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 was when I was 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 got 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 a lot of HR L&D people and promotes paralysis and clutching of known training paradigms like they are 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 Intentional Design to support the entire learning and performance ecosystem
  • Evolved delivery techniques – beyond instructor-led and exotic on-line and micro training blends to embed performance guidance assets.
  • 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

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 recently read another 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 HR? Do we nuke the classroom? Hardly; but they both need 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 learning performance 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.

That’s the myth holding L&D from breaking out of the training paradigm…not to mention the embedded beliefs of stakeholders and even the strategic thinking of leadership. The truth is…

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.

Additionally, the existing L&D training design paradigms do not address urgency either…which also manifest at Point-of-Work. Existing learning technologies [LMS/LES] do not accommodate the level of accessibility to adequately address urgency. 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.

We…L&D and our solutions…must have a presence at the Point-of -Work to support the point of application…integrate with the workflow…because that’s where tangible business value is generated…or lost.

Unfortunately, presence at Point-of-Work is not a prioritized part of the HR-based L&D agenda…not part of the L&D charter in tactical terms…nor is it in scope for the common Training Paradigm. That has to change, and I will never go back into that environment….except to fix it…as a Performance Ninja

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. It’s hard to fathom why when so much innovative leadership, knowledge, and new technology exists delivering 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 come up with a plan for new Ninja’s to be successful that includes some thinking shaped by hard lessons learned over my time as a hostage in HR. Here are some thoughts on how to shift the paradigm and some are shocking and a bit stealthy:

  1. Buy some black pajamas…and a Taser
  2. Watch YouTube to learn about stealth techniques mastered by Ninjas
  3. Never…ever…reference 70:20:10…especially in front of L&D traditionalists
  4. Avoid any L&D person sucked into 70:20:10 and acting as though they are all raked up in a pile trying to get the “ratios right”; they could easily self-combust
  5. Deploy Taser to shock them out of their dysfunction
  6. If asked about using 70:20:10…deny…deny…deny…then use it in the spirit for which it was created
  7. Go Ninja…do learning performance assessments and, if questioned, swear they are really training needs assessments
  8. Relax…a learning performance assessment informs training needs…if there really are any
  9. Identify affective significance in terms of root cause(s) behind deficient performance at Point-of-Work
  10. Intentionally design solutions accessible, business relevant and effective in the affective context of Point-of-Work
  11. Measure evidence of business impact you’d never realize if only relying upon training events as primary solutions
  12. Celebrate achieving sustained capability at Point-of-Work, and dance as only Ninjas can dance

My points, twisted as they may be, are very simple – shut up about using 70:20:10.

Just do it.

Treat the use of 70:20:10 like a secret handshake. Focus upon the “affections” and pursue LPA discovery to move things downstream into the out-of-training-scope-and-charter-world known as Point-of-Work.

In other words, become a Performance Consultant/Ninja…or find one…who can determine what’s broken; why does it break; whose involved when it breaks; where does it break; when does it break; what technology is used when it breaks: what resources are used when it breaks; how much does it cost when it breaks; and other secret questions revealing performance restrainers.

If caught using 70:20:10 – LIE like a rug…and have a co-conspirator Ninja swear to it. Things will be okay…just explain that you are converging learning with work because it’s the new way to train and never confess to anyone you that you’ve just hidden the pill in the cheese.


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 designed performance assets intended, formatted and enhanced technology delivered for immediate consumption and application in the workflow at Point-of-Work.

Is that LMS technology? NO!

Is it the latest rage…the LES? NO!

Very likely it’s Digital Performance Guidance (DPG) technology…and it is integrated directly into the operational workflow and systems. This technology is shifting to the cloud and dramatically lowering cost of entry. That said, there are only a few vendors making this transition. Even those who are not headed to the cloud handle Point-of-Work…BUT… each one has a different sweet spot.

The more critical question to ask “What’s your sweet spot?”

Do you have the skills on board to define your sweet spot? If not, step away from the shiny new technology for now. Think LPA.

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 Performance Assessment (LPA) targeting the Point-of-Work will define an accurate DPG technology road map.

In some cases, I’d invest in a DPG platform before upgrading a LMS or investing in LES technology. Why? Because the LMS may be doing an adequate job for exactly what it was designed to do…track training. The LES technology delivers more collaboration and social engagement but being more socially focused and collaborative does not address the urgency afforded by workflow integration at Point-of-Work. In either case, a Ninja administered LPA will identify technology requirements to confirm sweet spot and technology “best fit”.

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

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.

Closing Thoughts

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

I’m leaving future full-time corporate HR employment for gigs designed to step back in and support the creation of other Ninjas as a coach.  I want to lead and/or prepare the right team members to accomplish LPAs, integrate intentional design disciplines, determine the best fit technology, and teach the skills necessary to adopt the ways of a performance Ninja.

None of these “wants” are in scope for another HR corporate gig, so truly…it’s time for this camper to go Ninja!

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

By the way…black pajamas are optional.

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