Friday, June 4, 2010

We've MOVED!!

Greetings!! We're not sure if most of you have heard, BUT we've moved the PS Blog to a new NING community. This blog site still contains all of our old postings, but we won't be adding any new content here going forward.

Our intent is to allow for greater opportunities to share ideas. Our new NING site includes not only all the information found in this Blog, but it also allows for MANY other Social Media features such as forums, My Pages, photos/video posts, webinar recordings, podcasts, and much more. We hope you will join us at our NEW location.

If you're interested in joining our new space simply send us an email and we'll send you an invitation. This is a members only website, at least for now.

Bob Mosher -
Conrad Gottfredson -

Looking forward to seeing you there! Please let us know if you have any questions...

Yours in Service,

Con and Bob

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Beyond Job Aids

Providing Access to Reference Information @ the Moment of Apply
In previous blogs we have discussed the three time phases of apply: the time before performance, the time during performance, and the time after performance ends.

The “time during performance” has been the primary focus of performance support focus for decades. Allison Rossett, in her book: Job Aids and Performance Support: Moving From Knowledge in the Classroom to Knowledge Everywhere, calls the solutions we build to support performers during this moment of time “sidekicks”

Rossett also introduces another time phase of apply—the need to plan prior to actually performing. She calls these kind of performer support solutions “Planners.”

The third time phase of Apply is a critical area for any organization interested in continuous performance improvement. In this phase, following the actual act of apply, performers conduct an assessment called a “quick check.”

But there are times when the moment of Apply doesn’t require a planner, sidekick, or quick-check. All that is needed to ensure effective performance is intuitive access to the right information at the moment of Apply.

In these instances, performers have the skills but the information required to complete the task has changed or was never internalized because it’s always changing, too vast, or infrequently needed. Whatever the reason, many times performance requires information that the performer lacks.

To illustrate further. Once upon a time, a long time ago, people actually knew everything they needed to know to do their work. Hard to comprehend in today’s work environment where people are continually being asked to learn at or above the speed of change and at a time when the information pool we’re all drinking from is growing at breakneck speed.

In 2003, Chevron's CIO reported that his company accumulated data at the rate of 2 terabytes – 17,592,000,000,000 bits – a day. According to research conducted by the International Data Corporation (IDC) the world created 161 exabytes of data in 2006, that’s "3 million times the amount of information contained in all the books ever written." in 2009, the size of the World's total Digital content was estimated at 500 billion gigabytes, or 500 exabytes. And it is predicted that this year we will generate more than 988 exabytes. [4][5][6] IDC also predicts that nearly 70% of 2010’s digital universe will be created by individuals and/or organizations (businesses of all sizes, agencies, governments, associations, etc.)

This same pace of information growth is occurring within the individual work requirements of people. Today, people can’t store in their internal knowledge-base all they need to know to do their work. It’s all too vast and fluid.

Clearly, in these times an organization’s PS strategy needs to include providing intuitive access to the right content in the right form. Here are some tactical suggestions for how you can go about this.

1. Identify critical content for which performers need access to at the moment of Apply.

2. Anticipate and provide for multiple access options to that content based upon job roles and work requirements. Search covers a multitude of weaknesses in a performance support strategy. The challenge of search is that it often yields too many hits. Searching through search results can be costly for organizations. Certainly narrowing accessible content by job role can help reduce the number of hits search delivers, there is another option that can prove effective. Here’s what you do:

Step 1: For every type of content (e.g., task, concept, business policy, etc.) identify all the access options. For example if the content type were recipes performers might want to access them by occasion, primary ingredient, preparation time, dietary requirement, course, etc.

Step 2: Narrow the access options to those that would be of highest use to your audiences and build those access options into your content management system.

3. Push for parametric search. Some search engine employ parametric search to narrow its search based upon parameters like job role, work group, type of information (e.g., task, concept, report), unique access option (e.g., if the type of information were “reports” options might be by date or by data source.) All these parameters are attached to the content as metadata tags and it takes very few of the parameters to drill into a specific instance of needed information.

4. Provide contextual access to content via workflow.

Many years ago, Robert Mager and Peter Pipe published a brilliant little book titled, “Analyzing Performance Problems, or Your Really Oughta Wanna”. In it they provided a decision tree for determining whether training is really required in the pursuit of solving a performance need. Their insight is that there may be other reasons why people aren’t performing outside of their skill set. This is still the reality today. In our pursuit of supporting effective performance we must have the wisdom to support people when knowing how to perform isn’t the issue. What performers need is specific information called for during that performance. For example, a performer may need specific product information or the information from a report needed to make a judgment that will influence performance decisions, etc..

