PERFORMANCE SUPPORT:  Running the Entire Race

Many years and as many pounds ago I remember tensing in my crouch anticipating the starter’s gun, so I could explode out of the blocks and sprint for 100 meters as part of the 400-meter relay team. I’d always had an amazing start but had a bad habit of not finishing as strong as I started. I can still hear coach McVey yelling at me, “Wise, why don’t you try running the whole leg of the race!” This little memory is very appropriately aligned in my profession these years later when I think about the role Training is playing in the race toward enabling sustained workforce performance. Unfortunately, Training is only good for coming out of the blocks fast and blazing for about 100 meters. What about the rest of the race? What are we running to…or from?


The finish line, at the end of 400 meters, represents full adoption and/or competent performance and/or whatever level of outcomes represent a successful race to competitive sustainability for the organization. Training is not a failure by only blasting out of the blocks and producing potential on the first leg of a much longer race. That’s all Training is scoped to accomplish – a quick start on a longer race. The remaining 300 meters to sustainability is a function of post-training performance support from various sources and often different technologies. That’s not in Training’s job scope…or skill set…in the current paradigm. And that’s a problem.

In the comparison to a 400-meter relay race, Training does not fail. Training delivers a quality product for 25% of the race and makes a successful hand off to…ummm…the Help Desk? This is not a sustainable solution. Training doesn’t fail…the expectations of what training can deliver fails, and that’s because expectations are not aligned with the entire scope of the race. This is a misdiagnosis of how to sustain a dynamic learning performance ecosystem. Training is critical…and always will be…but serves only part of a longer race. That’s a paradigm failure; not a failure of L&D.

If we equate knowledge retention with endurance it’s easy to see that the longer the race to the finish line, the more likely endurance wanes. That’s precisely why there are four runners blazing full tilt for 100 meters each. No one runner can sprint the full 400 meters at the same speed as the first 100. The race to competency is identical in that knowledge retention upon the completion of training remains as fresh and accessible in the heads and hearts of users for only a short burst of time.

The is an expectation of training that is false. There is a related expectation of users that they will remember what they learned long enough to apply it competently at Point-of-Work. Keep in mind Point-of-Work is NOT the finish line; it is where competency is built over time and experience. The race we need to run is in the post-training leg where we’ve intentionally design assets to fill the gaps left by knowledge retention. Accessing those assets at Point-of-Work and moment of need are key hand off points in the race to competency.

The Rest of the Race

Those hand offs are where Digital Performance Support – DPS technology performs during the rest of the race. But there’s more than just filling knowledge gaps at the right moment. That said, the design of the entire race is impacted by adopting leading DPS technology. Here’s another example…

Last weekend we watched the Indianapolis 500, and along the top edge of the grandstands were a group of people called “spotters” who represented each racing team. By radio, their jobs are to communicate track conditions and recommend what the drivers should do when there is a crash or debris on the track, etc. My point is there needs to be visibility of an issue before they can recommend adjustments.

DPS, through on-board analytics, can monitor performance support utilization that flags excessive usage patterns. DPS “spots” an anomaly on the use of any asset used to support performance. It does not say why it was accessed…but it does flag what rock to look under to determine the root cause. Try squeezing that out of your LMS.

DPS, through distributed authoring, can support collaborative creation of step-level workflow details that serve as user instruction at Point-of-Work…which by the way is also delivered INSIDE of the business application versus exiting for an external search. Tag team with IT during their test script documentation and validation drill and their efforts just mapped your training for you…only needing the polish of a few annotations to consider it ready for training. Could Training make use of 80-90% development time savings?

DPS, through single-source documentation, can produce multiple document output types from a single capture. That’s cool…but it gets better. Single-source documentation coupled with a powerful publishing and onboard content management engine enable a single point of update and maintenance. Imagine making a single edit and downstream training assets, performance support assets, simulation assets, presentation decks, and more are all updated automagically.

DPS, through contextual asset delivery, can address moments of need where memory fails within a process flow with instructions that are specific the WHERE the user is in that process flow. No need to search…it’s contextual…synchronized by WHERE the user is and WHAT ROLE the user has been assigned. No need to exit a live application session to dive into SharePoint and search…never to be heard from again.

DPS, through being system agnostic, enables multiple disparate systems to be covered in a single process flow. Better yet, DPS does need to be limited to any “system” when you consider a workflow based on using Excel can be covered as well. The beauty of being system agnostic enables you to start small and then scale across the ecosystem and supporting additional systems, even new systems launched after DPS has been in place for a while.

Are you getting the sense that we are impacting the whole race with a single technology?

I’ve been in the L&D business for over thirty years. Up until Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS) and now the shift to cloud-resident, SaaS-based Digital Performance Support – DPS hit the market, the only technology that mattered was the LMS. My world was blinded by the paradigm that training and this amazing LMS technology was the answer to driving performance. That was my blind-spot. Now we have the knowledge. Now we have the technology. My concern is we don’t have the wisdom to connect the dots that define a dynamic learning performance ecosystem. L&D cannot survive when we’re only good for a 100-meter sprint in a much longer race.

Thanks for reading!

Before I forget, be sure to check out the new LinkedIn Group I launched earlier this week
POINT-of-WORK Performance Support Solutions where we can share ideas and knowledge about our respective journeys…err…races.


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