Who Owns POINT-of-WORK?

Possibly a more relevant question is “Who owns profitability?” Certainly, we could answer everyone in the organization owns profitability, and that’s true, though some functions more directly than others. The whole concept of Point-of-Work seems to imply a place where work is accomplished. In part, I agree, however Point-of-Work is more of a discipline than a destination. It is a focused mindset on building sustained workforce capability and accelerating productivity that produces measurable business outcomes and value. Is that responsibility owned by L&D or the operational side of the business?

With “workflow learning” gaining a lot of airtime lately; countless LinkedIn articles; and respected thought-leader endorsements, one may think this is the new path to workforce sustainability. I believe the shift toward workflow learning is part of the solution, but only part. We (L&D) own a Learning Performance Continuum that spans from Point-of-Entry to the Point-of-Work; however, mastery seems mainly focused upon Point-of-Entry…which could also be referred to as “Point-of-Learning”. Does this focus imply ownership to Point-of-Work as well? It should…but are L&D resources equipped with the right discipline,  skills. methods, and technology to do so?

Here’s a thought to consider… After chasing this performance discipline for the last 12 years or so, I’ve come to the conclusion that Point-of-Work is jointly owned by L&D and the primary stakeholders positioned in functional operational roles in the organization. These are the stakeholders who own the responsibility to produce, protect, and maintain profitability and are compensated to do so successfully. Does L&D have that same degree of skin in the game? Too often L&D is only considered as a cost center. Impact at Point-of-Work tied to L&D contribution is sorely needed and Point-of-Work ownership would help bridge that gap from being an expense to a value contributor.

I suppose you could call it a collaborative ownership relationship among operational stakeholders and L&D. Are solutions coming out of L&D focused on “learning by learning” or “learning by doing”? Point-of-Work represents ground zero for learning by doing, and the assets designed by L&D should enable that outcome. That means intentionally designing learning performance solutions that are likely not exclusively training-related and likely not deliverable via training technology like the LMS/LXP.

Do knowledge workers learn by using performance support assets delivered by productivity acceleration technology at the moment of need? Absolutely, however the design of those assets should be based upon the performance attributes restraining productivity and not limited to meeting learning objectives. Were these attributes used to frame solution design? What technology will be used to deliver those assets at the moment of need, and in many cases, inside the actual applications being utilized in the workflow? How were those attributes defined and by whom?

The “by whom?” question becomes critically important. Obviously, business matter experts (BMEs) from the operational side of the business must be involved. Who knows the workflows, the performance restrainers, the affected knowledge workers, and key performance deficiencies any better? How do the performance restrainer attributes find their way into the hands of capable instructional designers? This transition from discovery-to-design represents a gap for some L&D organizations; not totally a skill gap, but more of a discipline gap.

Is There a New L&D Role?

Can an instructional designer build effective performance support assets? Certainly, if given a prioritized learning performance solution road map with recommendations based upon 7-Right Things (downloadable infographic) reflective of restrainers at specific Points-of-Work. I believe the ID role does not change as much as it evolves to include performance support that is intentionally designed for consumption at moment of need and deliverable at the Point-of-Work…AND…suitable for embedding within formal learning assets.

In my last Point-of-Work Assessment Workshop, the client established a liaison role called Performance Support Specialist. Her background was a hybrid of operational roles and L&D experience. Her new responsibility was to complete a Point-of-Work Assessment – PWA to collaboratively identify performance restrainers in a targeted business function and prioritize solution recommendations. What originated as a training request morphed into a road map recommendation that involved OD interventions, process improvement, content management protocols changing…and yes…some training.

Had the PWA not been completed a training solution undoubtably would’ve been delivered, but the results would’ve been short of the desired objective…and the training team would be on the short end of the stick. Been there…done that…and from those experiences the PWA was born.

Closing Thoughts

The question we need to address is who owns this liaison role? Is it L&D? Is it the Operational side of the house? Methinks ownership is not as important as a corporate-level commitment to adopt the discipline and methodology, create and equip the role, and embed the capability to address Point-of-Work. Does not really matter where it gets embedded….just that it does. Who is best equipped for this role? A few capabilities and skills should be considered as essential:

  • Solid business acumen and operations-savvy awareness
  • Consultative ability to question and listen actively
  • Knowledge of solution design & development/production options
  • Knowledge of performance support (productivity acceleration) delivery technology
  • Knowledge of impact measurement critical to enable evidence of impact at levels 3 & 4
  • Ability to liaise/collaborate among L&D design/dev resources and stakeholder teams
  • Provide oversight for incremental field tests of solution assets and feedback collection

That list above is perfect world, and personally, I believe L&D is the most capable…IF…the commitment is made to pursue and integrate learning as defined by performance requirements and deficiencies assessed at Point-of-Work. Is the Point-of-Work Solution Discipline limited to large L&D organizations? No! In fact, organizations who have no formal L&D function should consider this approach.

Do you need to have a formal Six Sigma team in place or a Lean process improvement group? Possibly if the organization is large enough to support those functions. However, small-to-medium-sized businesses are even more amenable to the Point-of-Work discipline. Why? Given limited resources, only limited time is available to design and develop solutions. That said, why waste precious time chasing an outdated training discipline when sustainable performance outcomes at Point-of-Work represent a far more desirable and profit-focused endgame?

Thanks for reading, and as always, if comments or ideas, please share. If questions or clarifications around the PWA Methodology and/or PWA Workshop surface, just ping me.

Take good care!

G.

Gary G. Wise
Workforce Performance Strategist, Coach
gary.wise@humanperformanceoutfitters.com
(317) 437-2555
Web: Living In Learning
@gdogwise
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