The realities of performance also suggest that performers may need both, help in knowing how to perform and information to support that performance. Whatever the case may be, information access is a vital consideration in performer support.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Is Being a “Learning Organization” Enough?

I was once debriefing a training class with a senior manager from an organization who had purchased a large training program from us. We were specifically discussing the results of the post assessments each student had completed. Overall the students had done fairly well. As the instructor I was pleased and anxious to hear what I was hoping to be glowing feedback from this particular manager. I was a bit taken back when he handed me the results and said, “These numbers mean nothing to me.” When I asked him to clarify he replied, “I don’t care what my people learn in training. I only care that they perform better or differently AFTER the training.”

Peter Senge and his colleagues spent most of the 1990’s helping us better understand the qualities of becoming a “Learning Organization” and many of us did our best to meet these guidelines. But after having spent the last 3 years of my professional life solely focused on Performance Support (PS) and the profound impact I have seen it have on organizations, I’m wondering if the goal of becoming a Learning Organization is enough. Should becoming a “Performing Organization” be the goal of the millennium and beyond?

The past 3 years have taught me that although learning is a key part of the overall success of any individual learner and the organization at large, sometimes learning is simply not enough. Focusing heavily on learning may play a huge part in why we don’t achieve the ultimate outcome we are striving for.

It may help if I take a second to share what my definition of learning has become. For me, the overall goal of any organization and its employees is to successfully and consistently outperform their potential. Learning is clearly a prerequisite to performance, but to have learned does not always translate into, or guarantee, performance. This is the one of the hardest things for training departments to understand. We have spent years and billions of dollars on classroom programs, e-learning libraries, certifications, and compliance training only to find that we’re still not getting the performance we need and want from our workforce. That’s because we are missing a key component! We need to be offering an intentional instructional model that takes what someone has learned and helps them transfer and adapt that knowledge into their daily workplace. This is the job of PS. Until an organization begins to create, deliver, maintain, and measure PS with the same focus, budget, resources, and rigor it has always dedicated to learning they will never truly realize the overall productivity growth they have been tasked with achieving.

In order for a learner to achieve peak performance they need to journey through two stages: mastery and competency. Each is a critical part of the journey, but in most organizations mastery is the area most served by the training organization leaving competency up for grabs. Mastery is the acquisition of knowledge. It’s what training and learning organizations do brilliantly, and should continue to do! Competency is when a learner takes what they have learned and can apply and adapt what they have learned to their unique work setting and the plethora of challenges they encounter.

This is where PS comes in. Its role is to help take a learner from mastery to competency. When a training organization adopts PS as a compliment to their learning strategy they will begin to impact both mastery and competency. At this point they will begin achieving an entirely different level if impact on the organizations they serve. In a time when training budgets and training departments are being held accountable at a level like never before, being able to show a direct impact on the competency of the learners they support will position them in a highly strategic way.

The Learning Organization of today needs to become the Performing Organization of tomorrow which includes a more robust and mature view of what is the entire learning journey. Although learning is key, it is not enough to sustain the growing and every changing world of those we support. Creating a comprehensive performance strategy which includes both mastery and competency is the only way to ultimately serve our organizations. Adding PS is a key step in achieving that goal!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Why Focus on Workflow Process?

Pursuing Competency Beyond Mastery
When you add performance support to the mix, the pursuit of skill mastery changes. There are levels of mastery with performance support. Mastery obviously includes complete internalization of an independent skill. With this highest level of mastery a performer has the ability to complete a task automatically. This capacity is securely encoded into long-term memory and can be executed without conscience thought – it just happens when it needs to happen. On the other end of the mastery spectrum is the ability to efficiently complete a task using a job aid without any direct training on a specific skill. The successful use of the job aid is made possible by a generalizable understanding of how to use it.

Competency embraces mastery at all its levels. But competence is only fully achieved when performers have integrated what they have mastered into actionable skill sets within the context of their personal workflow. This generally requires integration with other existing skill sets within the performer and also with other people via collaboration.

These integrated skill sets must be internalized at the appropriate level so they can be successfully executed as needed with a justifiable amount of effort. What is more, competency always carries with it sufficient conceptual understanding to facilitate proper judgment and the capacity to adapt, on-the-fly, to the unique challenges that occur in the workflow.

