CEO for a Day…Epilogue

Friday afternoon I had one of those moments where “poking the bear” was top of mind. The thoughts that surfaced triggered a brief paragraph-sized post…launched around 2:00 PM ET on Friday…10,017 views as of noon Saturday and some great dialogue still underway. “Why poke the bear?” or maybe, “Who is the bear?” Funny thing, the bear is not a “who” as much as it is a “what”. The bear is a myth. that many organizations at the enterprise level must overcome…simply put, it’s a blind spot. The bear is a belief system we’ve adopted and perpetuate virtually every time the organization experiences a performance deficit. The belief/myth is that Training Drives Performance – it does not! Training contributes to POTENTIAL. Performance impact and measurable outcomes do not manifest until our workforce executes effectively and efficiently at Point-of-Work. The myth is limiting our ability to accelerate productivity at Point-of-Work.

Here’s the verbatim post from 2:00 PM ET Friday July 26:

 “If I had the opportunity to be a CEO for a day, I’d blow the doors off the existing Learning/Training paradigm and promote my CLO out from under the HR umbrella and align them as a direct report…a chief of staff kind of role…and change the title to Chief Productivity Officer. I mean really…are we in business to optimize learning…or accelerate workforce productivity at Points-of-Work where measurable performance outcomes drive business value? The paradigm shift not only needs to happen at tactical levels with methods and technology, it needs to be a strategic priority on the same level as profitability. With C-level heads and hearts committed to this singular transformational change initiative…imagine the positive disruptions. Just a thought to hurl you into the weekend. #productivityacceleration #pointofworkassessment #sustainableworkforceperformance

Logic Behind the Poke

Why CEO for a day? The CEO was the logical position with the power and authority to push over the first domino in a journey to overcome this myth…a transformational shift in thinking. I’ve often written about this subject as a “strategic re-think”, and that can only be affected with commitment, sponsorship and empowerment from the top. After many years of writing and speaking at countless conferences about this topic; receiving comments and feedback from the breakout sessions like “Best session of the conference so far” and yet nothing happens after the conference. Right message…wrong audience. Attendees ARE the right audience when I witness how hungry the rank and file of L&D are to enable and accelerate productivity with the solutions they build. They are simply not empowered, and the myth is in the way.

The organization needs a myth buster. Is that the CEO re-thinking where to focus precious resources to enable and accelerate productivity? Is it a new role like Chief Productivity Officer? Grand Poohbah of Performance? Regardless of what the title becomes, there is an acute need to look beyond Learning to actual Performance with focused attention and priority.

Workflow Learning is getting a lot of press these days, and that’s a good thing because it is bringing learning closer to Point-of-Work. BUT…it’s still wrapped in the myth. If my L&D mission is limited to enabling learning without a direct catalyst of specific performance at Point-of-Work and measurable evidence of impact as business outcomes, then we’ve not overcome the myth…we’ve just put more lipstick on it.

Re-Thinking the Target

The target cannot be limited to learning…it must be based upon performance…performance impacted by accelerated productivity at Point-of-Work. I’ll be the first to stipulate learning in the workflow takes place and it is a great benefit but will defend vigorously that that is not the endgame. We’re after bottom-line impact that only manifests at Point-of-Work. We want Workflow Performance…not just Learning.

We must assess the Point-of-Work to discover what attributes are affecting/restraining performance. Does your organization have a role dedicated to that effort? Do the skills exist to effectively assess Point-of-Work? How important is Point-of-Work? Here are a couple of thoughts to consider:

  • Point-of-Work is out of scope and not part of the L&D charter in any of the HR-led L&D org I’ve worked with for the last 12 years.
  • Point-of-Work is where hard-dollars (profitability) are at risk in the form of errors/mistakes, redundant efforts, material waste, delivery delays, poor service responsiveness, business liability…and…and…and.
  • Point-of-Work is beyond reach of the learning technology we rely upon…like the LMS…even the newest rage of Learning Experience Platforms still falls short of resolving critical moments of need inside workflows AND the embedded with the systems used for work. These tools are known as Productivity Acceleration Technology platforms and designed specifically for moments of need at Point-of-Work. Are these tech tools even on the radar?
  • Point-of-Work Assessment – PWA is beyond the Training Needs Assessments we rely upon to create training solutions. What if the solutions have nothing to do with knowledge and skills?
  • Point-of-Work is the only place where we can accelerate productivity within task-level workflows and processes within real-time moments of need.

Closing Thoughts

Point-of-Work is not a destination…it’s a discipline…it’s a transformational change for some organizations and a nudge for others. The discipline is actually a one-size-fits-all initiative; 50,000 employees or 200…it fits. It’s iterative, repeatable, and scalable.

Does adopting a Point-of-Work Solution Discipline change the org structure? It might. My last workshop was with a company who created a new role called Performance Support Specialist. Her job, while still in L&D, was to assess Point of-Work first and bring back findings to prioritize a recommendation road map for detailed solution design and development. Some of the findings had nothing to do with knowledge and skill deficits. Focusing exclusively on a training solution would’ve been a waste of time and resources. Had she not assessed Point-of-Work, those other priorities would have been missed and L&D would be left behind in…the myth…to defend why training did not drive performance as requested. That kind of outcome deserves a poke!

THAT is our bear. The myth is not sustainable. It needs poked, and the act of poking that bear needs senior-level, strategic re-thinking, commitment, and sponsorship with momentum and intent to blow the doors off the myth by simply moving beyond Learning as the endgame. I chose being a CEO for a day because bottom-up efforts to trigger transformational change are like pushing a rope, and I have several of those T-shirts in my closet already.

So, what are your next steps? I strongly suggest assessing your current state of readiness within your L&D function; whether a team of 200 or a couple of overwhelmed souls. Is there a new role to consider? A team? A team of one? An additional hat for an OD incumbent with some operational business savvy? Assess current state first because not even the best GPS can plot a journey without identifying the point of origin.

As for the new role…I must confess; Grand Poohbah of Performance has a nice ring to it…

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!


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