Thursday August 2, 2012
Harold S Geneen was CEO of ITT from 1959 to 1977. He grew the company from $765 million to $17 billion in this time. One of his fundamental principles was
"Performance is everything.
Forget everything else"
Is it possible that we have overlooked this principle in the discipline of training and learning. We are relatively good at the formal side of learning – when people are learning something for the first time and when they want to learn more. We have rightly broadened our approach from the traditional classroom to include other formal means to help people learn quickly and effectively. We have employed innovative technologies to make these learning opporutnities available anywhere, anytime.
However, have we been negligent in addressing the most critical moment in any person’s individual learning process – their moment of "Apply". Preparing learners for the vital moment when they are called upon to perform should have always been at the heart of our efforts. This is when learners meet the realities of what they actually learned, what they didn’t learn, what they have forgotten, what they have misunderstood, the unanticipated little things, and the challenge of a constantly changing performance landscape.
We seem unable to shake the formal learning event paradigm from our collective mindset. Should not our core msision be to develop learning solutions that ensure people can perform effectively when they are called upon to act. Think about how you or your organisation is approaching training today. Are your sights squarely on the "Moment to Apply?" In the past we might have been able to ignore this vital moment and still somehow stumble into successful on-the-job performance. The nature of today’s world simply wont let us do that. It demands that we focus squarely on Apply.
The nature of today’s learners, the millenials, is resistant to learning options that are delayed and removed from the here and now. They are self-directed, adaptive, and collaborative in their approach to learning.
These learners will ultimately abandon outright our formal learning solutions if what we provide them fails to efficiently prepare them to effectively perform at their moments of "Apply". Why? Because when facing a traditional course that fails to do this, millenials are predisposed to simply walk away and look elsewhere for the shortest path to successful performance.
It is irresponsible for anyone in our profession to design, develop, deliver a learning solution that fails to take into account the support infrastructure needed for learners to perform successfully in their work whenever and however they are called upon to do so. It isn’t acceptable to simply throw learners out the classroom door into the workforce and then just hope that what we did during the event is enough. It’s not. We know full well that learning doesn’t stick unless you make provision to support performance in the workforce. We also know that the success that does occur isnt all that could occur if we attended to the principles and practices of "performance support". And the good news is that doing this doesn’t require more effort than what most are doing now. It does, however, require a mindset shift. It also necessitates our learning how to redirect current efforts to bring about this alignment.
This isnt a proposal to overthrow forma learning events or to diminish the vital role trainers play. However, we need as a profession to move much of what we do as far into the natural workflow of the organisation as possible; we need to avoid when we can, pulling people from their work for large periods of time to learn. There has never been a time when we have had greaqter technological capacity to do this than now.