POINT-OF-WORK: Strategic Approach to Sustaining Tactical Performance Success

For the purposes of this post, the key words in this title are “Performance Success”. Certainly a strategic approach needs well-developed objectives accompanied by cohesive and flexible tactical plans to execute effectively. There are four CHANGE stages to this mission:

  • Deployment GoLive of whatever is going live…new tech, process, product, policy, etc.
  • Implementation – Moment of Need Support of Post-GoLive to ensure we StayLive
  • Adoption – Routinization of Workflow applications to ensure we OptimizeLive
  • Sustainment – Established change & maintenance protocols to ensure RetainLive

A successful and sustainable strategic approach requires Change Leadership and optimization across all four stages. The mission for L&D carries a primary objective not too dissimilar to that of “eating an elephant”; a daunting proposition to say the least. The “elephant” I’m referring to here is “Optimization of a dynamic learning performance ecosystem”. This represents the Tactical aspects critical to successfully impacting and sustaining workforce capability at numerous Points-of-Work. The key point here is “Training solutions are not enough!” and plays into perpetuating the myth that Training Drives Performance when in fact, it only enables potential. Want to transfer results and track measurable impact…go to Point-of-Work where performance really happens…or not.

The most common question I hear is “Where do we start?”

Yes, you could eat an entire elephant or optimize a dynamic ecosystem, but in either scenario the tactical approach requires a “one bite at a time” game plan. And by the way, every organization has a dynamic learning performance ecosystem in place today…rarely do I find any elephants. The question that matters most is simply “How optimized is it?”

Where do you take the first bite?

What is the source for prioritizing the first bite…the first project? There are many questions whose answers can define that first bite…here are six root questions to consider:

  • What environmental and cultural influencers are potential success factors?
  • What functional roles, knowledge, and skills are required to execute effectively?
  • What Workflows and processes carry implied change and/or must be created new?
  • What Workflow accessible content assets, information and resources are required?
  • What systems & technologies best enable and/or accelerate Workflow productivity?
  • What measures and analytics reveal solid evidence of Workflow productivity & success?

All of these questions are directly influenced by and should be hard-wired with the ultimate strategic objective. The Science of Improvement developed by Associates in Process Improvement where Edward Deming calls the strategic objective the “AIM”. The Intermediate Improvement Science Series (I2S2) used in healthcare at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center carries it a step further and references a “Global AIM” with smaller AIMs that are linked and contribute to the global AIM. The Global AIM, in this case and regardless of business discipline, gives us a short statement of objective – “Eat the Elephant”.

If our “elephant” is optimizing our dynamic learning performance ecosystem, the strategic GPS we rely upon for direction points to multiple tactical road maps and must have a point of origin accurately defined that reflects “current state” specific to the AIMs we seek to accomplish…both Global and contributory AIMs. Figure 1 shows a Business Driver Performance Road Map based upon the following the principles of Point-of-Work Assessment (PWA) and integrated with strategic and operational AIM concepts.

PWA Performance Road Map

Figure 1

Current State of WHAT?

current state of WHATEVER motivated the AIM(s) in the first place…motivated by recognition that something is NOT happening, and we (L&D) must discover WHAT & WHY. This discovery methodology points back to those six core questions shared earlier. Establishing “current state” across those six question clusters reveal performance restrainer attributes and serve as source answers critical to programming the point of origin for the strategic GPS to prioritize our tactical execution road map…and our first bite(s).

WHERE do we find these answers?

…where do you attempt to eat an elephant? At the elephant of course…at the point of the meal…at the POINTS-OF-WORK embedded across the dynamic learning performance ecosystem. Too many L&D teams begin work on AIMs based wholly upon the second key question…

  • What functional roles, knowledge and skills are required?

This starting point is fine if Training is the only solution. I agree deficient knowledge and skills contribute to optimized performance outcomes in the Workflow…whatever the “Workflow” may be…blue collar…white collar Workflows…it matters not.

What do we do when the solution falls out of scope for L&D? Maybe we increase our scope…OR…Maybe we assume an expanded liaison role to collaborate with those other entities within the organization who have the scope and skills necessary to execute…like:

  • Six Sigma for process improvement
  • HR for OD interventions
  • IT for technology enhancements

You may ask, “Why weren’t they involved in the first place?” Good question whose answer is wrapped around the axle of the myth…Training Drives Performance. Why bother looking for a process improvement solution if the order for training is seen as the solution for deficient performance? Sadly, this happens every day.

What if the larger deficiencies fall within the other five question categories and are not identified in a L&D Training Needs Assessment? The results are incomplete current state GPS coordinates for our point of origin necessary for building a holistic solution road map. We wind up mapping within the L&D silo and for only part of the solution journey to the desired AIMs. That’s not enough to sustain workforce capability and L&D is in the best place organizationally to open up solution options beyond routine training.

The lowest common denominator simply becomes POINT-OF-WORK – regardless of business discipline, or business function, or operational challenge, or change initiative, or technology integration…or…or…or.

A Point-of-Work Assessment (PWA) methodology is a holistic DISCOVERY approach that contributes to AIM development and prioritization planning based on holistic discovery across the six core question categories shown in Figure 2 below:

Figure 2

The PWA follows an iterative top-down cascade from Leadership to Individual Contributor in a task-centric, role-specific examination of how and why challenges across the six categories restrain performance outcomes. Solutions are identified in a bottom-up intentional design process to deliver holistic, agile, solution blends.  See Figure #3 below and refer back to the right side of Figure 1…

PWA Workflow

                                                                                                                    Figure 3

Our ultimate objective(s) focus on resolving the root cause(s) identified in the PWA. The solution set may require Training. It may also call for a process improvement intervention…and/or an OD intervention…and/or corporate communications intervention…and/or a new technology integration and/or…and/or….

Just looking at L&D’s role, the intervention may require converging learning opportunities within active Workflows and within business applications…called Workflow Learning.

Adopting Workflow Learning practices dramatically change several things:

  • Pre-solution design influenced by PWA findings
  • Promotes intentional design practices like Five Moments of Need
  • Facilitation and delivery tactics
  • Technology integration into Workflows well beyond LMS limits
  • Success metrics and analytics sources to measure business impact

Those components define our L&D elephant. Our GPS needs to be optimized with a viable, repeatable road mapping capability if we hope to contribute to sustained workforce performance within our organizations. We must be able to liaise with other functional roles outside of our L&D silo.

Closing Thoughts

I know I’ve been harping on the Point-of-Work concept for a couple of years now, but I’m no less convinced of the validity of the PWA. What I’m going on about is not rocket science. Being a performance consultant made it easier for me to adopt the concepts. In fact, I see performance consultants or business strategist as core roles/skill sets that should be in every L&D organization. Call the role whatever suits, but at the core are the skills necessary to accomplish holistic discovery in the operational side of the business…at multiple Points-of-Work.

As always, I welcome conversation with any of you having questions or seek additional clarification.

Take good care…and stay safe!


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