Monday, January 14, 2008

The importance of Process

Context is KING in Performance Support

Do you remember the "Content is KING" expression from the '90's? That was back when all the talk was around instructor-led training and the emergence of e-Learning. Back then, the statement couldn't have been more true. And as we discussed in earlier blog entries, when a learner is experiencing the first two moments of need (When learning for the first time, When Learning More) content remains king. During these moments, learning needs to be instructionally sound and comprehensive. When developing and delivering this kind of instruction, there is an established scope and sequence associated with the content, with learning experiences appropriately interspersed. Events are planned based upon learning objectives When a learner is in the knowledge acquisition stage pursuing mastery, content continues to reign as king.

But, when a learner moves beyond training into the realm of informal support a new monarch needs to ascend to the learning throne. During these remaining moments of need (Applying, Fixing, Relearning), performers need CONTEXT. When Conrad and I work with organizations on their PS strategy, it's always surprising how many fail to consider this most vital principle. Learners must understand where they are, why they're doing what they're doing, what others are doing and how it all relates to the task at hand. Performers need this to rapidly access the specific content they need and to act upon that content in the most appropriate way. Content without context is a formula for failure when it comes to performance support. Without context if learners, by chance, find the content they need, it is possible they may end up doing the right thing at the wrong time; many learners do this every day.

When it comes to Performance Support, CONTEXT most certainly is king. Providing context isn’t difficult. Process maps and workflows based on job role and/or project are a key component of an effective PS context architecture. It's equivalent to a well articulated analogy or metaphor as the setup to a lesson. It's the "You are here" map in the shopping mall. The shopper knows the store they wish to shop in, or at least they know what they want to purchase, they just need directions to the right store in the most efficient and direct manner. PS is the same thing. Its job is to get information in front of a learner as quickly and effectively as possible. Context is key for this to happen.

As you move forward incorporating context into your PS Solutions, it is most helpful to recognize that performers seldom work in a vacuum all by themselves. And, when technology is part of the workflow, they rarely perform on only one system in a given workday. For instance, we recently worked with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) rollout that actually involved 3 different systems throughout the process. It also involved many steps and interactions which had nothing to do with these 3 systems, BUT each was critical in the overall CRM process. If these non-systems steps were skipped or misunderstood, any work done within the CRM could be incorrect.

Another common problem for performers is that they often don't know where to start. Simply providing embedded help systems doesn't allow sufficient context. Traditional help most often fails to include non-system steps and, more seriously, almost always lacks any tie to higher level business processes. Help which exists only at the detail or system level assumes the learner knows how to get there in the first place. There are times when a learner will need to enter a PS system from the process level and dig in deeper from there.

Please don’t ignore this vital principle. Any PS strategy you develop needs to lead with processes and make them readily available to guide performers into the content they need and to also allow them to step back and get the big picture. Content without this kind of context is ineffective, frustrating, and an absolute threat to an effective PS strategy.

1 comment:

  1. I’ve always had a passion for education, learning, and technology. Con and Bob are true leaders in nailing the value of Performance Support. The concepts discussed here have brought out my latent vision of where learning meets performance.
    Not long ago, I jumped at an opportunity to join a brilliant software development group dedicated to developing what I felt was the ultimate PS solution. I underestimated the significance of CONTEXT. We helped software developers provide access to the PS content from the Help button. What about those who are not able to modify the application? We’ve established server sites, content on the LMS/LCMS, and intranets, but categorizing and making the right PS content within the right CONTEXT is absolutely key. I would love to learn best practices in how everyone is managing the context issue.
    Now, I just need to find the right partnering opportunity to allow an amazing PS technology application to become a full PS solution.