Summary 16/02/2012 – Are you supporting performance?

Our chat on February 16th was about what performance support means in practice, and how we as learning professionals can position and skill ourselves to provide that support.  I found this to be a particularly interesting topic, because I constantly feel the need to move more in the direction of performance support, and making tools available & easily accessible for my “audience” of sales representatives.  It was a lively discussion, and we all appreciate your contributions as we try to take learning forward!

Q1) How do you provide relevant performance support that goes beyond traditional or formal learning?

There appeared to be a consensus that we need to get ourselves and the support tools we create involved in the business, truly embedded in the processes so that we are supporting performance on the job, in the real work rather than interrupting the work for an “intervention” that won’t be effective.  Charles Jennings (@charlesjennings) shared a particularly topical blog post describing the problem in detail.

Several people shared or liked the idea of connecting learners/workers in a community of similar needs/interests and mutual support, and then serving that community with informal support.  We don’t need to always make support tools from scratch, we can leverage existing tools and learners/workers who create their own tools.  Ideally, sharing these tools and connecting experts and novices in a community where they can access the support from within their workflow seemed to be the preference.  As always, we need to remember that the support needs to occur within the context of the work – as Charles mentioned when we start thinking of learning, we need to think of context first rather than content!

John Zurovchak (@jzurovchak) shared his process within a leadership development program of connecting novices and experts in a mentoring program.  He asserts that the key to making learning “stick” is using it – practice, practice, practice – and getting feedback on your performance.  My music teacher always said “practice makes permanent, not perfect;” feedback is key to this equation, and novices will need expert feedback.

Q2) How should the complexity of the situations that learners face influence our approach to performance support?

A couple of suggestions came out of this part of the discussion that I think we can all utilize to improve our support tools:

  • Make the task/process LESS complex before training or support, (thanks Mike Taylor (@tmiket) for being the first to mention that!)
  • Chunk it down– stages, steps, “small bites,” make the complex & difficult bits simpler
    • Get ppl to identify problems & create tools themselves
    • Relate new process/task to something learners already understand
    • Experts need less detail, can process larger “chunks”
    • Keep the support in context : replace training with performance support, embed the support in the work
    • Practice, feedback,practice, feedback, practice feedback!
      • Be accepting of failure & share lessons
      • Reassure people of their competence/give them confidence/help see successes

Q3) Do the learning tools in your org match the needs on-the-job? How could you improve this match?

Lots of ideas generated in response to this question, although we didn’t really come to a consensus – maybe we should have another discussion just about our role in improving the tools to needs match!

  • Reduce gap between tool & workflow – let on-the-job needs dictate the tools
  • Let workers find/develop/share own tools – community, “ask someone” :: our role is to connect people, create supportive learning “ecosystem”
    • Concern about quality of tools :: our expertise is in creating useful tools, translating complexity to manageable chunks
    • Make tools that reflect current problems – keep up to date
    • Consolidate “learning” tools & “support” tools  – part of comprehensive strategy, not as afterthought
    • Look more at performance outcomes than learning outcomes

Q4) How do we provide performance support beyond the needs we can predict?

This was a hot topic as well, lots of a ideas flying around!  Many of them were pretty high-level, and I think worth another discussion as well to get some more actionable plans.

  • Infrastructure to support the learning/support “ecosystem” (we need a discussion about how to do this)
  • Monitor/observe the people doing the work,
    • Need analytics – workflow, change requests, evaluation
    • Get involved in the business – understand future of the business, see when things are changing
    • Open lines of communication
    • Find out what the needs are as they crop up – need a good system for this
    • Agility/flexibility – reduce response time for new needs, but don’t panic – think it through
      • Don’t use a “hammer” for everything! Be “Home Depot” not the hammer 😉
      • Get better at predicting – “big data”

QWrap) Chatting is great, but reflection & action are better. What is your ˜take-away’ from our chat?

@alc47 My takeaway is the importance of helping people feel safe and confident in learning
@LnDDave If we thought in terms of ‘Performance Support’ instead of ‘Training’, we’d be much more effective in our roles.
@FlashbulbJason That Learning and Design should be outcome-focused and not necessarily learning focused
@Melissa_Venable Find opportunities to make helpful connections: learners/resources, experts/novices, tools/support #homedepot
@pattishank Orgs often don’t understand performance support so it gets less “support” than trng. Sigh.
@OpenSesame Takeaway: L&D needs to focus on integration.
@owenferguson Change online is fast, change in orgs is slow. We’ve got a way to go before we can provide true performance support.
@FlashbulbJason and that plumber image will probably stick in my head. Issues are solved by keeping pipes (of communication) moving
@JudithELS Start with what people need to do in the workplace/their jobs & provide them with the performance support they want.
@olliegardener want to tackle the presumption that we can break up & simplify & deliver everything. Some serious flaws in that logic
@pattishank Another takeaway is how disconnected we are. This HAS to stop.
@ExpertusONE Just dawned on me that “plumber” &   “disconnect” metaphors converge, in a helpful or UNhelpful way.   Colorful blog potential

Have any of you followed up on your take-aways?

Thanks for a great discussion & hope to see you next time as we talk about measurement March 1st 16.00GMT/11.00EST


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