Friday, December 7, 2007

Performance Support to the Rescue

Delivering Greater Organizational Agility

Yogi Bera spoke prophetically when he declared, "The Future ain't what it used to be." No statement could be more descriptive of our situation today. We live in a global age where the "playing field has been ripped wide open and the recurrent need to reconfigure people and capabilities to serve an ever-changing market [requires]... individuals to embrace constant change and renewal in their careers." (Wikinomics, Don Tapscott, Anthony D. Williams. pp 15-16, emphasis added)

Our future, as learning professionals, has been permanently altered by this global "ever-changing" marketplace. And, it is rapidly being compounded by the nature of the rising workforce where N-Geners not only prefer but require full-out support of their disposition to learn informally --- at their moment of need.

Right now, we are experiencing the calm before the storm. But, the full impact of these and the other forces at play are rushing toward us at tsunami-speed. Ultimately this perfect storm will compel every organization to fully embrace learning practices that can provide the agility they need to rapidly "reconfigure people and capabilities." Without this capacity, survival in the global marketplace is absolutely threatened.

Our response must include turning our efforts to the informal learning going on in our organizations; broadening our work to include supporting learners at all their moments of need. (See our blog article "What is Performance Support" for elaboration on the Five Moments of Need.) If we ignore this clarion call, we do so at great peril to the organizations we serve. We must begin now building viable performance support practices as part of our overall contribution to learning. We can do this by:

  • Broadening the organizational view and valuation of Performance Support
  • Establishing a realistic informal learning strategy
  • Devoting resources to systematic implementation of that strategy
  • Altering our formal learning practices to facilitate integration of performance support into the work-lives of the people we serve

Broadening the Organizational View and Valuation of PS
One of the great challenges we seem to always have before us is directly linking what we do, as learning professionals, to the market success of the organization. Training and other support groups (technical documentation, support services, etc) have historically been viewed as overhead costs. For many in our profession, whenever the economic waters have become turbulent, the first folks thrown overboard are those not viewed as core to the financial survival of the enterprise. And, at such times, training generally takes a direct hit.

This increasing turbulent nature of global markets provides us a singular opportunity to step forward and provide organizations the capacity to be agile enough to meet this ever-changing market landscape. That's strategic value! To accomplish this we must do three things:

  1. Grow in our understanding of the factors driving this need for organizational agility.
  2. Develop the skills needed to lead change in this global age.
  3. Operationalize these skills as we communicate the value of supporting learners at their moment of need to management, learning and other support teams, and the rest of the enterprise.

Timothy R. Clark, has published, this month, a book titled Epic Change - How to Lead Change in the Global Economy. (See I recommend his book as a "must read" in helping you lead out in this crucial journey of change. In addition, Wikinomics (referenced earlier) can be most helpful in understanding the factors driving the present need for organizational agility.

Establishing a Realistic Informal Learning Strategy
Informal learning is every effort performers make to learn just what they need at their moment of need so they can perform effectively. This occurs primarily outside the formal learning environments of classrooms and the online curriculum housed within Learning Management Systems.

Behind this recommendation to improve the effectiveness of informal learning is the entire Performance Support practice. In response, Bob and I have developed a PERFORM model to guide organizations as they develop and implement a realistic (that is implementable) strategy.

Prepare the organization

Establish integrated process, task, and concept maps

Respond to the Five Moments of Need

Find the right PS tools

Operationalize your plan

Release the PS program

Measure and maintain

Clearly each of these areas calls for ongoing elaboration and collaboration. But to help you get started here, we recommend you consider the workshop Bob and I lead at the Masie Center coupled with spending time reviewing the resources listed at our Performance Support Wiki. (Pay special attention to Allison Rossett's book and set of slides:

Devoting Resources to Systematic Implementation of a PS Strategy
You won't make it very far down the path of Performance Support without devoting resources to implement, overtime, a workable strategy. This presents a great challenge. How can a learning group, with already limited resources, meet the current workload and at the same time design, build, and implement a PS strategy?

