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Imagine this scenario. You want to create the optimum classroom training experience. You build a state-of-the-art training facility, from the technology down to the furniture. You research and purchase award-winning content. You deploy a robust and effective LMS. You open your doors for your first day of class and you don’t have any instructors to teach the courses. What’s your chance of success?
Even though you have assembled some world class learning assets, have you created a COMPLETE formal learning program? You haven’t. Because some KEY ingredients, that fundamentally make the classroom what it is, are missing.
Enter one of the most common statements Con and I hear all the time: “We have Performance Support (PS). We have SharePoint (SP).” Unfortunately, the potential outcome of these two scenarios couldn’t be more similar. Now, before you send me nasty emails around the power and potential of SP, please reread the title of this blog posting, “SharePoint ALONE is NOT Performance Support”. Clearly SP is an amazing content repository and collaborative tool. It can be a powerful part of an overall PS strategy, but like many other similar tools, when left alone as a strategy, it’s lacking and will ultimately hurt your overall investment in SP, as well as your learner’s willingness to adopt and use it.
Like the classroom scenario above, SP alone is missing some of the key characteristics of an overall effective PS solution. Let’s start there. In our work and travels, Con and I have discovered that there are 5 key ingredients in a successful PS rollout:
- Embedded in the Workflow: The closer the PS strategy and related software are embedded in the workflow, and moved closer to the problem they are solving, the higher probability of adoption and impact. Proximity is EVERYTHING! Clicking out to an LMS, or a SharePoint site, to search through 1,000’s of resources is not embedded. Con and I have a mantra we’ve always work with, “Two clicks or 10 seconds”. Meaning if the learner can’t get to the support they need that quickly they simply don’t engage.
- Contextual Based on Job Role, Workflow Process, or Circumstance: This principle is often confused with the embedded principle. Just because something is accessible doesn’t mean that the content presented will be useful. The content needs to be relevant to the learner’s role, workflow, or problem being solved. Imagine facing a critical decision and having 5 minutes to make it. You are given access to 100’s of potential documents, websites, and colleagues (i.e. SP) as a resource. How do you feel right now? The more your PS framework can contextualize the resources, which are made available based on the circumstance you find yourself in, the higher probability of success!
- Provides “Just Enough” Content: This is one of the most misunderstood principles of effective PS. Many PS solutions simply offer too many options. This is not a strategy of abundance; it’s a strategy of specificity. More is NOT better when it comes to PS design. Effective PS offers just the right amount of support, with the most appropriate learning/support asset(s), and then guides the learner to more, if needed. You’ve seen us refer to this as the “PS Design Pyramid” and it is BRILLIANTLY outlined in Con’s recent blog article entitled “The Threat of Information Chaos and the Role of Performance Support”. SP struggles with mapping to this type of content architecture and being maintained over time, especially when mapping across multiple workflow processes, job roles, and systems.
- Integrated into Formal Learning: The most successful PS solutions we’ve been involved in start in the classroom, or the formal domain. Rather than teach everything like we once did, the trainer only teaches the essentials and then uses the rest of class time helping their learner understand how to stand self-reliant by using PS. Clearly SP can be integrated into training, the problem is that many SP sites hold a lot more information than the content a specific training course typically focuses on. This breaks the rule of “Providing Just Enough Content” as outlined above. A specific area of SP can be deep linked, or brokered, from within a PS framework optimizing the content stored on SP while not overwhelming or confusing the learner in the process.
- Trustworthy Content: The number one killer of PS is incorrect or outdated content. Since PS is consumed at the moment of performing a task, if this doesn’t help or produces an incorrect outcome they will never use it again. Some type of maintenance strategy has to accompany every PS rollout. Unfortunately many SP sites have not been set up with this type of rigorous maintenance strategy. They end up being the dumping ground of multiple versions of the same content found in multiple places. Using a PS authoring software can help bring semblance to this issue, allowing for versioning and tracking in a way SP isn’t able to support. Also rarely have we found all the appropriate learning and support assets stored in one SP site. There are often other web links, e-learning, and other resources which could be used in the PS framework. These need to be made available and maintained in concert with what’s available in SP.
Effective PS is not about a tool like SP, it’s about orchestrating an effective, embedded, and contextual journey through the appropriate support assets - at the moment of need. SP is a tremendous asset in that overall approach, but is not a standalone solution or strategy.
Bob Mosher, Chief Learning Evangelist for Ontuitive
Bob has been an active and influential leader in the learning and training industry for over 23 years. He is renowned worldwide for his pioneering role in e-learning and new approaches to learning. Bob joined Ontuitive from Microsoft, where he was the director of learning strategy and evangelism. Before Microsoft, Bob was the executive director of education for Element K, where he directed and influenced their learning model and products.
Bob is an influential voice in the IT-training industry, speaking at conferences and participating within industry associations such as Chief Learning Officer magazine, CompTIA, ASTD, The eLearning Guild and The MASIE Center.