Learning Experience System [LES]? Neither technology addresses urgency that manifests at the Point of Work.

Additionally, the existing L&D training design paradigm does not address urgency either. Existing learning technology [LMS/LES] does not accommodate the level of accessibility to adequately address urgency.

We must have a presence at the Point of Work…support the point of application…integrate with the workflow…because that’s where tangible business value is generated…or lost. Unfortunately that presence is not a prioritize part of the HR-based L&D agenda…not part of the charter in tactical terms…not in scope for the common Training Paradigm. That has to change, and I will never go back into that environment.

Both of these articles, while being very well written and spot-on accurate, at least to my little Ninja brain, represent part of the root cause behind why the evolution of L&D has languished when so much innovative leadership, knowledge, and new technology that delivers ironclad proof of performance impact under the umbrella of a performance paradigm.

Why is this so hard for HR-based L&D leadership to understand?

I’ve seen firsthand where L&D was highly effective…AND…HR was NOT at the helm…the operational side of the business (in my case it was Sales & Marketing) owned Learning; in fact we weren’t training much at all…we were in the workflow with accessible, intentionally-designed performance assets. Our mission was laser-focused on driving business results. That mission lasted until HR annexed our learning function and the focus changed…our agility evaporated…our mission became diluted…and momentum of providing workforce performance at the Point of Work slowed to a crawl.

Let HR do what HR does with generalist skills training and development. Those are essential skills and HR can and does handle them well. But execution at the Point-of-Work is an operational and tactical mandate…and training is not…and was never designed to rock that world. Dress it up. Shrink it. Do whatever you want, but it’s still Training…and only producing potential. Let the CLO or the CHRO run that show.

Then What?

I think it’s time for us to fill a CCO position…a Chief Capability Officer…who answers to the Operational side of the house. Give the CCO a performance ninja hit squad assigned to the operational side of all things performance. Let them assess performance root cause(s) and recommend solution blends designed to support performance at the Point of Work. In many cases, those solution assets are not going to be training assets; instead they are intentionally design performance assets intended, formatted and enhanced technology delivery for immediate consumption and application in the workflow.

Is that LMS technology? No!

Is it the latest rage…the LES? NO!

It’s Digital Performance Support (DPS) technology…and it is integrated directly into the operational workflow. Is it Panviva? WalkMe? Ancile? Epilogue? They all handle Point-of-Work…but each one has a different sweet spot.

What’s yours?

Do you have the skills on board to define your sweet spot?

Your training strategy won’t define your spot. It can’t. The performance sweet spot is out of scope and not part of the typical training charter; however, a learning and performance assessment targeting the Point-of-Work and embracing Gottfredson’s Five Moments of Need will define an accurate DPS technology road map.

In some cases, I’d invest in a DPS platform before upgrading a LMS or investing in LES technology. Why? Because the LMS may be doing a good job for exactly what it was designed to do…track training. The LES technology gets closer but being more socially focused and collaborative does not address the urgency afforded by workflow integration. In either case, a technology requirements assessment should be accomplished to confirm “best fit”.

So…what about the Point of Work?

Do you have the skills on board to effectively pull off holistic discovery?

If you decide to go after these capabilities, methinks it’s a safe bet that you’ve also reached that tipping point where it’s time to go Ninja.

Do you have Ninjas on board who can assess your learning and performance requirements through a performance lens? That’s really the first question you need to honestly answer.

Closing Thoughts

After thirty years in the corporate L&D discipline the time has come for me to part ways; not from the performance discipline, but from HR. The time has come to pursue organizations desiring a step-change in the effectiveness of their L&D function as a preferred driver of measurable performance outcomes over activity measured by butts-in-seats, hours of learning, courses completed and glowing Level 1 evaluations…all of which only prove potential has been reached.

I’m leaving future corporate HR gigs only to step back in and support the creation of other Ninjas as a coach or into a role where a performance mindset is owned by the Operations side of the house. I want to lead and/or prepare the right team members to accomplish learning and performance assessments and teach the skills necessary to integrate the ways of a performance Ninja.

Having three DPS implementations under my belt, I want to evaluate learning and performance business requirements critical to road mapping the “best fit” performance technology. I know what the technology can do because I’ve witnessed it. I know the top vendors and respective sweet spots.

None of these “wants” are in scope for another HR corporate gig.

Truly…It’s time for this camper to go Ninja!

If you’ve reached your tipping point, we should chat!

Gary G. Wise
Workforce Performance Strategist & Coach
(317) 437-2555



  1. January 3, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    Sorry to hear of your being “cleaned out” of the front door. 😦

    It is becoming clearer that the latest management mantra is cut costs and since no one really likes education, it is easy to cut ID people. How short sighted.

    Well, continue to write about your experiences and maybe I’ll share with you some of my experiences in realizing the American Dream.

  2. Carol Gajus
    January 7, 2018 at 5:13 am

    HR leaders do not fully understand performance consulting or the impact of an effective PC professional. The business needs the performance assessment to know how to develop competent teams with exactly what they need.

    It is discouraging that my performance consulting expertise was not used or requested.
    I applied this expertise anything, they just didn’t know how I did what I did.
    Like you, in my next position, the value and impact of a performance strategy will be part of my leadership position.

    • January 7, 2018 at 8:17 am

      I hear ya, Carol! Next gig(s) will involve leading or importing a culture of performance.

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