Wednesday, September 30, 2015

9 Critical Elements of Performance Improvement: Devlearn Session Recap

Session Recap:
“9 Critical Elements of Performance Improvement”
Devlearn 2015 Session 111: Jane Bozarth & Jeannette Campos

In January 2014 my husband, Kent,  was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  The experience -- from diagnosis to surgery to complications to recovery -- served as an excellent reminder that learning does not happen in a vacuum, that “training” is rarely enough, and that learners are actors in a system with many moving parts. This session explored 9 key points of performance improvement in the context of Kent's story.

1. “A problem well-stated is a problem half-solved.” ~Kettering
Kent presented with occasional blurry vision.  He thought he needed glasses. Our family doctor sent him to an opthalmologist. 

What evidence do we look for to confirm our understanding of the performance problem? How often do we treat symptoms versus performance problems?

2. Prepare your learner and others.
We were provided with only the most general information about what to expect from the surgery and during recovery.

How well do we prepare our learners for successful outcomes?  How often are our training interventions designed in response to specific and targeted performance problems?  How do we design for “personalized” learning experiences?

Do we even know who our learners are? What shortcuts do we take around getting to know our learners?

3. The long tail of performance improvement
We expected that Kent would return to work in about 6 weeks. It ended up being a year. 

Discussion: The long tail of performance improvement. Training has ended but the performance hasn’t yet begun.

How do we link/pair the training intervention with extended support for performance improvement?  Why is training (as an intervention) almost never enough?
How do we resist (or help others resist) the idea that the initial event – training – is the end when it is only the beginning?

 4. All learning is about relationships.
Performance depended on a network of support staff, from medical personnel to neighbors helping Kent take his first walks around the neighborhood.

When trainers/training aren’t enough (and they almost never are) … how do we think about the relationships that best support performance after learning? Well-designed performance improvement interventions involve many people from different parts/areas of the learner’s natural environment that exist well beyond the classroom. 
How do we as workplace learning practitioners design performance improvement strategies that extend beyond trainers and the classroom?
How do we promote learner-to-learner relationships? Or, said differently, how often do we involve a learner’s manager or co-workers in the success of a performance support intervention?   

5. Consider the five moments of learning need.
Unexpected outcomes forced Kent to have to learn new things, like managing with a walker and navigating a shower stall by palming the walls. 

This speaks to the classic five moments of learning need: When learning for the first time, when trying to remember, when trying to apply, when things change, and when things go wrong.

 6. “You and the cause of all of your problems are part of the same system.” ~Senge
Kent’s recovery depended on many moving parts, from transportation arrangements to visits to additional facilities such as outpatient PT office and the eye center.

What other parts of your system influence your ability to achieve optimal performance outcomes?  How do you incorporate  systems thinking into your design of training and learning events?

7. Allow for the graduation of a skill.
Time spent at inpatient rehabilitation involved hours of work toward successfully (without falling) showering, dressing, and performing basic life tasks. The facility had a working kitchen and things like freestanding steps and  a replica of a car that allowed practicing getting in and out.

The degree to which the learning environment replicates the performing environment.  How often are we able to do that in training?  How often do we try to do that in training?  What is the benefit of supported practice prior to application?

8. All people present with 4 basic tendencies
Based on the work by Chris Argyris, we know that all people present with four basic tendencies; 1) maximize winning and minimize losing, 2) remain in unilateral control, 3) appear rational, and 4) to suppress negative feelings. 

How much do you know about basic human behavior? How often do you think about predictable human behavior when you design, develop, and deliver training or learning interventions? 

9. What is measured matters.
The initial goal of “surviving the surgery” was a noble one but, given the outcomes, not enough. Given the complications many people in the system set other goals for Kent’s recovery.

What is a successful outcome of training? What is the goal of the intervention? How do we stay focused on the “true goal” of improved performance for our end-user instead of the artificial goal of “learning at training”.

I hope one thing people took away from this session is that "performance" is a concept far, far beyond someone completing an elearning course, passing a test, or even performing a discrete task correctly in the moment. There are 1,000 things between the learner and successful performance. The learner is an actor in a system and it's up to us to start seeing the nodes and connectors and other elements that will support performance improvement.

For more on Kent’s story see Bozarth, J. (2015). Performance Matters, or, Guy Walks Into A Brain Tumor Clinic. Learning Solutions Magazine June 2015. ce-matters-or-guy-walks-into-a-brain-tumor-clinic

Be sure to check out posts from all the DevLearn Bloggers! 

Update: Several hours after the presentation I received this from Kent: 

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