POINT-of-WORK:   Step Away from the Stone

A recent post on LinkedIn tripped my trigger this morning, and despite the urge to rant, I will try to be gentle. No guarantees. The question posted asked for advice for someone new coming into Learning & Development (L&D). Here is what percolated into this savory reply, and I should add, this reply is not just for a newbie, but for incumbents and leadership as well. My advice is this, “Step away from the stone. Stop pushing until you confirm it’s the right thing to do.” Here’s why…

In my thirty plus years in the learning discipline I have pushed many stones up many hills. Most of those stones were well-intended training requests. As a good little, obedient, responsive, training manager I turned my team loose on a design and development project. Fire up the Articulate, baby, let’s rock!

Too may times we “pushed the rock” to the point of deployment either as eLearning, or classroom, or virtual something or other. Too many times it was outstanding design and sizzling development of a top-drawer product that did NOT move or sustain performance. Why? We pushed without perspective. We pushed without knowing a few critical factors that may have eliminated “pushing the stone” or at least “that stone” had we DISCOVERED a few things up front…Like:

  • Why are we pushing THIS stone?
  • Who made the request…and do they know why we need to push this stone?
  • Would a smaller stone be sufficient?
  • How do we know this is the right stone?
  • Why THIS hill?
  • Why push a freaking stone when a small bag of gravel could be a better solution?

Maybe we should step away from the stone and leave the damn thing at base camp and hike up to the summit (Point-of-Work) and validate the effort and protect valuable design and development resources from building something that will drop like a rock in terms of effectiveness.

Sorry, being a little tongue-in-cheek here but am busy fighting off a rant.

After pushing too many stones up too many hills only to miss too many performance optimization opportunities I took performance consulting skills and designed the Point-of-Work Assessment (PWA) and stopped pushing before gaining perspective. The intent of the PWA is simply to accomplish discovery of performance-restraining PRE-DESIGN requirements found at the top of the hill where the workforce is engaged in workflows and processes before verifying “the stone” as being the right one…and we were on the right Hill…and what else besides a stone might work better. In fact, I must point back to an earlier infographic download and a post called the “7-Right Things” that are more valid than ever when striving for INTENTIONAL DESIGN.”

My point is this…it is near impossible to be fully INTENTIONAL with your solution design without knowing and addressing these 7-Right Things in the context of what is happening in the workflow at the top of the hill before pushing a stone to the top. My advice is to step away from the stone…at least for enough time to validate that a solid push is needed.

My stakeholders knew they could ask me for training. They knew I would answer the same way every time:

“Sure, we can help you with that.”

“But let me ask a few questions first to ensure what we build is going to deliver the results you want.”

“Please sponsor me with your team to ask some questions about their workflows and challenges.”

That is where the PWA fits…top-down discovery with bottom-up validation that tells us and the stakeholder which stone needs pushing and which hill to attack. If they do not respond in the affirmative, shake the dust off your sandals and do it anyway. That is called covert consulting and often the only way to crush a blind spot with blinding truth.

Okay…I do not think that was a rant but there was a degree of momentum I cannot avoid.

Thanks for reading, and as always, I welcome comments if you wish to share.

Take good care!


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