Of all the issues that merit our PS community investing effort commenting and collaborating, this one is prime. We invite you to join in and share your experiences. Meanwhile, we recommend a most helpful book written by Clayton Christensen : "The Innovators Dilemma" in which he provides relevant insight that can prove helpful. (See: .)

In addition, here are a couple of guiding principles:

  1. Don't run faster than you are able. Move forward a step at a time. Find high-yield opportunities to add value. Over time build a winning season. Ultimately the support for your Performance Support Solutions will reach a tipping point and become a core part of your organization's learning practice.
  2. Drive the development of curriculum for your formal learning solutions by first creating performance support resources. This effort can often supplant the development of course materials that have little to no use following training. Bob and I have found that doing this increases the instructional power of traditional ILT and at the same time helps solve the
    traditional depreciation of learning retention that occurs once a course ends.

Altering Formal Learning Practices to Facilitate Integration of PS
I grew up on a dairy farm. One of my duties in my childhood was teaching new born calves to drink milk from a bucket. This was a great training challenge because a calf, by nature, seeks milk upward not downward. So my job required me to straddle the neck of the calf, place the bucket in front of the calf, fill my cupped hand with some warm milk, and then while the calf is looking upward for milk, put a couple of fingers in the mouth of the calf and allow the milk in the cupped part to follow my fingers into the mouth of the calf. As I did this, I would use my left hand to gently nudge the head of the calf downward toward the bucket. If I pushed too hard, the calf would fight my effort to change its pursuit upward for its mother's milk. But as I repeated this practice, patiently over-time I could train a calf to drink milk in a manner different from its natural instincts.

Now, you may be asking yourself, "What does this have to do with Performance Support?" Here's my point: The N-Geners who are beginning to enter the workplace are bringing with them the disposition to drink from the Performance Support bucket. They have little interest in the formal learning methodologies that have become near and dear to their older work peers. But the existing workforce, for the most part has a different disposition. We can't just place the PS bucket in front of them and expect them to willingly and knowingly drink from it. We need to teach them how to take advantage of the Performance Support Solutions we develop. We need to help them be more efficient in their personal informal learning efforts. We need to help many of them learn how to be more independent in how they go about learning. We must do all of this to help them effectively embrace the constant change and renewal that is rapidly becoming part of their careers. We can accomplish much of this by altering our formal learning practices to include training learners how to independently use performance support solutions in the work-flow of their jobs.

We now live in a global age that confronts organizations with adaptive challenges that in scope and magnitude are unprecedented. The future really isn't what it used to be. And this future presents us, right now, the opportunity to profoundly help develop greater organizational agility. We can deliver strategic value beyond anything we have previously been able to do if we will but step forward and embrace the journey of Performance Support..

My Grandfather Henrie used to say, "A thing done, when thought of, needs no more attention." His performing at the "moment of need" approach to life served him well. It will serve us all as well. There has never been a better time to bring Performance Support out of the shadows of the past into today's formal and informal learning practices. Let's step-up and do it!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Learning from others

10 Myths of Performance Support

Con and I often encounter misunderstandings and myths about performance support. This isn’t surprising considering how confused our industry can readily become. We don’t need to drive down memory lane very far without finding compelling evidence of this fact – just think back on the early days of e-learning with its initial promise to replace ILT. So, I thought I’d use this entry to dispel a few of the current myths surrounding Performance Support. Please feel free to add, your comments to these myths or add others I’ve missed based on your experience. As always, we’d love to hear from you!

  1. “I’ve already purchased my PS” – Performance support, like many other misunderstood learning disciplines, is an approach and methodology not a technology or product. During my early years in eLearning I watched many organizations try to purchase their way into it. That didn’t work then, and it won’t work now. While there are tools to be purchased, no organization should journey into these performance support tools without first understanding the strategic, design, and implementation implications associated with this journey. Treating PS as a product is no more effective than assuming that purchasing courseware can guarantee us an effective ILT solution.

  2. “PS can replace Training” – This is such a frustrating myth. Why does our learning industry continually position new methodologies as a replacement to ILT? Performance Support cannot and should not replace formal training. In Conrad’s first blog entry on the definition of performance support he speaks to the journey through the five moments of need. Performance support without training is about as effective as training without performance support. The two combine and complement each other to form a complete solution that covers all five areas of need. Now with this said, an effective performance support strategy can clearly change the way we look at training, in many instances shorten it, and in some rare cases, replace it. But these changes are only warranted after an exhaustive look at the current training audience and intended outcomes.

