PERFORMANCE SUPPORT:  Start with a Point-of-Work Assessment – PWA

Learning Performance Ecosystem

This post is a bit different in some ways. The topic is still Performance Support at the core, but I’m responding to the many comments and questions I receive about how to adopt a Learning Performance Paradigm. The Point-of-Work Assessment (PWA) is a methodology designed to move beyond traditional Training Needs Assessment and evolve downstream to the Point-of-Work where bona fide business value generation is on the line. Before jumping in the paradigm boat and rowing downstream there is a strategic re-think to accomplish first…followed by some tactical skill brush ups.

Why Re-Think Strategy?

During some recent research on performance support and other learning technology I ran across a study from Brandon Hall – LMS Market Trends 2016 that revealed 48% of organizations desire a new or different learning technology and nearly half (47%) are at least seeking to revise their current learning strategy. Why does dissatisfaction exist? Why revise learning strategy? Given the report was focused on LMS I wondered if “learning technology” was code for LMS and performance support technology would remain separate and apart from learning strategy. Then my mind’s eye flashed to a herd of lemmings dashing over the same cliff as their predecessors.  I really hope for the sake of L&D organizations everywhere that I’m wrong.

What would “right” look like; what should new or different learning technology include, and what should drive a revised learning strategy?

My first thoughts to answer that question are to change the scope of the question. It cannot be “learning strategy only” or “learning technology only” because to limit the scope…again…we’ll be headed for the cliff…again…and ignoring the 95% of the dynamic learning performance ecosystem we should have in the cross-hairs of our scope…and inclusive of Point-of-Work. See Figure 1.

Learning Performance Ecosystem

Figure 1

The “scope” I mentioned represents the depth and breadth of what L&D produces and why. Here’s a quick little story that describes what you see in Figure 1 to make my point.

A few years ago I was blessed to sit on a panel of experts on “The Future of the Business of Learning” sponsored by Tony Karrar of Aggregage. Also, on the panel, Josh Bersin prior to his move to Bersin Deloitte, shared his research on the current state of the business of learning and how much formal learning [Training] we averaged annually and how much L&D in average spend on making that happen (including LMS technology).

Josh’s research revealed end-users received +/- 5%…or approximately 100 hours of formal training per year. Your mileage may vary. LMS was (and still is) the technology used to support that 5%. Notice the “up to 80% of time and resources” L&D spends to support that 5%. In my mind I silently asked myself “What About the Other 95%?

The “other 95%” was not the focus of that panel discussion, but it was the only thing in my head right then and served as launching point for my passions for the other 95%…or as it evolved to my current momentum around Point-of-Work. The natural follow on thinking involved the technology designed to support the ecosystem imbalance conveyed in the pie chart above. Sadly, the LMS represents only a small part of the mix.

Digital Performance Support (DPS) – formerly Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS).

 I say “formerly” because a new breed of DPS has recently made an appearance on the scene offered as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Cloud-Based. This new digital capability changes the performance support game in a significant way by reducing the cost of entry; decreasing IT involvement; enabling scalability from a single platform; supporting multiple disparate enterprise systems; unlocking our ability to more efficiently; and cost effectively supporting the other 95%Point-of-Work. Also note Point-of-Work is where we find up to 100% opportunity to generate tangible business value…or compromise it…or loss it. To me, the Point-of-Work 95% slice of the ecosystem and new DPS technology trumps the LMS and the 5%. See Figure 2.

Figure 2

As you can see, DPS acts as a cloud-based bridge to support end-users with contextual “Just Enough – Just in Time- Just for Me” performance support pulled/pushed from existing repositories. DPS can utilize any content that is URL addressable whether in-house on the Intranet or outside on the Internet. DPS is enterprise platform agnostic…meaning one instance of DPS can handle multiple disparate systems synching up contextual support during workflows that require bouncing across multiple systems; Call Centers are a perfect example of that kind of transaction.

While all of this sounds great, there is one question you must address before making any decisions despite how appealing the shiny new technology may entice you to take action:

What is your state of readiness?


Point–of-Work Assessment – PWA

Having survived three separate implementations of the older EPS technology, I have both scars and hard-earned lessons ranging from bungled change management to hacking off my IT counterparts to having those flash-point moments where we sat back and asked ourselves, “How did we miss THAT?”

Boiling down those lessons learned, my advice is simply to define your state of readiness by using a Point-of-Work Assessment (PWA) to establish a holistic Current State snapshot of your learning performance ecosystem…AND…what a Future State might look like down the road.

The PoWA was developed to address four scenarios where ecosystem impact is concerned:

  1. Simple Training Requests – to confirm where performance support can be utilized in the solution blend…and possibly reducing the amount and/or need for training altogether.
  2. Enterprise-wide Initiatives – where training typically is the default solution, and where the initiative can be broken down into task-centric, role-specific learning performance targets where performance support is essential to produce performance agility at Point-of-Work.
  3. New Technology Introduction – where enterprise-wide (or pilot groups/subsets) will change workflows and process protocols; introduce additional content/resources; will generate new performance analytics from Point-of-Work; and where full change adoption across the organization is not optional.
  4. Self-Defense – for those situations where our stakeholders were convinced training was the only solution…threw orders our way to “train our people” …and would be the first to accuse me and my L&D teams of screwing up when training failed…never mind that the original performance issue was not an opportunity to train anything of relevance or value in the first place.

The PoWA is a repeatable, multi-use methodology that enables identifying Current State of Readiness across six Point-of-Work Performance Attribute categories:

  • People/Capability – Who is involved in the work from individual performer to those in support and including attributes specific to impacting human capability (I.E. knowledge, skills, training, etc.)
  • Work/Process – What is the work? Where do workflows break? Why? (workflows, processes and procedures, etc.)
  • Content/Resources – What resources and information are utilized at Point-of-Work? (knowledge bases, policy stashes, M&Ps, SOPs, etc.)
  • Technology/Systems – What systems are used? What personal devices? Collaboration options? (repositories for content, training, day-to-day work, etc.)
  • Analytics/Impact – What is measured to track performance and why…how? What’s not measured that should be?
  • Environment – What else affects performance? (risk/urgency to perform. regulatory, org design, competition, product/service mix, culture, etc.)

The Ecosystem Performance Attributes shown below in Figure 3 are generated through an alignment phase completed with leadership and prior to interviews, focus groups and/or surveys to capture verbatim responses. Some attributes will be common to any industry; however, front-end alignment may reveal some that are unique.


Figure 3

Discovery Questions are also defined during the alignment phase. See a short sample in Figure 4.

Figure 4

Worksheet sample in Figure 5 shown below is used to capture verbatim interview responses; root cause(s); and apply critical business issue (CBI) ranking to support prioritization; all prior to serving as a collaborative tool to determine best fit options for a blend of performance support and learning assets. Consider this step as forming a high-level design document that blends performance support assets with learning assets.

LPA Responses Worksheet

Responses Worksheet

Figure 5

Solutions Road Map sample in Figure 6 keys on Performance Support and the logistical role it plays in the blended solution. Consider this as a strawman, detailed design document for performance support.

LP Solutions Road Map

Figure 6

Systems/Technology Footprint sample shown below in Figure 7 represents an inventory utilized by role in the target work groups being assessed. This sample only shows Enterprise & Collaboration platforms.

Technology Footprint

Systems/Technology Footprint Inventory

Figure 7

Impact/Analytics sample below in Figure 8 shows a partial section of a Measurement Plan partially completed during the alignment phase and then completed as discovery confirms valid KPIs necessary to show evidence of measurable business impact at levels 3 & 4.

Measurement Plan

Impact/Analytics Measurement Plan

Figure 8

Why Bother With PoWA?

The PWA is the first step in something else I’ve developed in self-defense called DRIVER. Unlike a workflow or a project-based process, DRIVER is a Point-of-Work Solution Discipline and the link takes you to another post that goes into more detail if you care to check it out.

Maybe my past exposure and training as a Workforce Performance Strategist has skewed my thinking, but after over thirty years in the corporate L&D business, I’ve seen my own failures collect upon merely delivering training solutions. Not failures from poor product output or ineffective application of training classes/courses, but rather from not sustaining workforce performance at Point-of-Work.

If my teams or yours are supposed to drive workforce performance, we cannot stop at the 5% slice of the ecosystem and continue to produce top notch POTENTIAL. Period.

If we want sustainable performance at Point-of-Work we need to dive into the other 95% and assess what’s working, what’s not, and why…across those six categories of performance attributes.

The PWA is the first part of the DRIVER discipline (the “D”, the “R”, and flirts with the “E”) where you can use your own design/development methods like 70:20:10 or Five Moments of Need or whatever agile, homegrown methodology you choose for the “I, the V’ and the final “R”.

DRIVER is not rocket science and it does not suggest tossing what skills you already have and use, but it does give you a new lens…a more holistic ecosystem lens…to look through when a paradigm-blinded training request lands in your lap. DRIVER become even more critical when a new enterprise technology walks into the room and demands training a boatload of users who will not remember half of what you train them on after the fire hose is cut off. Seriously…been there…done that.

Closing Thoughts

I know…I know…I’ve covered some of the same ground in this post, but there is a method to my madness. Since my 4th instance of being down-sized in a combination of one Chapter 11 and three Reductions-in-Force, I’ve hung up my corporate L&D spurs and have joined the “gig economy” to pursue what I believe is a future coaching niche that needs pursued…now. New DPS technology about to go live is my motivation and source of momentum to prepare those who have an interest.

To that end, I’ve developed an executive level presentation to position compelling context around why Point-of-Work truly is our new ground zero for sustaining workforce performance. The presentation is not a DPS sales pitch; rather, it is a call-to-action to define Current State of Readiness via the repeatable PWA tool that is relevant for simple training requests to enterprise-wide initiatives and new technology implementations. What you choose to do after defining the degree of readiness may well fit into my new gig focused on coaching and training L&D teams to use the DRIVER discipline and PWA methodology.

I welcome deeper discussion and questions should this opportunity sound like a viable option.

As always, thanks for reading, and take good care!


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