Here's an example:  Suppose you completed a course titled “Mastering Spreadsheets.” The course was facilitated by a remarkable instructor who taught you all the details for using your organization’s spreadsheet software. During the class you practiced and mastered 10 fundamental skills associated with that software. Suppose, also, that your day-to-day work doesn’t require you to use that software but you do need to use it as part of periodic ongoing project work with others in your organization. In this work, you receive digital spreadsheets from several team members and you do the following:
  1. Consolidate those spreadsheets
  2. Add specific data, gathered from several other applications to the now combined set of spreadsheets
  3. Perform a number of calculations
  4. Make judgments based upon those calculations
  5. Enter those judgments into another application along with specific data points
  6. Forward the revised spreadsheets onto other members of your work team
  7. Monitor the completion of your team members calculations
  8. Reconcile any discrepancies in their conclusions via a virtual meeting
Question—to what degree do you think the “Mastering Spreadsheets” class would have prepared you to be competent in performing this specific workflow process? High chance it wouldn’t have unless the course had anticipated this workflow process and provided you practice completing it and then left you with a performance support tool to help you at your moments of “Apply.”

We once were asked to help a multi-national company design and implement an enterprise training solution for an ERP reengineering effort. The project involved completely changing the way they managed their financials. Every associated workflow process was redesigned to involve people on the front-line of the business who had never engaged in the organization’s financials before.

We opted to train on business processes. We linked business and non-business tasks with workflows and job-roles. We developed a web-based performance support system that provided access to specific task instructions via role-based online workflow diagrams. We used the online system as the primary training resource in every class. Our objective, to train everyone to use the online performance support system to help them “do their job.”

The result? The go-live day was a non-event. We had put extra support personnel at the help desk but by the end of the first week we sent the extra help back to their work areas because they weren’t needed. The company had completed changed how several thousand people performed their jobs without a hiccup. Why? Because work-flow process was the backbone of the training effort coupled with a web-based performance support “broker” that supported those processes.

Workflow process is the primary means for ensuring that performance is purposefully and effectively directed. It should be the backbone for all training and performance support efforts and most certainly is the key for any organization interested in pursuing competency beyond the mastery of independent skills.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Upgrading - A PERFECT time for Performance Support

I remember teaching my first Lotus 1-2-3 release 1.A course in 1987. No laughing please... I know that this may have been before some of you were even born! But seriously, we did have computers back then and many users were struggling to master the complexities of things called Spreadsheets, Word Processors, and Databases. These were the emerging technologies of the time. Of course, many of these applications are common place today. My children, for example, have been using all three to help with their homework since they were in middle school (two of whom are now using them for their university studies).

Back in 1987 I thought I would be teaching Lotus 1-2-3 forever! Who could ever need more then Lotus had to offer? And there was also a software product called Symphony, a Lotus product that came with all 3 technologies (a precursor to what we now know as the Microsoft Office suite). The technology was mind blowing, revolutionary, and it all fit in 128 K of RAM and on a 5.5" floppy disk (Remember those??) Wow, was I ever wrong - Nowadays the average shelf life of commercially sold software is somewhere between 6 months to a year. Somewhere in the early to mid-90's a new term was born: Upgrades!! As fewer and fewer "new" technology disciplines were launched software companies quickly learned that a majority of their money wasn't to be made through a new product launch, but rather through an endless stream of upgrades.

This shift impacted the learning industry. Gone were the days of filling our classrooms with newbies who were taking our "Intro to PC Literacy" courses. Now we had to shift our attention to "New Features" and upgrade classes. Eventually, it became harder and harder to fill even these classes. As the learner matured and grew, so did their intolerance for sitting in a classroom with 20 other strangers, or even colleagues, waiting to hear about a new feature they cared about.

Enter E-Learning,  E-Learning initially did a nice job of stepping up to fill a much needed gap in the upgrade arena. It was cheaper than the classroom and was delivered to the desktop. What could be better? Well, even e-Learning has since struggled to meet the increasing upgrade demand. Learners have matured and become savvier on these applications.  It is much more difficult to create an on-line course that meets the individual upgrade needs of today's demanding learners.

