It’s Still About People Since It’s Still About Change

I am an advocate for performance support. It just makes sense, (even if the term itself is a bit confusing and not very exciting.)  But as with all technology-enabled learning solutions that have crossed my path over the past 35+ years, the most critical success factor is not the technology at all.  It is the people who will use and support the use of this stuff: the workers (unfortunately referred to as ‘end-users’) and their managers.   What is critical is how well they accept, adopt, and adapt to the changes these technologies represent.

When it comes to the type of change that performance support represents this is not in the same category as a large-scale organizational initiative. But, as it is a change, the WIIFM rule still applies.  The people impacted need to understand what’s in it for them.  They do this by understanding it’s value, experiencing it’s value and finally realizing it’s value.  Just having a communication plan and telling them it’s great doesn't do the trick.  Nor is it true that having great design, content, and technology is enough in the spirit of ‘if we build it RIGHT, they will (of course) love it’.

Helping these end-user and managers understand intellectually and conceptually the value of performance support is the goal of communication and messaging activities, (i.e., marketing communications).  They need simple and clear answers to their ‘what, why, how, who, and when’ questions.  And it is important to make sure these messages are heard and are heard in ways they will be recognized, recalled, and remembered.

Just giving answers to these questions though is not enough. In order to accelerate the adoption of performance support as a solution, you need ultimately to change attitudes and behaviors.  And, behavior change seldom happens based solely on someone passively receiving information or tokens.  The key is to engage them and enable them to experience the value first-hand. You want to give them chances to experience it for themselves, to ‘try it on’ in effect, to ask questions, and form their own opinions.  In this way the end-users and their managers can both internalize and personalize the benefits of the performance support for themselves; to have it become theirs not just yours

But, experiencing the value that performance support can provide in this way is not enough to ensure long-term success.  This only comes from having opportunities to realize the value in real-work situations.  So it is important to identify ongoing work and organizational processes, and critical business initiatives in which the application of performance support can make a measurable impact.  It is from these experiences performance support can more quickly become the ‘norm’, an integrated component of the work and work processes, and not just another add-on.  And, in this way, part of the very fabric of the organization, critical to the success of individuals and the ongoing health and survival of an organization as a whole.

Implementing performance support solutions is really no different from any other type of technology-enabled change.  And the key lesson from the many, many prior examples is the same.  The ‘hard-stuff’ is the ‘soft-stuff’. The ‘hard-stuff’ is not the technology, the content, the interface, the IT issues.  The ‘hard-stuff’ is what many people used to refer to as the ‘soft-stuff’, the people issues.  Ensuring the end-users and their managers are ready, willing, and able to adopt and adapt to performance support is THE critical success factor.


About: Lance Dublin, Chief Solution Architect, Dublin Consulting

Lance Dublin has been an advocate for innovative approaches to learning and change throughout his career.  Lance is an independent management consultant specializing applying strategic thinking and design to the development of learning strategy, development programs, and organizational change initiatives. He has more than 30 years’ experience in adult education & training, communications and change leadership, change management & organizational development.

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