  3. “I have a knowledge management tool so I already have PS” – There are two things that trouble me about this statement. The first is the use of the word tool. As was discussed in the first myth, a tool does not give you performance support. Performance support begins with an overarching methodology and strategy. Tools can then effectively follow. Secondly, knowledge management is a vital component of any mature performance support infrastructure, but it is just that – a component part. These knowledge management practices must include not only collecting and storing information, but publishing the information into the many forms needed to support performers in all five moments of need. Knowledge management must also facilitate ready maintenance of the content. This kind of a knowledge management system can play a powerful part to an overarching performance support strategy and framework. Your performance support initiatives should use knowledge management assets, as well as many other learning assets within your organization.

  4. “Informal Learning doesn't need structure. That's way we call if informal learning!” – One of the most dangerous aspects of informal learning is that much of it is inefficient and too often ineffective. Our goal should be to create an efficient, independent, and maintainable informal learning environment. We still want to allow the power and immediacy of informal learning to occur, but there is much we can do to enhance the informal experience and make it more effective. A performance support framework can do just that. It can help guide a learner through the informal domain. It can also help with the maintenance side of informal learning so the information encountered and shared is up to date and correct.

  5. “E-Learning is PS” – A large portion of eLearning, as it has been defined over the past 10 years, actually falls in the formal instruction category. Many of these learning initiatives live behind LMS’s forcing learners to first login, search a library, and then typically sit through a tutorial. This is formal instruction, not performance support. The just in time promise of the early 90s resulted in e-learning made available 24X7.. But, although e-learning was available, it was a long way from being as immediate as needed in a performance support environment. In addition, e-learning generally fails to focus only upon what a performer needs, tailored to his or her specific situation, and integrated into specific work processes – all crucial attributes of any performance support solution. I’m not suggesting that an effective Performance Support framework ignores e-learning. It needs to provide performers the option to dive as deep as they need into e-learning when the moment of need warrants it. But this is a far cry from assuming that e-learning behind the wall of an LMS is the answer to an organization’s performance support needs.

  6. “PS needs to live behind my LMS so we can track it” – Part of this myth was addressed in the preceding one, specifically the issue of content living behind an LMS and the steps needed to access it. PS stops being PS whenever a learner is required to dig for it. The issue of tracking is important but we can’t lock performance support behind an LMS to do it. Such a practice will absolutely kill any performance support effort. Besides, much of the tracking done in an LMS is around the completion and assessment of learning experiences. Performance support is not about completion or assessment. It’s about access and consumption. Some form of tracking is appropriate in the performance support domain, but it needs to focus on who used what and how often. These results can help a training organization learn what aspects of their training program are most effective and which might need help, which learners need additional support and in which area, and which learners are not engaged once they are back at their job.

  7. “PS doesn't need to be taught since it lives in the informal domain” – Any learning methodology needs to be taught. One problem many schools students struggle with is that they have not been taught how to effectively approach their learning. The same goes for adults in the workplace. We learned back in the 90s that simply releasing a learning program such as eLearning and making it available did not guarantee consumption, in fact many initiatives failed miserably. Performance support needs to be taught in the classroom and supported by a well crafted implementation strategy. This strategy should include a communication, measurement, and maintenance plan.

  8. “Traditional instructional design approaches for developing training will also work for PS solutions” – designing for performance support is very different than designing for training. I’m not saying that instructional designers cannot create effective performance support. They just need to understand that it is a different discipline and approach. The most important issue to be considered is that the learner already has been trained, or has some prior knowledge. This often causes the design of the framework to be reversed from the way IDs typically look at instruction.

  9. “Good training will negate the need for PS” – Nothing negates the need for performance support. Good training will definitely assist in the amount of performance support someone may use, or the degree to which they understand and access performance support, but it will not negate it. Actually, good training should help increase the effective use of performance support. Performance support strategies, tools, and techniques need be taught during training. Our experience has been that the most effective performance support strategies are first introduced and reinforced during formal training. Programs where performance support is separate from training often fail due to the disconnect created by this fragmented approach.

