Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Reflections on 2009: Who Would Have Thought??

To borrow the opening line from Charles Dickens’ classic novel Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”. I’m not sure if we could find 12 better words to describe my thoughts when reflecting on the past calendar year. It will be interesting to see how historians recall 2009, but we think it’s safe to say that it will be remembered as a wild one on almost every level. Clearly, to say that these have been difficult economic times is an understatement for many. Most every company we’ve worked with or spoken to this year has been impacted by the current economic climate. With budget issues in the corporate boardroom, there can’t help but be budget issues in the corporate classroom. The interesting thing to have watched was how the learning community, and its leaders, has reacted to the requests which came their way.

One almost universal comment we’ve heard from the CLO’s and training directors we’ve spoken with is that they are busier then they have ever been. With difficult times, come interesting measures. Even though many companies have experienced cut-backs of some kind, the learning department has had to be creative in how they continue to support and, in many cases, reeducate the people who remain. Many learning leaders are also challenged with how their departments will be structured and the type of services they will provide once things turn around and they begin rehiring again. The encouraging news is that we have begun to hear more and more positive news regarding things stabilizing, if not picking up again, which is reinforcing the thought that hopefully some type of economic recovery is underway.

The interesting thing about the Dickens quote is that it clearly states that although these are difficult times, they can also be our best! When things turn around training budgets and approaches will never be the same again, and that may not be a bad thing. These times have forced training professionals to be creative in their offerings, think outside their conventional approaches, and really examine the merit of every program they offer. This has created some incredibly exciting trends with some very powerful outcomes. We would like to share a few here.

Well, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s reads this blog has heard us speak, but it’s very exciting to see Performance Support (PS) finally getting the attention it has long deserved! With all that’s outlined above, learning departments are seriously looking at their impact on performance, NOT just training, and PS is stepping up as a very powerful, effective, and economical solution to that need.

Another trend we’ve been watching is the emergence of single-source publishing. Our journey into “Reusable Learning Objects” back in the 1990’s was met by many challenges, both from a technical and a design standpoint. The dream of authoring once and publishing too many outputs just wasn’t actualized for most. The exciting news is that with the emergence of more sophisticated and user friendly XML authoring tools we’ve seen tremendous up serge in this powerful and cost efficient methodology. Now learning departments are maintaining content in one place and publishing that content in outputs such as a manual in the classroom, an electronic performance support tool on the desktop, a SCORM compliant e-Learning course behind an LMS, and even as a mobile learning object on a Blackberry, iPhone, or Windows mobile device. Not only is there an economy of scale here, but the consistency across the learning experience and all moments of need is powerful. One of the biggest gains achieved with this approach is in the back-end maintenance of the content. Gone are the days of chasing redundant content across multiple tools and outputs. In this approach you simply change the original source content, republish, and the change is reflected across all the modalities outlined above.

Finally, the strongest trend which surrounds all this is that learning groups are finally leaving their all to familiar world of just supporting formal instruction and are being seen as vital across the enterprise at all 5 moments of learning. Their ability to show direct business impact and ROI is being accomplished in ways rarely achieved before. This is particularly important when we’re living in a time when budgets and “wasteful spending” is being watched like never before. Once the learning department moves toward directly impacting the bottom line by aligning itself with performance and not just training, it becomes a need to have not a nice to have. This is something our industry has been asking for as long as we’ve been associated with it, and it’s exciting to see us finally being able to address that challenge.

What many don’t know is that the next line which follows Dickens’ famous quote is “it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness”. We believe that 2009 will be remembered as the age of wisdom within our industry. We will look back on this year as a time when we stepped up and actually did what we have always asked of our students, we learned and became wiser! And in doing so we have turned a corner in our ability to serve the enterprise in ways we hadn’t dreamed of just a year to two ago. Here’s to a continuation of that wisdom well into 2010 and beyond.

Happy Holidays everyone! We couldn't have thought of a better community to have worked with throughout the year. We hope you found that being a part of all this has been of benefit to you and your organization. Thanks for joining us on the journey… Here's to a SAFE, SUCESSFUL, and Happy 2010!


  1. I am wondering if you can help me make a connection between performance support and Bloom's affective domain? Is there a role in performance support for supporting desired affective behaviours?

  2. Excellent overview, Bob!

    As for the trend of "single-source publishing", could you please elaborate as to which XML tools have helped spearhead this trend?

    Best regards,