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Preaching the Path of Patience and Perseverance

An interview with Bill Hickey, a 5 Moments of Need Designer at Axalta in Philadelphia, PA, around his organization’s 5 Moments Journey and the impact it is having on the performance of the workforce.

An Interview with Bill Hickey

“It’s almost like we’re putting ourselves out of business—in a good way! Because the next design methodology will be this Five Moments design methodology and that’s exciting and encouraging!”

– Bill Hickey, 5 Moments of Need Designer

Bob Mosher (BM): How did your Five Moments of Need journey begin? What got you started?

Bill Hickey (BH): What got me started in the Five Moments of Need (5MoN) was a visit to Masie’s Learning 2009 where I attended a breakout session led by gentlemen by the names of Conrad Gottfredson and Bob Mosher—it was there that I had a bit of a revelation. As a master-degreed instructional designer, long time corporate trainer, and designer trying to figure out, “How do you make these things that make so much sense to me intellectually and academically—how do I turn them around and make them real in a corporate learning environment that was moving at a pace much faster than those classically trained in instructional design systems would allow?”

Over the coming years as our company moved from being part of a very large international company—The DuPont Company—spinning off to a stand-alone paint business, I got the chance to look at The Five Moments and say, “Now that we’re a smaller entity, a more focused entity, how does this apply?”

And in fact, it applied even more specifically to what we were attempting to do. So that was the beginning of the journey. It was almost accidental but was at a perfect time in my life.

BM: Brilliant! So, how did you get your team, and entire enterprise on board to make this shift? What was your path in going from 5MoN disciple to winning over the enterprise?

BH: The first step in the journey was finding one subject matter expert who was struggling with how to make his topic well known and effectively used in the marketplace. Truthfully, it all really came together in a bar in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I was with a colleague and we were looking at how he could implement some clarity into a program he had primary responsibility for. We sell color into the automotive/autobody space. He was responsible for how that color got sold in that space, how a body shop painter would look at a vehicle that needed to be repaired and say, “Okay, I know how to match that vehicle using Axalta systems.” He was struggling mightily with “How do I make this better, quicker, faster for an end-user of our product?”

And I sat down and over a beer or two and began, “Have we looked at these things from the user’s point of view, focusing on performance first?” And I may not have even used those words, but looking back on it now, I know that’s what we were discussing—and began to describe a way where instead of us focusing on our technology and the wonders of what our technology could do—and it is wonderous technology—but instead, said, “Let’s look at this from the user’s point of view. I would call them a learner’s point and begin to understand what it was that they need to do to most effectively using our system? And then, what do they need to know to make that system hum on a daily basis?”

And this subject matter expert was intrigued and was willing to say, “Let’s start to walk down that path and figure out what to do.” It was at that point that we invited Con Gottfredson to Axalta where he spent a few days with us and we focused on our first project. We leaped into it and took a look at how we could simplify this wondrously massive technology that we call ColorNet. It turns out The Five Moments process really could help us do that.

BM: So, I’ve seen this work, Bill, and it’s remarkable. What has been the response from either that stakeholder now or the enterprise at large? Where are you sitting today on that journey?

BH: I think, on the journey, the most exciting part for me is maybe not today but tomorrow. Because now, as our organization continues to evolve and we have all these different technologies available, they continue to turn and look at ColorNet and what we designed as part of The Five Moments process and say, “We want it to look like that!” So, the next generation of this won’t be this massive tool that tends to confuse and at times intimidate—but instead, “Can we look at this as this very streamlined process?” What the user will use is only and everything the user needs to use, not this massive system that’s very difficult to navigate and figure out.

So, to me, the exciting part of this is how this methodology is now educating and influencing what next generation development will look like.

BM: Wow!

BH: Almost to the point they won’t need us learning designers! I say that in a smiling way. It’s almost like we’re putting ourselves out of business—in a good way! Because the next design methodology will be this Five Moments design methodology and that’s exciting and encouraging!

BM: Wow! What a remarkable thing, Bill. I talk to L&D folks every day who are so disconnected to the business it’s terrifying for them. I go to these conferences and it’s mostly with C-Suite people and every year it’s like, “Oh, my gosh! How do we align with the business? They are begging for any way to dip a toe into the water. And your description is transformational in that.

This isn’t about a training solution anymore. Or about plopping eLearning into an LMS or something. You’ve really transformed the business and are seen as a partner through what you’ve done.

BH: The other audience that I was most fearful of getting on board was our technical instructors—to the degree in which they might be looking at this and saying, “what do you need me for if you’re able to do all of these things”? But, just recently, I was in Vancouver with those technical instructors and we were discussing how to use the solution ColorCoach—which was created for ColorNet—as their primary instructional device when they are teaching ColorNet and one of the instructors surprised me by talking about how he would use a 70:20:10 concept. And I was just sitting off to the side saying to myself, “I would have never believed, in 2009, when we first heard about this, that we would be here now having our instructors wanting to teach in a performance first mindset and use what was designed intentionally as a performance support tool—use it as their instructional device.” So, I’m really seeing how performer support is influencing classroom instruction, which in turn will revolutionize performer support.

So, if we can do it here, in the technical training instructional world, how does that start to speak to the rest of the Axalta organization in terms of how they can use it in customer service training, Salesforce, and our internal HR IS systems. We have grown this beyond purely technical topics to having subject matter experts in those areas with their heads bobbing up and down saying, “Hey! Tell us more about this!”

BM: Last question and it’s one of my favorites. This is the classic, if you could go back to your 2009 self today—and this isn’t negative per se—what you advise younger Bill about?

BH: The advice from myself ten years later—patience and perseverance. Thinking that I could in some way, or in a matter of weeks or months, just realign an organization—nah, it takes time. I would also be more forgiving of myself when it didn’t happen overnight. Additionally, I would say, “Never lose sight of the end goal. Give yourself the permissions you need to fail a couple of times, to struggle a few times, to weather the storm when we had turnover, change—dramatic change in terms of this organization. We went from a publicly held company to a privately held, private equity company, to a publicly held company again. Weather all those storms. And remain persistent in the message.”

Hearing technical instructors ten years later talk about performance first, to hear them talk about 70:20:10 in a way they are not frightened by it. And then to allow the technology to come to us, continue with the methodology, and then just watch how amazingly technology has permitted us to do some things that ten years ago weren’t possible. Allow that to unfold. Remain a disciple but become the evangelist too!

BM [laughs]: Yeah! Preach on.

Connect with Bill to learn more about Axalta’s performance improving 5 Moments of Need solutions.