Thursday, January 24, 2008

An Invitation to Our Performance Support Community

Increasing Organizational Value Via Performance Support

Bob and I have had the privilege of meeting and working with thousands of remarkable people genuinely devoted to our training profession. They work long and hard helping people in their organizations develop and maintain the skills they need to do their work. Unfortunately we've seen this deep devotion continually challenged by leaders in organizations who have a limited view of the strategic value their training investment could provide. Too often upper-management sees training and its other support siblings as merely overhead expenses that are acceptable as long as profit margins remain healthy enough to bear the burden of those costs. And then, whenever the economic waters become the least bit rocky, the first folks they throw overboard are those viewed as overhead. This has included their casting into those cold waters too many wonderful people from our profession.

Although we know it is absolutely stupid for organizations to do this. It seems the only response we have been able to provide management is the notion that when organizations are forced to downsize, the need for training increases. As Bob discussed in an earlier blog article, we have constantly struggled to demonstrate a real return on the investment in training.

This is why Bob and I continue to pursue helping organizations support performance during all five moments of need:

  1. when learning for the first time
  2. when learning more
  3. when remembering and/or applying what's been learned
  4. when things go wrong, and
  5. when things change.

We have observed that when organizations begin addressing the informal learning needs of performers (see 3-5 above) as well as the formal needs (see 1 and 2 above) the strategic value of what we do becomes absolutely apparent.

You belong to a burgeoning community of performance support specialists. You are pioneers in this field. We invite you to add to this blog article your insights and experiences regarding the organizational value of effective performance support practices.

To begin this vital collaborative effort, we thought we would prime the pump by nesting some questions in four areas where we see performance support providing strategic value. Please add other areas and questions along with your real-world responses to the questions that follow.

Bob and I will work to consolidate your comments into a white paper that every member of this community can use to help forge a seismic shift in our industry; to help legitimize the training and support function as a core contributor to "the bottom line."

Increased Profitability
I remember, as a 9th grader, sitting on the bench during the first basketball game of the season. At one point, Coach Fullmer sent me in to play. I had pre-determined that when I got on the ball floor, I would work harder than anyone else. And I did just that. I ran hard chasing the ball where ever it was. Understandably, I didn't remain on the ball floor very long, I was quickly pulled back to the bench. I said to my coach, after sitting down, "Why did you pull me out? I was working harder than everyone else out there." Coach Fullmer's response was, "You were, but you weren't working very smart."

Obviously, up to that point, I hadn't learned what I needed to learn during the formal instruction (pre-game practices) given by Coach Fullmer. As a result, I failed to contribute much in that game. My contribution was merely a burst of wasted effort.

The same holds true in the formal training taking place in most organizations. Learners too often fail to grasp all they need and often forget quickly what they have learned during their formal training events. As a result, their performance in the workplace is often replete with wasted effort, misdirected performance, and mistakes (sometimes costly ones.) Any organization that embraces an effective performance support strategy will most certainly diminish these threats to their profitability.

Here are a couple of questions that merit your comments regarding this area
of value:

  1. How can performance support reduce wasted effort, misdirected performance, and mistakes made during the five moments of need?
  2. In what other ways can performance support increase the profitability of an organization?
  3. How is this being done in my organization? How are we measuring this?

Market Agility
In the Friday, December 7th blog, we posted an article on "Delivering Greater Organizational Agility." It makes the case for the value Performance Support brings to this strategic area. Here are three questions to help guide your comments:

  1. How is performance support bringing greater agility to my organization?
  2. In what other ways might performance support increase the agility of an organization?
  3. How can performance support ensure greater alignment with the vision and mission of an organization?

Market Advantage
Any organization that markets any product that requires performance of any kind, has customers who face all five moments of need. And if that organization provides those customers intuitive, tailored aid at those moments of need and if that aid ensures the most effective performance, then that organization will most certainly achieve market advantage over any
competitor who fails to do the same.

Consider these questions to facilitate your comments regarding market

  1. How is performance support bringing greater market advantage to my organization?
  2. In what other ways might performance support increase the market advantage of an organization?
  3. How is or can a comprehensive performance support strategy sustain customer loyalty?

Added Revenue
Many organizations, in an effort to manage escalated training and support costs, resort to turning those support resources into a profit center. Such actions eventually threaten customer satisfaction by devastating the natural incentives of real customer service. Here again, the principles and practices of performance support provide solution.

Performance support allows a multi-tiered approach to servicing customers. As part of that offering, there is plenty of opportunity to legitimately charge for added value services and at the same time preserve necessary customer service incentives. Here, then, is an area that merits your comments. These questions can help start this dialogue:

  1. How is performance support helping my organization generate added revenue?
  2. In what other ways might performance support increase revenue for an organization?
  3. How is or can a comprehensive performance support strategy preserve proper customer service incentives?

Well, this is a start. Hopefully it primes the pump sufficiently so that this community can begin working together, sharing our experiences and insights. Together, we can make a real difference in establishing the crucial value our profession provides the organizations we serve. Bob and I
genuinely look forward to your comments.

1 comment:

  1. For several years I have been involved in selling or managing sales organizations. A major role in sales is to create “buying vision,” just as you have brilliantly articulated this vision of PS impact on people and business. Working with the client to determine their needs, I would frequently ask the question, “What bad thing happens if you are not able to solve this problem?”

    The questions Con posed above hit the core of the PS message. I wish that I could provide answers. I feel the pioneering work is still in progress, but we are working to establish the baseline benchmarks with training cost, performance, productivity, and market agility.

    What “bad thing happens” if we don’t invest in Performance Support? Can one place a value on preparation? Disaster strikes. Tornado’s, hurricanes, fires, in addition to “man caused” trauma will likely increase. A friend of mine had 12 minutes to evacuate their CA home due to a pending fire. Each family member had “72 hour kits” comprised of food, water, and other necessities which they grabbed as they ran out the door. They were so grateful for the preparation. I don’t want to overstate the connection here, but is PS directly connected with results?

    A Sr. Director of a large ISV asked, “What if we invest in PS… and our employees take the application knowledge and leave the company?” I asked, “What if you don’t invest in PS and they stay?”