  10. “It's only Performance Support if it's immediate and embedded” – Although immediate and embedded performance support is a vital aspect of the performance support experience, learners also need to be allowed to take a step back in order to review or practice critical skills before attempting them. Performance support has a natural hierarchy and approach. Embedded and immediate are only two aspects of that hierarchy. There are also layers of support beyond that. Sometimes learners need more information or deeper references beyond the immediate steps. There are even times when a learner may want some degree of formal training to support their performance. Viewing performance support as only immediate and embedded will not lead you to a fully-functional performance support framework for your learners.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Charting Your Performance Support Path

Watch Out for the Quicksand

Collectively Bob and I have spent almost fifty years helping organizations figure out how to gain and maintain the competencies they need to succeed and survive in the marketplace. Inherent in this effort has been negotiating around, over, and sometime even through the quicksand that threatens their Performance Support efforts. For those of you who are on this crucial journey, here are some suggestions to help you miss some of the most treacherous quicksand pools.

Agree on Definition and Scope

Every organization needs to define clearly what performance support is but even more importantly what it isn’t – because it is in the “what it isn’t” that you’ll find the quicksand. Most organizations have entrenched formal learning practices and systems. It is absolutely unwise to attempt to reduce or, even worse, replace those efforts. Some of the early advocates of Performance Support walked right into this sand-trap. Eventually, though, you can help rethink some of these practices and bring greater effectiveness to formal training efforts. But in the early stages of any Performance Support strategy, you need to complement and extend all that goes on in the formal learning environment. Besides, the informal learning arena is where Performance Support delivers its greatest impact. Informal learning is everything people do outside formal learning events to perform effectively (see the last three moments of need in our “Definition of Performance Support” article posted November 1, 2007)

Focus on Process

Ignoring process is a real sinkhole. At some point, organizations who ignore workflow while they produce performance support solutions will find the ground suddenly move out from under their feet. Business process is the most helpful framework performers can use to store, retrieve, and then act upon what they have learned as they “do their work.” What is more, the business impact of all we do under the charter of teaching, training, and learning is determined by the degree these efforts result in people successfully moving through processes that deliver business value.

Now, this need to focus on process is not unique to performance support. But performance support ultimately becomes a mass of focused job aids with no overarching organizational structure. Business process provides a logical framework for tying together all we build and deliver in support of performance.

Provide a Performance Support Broker

A Performance Support Broker is a tool that provides the needed service of connecting all the performance support assets into a logical framework. As stated above, this framework needs to have, as its backbone, the work-flow processes you’re called upon to support. This broker also needs to provide the following services:

  • Role-based access. Each performer needs to be spared content and tools that are irrelevant to his or her work.
  • Immediate access. This is a vital capability. At any moment, performers need timely access to “just what they need.” One click is acceptable. Two clicks might work. At three clicks you stand a good chance they’ll never take the trip.
  • Scaffolding. The broker needs to do more than just present PS options, it needs to present them in a framework that puts the right amount of support in front of your learners at the right time. An effective broker allows the learner to effectively choose the amount of support they need immediately without having to journey through unneeded “layers”. This broker should scaffold the content in a way that presents the information at a detailed layer to a more robust one allowing the learner to choose the most appropriate amount. These amounts and entry points should be apparent, logical, and guiding.
  • Ability to “Zoom-in” or “Zoom-out.” Once a performers have found the help they need, they also need the ability to dive deeper (into greater detail) or back out to obtain a broader view so they can see what they are doing in the context of their overall performance requirements.
  • Accommodation of Transforming, Performing, and Conforming dispositions of learners. (See next section)

Accommodate Learning Dispositions

Dr. Maggie Martinez ( has provided helpful insight into how people approach learning. She has identified the following dispositions:

  • Transforming—these are learners who are highly independent in how they go about learning. They prefer to learn in their own way and resist being constrained by any type of learning structure.
  • Performing—these are learners who are independent but appreciate predefined learning structures as long as they aren’t locked into them. They want the ability to skip or dive deeper, depending upon their determination of their own needs.
  • Conforming—these learners require structured learning environments and become unsettled if they are dropped into an open learning environment where they are required to establish their own path for learning.
  • Resistant—these are transforming, performing, or conforming learners who resist learning for reasons that may or may not be independent of the learning environment.

