I've written on my new blog about some articles I've come across describing a new approach to design which 'interrupts' the learning design process to create and try out performance support materials.

I like the approach in theory but I'd like to know if anyone's put this or something similar into practice.


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Hi Norman -

We have done this extensively over the last few years - with Andy Jones and most of what I know about performance support I learned from Nigel Harrison

It has been my main philosophy on offshoring projects: moving jobs from London to other parts of the world, training new staff.

I could talk about it for hours (I've even briefly considered writing a small book about training for offshoring projects!) 

It's a big mind shift, not just for the client but also for you as the consultant. If you want to do it right you should look at usability of the systems, online help etc. 

Rather than an up-front learning intervention it's better to have a good cheat sheet that helps you when you're stuck. But taking the next step, it's even better to have well designed tools that don't require a cheat sheet. A good icon can be self-explanatory. Making software and interfaces work like the other software and interfaces in your daily life also mean you don't need performance support materials and you definitely don't need training. But that means your role as learning consultant has now really changed quite a bit!

And don't forget you should also think about motivation, and whether the processes are well designed.

Two things you'll find: 

1) One of the challenges is helping the organisation (including other L&D professionals) understand your role. Peers may think performance is not part of what you 'should' be working on and your clients may not get it either. And then when you start interfering with the tools and systems and the online help you may need 

2) You may need to add some old-fashioned (even classroom) training. Even though you know it won't do much for actual knowledge or skills development, let alone for performance, this may just get calm your stakeholder's nerves, make everybody feel safe about your approach - and buy you the time and access to look at the performance support.

Ideally you'll be involved early on in the process so you can partner on the design of the system, the processes and the environment to minimise the amount of required training and performance support. 

And I'll be honest: I've never been involved early enough, and never had the chance to influence all the elements I would have liked to influence. But we did chip away at it and we did have some successes!

Thanks Bas, that's encouraging. I too like Nigel Harrison's performance consulting approach and, used alongside the Cathy Moore Action Mapping tool, it definitely points towards performance support in many cases. In my former organisation we had to accept that bringing electronic performance support into a learning project, or actually trying to influence the design of systems, were beyond possibility in a learning project. The silo mentality reigns and any new EPSS system would be years of negotation away. I'd hoped that low-key performance support suggestions (cheat-sheet PDFs) would be taken up but since I was acting only in an advisory capacity, not project manager, sponsor or supplier, they tended to go with what they know: an hour of e-learning.

Never mind, I think there's a lot to be said for giving the right advice even if it's not what's expected. I was quite excited by the idea, in principle, of trying out the performance support before committing to the learning design, and I'd still like to see it in action.

I really like the idea of PS by stealth or 'Hacking Performance Support'. Trying to get a client to buy an EPSS system would be like wading through treacle while dragging a tractor!



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