5 Moments of Need

Workflow Learning: The Four Fundamental Principles

Published On: September 20th, 2019
Workflow Learning: The Four Fundamental Principles
By: Dr. Conrad Gottfredson and Bob Mosher
The following is an excerpt from The Performance Matters Podcast Series, Episode 13.
Let’s jump right into Bob and Con’s discussion around workflow learning…
Bob: Today we’re going to take a strong run at
what’s becoming a super-hot topic in our industry that is being currently
called “workflow learning”. I think it’s really important to take the time to
step back and be sure our industry has a clear understanding of this.
“Workflow learning,” isn’t just about making information available in
the workflow
. It’s enabling a learner to learn or be supported while doing
their work.
eLearning, for instance, has thrown around the acronym JIT, or just-in-time
learning.  We’ve agreed all along, eLearning
does provide ease of use and is clearly a powerful economic model for not
taking people out of the workflow for three to five days. But here’s the thing.
You still have to step away from your work, in this case, cognitively. For example,
you’re not leaving your seat but you’re not performing your work anymore.
You’ve launched an LMS to consume.
True workflow learning is done in parallel, not to
the side. It’s done while getting work done. It instructs, informs, and
supports—three, frankly, different things, all while doing the job. Con, do you
Con: This is a crucial distinction. There is a
great deal of misunderstanding in our conversations around workflow learning
because of it. Real workflow learning is learning while working. That’s genuine
workflow learning. Many people, in their approach to workflow learning assume all
learning in the workflow constitutes workflow learning. Micro-learning in the
workflow can be a rudimentary form of workflow learning. But the real power of
workflow learning is what you said. It’s enabling people to learn as they do
their work so that they don’t have to stop work in order to learn.
that’s the distinction.
Bob: I really like this distinction. “Informing”
and “supporting”, while performing work is a powerful way to learn.
Con: Oh, yeah! Because in traditional learning
we have what we call “train”, and then the learner has to transfer it to their
job. That is, contextualize it to their own work. When you have real workflow
learning the transfer inherently occurs while learning. There’s no stopping
work. There’s no real transfer stage. So, it’s faster and more economical in
terms of the learning process. It’s absolutely more powerful—as long as it can
be done safely.
Bob:  Con,
you talk about context a number of times. It’s only since I’ve gotten into this
deeper and have been involved in The 5 Moments, watching the methodology play
out, that a huge “aha!” came to me. I realized, as an ID, how very little I
knew about the workflow. I knew what the SME wanted me to teach. I knew what the
SME wanted me to have people understand. I knew what software to use. But that’s
not workflow. That’s what is inflicted on the workflow and has to be
Con: I have yet to walk into an organization
that truly understands their workflow. And that’s startling. Tragic, really.
How does an organization really take control of how their people do their work
if they are blind to just that—the workflow?
Traditional approaches in instructional design employ traditional job task
analysis. But, unfortunately, this approach fails to organize those tasks into a
workflow process. You have to map the workflow because this mapping is what creates
the context that provides your learners with just-in-time access to just what
they need, at the moment they need it, in order to be able to learn in the
Bob: So Con, “If it’s not embedded in the
workflow, it doesn’t work.” Meaning, we have to be sure we understand the
context of the work. That’s the workflow. But there’s also the physical context
in which the learner can consume. If it’s a system, embed it.
Con: Yes. The only way I can learn as I do my
work is if I have access to what I need, to do that learning, as I do my work.
Bob: It’s in this next principle where I think
most of us go wrong. We embed well, we make things contextual, but then we pile
on. There’s this misconception, in my opinion, about adults and adult learning.
How could more not be better? They are adults—they can handle it—well, that’s
wrong. A lot of the real need is driven by the context. If I’m in one of The
Five Moments of Need—let’s say Solve—I am not in the mood for an asset that’s
going to take me twenty minutes to Solve. This principle of Just Enough and The
Right Kind of Just Enough is so important.
Con: That’s why we talk about “2
Clicks—10 Seconds.” The “2 Clicks” is getting to the needed information, while
the “10 seconds” is the time it takes for me to translate that information into
action. So we really do need to be able access just what I need, at my moment
of need to help me get the job done—and in the process, learn by doing.
Bob: So let’s
wrap up the four fundamental principles with one I know is near and dear to
your heart—content management—aggregating content, currency, trustworthiness,
maintenance. These principles are sort of foundationally building one on the
other but in the end, if what I call up is wrong or if what I call up is old, I
would never go back. Con, tell us a bit more about this discipline around
currency and trustworthiness of content.
Con: This is the
elephant in the room—keeping solutions current. When you step into the
workflow, there is no room for people to be accessing information that is
inaccurate. We’ve got to take steps to keep the solution meaningful, vibrant,
and up-to-date. The good news is that performance support methodology and
technology can enable that in ways that we haven’t been able to historically. We
have to bring to this world of workflow learning strong content management
practices. We can’t ignore it.
We have to step in and partner with the
business in that journey, or we will fail. Workflow learning takes us into the
world of the organization, and its business, and we have to have practices that
let us partner with the business in keeping things current, vibrant and
Bob: So, friends, I want to conclude with one
last thought, or myth, if you will. “We have workflow learning because we have
this really remarkable coaching program.” Disclaimer, we are not knocking
coaching programs. But, in the context of what we just got through discussing,
that is not what a coaching program does.
Con: Correct. A coach isn’t always around when I
experience my moment of learning need. The cost of coaching is so high—I’m
tying down another human being to be there to coach me. Then coaches, depending
on the day, can be very good or they can just take me to a place that I hadn’t
ought to go! Sure, coaching is a very powerful thing, but you can’t scale it to
meet all the needs that people have in terms of workflow learning. It’s “just
not gonna happen.”
Bob: This discussion is one we have to continue.
It’s fundamental to going forward in the Five Moments and effectively doing it.
Listen to the full episode.


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