These dispositions, unheeded, can quickly create quicksand that will sink a stellar performance support effort. For example, simply dumping a set of wonderfully designed performance support tools onto the lap of a conforming learner is a formula for absolute failure. These kind of learners need to practice using those tools in the safety of highly structured formal learning environments. They also need to have all their performance support assets organized into a logical framework that not only makes sense to them but also feels structured.

Performing learners will also benefit by having opportunity to practice using the tools in a formal learning environment. In addition, they appreciate a structured framework – as long as it allows them to enter the framework at any level and then dive deeper or broader if needed.

Transforming learners are your best subjects for initiating any performance support strategy. They prefer learning at the moment of need. And they often become your greatest proponents (as long as you provide them the kind of support they need and want.)

Obviously, designing performance support solutions for audiences with these differing dispositions requires thoughtful design. But hey – we should be doing this for all of our learning environments (e.g., eLearning, ILT.)

Don’t Attempt to Boil the Ocean or Board a Sinking Ship

Start small and focused—then grow your performance support influence. And for any project you take on, do your homework so you know that it will succeed and yield recognizable benefit to individuals and the organization. Your initial steps into performance support need to be unencumbered. They need to have the best chance possible to demonstrate the value of your performance support solutions.

Too often, well meaning proponents of performance support rush in to help whenever they hear the cries from a failing initiative. There will be plenty of sinking ships to save down the road. A safe policy, as you begin, is to wait to take on troubled projects after you have established a winning track record.

Also, we often talk about the advantages of picking the lowest hanging fruit. But this isn’t always the best path to take. Our family has a small organic orchard on our property. Because we don’t spray our trees, sometimes the low hanging fruit is partially eaten by bugs and birds or even by one of our goats that has somehow escaped its pen. So in our garden area, whenever I reach out to pick an apple, I generally bypass the low hanging fruit. Often my search takes me higher into the tree. You may want to consider doing the same thing as you determine which performance support projects you will “take on” (e.g., bypass what appears to be low hanging fruit.) Early on, you need to be selective and make sure the fruit you pick is something someone will want to eat, that it has narrow scope, the capacity to deliver high yield return, and clear potential for success.

Prepare for the Challenge of Maintenance

The greatest challenge in any performance support effort isn’t in building effective solutions. The real rub is keeping it all up-to-date. Early on this may not appear to be so, but at some point along the way maintenance turns into quicksand—unless you have planned ahead and made provisions for it.

Now, don’t let this threaten you resolve to pursue performance support. The benefits outweigh this and every other challenge. But wisdom dictates you think this through and then take on learning content management (if you haven’t already.) Best practice in this area calls for XML-enabled multi-channel publishing where content authors write once, translate once, and then publish from that single-source of content out to all the different forms needed by performers (such as a printed job aid, an online help file, a web reference guide, a student manual for classroom learning, and an eLearning module.) This capacity isn’t vaporware. It can and is being done. And it is clearly cost justifiable. This is where the efforts to build reusable learning objects should have been directed in the first place!

Invest in an Overarching Strategy

Thirty years ago I challenged my future brother-in-law (who was 10 years old at the time) to a game of pool. He cleaned my clock. At one point during the trouncing I asked Brandon to explain his secrets for his success. He responded with, “I just hit the ball and hope for the best.) Now, this approach worked for Brandon in that particular game. But sustained success over time requires more than brute luck backed by hope. As you move forward to embrace the power of performance support, invest in a plan that will ensure you the greatest potential for a high-yield return on your efforts. Performance support has much to offer. The trip is well worth taking. But your success requires a plan that includes charting a path around the quicksand described in this article.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Finding the True ROI in Learning

Finding the TRUE ROI in Learning

As long as I've been in training we have been debating its ROI (Return on Investment). We have struggled long and hard to link measurable business results to learners who attend some form of formal instruction, in class or on-line. Why has this been so hard? Why do so many still find this exercise exhausting, expensive, and often inconclusive at a meaningful level?