Another fundamental problem is in the overall design of these courses. Whether online or in the classroom, our instructional model hasen't adequately addressed the "moment of need" that emerged with accellerating upgrade cycles.. If you've followed our blog for any length of time, you have heard us repeatedly reference Con's work around the "5 Moments of Learning Need". Clearly upgrade learning falls within the "When things change" or "When things go wrong" categories. If you look at most e-learning or upgrade courses they still take a "learning for the first time" or "learning more" approach. Candidly, upgrade learning is often neither of these. Upgrade learning requires "unlearning".

You may have heard Con tell the story about being driven to the Atlanta airport after completing some work with a client. He quickly struck up a conversation with his driver and in no time they were having a grand old time. After a good amount of time, Con mentioned to the person driving that he didn't see any planes in the air and asked how close they were to the airport. The fellow promptly hit his breaks and announced, "I'm almost to my house!!". Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever arrived home and can't remember the last 5 turns you took to get there? This is a principle of learning theory called automaticity. Things that we do over and over can become so engrained in our skill set that we begin performing without conscious thought. Such is the life of most software end-users today. For example, much of what we do in Microsoft Word has become so "automated" that we barely think about the action when performing it.

Unlearning automated skills is one or the most challenging types of learning. Traditional training approaches, including most e-Learning methodologies, aren't suited to meet this need. They are too removed from the moment of need to help a learner make the mental jump from how they used to do something to a new way of performing.

Enter Performance Support!! Performance Support is perfectly suited for upgrade learning. It lives in the last 3 moments of need - Apply/Remember, When things change, When things go wrong. The key here is its contextual nature, and the architecture in which good PS and PS Brokers are designed. As we've shared in an earlier posting on PS frameworks, well designed PS starts by introducing the steps and then escalates to more in-depth learning assets and resources. It also lives within the application and not behind an LMS or in a brick and mortar classroom. The combination of these two design elements make PS ideal for helping overcome automaticity and accelerating the adoption of upgrades. It has also been known to significantly lower support calls during these often stressful times for learners.

With some major upgrades on the horizon (Window 7 and Office 2010 just to name a few) we as learning professional need to equip those we serve with the most effective approaches to make these difficult transitions. We also owe it to our organizations to do this in the most cost effective way possible while, at the same time, helping our learners become as productive as we can as quickly as we can. Performance Support can meet all these needs if orchestrated well!

Monday, February 8, 2010



By Magaret Martinez
In the previous blog, Timothy R. Clark and Conrad A. Gottfredson discussed how many businesses are struggling with achieving or maintaining competitive advantage. To help, they suggest that organizations should learn to pursue learning agility—the ability of an organization to learn at or above the speed of change—to sustain competiveness. In the Five-Factor Model of Organizational Learning Agility, they suggest that there are five primary factors that interact to promote or hinder learning agility within organizations. One of the factors, the second factor, is Learning Mindset, i.e., the prevailing assumptions, beliefs, and dispositions relating to the way people learn. As competitive environments increase in speed, complexity, and volatility, they propose that organizations and individuals need to move “towards a dynamic learning mindset. Dynamic learning is defined as rapid, adaptive, collaborative, and self-directed learning at the moment of need. The new mindset recognizes learning as the source of sustained competitive advantage in the context of a protean organization.”

A learner-centric culture has never been more important to organizations than it is today and the most successful organizations have realized the criticality of supporting a “learn how to learn” environment. How to achieve this is an obvious next question. To help employees learn in a rapidly changing environment is first to understand how people learn and especially how people expect and want to learn differently.

To explore this question, let’s look at student data captured over the past few years. Bob Mosher and Conrad Gottfredson, the faculty, have been offering their Performance Support Lab and Seminar offered by the Masie Center. Participants are generally training leaders and instructional developers who are seeking new ways to improve, particularly in the area of performance support. A critical goal for them is achieving a high performance workforce in times of rapid change.

Before the seminar, each participant takes the Learning Orientation Questionnaire (LOQ), described below. The LOQ is based on three factors that consider the level of the learner’s emotional investment in learning and performance, strategic self-directedness and independence or autonomy. Scores help the faculty examine individual differences in their learning audience. High scores indicate learners are more successful in the learning domain and demonstrate use of sophisticated learning skills, e.g., holistic thinking, problem-solving, non-verbal and creativity skills. High scorers typically seek complex, exploratory challenges, are self-motivated, autonomous, self-directed and comfortable with change and setting and achieving long-term goals. In contrast, low scores identify learners that are less sophisticated, less self-motivated and less autonomous and more risk and change aversive. One hundred and eighteen participants have taken the LOQ and their scores are shown here in the graph below.

