Workflow Learning and The 5 Moments of Need with Bob Mosher

David James
David James
October 28, 2020
Workflow Learning and The 5 Moments of Need with Bob Mosher

In 2019, David James spoke with Bob Mosher, Thought-Leader and Chief Learning Evangelist, at The 5 Moments of Need™, on The Learning & Development Podcast

This conversation explores the pivot L&D needs to make from training / content-focus to performance-focus in order to fulfil our potential, meet the expectations of our stakeholders and make the required difference inside our organisations, and how we do this where and when employees are working.

Read on for some of the insights Bob shared in that conversation, or tune in to episode 19 of The L&D Podcast for the whole conversation.

We are in the Performance Business

Bob says:

“We’re here to help people, to lift organisations, to enable workers to perform at the moment of need. I’m a Performance Architect, right?

I’m a Performance Consultant. The danger of Training, and no offense to it because it’s been remarkable for years, is that there’s so much legacy and baggage to what that means. I think it minimises the discussion. I think it minimises our influence. I think it minimises our deliverables and the way we’re allowed to impact organisations.

I got out of the Training business 10 years ago and since I have, the discussion I’m allowed to have with those who I serve has broadened exponentially because, in the end, they come to training for performance. You come to a carpenter to build a home. I want to get into the discussion. I want to be seen as someone who supports and enables performance not the means to the end.

I’ve been using the tip of the sword thing. For too long I use the classic, “How many of you in L&D have heard these words?” Someone watching in their office and says, “I would like five days of training on.” Well, are you kidding me? We’re going to start there? That’s where the conversation begins. The organisation is seeing us in such a minimal limited way.”

Did You Build Blended Learning or Did You Just Build Blended Training?

Conrad Gottfredson introduced Bob to what had been his life work which was the 5 Moments Of Need. He told him:

“Bob, here’s the thing. All you did was a content pivot. You didn’t do a need pivot. If you had done a need pivot, you would have gotten a very different uptake and results from your learners.”

Conrad introduced Bob to the 5 Moments where he said:

 “Look, all you’ve addressed in the blended training that you’ve built is the first two. Which is when someone needs something for the first time, when people are new to content.” 

There’s the word, content. We upscale them in some way. We introduce them to it when they need more new content.

Again, the pivot in both of those things is a content dissemination need and, by the way, a very warranted need. We want our doctors to have knowledge before they cut us open, but at the same time, to be a good doctor you have to move into practice. The next three Moments Of Need are when someone tries to apply the knowledge that they gain. Now, yes, they may acquire more knowledge in doing that but it’s the transfer of knowledge, not the acquisition anymore. This vital moment of Apply. Then Apply has two nuances.

There’s Apply because things have changed. What happens when the information is different? Do I have to go all the way back to New? Probably not because I have base knowledge but something’s different. So the Moment Of Change. Or when I get myself in trouble because I think I know how to do something well and I make a mistake. New and More content-driven typically are often met by training, and then Apply, Change, and Solve are targeted towards performance and a different deliverable.

Design For People to Consume Learning While Doing

Then if we need to, we’ll train it or reinforce the training.

Bob once wrote an article for the CLO magazine that got probably the largest visceral, frank reaction from his business. He said:

“Do we teach swimming or prevent drowning?” 

Think about it.

Bob was an undergraduate in Education School in the States at the time. He was going to be an Elementary School Teacher which he was for a bit but left. He was at this summer camp teaching swimming. He was in a pool waist deep with a very talented swimming instructor who’s done it for years and standing in front of him were five-year-olds who they called Minnows. It’s what they called them back then, when trying to teach them how to swim.

He had a week with these kids. He had lesson plans and vocabulary and was going to model and do all kinds of stuff. His gifted colleague reached over, grabbed a kid off the deck and pulled him into the water. Like literally pulled him off the side. Of course, he immediately started spitting and struggling and flashing his arms around and my colleague guided him back to the edge. Bob looked at him like, “What the heck was that?”

He looked at Bob and said:

 “Bob, we only have a week. What do you think our job is here? Is it to teach swimming or is it to prevent these children from drowning?”

It was such an important time for Bob in this journey because what it re-oriented him to is, he reversed engineered the lessons Bob already had. Bob was in the water for two days. He had that child in the deep end in seconds, and then guided and supported them back. Then as he watched how the child could or couldn’t swim, he taught them to swim. 

We have to understand the deep end that our learners face everyday. Bob thinks we have a very limited view of that. We do something called Rapid Workflow Analysis before we start design. It’s not Needs Analysis. It’s not Content Analysis like we’ve known for years. It is the way in which we first analyse what is the deep end like for a learner? What is their day like? What are the challenges they face? What tasks do they perform? What understanding do they have to do? And support those tasks. What resources surround them in the water so that they don’t drown?

Designing For the Moment of Apply is a Very, Very Different Orientation For Us As Designers, Than a Content-driven Training One

These needs in the workflow have been blind to us as an industry for so long because we pivot on what an SME says. We go content first, and way too much of it and we remove it from where learning is done best – and that’s when they’re doing their work.

When doing this well, two things happen. We’ve seen it happen and we’ve measured it to happen. Number one, training on average is reduced by half, often more, because when you don’t start design for training first, you don’t need as much of it.

What we’re going to do instead is re-orient them to how they should look at training and when you do it you have much more time to do the kind of training you need, and time to design it if you start with Apply first.

Find out more in episode 19 of The L&D Podcast. 