Maybe the problem lies in the original goal? Maybe the correlation between a training event and improved business outcomes is fundamentally flawed? Is the jump between mastering content and being able to apply that content in an effective and productive way just too great? I would argue that we've gotten this wrong from the start, and without venturing into the performance support arena, training will continue to have a difficult time, if not impossible time, tying itself to true ROI metrics.

Let's take a closer look at the learning journey to better understand where this might lead. Classroom training, and other formal training "events", including many e-Learning models, are about knowledge gain and transfer (which, by the way, is a wonderful and necessary thing!) But this is short-sighted. Even though people can't become productive without first having a fundamental understanding of what they are being tasked with doing we mustn’t stop here. We must take the learning experience all the way to true business ROI.

The journey to true ROI is actually divide into two parts:

  1. Mastery - A learner's ability to demonstrate gained knowledge
  2. Competency - A learner's ability to effectively apply what they've learned to their job or work environment.

Training has typically stopped at Mastery and has not ventured as deeply as it needs to into supporting Competency. This is where performance support delivers its real value! Training without performance support (As defined in Con's first Blog entry shown below -"What is Performance Support") will never move successfully beyond the first 2 phases of learning to sustaining learners in the last 3 moments of need where ROI really happens!

If we only stop at Mastery (or training) all we can ever fairly measure is:

  • Knowledge gain
  • Certification
  • Demonstrable skill recall
  • Compliance

But when we venture into Competency with the full range of Performance Support practices now available to us (its tools, strategies, and frameworks which compliment training) we can begin to measure our impact on:

  • Productivity gain
  • Time to proficiency
  • Lower support costs
  • Completion of job-related tasks
  • Increased user adoption
  • Optimized business processes

ROI manifests itself in the work flow and on the job. Until training departments design, deliver, and maintain learning strategies across the entire journey from mastery to competency ROI will remain a frustrating and often futile exercise.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A Beginning Discussion

What is Performance Support?

It only makes sense that we begin this blog with a definition that can help drive a very important follow-up discussion. We need to work together to clearly define the scope of this practice we call performance support. This can also help us make sure that we’re all talking about the same thing when we discuss this topic. So, here’s a starting definition:

Performance Support is providing intuitive, tailored aid to a person at his or her moment of need to ensure the most effective performance.”

Now, this definition merits further explanation to make sure our discussion moves in the right direction. You see, historically, definitions of performance support, like this one, have been applied too narrowly in the context of all we are charged to do. Today there is much we can and need to do under the umbrella of performance support. And the benefits of embracing a broader view of Performance Support can be astounding for people and the organizations where they work.

This Broader Understanding Begins With The Five Moments of Need.

Early in my career I ended up managing the training, documentation, and help-desk teams for a company that relied heavily upon the full range of computing capacity then available to the world. There was everything from supercomputers to PCs. In that setting, our collective work was straightforward – we had complete responsibility for helping every person in that organization successfully perform their work without any wasted effort at any time, of any day. This required us to pay attention to the full range of performance support needs people have in their journey of becoming and remaining competent in their individual and collective work.

There are five phases that people pass through which require support in order to successfully perform. The training industry has primarily focused their practices upon the first two moments of need:

  1. When people are learning how to do something for the first time

  2. When people are expanding the breadth and depth of what they have learned.

Documentation teams have primarily assumed the responsibility for providing printed and online help information for people to use when they face the third moment of need:

  1. When they need to act upon what they have learned (which includes planning what they will do, remembering what they may have forgotten, or adapting their performance to a unique situation.)

Help Desk practices have also assumed a role in supporting people in this third area of need. But their primary work has been to address the fourth moment:

  1. When problems arise, or things break or don’t work the way they were intended.

Finally, there is a moment of need that few organizations have addressed well:

  1. When people need to learn a new way of doing something (which requires them to change skills that are deeply ingrained in their performance practices.)