Clearly, those who are choosing to attend the Performance Support Lab and Seminar are high LOQ scorers (3.5 and higher), like to learn and are seeking ways to provide better learning and performance solutions.

The LOQ uses the learning orientation research and recent advances in the neurosciences to describe learning orientations or dispositions to learn. The learning orientation research explores the theoretical and neuroscience foundations for understanding sources for individual differences in learning. Neurosciences in the last ten years have revealed the extraordinary complexities of brain activity and multiple aspects influencing thinking processes. These theories highlight more than the cognitive element, they explore the sometimes dominant power of emotions, intentions and socialization on learning, performance, memory, and decision making.

What do these scores mean? LOQ scores offer explanations for individual differences in learning, communication, and performance, including expectations, beliefs, preferences, strategies, skills, values, and approaches. In this data set, the 3.5 scores describe high performing learners and the 4.0 scores describe transforming learners.

High Performing Learners are assertive, persistent, low-maintenance, skilled learners that rationally, systematically, and capably use psychological processes, strategies, preferences, and self-regulated learning skills to achieve challenging learning objectives and tasks. They like to focus on process, principle, details, task completion and the right steps towards attaining critical, worthwhile goals. These learners take responsibility and control of their learning and become actively involved in managing the learning process. These learners will avoid situations that provide highly structured, non-discovery, low learner-controlled environments, explicit guidance, and low-standard achievement. In contrast to transforming learners, high performing learners are not as theoretical or passionate, committed or persistent about all learning. They are more selective about how hard they work and on which learning goals. To improve learning agility, performing learners should acquire more abstract and holistic thinking, strategic planning, change management and long-term goal setting skills.

Transforming Learners deliberately use personal strengths, deep desires, strong emotions, persistent and assertive effort, and sophisticated, abstract or holistic thinking ability and strategies to self-manage learning successfully. They enjoy talking about new concepts, exploring new ideas, taking the initiative and risk, and making mistakes to attain greater expertise. They aggressively take responsibility and control of their learning and become actively involved in managing the learning process. They use stimulating beliefs and emotions, e.g., motivation, passion, personal principles, and desires for high, challenging standards towards high-effort achievement of challenging personal goals. They also are assertive, low maintenance learners that learn best in environments that encourage and support: risk-taking experiences; mentoring relationships; self-directed learning; complex, problem-solving situations; and transformative goals. They too will avoid situations that provide highly structured, non-discovery, low learner-controlled environments, explicit guidance, and low-standard achievement. To improve learning agility, transforming learners will learn greater discipline, consider details, ensure accuracy, efficiency, reliability and task and project completion and learn to communicate in a less theoretical, more practical manner.

Conforming, performing and resistant learner orientations are also shown in the data sample in much fewer numbers. These learners are less ready to embrace learning, change and improvement with eagerness, independence or passion. While, research in the neurosciences has shown that neuronal structure and activation (brain plasticity) can change in response to experiences and learning opportunities, these learners need the resources to help them change, especially with reasons, roles, models and guidance for change.

Learning agility is a process of change and continual, committed persistent efforts towards improvement. When trainers or teachers are striving to support better learning agility, they must consider the gap between the dynamic mindset that exists and what needs to exist in their learning audience. The learn-to-learn domain of their audience needs to be analyzed and areas of improvement need to be identified. The learning audience for today’s workforce must be much better at rapidly scanning, finding, synthesizing, collaborating, reflecting, innovating and producing or reproducing. Learning agility for an organization is limited if these skills do not exist or are not supported in their workforce. Trainers and teachers can close these learn-to-learn gaps, by strategically infusing informal learning, non-formal and formal learning opportunities with more sophisticated learn-to-learn skills that are too often taken for granted, including holistic thinking, creativity, problem-solving and critical thinking. Closing the gaps is not an easy task, but understanding how learners learn differently and knowing that all learners can improve with the right support and motivation can ease the challenge.

As we get better at understanding the learn-to-learn domain, we can get better at supporting the learning mindsets of our learners and improving learning agility across the organization.

Available Resources.
If readers would like to take the Learning Orientation Questionnaire (LOQ), they can use the following access code: LJ230306QD to sign in as a new user at:
This limited free offer will be available for one month.

After taking the LOQ, they can find their LOQ scores, interpretations for their scores and their learn-to-learn domain, and links that offer strategies and interventions for improving learning agility at: