POINT-of-WORK: A Discipline That Evolves the Scope of Training

Training? Are we Training or are we Learning & Development (L&D)? Depends who you ask. To our operational stakeholders we are referred to most often as “Training” not as “L&D”. Why? Mainly because of the long-held beliefs that “Training Drives Performance”. If an operational leader perceives a performance shortfall, “Call Training!” because that’s what we do. But what if the performance deficiency is not exclusively a knowledge or skills gap? Methinks L&D should STILL get the call…AND the request for training should be met with “Sure we can help with that…but let’s dig into WHY you need training so we can ensure the training solutions we build are effective within your team and a good use of your money and time.” Then evolve and go Ninja…

I submit to you that we (L&D) need to shift thinking within the ranks of our stakeholders (and ourselves) to enable a different conversation. I’m not suggesting we back off Training; rather, I’m suggesting we confirm what restrainers behind the performance deficiencies are going to be resolved by Training. I firmly believe L&D’s role should be to confirm what knowledge and skills are appropriate to include in a solution and what performance restrainers are present that do not. We need the ability to do both. Does L&D own Process Improvement challenges…or access rights to critical resources…or missing online apps…or…or…or? No, but I believe we should play a liaison role to facilitate hand-offs in a collaborative solution role with the business partners who do own those kinds of interventions. (See Figure 1)

Figure 1

The pie chart you see above is actual output from a Point-of-Work Assessment (PWA) from a manufacturing firm that originated from a request to “upgrade the Marketing curriculum”. Knowledge and skills fall squarely within the PEOPLE/CAPABILITY cluster of learning performance restrainers. However…so do leadership effectiveness; cross-team/intra-team collaboration; role clarity; explicit performance expectations; and of course Talent Development among others. Notice that 20% is circled…and I did this live in front of the Sr. VP of Sales & Marketing (the requestor) on a single 8-1/2” x 11” PowerPoint slide…the summary of my PWA findings by restrainer categories.

As I drew the red circle I said, “Your Marketing curriculum resides in the PEOPLE/CAPABILITY cluster of attributes, but it is only a fraction of the restrainers in that category…probably less than 10%. Plus, we have bigger challenges that fall outside of my scope as Director of Sales Training. Your biggest challenge obviously resides within existing WORKFLOWS & PROCESSES. Secondly, some on your team do not have access to critical CONTENT & RESOURCES and SYSTEMS/TECHNOLOGY for special Apps to optimize their output. Additionally, within PEOPLE/CAPABILITY you have issues with inter-team dependencies where delays are caused by the absence of role clarity and clearly defined performance expectations.

So…What do you see as first priority?”

His response was brief, “I want it all!”

I had just shifted his thinking and we had a different conversation.

“ALL” fell, in large part, outside the scope of L&D; as it should. BUT…how would those other business partners ever know they had skin in the game when they were not even on the playing field? Somebody needed to accomplish a holistic assessment of the Point-of-Work to enable several things:

  • Ensure a Different Conversation is enabled with compelling evidence
  • Ensure a shift in thinking goes beyond the myth that training will solve all performance issues
  • Enable prioritization of where to begin now that it’s obvious “training” is not the sole solution

Why didn’t the Sr. VP of Sales & Marketing just call the Six Sigma team in the first place?

Because he was wrapped around the axle of the Training Myth expecting performance to change and be sustained at world-class level by tweaking a broken curriculum. He did not know what he did not know. He did not know until he saw this pie chart and SHIFTED HIS THINKING to allow a DIFFERENT CONVERSATION. The PWA did not offer a solution…it facilitated a different conversation and a prioritized road map to an eventual blended solution.

What eventually came out of the PWA findings shaped a blended solution that included:

  • Six Sigma process improvement initiative
  • Development of a Leadership Academy using OD and HR Training resources
  • 3rd Party Attitudes & Values Survey of the entire Marketing team
  • 3rd Party Training shaped by the results of the A&V survey
  • …and yes…some tweaks to the curriculum

Was my L&D team deprived of our work responsibilities? No! In fact, we supported the Six Sigma solutions with supplemental training for modified processes. We assisted the OD folks in HR with development of the Leadership Academy…NEITHER of which were interventions even on the requestors radar when he made the initial request.


  • From product inception (idea) through product launch the cycle time went from 26 weeks to 16. What were 10 additional weeks of selling time worth to a manufacturing firm?
  • L&D’s impact was shared, but by staying on top of the initiative we had clear visibility to level 3 and level 4 measures that pointed to our impact to the bottom line.
  • We were locked in as a viable business partner and received “the first call” status going forward…but not for training, but for recommendations on “What should we do?”
  • The Sales Training function was owned by Sales & Marketing…not HR.

Enabling Convergence & Outcomes

The concept of WORKFLOW LEARNING is getting a lot of airplay these days and rightly so; it is evidence L&D is headed in the right direction. (See Figure 2) Personally, I feel like WORKFLOW PERFORMANCE represents the ultimate brass ring and find myself stipulating that WORKFLOW LEARNING becomes a viable by-product of optimizing WORKFLOW PERFORMANCE at Point-of-Work. I mean no disrespect for those championing learning in the workflow and only blame my bias on being a performance consultant at my core. Performance outcomes are the endgame; always. Performance should also be the “head game” in L&D; it already is the head game on the operational side of the organization. Our job is to shift the thinking in that head game to performance in the workflow versus what kind of training is needed. There will be a time and place for that to be discussed once the Point-of-Work has been assessed and training opportunities are identified…and we are in prime position to initiate that different conversation.

Figure 2

If our results Accelerate Productivity, we enable Agility and Responsiveness in the workforce and those results create observable shifts/changes in behavior. (Level 3 evaluation) And if we change behaviors the hard dollar value impacts are sure to follow. (Level 4 evaluation)

Our key, at least to this camper, is to facilitate CONVERGENCE of OPTIMIZED opportunities to learn while in the workflow by assessing the RESTRAINERS present at the Point-of-Work that manifest as Moments of Need. Those “moments” point to Intentional Design using methodologies like 5 Moments of Need. In that regard, assessing WORKFLOW PERFORMANCE enables OPTIMIZATION of the assets critical for embedding into WORKFLOW LEARNING.

Closing Thoughts

I expect my thoughts on WORKFLOW PERFORMANCE may be taken as contrary to WORKFLOW LEARNING by thought-leaders I follow and respect…but…like I said earlier, this is about facilitating a “different conversation” and we need to have a different “head game” in L&D as well as with our operational stakeholders. If I’m going to have a different conversation with someone compensated upon measurable performance outcomes that manifest in the workflow, I am going to speak their language. That’s the basis of my argument – WORKFLOW LEARNING is “L&D SPEAK” and it’s not wrong…AND…it should not grace the ears of our stakeholders. Our solutions should be positioned and designed to accelerate and sustain productivity to generate measurable WORKFLOW PERFORMANCE outcomes.

If WORKFLOW LEARNING happens…AWESOME…a positive by-product that L&D can claim. I wonder though if those successes are enough to avoid being viewed and treated as a cost center? Asking for a friend…who’s been Reduced-in-Force three times in the last seven years…for being part of a L&D team that was deemed as an opportunity to save on expenses.

Thanks for hanging in on this read. As always, I welcome thoughts, ideas, and comments as you are so moved.

Take good care!


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