PERFORMANCE SUPPORT: Is Devolution in Training Blocking Evolution in Performance?

Have you ever had an epiphany drop squarely into your lap? I just had it happen this morning. On May 31st I posted a piece on Deployment Vs. Implementation: Is There a Difference? On June 1st I fired off another post PERFORMANCE SUPPORT: Running the Entire Race. I’m sharing those two posts with you now because the epiphany that was flung upon me this morning (June 3rd) ties them both together. The epiphany is based on the concept of why…with all the evolution we are making in outstanding learning methodology we still are not ensuring sustained human performance AND sustainability. Today’s post has what this camper feels is an exciting answer to the race we are all in – to achieve competency as quickly as possible.

Under the influence of nicotine from a Honduran cigar and caffeine from way too much Starbucks, I was enjoying an amazing eBook by Michael C. Grumley, “Catalyst: A Breakthrough Story”, the third book of a three-book series, when a question…“Are we devolving or evolving?” voiced in the story struck me like a bolt of lightning. I missed the rest of the chapter as a result. What follows is the story line that bubbled up in my brain.

The “Deployment…” post I mentioned above describes the four phases any launch of “anything”…be it as small as a training course or as large as an enterprise-wide system. They all must go through the same four phases to reach sustainability…from Deploy to Implement to Adopt to Sustain. The “Running the Race” post parallels the role Training plays with that of running a relay race. This morning’s epiphany connected the dots. So…now I’m pumped with excitement, and I hope it comes across in this post today.

The Devolution of Training

That sub-heading almost sounds like a huge negative when you consider the amazing advances we’re making in the delivery of learning through Training; micro-learning, gamification, mobilizing learning, blends of all flavors, etc. We are evolving rapidly in our ability to produce training content. LMSs are getting smarter, Learning Experience Systems – LESs are making learning more social and collaborative. All this evolution prompts me to ask a few questions:

“Are we being distracted from the brass ring of sustained workforce performance at Point-of-Work by these evolutions in Training?”

“Are we too busy admiring our own success at Training and missing the fact that there’s more that must be done to achieve sustainability…every time and with everything we build?”

“Are we devolving from what L&D really needs to embrace as we evolve on only the first leg of the sustainability race?

Here’s my point…and have written about this many times before – Training does not drive performance, it enables potential. Nothing happens in terms of value creation or sustained business performance outcomes until the workforce arrives at Point-of-Work and actually DOES something…correctly…and consistently. Training that enables potential is critical in the race to competency; no argument there. BUT…even the best training is but part of a longer race. Training represents only the first leg of a 4-phased relay race.

Leg #1 – Deploy

We deploy training in whatever blends or innovations mentioned earlier. We transfer knowledge…and we can prove it…at Levels 1 & 2…assuming there are some sort of end-of-training tests or demonstrations of proficiency. And we (L&D) do this very well. We make the hand off of the baton to the next phase – Implement – and whoever or whatever owns the next phase of the race. If the owner is the Help Desk, we have successfully perpetuated the short-comings of the Training paradigm by ignoring the job of supporting the implementation of the “learning” we’ve already, and with great pride,  documented as successful.

That’s not sustainable. Certainly, the Help Desk serves a critical role in implementation but why are they needed? Degradation of knowledge retention is the answer. Training was good. Level 1 evals prove it. Training was effective as proven by Level 2 evaluations. Level 3 evaluations have not proven anything because we have no means at this phase to even consider observable performance impact. None of the workforce has reached Point-of-Work yet. And when they do, how much will they remember?

No worries, we have the Help Desk…or can rely upon tribal knowledge from a peer…yikes…or knowledge bases like SharePoint with a boogered up taxonomy that prevents effective searches…or a harassing a busy supervisor to ask questions…or…or…or. All these options add distractions and delays to productive time, and most engage other resources, who by the way, are not free.

Yes, we’ve evolved Training, but we have devolved from Point-of-Work where real dollars are generated. Point-of-Work should be embedded within Training. THAT is the core of Intentional Design. Embedding Point-of-Work into Training is not just content insertion, but it is the inclusion of the technology that resides at Point-of-Work that runs across all four phases of the relay race to sustained workforce capabilityDigital Performance Support – DPS.