We Have to Be Careful of Being Fooled By Our Own Deliverable

Happy faces, engagement, “this changed my life”, the light bulb went on. Bob isn’t discrediting any of those, but says we made a huge assumption that all of those equated to performance. They do not. Now do they support and help? Absolutely.

Bob says he was once told that he’s the classroom-hater guy. He says:

“I’m going to refute that right now. I am not the classroom-hater guy. What I do hate is what we’ve done to the classroom. It has been way overburdened and positioned to do things it is not good at. It’s put at the wrong time, it’s too long, it’s content-focused not performance-focused, all these things. That’s not the classroom’s fault, that’s a design problem.

For me, we have to be careful as L&D, to be sure we understand the tools of the trade that are out there and that are available for us, the methodologies that are emerging that help us change from this training-focus. It’s our responsibility, they’re out there. Doctors don’t use leeches anymore, they’ve moved beyond that.”

Bob’s Job is to Enable Learners to Perform in the Workflow, Period. If He Has Not Done That, Everything is Moot

When you’re done with your deliverables and you look back at them in 30, 60, 90 days, if they have not enabled learners to perform effectively on their own in the workflow, the Smile Sheets go out the window. The light bulbs, the aha’s, all that stuff, because transfer and sustain did not happen.

The important thing here is that Performance Support needs to be looked at by our industry again. It is not job aids like it was at one time. Oh my gosh, Electronic Performance Support Systems, Learning Experience Platforms, Adaptive Learning, these are the tools of that trade.

Performance Support is a discipline, it’s not a thing. Carpentry is not a hammer. Surgery is not a scalpel. Well, Performance Support is not a job aid. It is this remarkable discipline that has matured and grown for years and has remarkable tools at its disposal today. These platforms, tools and methodologies have emerged that make workflow-based learning and Performance Support much broader and to be supported by training.

We Are Way Behind on This, the Tools, the Methodology, and Now the Demand and the Need is There

Bob says:

“I get it’s hard, totally get it’s hard. I’m not dismissing the journey because I’ve been at it for 10 years and it has been tough, I totally get that. At the same time, that doesn’t mean because it’s hard we don’t do it.

When I’m talking to learning leaders, I have this slide that I put up, and say, “Look, you guys, forget your titles the whole deal. Look at this list of things and you tell me what made you an effective performer in your life.” I have L&D, ILT, E-Learning, virtual, just-in-time, in the workflow, trial and error. I have all these things listed. Guess what? Trial and error and on-the-job training wins every time.

No one votes for classroom E-Learning or VILT, nobody. I”m like, “You guys, in this room, can we have a conversation here? Because you’re going to leave this room and guess what? Go back and build ILT, E-Learning, LMS stuff.” Again, I’m not knocking those things, but let’s start addressing the elephant in the room. Now we can design and deliver for performance-first and support with training second.”

We Should Be P&D: Performance and Development 

Conrad often asks people, “To what end, friends?” Amongst ourselves, why do we do what we do? Inevitably the conversation gets around to what Bob said earlier, that we are to enable performance. The problem is our deliverables have been, not a bit, but very removed from that.

This re-pivot on performance-first and this shift of mindset is really, really important for us to start having because, otherwise, what Conrad often says and what we talk about is if you still leave this conversation and you go back and build training first, you will never shift to performance because you’ll never have time.

Again, if you want to shift to performance-first, but you build training first, you will never have time to build performance assets because the training side will consume you. You won’t leave that mindset in that lens, but if you go for Apply-first and build for performance-first, it will change the way you go back then and build the training to support.

We can put learners in highly guiding, highly controlled, highly instructional domains and technologies, but it’s while they are doing their work. Then the filters help it be measured. The filters help it be appropriate. The filters help it not let them go too far to where they hurt themselves. That is the idea of the millennium, not going back to, “In this lesson, you will learn,” and those days.

This Isn’t Futuristic or a Vision, This is Today

These things are happening right now in larger organisations. Multi-global, huge organisations, brands you would recognise in a heartbeat, they are doing this now. 

We’re often asked when you go to organisations to do this as a service, where do you find the most obstacles? Well, here it comes. It’s within the L&D department. It’s not in the worker, it’s not in the workflow, it’s not in the line of business. They totally get this. If I can do what you said earlier, cheaper, faster, better, and with less training, bring it on. There is no sales pitch. The problem is us.

Bob says he wants to be careful here because he’s one of ‘us’. He says:

“I’m 10 years in the journey. But the good news I’m trying to bring here is ‘you can do it’. There’s a method. When I was first faced with this my concern was, I am an ID, tried and true. When I first stumbled into this, I was lying in bed going, “Okay, I get the vision.” But when I get up every morning, I’ve got to be able to create this in a scalable, measurable, and defendable way.

I’ll say those three again. Scalable, measurable, and defendable, and if I can’t, I’m not doing it. It is irresponsible as a Learning professional. What I’m here to tell you is, there is now methodology that lets you do that, but it is a pivot. It is different, but it can be learned, it can be scaled, and it can be done.”

Learning is Performance-focused and Measured in Terms of its Ability to Deliver Results

Discover how you can Align L&D with the business to drive performance, productivity and capability. Download our free ebook or speak to our L&D experts.

About Bob Mosher

Bob Mosher is a genuine Thought-Leader in L&D and Chief Learning Evangelist, at The 5 Moments of Need™, an organisation that specialises in helping learning professionals design, develop, and measure effective learning and performance support through the 5 Moments design methodology.

Connect with Bob on Linkedin and Twitter

Connect with David James on LinkedIn and Twitter

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