Since spending those early days overseeing the efforts of these three groups (training, documentation, and help desk support services), We’ve had the opportunity to view up close the efforts of hundreds of organizations in addressing these five moments of need. In almost every case their combined efforts have been limited, fragmented, and wasteful. Now this is not to say that great work isn’t going on in each of these performance support silos, but those we are charged to support deserve “intuitive, tailored aid” that is orchestrated together to “ensure the most effective personal and collective performance” during all five moments of need. Solving this requires an understanding of the role of performance support during each of these five moments of need.

What Is the Role of Performance Support During the First Two Moments of Need

The primary benefits of performance support are achieved during the final three moments of need (3. applying, 4. fixing, and 5. relearning.) But a common challenge in these areas is whether or not people choose to use the “tailored aid” available to them. Often this aid isn’t as intuitive as it should be. Also, some performers aren’t as independent as they need to cause them to take full advantage of the performance support offerings.

It is during the “1. start-up” and “2. ongoing learning” moments of need, that performers can learn how to use the performance support aides you are making available to them. It is also vital that you help learners become more self-reliant in their disposition to use these aids.

In addition, performance support aids can change the scope and nature of formal learning events. For example, when you have an embedded job aid that will walk a person through software related tasks as they actually perform those tasks, then why not teach performers how to use that job-aid and then focus their learning on more critical skills tied to business processes and collaborative work.

What Is the Role of Performance Support At the Moment of “Applying”

This is the sweet spot of performance support. There is much that can and needs to occur here. And today we can do more than we have been able to do in the past. When people are at this moment when they need to actually perform, on the job, they need instant access to tools that will intuitively help them do just that -- perform. This help must be immediate and tailored to the role and situation of the performer. The aid needs to allow the performer to dive as deep as necessary depending upon a person’s need to plan, remember, adapt, or reference information required for successful performance.

What Is the Role of Performance Support At the Moment of “Fixing”

This is another area where performance support practices deliver great value. Often the job aids created for this moment of need are tools that walk performers through the problem solving process – automating all that is possible to automate.

What Is the Role of Performance Support At the Moment of “Relearning”

This moment of need has been the least attended to and yet is the most challenging. And since we don’t attend to it very well, it is often the most costly to organizations. Once skills have become ingrained into the work practices of people and organizations, replacing them with new ways of performing is a significant learning challenge. This need cannot be adequately met by only bringing performers into formal learning events devoted to teaching “the new ways” of doing things. In addition, these learners absolutely need job aids that will guide them through the new way each time they are called upon by their job to perform. This challenge is ultimately resolved over time on the job.

What Is “Intuitive, Tailored Aid”?

Job aids are intuitive and tailored to the degree they:

  • are readily and logically available— The harder people need to work to get to a job aid the higher the probability they won’t go.

  • are simple, straightforward, and role-based—tailored aid must be focused directly upon the specific role of the performer as well as the situation she or he faces. It can’t contain irrelevant information. It can’t be fluffy.

  • map directly to the way a person actually performs—The most logical way people approach performance is by business process. Process maps provide performers the capacity to “keep it all together” and not become lost in all the detail.

  • are integrated to allow deep diving— As any organization’s performance support practice expands, at some point they will face the challenge of “job-aid” proliferation. This calls for development (sooner rather than later) of a performance support “broker” that can help ensure that aid is not only readily but logically available. These brokers must also allow performers the option to dive deeper into learning at every moment of need.

What Is “Effective Performance”?

Effective performance must inherently include efficient performance. That is, it isn’t truly effective if performance is achieved in a wasteful manner. Effective performance must also embrace collective as well as individual actions. It must also be time independent. In other words, effective performance is achieved by helping every person in an organization work together to successfully perform their work without any wasted effort at any time, of any day.

Where To From Here?

So, here’s our definition to start this vital dialogue:

Performance Support is providing intuitive, tailored aid to a person at his or her moment of need to ensure the most effective performance.”

We invite you to join us by considering the ideas presented in this blog and then contributing your insights based upon your own experience. Together we can do for Performance Support what we have too often failed to do in other areas of our profession – clearly define its boundaries. We can then move forward to bring Performance Support to its full contribution to this great journey in which we are all engaged— helping people and organizations succeed in their work.