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Performance is more than support – performance in context

  What this performance model means for the provision of learning support in organisationstheperformance-medium So taking the performance lens to typical learning challenges, let’s finish with looking at performance in context.  To do this, I have broken down performance in a more contextual way and applied our model to each situation of the following contexts: Performance rehearsal, performance analysis, performance catalyst Today, we’ll take a look at performance rehearsal. Examples: This could range from preparing someone for their first managerial role through to highly complex skills, such as designing major structural engineering projects, conducting medical procedures, flight training etc Conditions: This requires clear communication about expectations for a given role, understanding of core work activities (i.e. the processes, tools, inputs and outputs), transfer of knowledge, mentoring, practice opportunities aligned to typical work challenges and scenarios to develop a realistic and fully aligned view of what levels of performance are needed. Where these skills are complex, rare or safety critical, investment in creating the right conditions is a much easier case to make (think flight training) but there are other areas where a safe place to explore skills acquisition can benefit, such as first time management challenges. From an organisational culture perspective, leaders need to endorse time for people to invest in development, recognise and value contributions to supporting rehearsal (though capturing and sharing case studies, volunteering as a mentor or peer reviewer, contribute as a subject matter expert into formal content development). Goal setting: For those with clear outcomes (such as engineering projects, flight deck, medical etc) it is likely that well defined measurement is in place already and that number of incidents, speed of project delivery, budget, errors, quality etc can be tracked.  This can be integrated into your performance dashboard and over time, you can track these numbers.  However for topics such as leadership, the measures can be quite subjective and a great outcome can mean different things is different contexts.  That’s where a value chain can be very useful; its a worthwhile exercise in which to engage, not only for the purposes of defining measures but its also a great tool for senior team buy in. valuechain-medium Community: Mentoring is relevant here, but there are other community activities that can be beneficial.  Peer assists are a great way for teams of people to test hypothesis, present ideas and explore options, with the support of ‘critical friends’ who, in a facilitated environment, will encourage the team to scenario plan, work through alternatives and refine their plans.  Communities are also a fertile ground for gathering business stories that can be used to build realistic and credible scenarios. Tools and Tech: For complex, highly specialist settings, investment in VR could be a viable option.  Creating physical simulations of some of these tasks has been the only way to create a realistic environment but advances in VR technology are bridging that gap.  It may never replace it entirely, but speed to competency and high performance could be accelerated. Collaborative platforms with effective search capabilities help Responsive content can enable scenario base content to be delivered across platforms but its worth considering the screen real estate of each device and how detailed an interaction you can achieve.  However, there is a great role here for mobile in the continuum of performance rehearsal into application, through reinforcing learning with refreshers, quick exercises and top tips at the point of need. People: Facilitators to support and nurture communities are key roles here – connecting experts to novices, gathering insights to build realistic scenarios, orchestrate and facilitate peer reviews are just some of the key activities they can support.  Experts in content development with specialism in interactive scenarios, video storyboarding and production can be useful here.  VR simulation development houses are growing all the time (we at WillowDNA work with virtual environment and VR specialists, Immerse Learning).  Learning professionals need to ensure they are aware of progress in these areas and most major conferences will provide demonstrations and examples of new tools.  It goes without saying the leaders and budget holders will need to be supportive here but getting buy in requires well informed learning professionals who can tap into good case studies and examples from other organisations. Next, we’ll take a look at performance analysis.

Performance is more than support – Creating the conditions

So leading on from last week’s post, lets start exploring the first step in creating a performance culture – creating the optimal conditions Future performance infographic Conditions This is where culture, skills, career planning, reward and management skills come together to cultivate a performance mind-set, at both a micro level (individuals and teams) and macro level (organisations and society).  The issue here is that often these types of considerations are regarded as softer measures rather than at the hard and fast business results end of the scale. In a well cited paper from 2013 titled ‘ The future of employment: how susceptible are jobs to computerisation?’, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne from the University of Oxford, concluded that 47% of job categories are open to automation within the next twenty years.  Now this may be a rather worrying figure, however the paper also recognises that some jobs—especially those currently associated with high levels of education and high wages—will survive.  Although what’s more interesting is to reflect on the skills that will become the most valuable. It is research such as that conducted by the New World Of Work board (the results you can see in the box to the right) that has led to models such as Harold Jarche’s Network Era Competences for Learning and Working, where ‘personal knowledge mastery’ is a way to describe the ways in which we find the right information, people and knowledge to develop skills and drive performance.  In this environment, the most valuable skills become those that make us deft at navigating and disseminating information rapidly, contributing effectively and efficiently and skilled at bringing information and people together to deliver objectives. Through the commitment of learning professionals and business leaders, these competencies are nurtured by creating the most conducive learning environment, leaving people free to add their talents and imaginations to finding new solutions, efficiencies, products and services.  In the rise of automation (described by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, professors at MIT, as “The Second Machine Age”) its these skills that will become increasingly more valuable. A quick search on skills for the 21st century will yield page after page of articles, publications, research projects and comment, but most share common themes that support Jarche’s network era competencies.  They also often highlight why this is so important as we move through the information age into the imagination age, typifies by this quote from Michael Jung, a senior consultant at McKinsey and Company.

“Our old idea is that work is defined by employers and that employees have to do whatever the employer wants . . . but actually, you would like him to come up with an interpretation that you like — he’s adding something personal — a creative element.”

There’s also another great reason for investing in creating the right conditions – in his most recent book, More Than Blended Learning, Clive Shepherd emphasises that in today’s working world ‘an analysis is not for ever’.  His advice here is worth taking to heart:

‘Be prepared to revisit your analysis because situations are always changing and new information comes available all the time.  Design is – and should be – an iterative process as you strive to ever more closely meet the needs’.

Taking Clive’s point on board, this makes the conditions all the more important; anchoring your organisation to one particular approach is simply not tenable or relevant.    Once we accept this it really can be rather liberating!  No longer are we continually chasing the next big thing and committed to making that one big investment a success.  We are better informed and able to take opportunities as they arise because they are aligned to our particular performance needs. Once we’ve established the appropriate conditions for performance, it’s time to build a network or community to nurture and foster performance.  That’s what we’ll be focussing on in our next instalment.