Leg #2 – Implement

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to be a part of an enterprise-wide system launch like SAP or Oracle or Workday or SalesForce or Epic…or whatever…you can recall the personal chaos you endure after GoLive. Not only are you trying to remember what little you were able to retain from the firehose treatment of everything-there-was- to-know-about-mostly-what-you’ll-never-use Training, your supporting IT department is fine-tuning the app while it’s live. Even attempted death by simulations can’t save what was once in your brain. Things change. Processes change. Workflows change. Simulations change. Training changes…oh but wait…you’ve already had training. Hello Help Desk. Not sustainable.

Too bad you did not have the benefit of learning about the performance requirements waiting on you at Point-of-Work via task-centric, role-specific scenario-based learning AND using the SAME technology that helps you use the enterprise system.  Wait a second, am I suggesting implementation begins during deployment? Why not? Why wait? Why not TRAIN the workforce on how to use the support assets they will use to accomplish their role by using the very Point-of-Work technology they will use when knowledge retention blows up memory along with productive time?

That Point-of-Work technology is again DPS, and it is now supporting implementation by providing contextual performance support assets at the moment of need…right in the workflow…and right inside the enterprise application.

Leg #3 – Adoption

In some circles you could equate full adoption as reaching competency. I’m cool with that, and it has everything to do with doing the work automagically…where the workforce does not have spend conscious time remembering what parts of which system is used to execute a task. Reaching the fourth level of competency is what we’re after – no longer having to think about what we know – we just do it. It’s like sending an email. Do any of us, now that we’ve adopted Outlook as our email platform, have to stop and think about how to send an email? No, it’s become part of our unconscious competency.

What we’re striving for with full adoption is to get there as fast as possible. Remember back to how you learned to ride a bicycle. I’m not sure I remember training wheels, but I know my kids had them as they learned to balance and ride. Performance Support is like training wheels. As you approach full adoption, the use of the training wheels of performance support are no longer needed. So, does this mean performance support and the DPS technology deliver us a one-trick pony? Far from it.

Adoption does not simply happen once. It is continual as systems change, and update, and upgrade, and patch, and new products come forth, and new processes launch…and…and…and. Every time one of these disruptions to the workflow take place, what do we do? More training? Many of us do because we have no other choice. DPS can “push” new learning into the workflow without yanking people off-task for more training. The speed to full adoption…speed to impact…speed to competency or whatever you want to call it is shortened dramatically.

Leg #4 – Sustain

Do you recall what I mentioned about changes and updates? Compound the energy spent maintaining currency of your content when it is scattered across SharePoint, the LMS, specialized knowledge bases, and who knows how many other servers. Are any of those assets duplicates? I’ll wager there are some because we always had this problem. If a critical policy document was updated, we had to update training assets…job aids…simulations…presentation decks…performance support assets…text documents in Word…Help Desk support documents…and…and…and. This scenario was/is not sustainable either.

Enter DPS with assignable, distributed authoringsingle-source documentationversion control…and a powerful content management system. Imagine the time saved by making a single update from one master document and every child document downstream using that content is updated automagically. Obviously, this magic is not automatic without evolved content management protocols, but without the presence of DPS why would it be necessary? That’s not a viable excuse, nor is it sustainable.

Back to the Epiphany

Many of my Performance Support colleagues and I have lamented over and struggled to find why the adoption of performance support technology has been so difficult. Having been in the L&D discipline for over 30 years, I can see why, and it’s not a failure of L&D. It’s a failure of the Training paradigm in which we’ve devolved as we have evolved. We are walled in by the myth that Training drives performance… and we have successfully evolved deeper within the walls of that paradigm to innovate and improve our learning solutions. Sadly, that evolution has given rise to a devolution of the ultimate strategic business objective of enabling sustained capability and workforce performance at Point-of-Work.

As I stated in an earlier post…We have the knowledge. We have the technology. But we do not have the wisdom…missing is the wisdom that exists beyond the limits of our devolved Training paradigm. If we can evolve the existing paradigm to NOT stop at the first leg of the race to competency and embrace DPS technology that bridges all four legs of the relay race we will be capable of addressing the entirety of our dynamic learning performance ecosystem edge-to-edge. Methinks that’s evolutionary.

Thanks for reading and take good care!

Be sure to check out the new LinkedIn Group I launched earlier last week. Great place to share thoughts knowledge and ideas – POINT-of-WORK Performance Support Solutions.


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