Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Performance Support

Great post by Jay Cross that uses the history of performance support to set up the need for what Jay calls Learnscapes. I've been a long-time believer in EPSS and ePerformance. Jay tells us:
Performance support is blossoming in organizations today under the label of Web 2.0.

Remember the original premise of PS, making information available to workers instead of forcing them to memorize it? That’s how we use Google and corporate wikis and instant messenger.

Gloria [Gery] sought easy, immediate, individualized on-line access to information, software, guidance, advice and assistance. Learnscape architects have implemented miniature versions of the internet behind corporate firewalls that provide all of these things, from peer-rated FAQs to wizards, on-line help desks, and best practices repositories.

This is an interesting take. I actually don't think that Gloria would consider external resources (which we've had for years as reference systems that go along with software) as a form of Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS). Gloria always liked to use TurboTax because there was a nice interface (the interview) and then the complex interface with lots of forms, etc. EPSS was the interview - easy to use and understand forms layered on top of the software application. Jay does speak to this in his post, but I'm not sure that the adoption of Enterprise 2.0 really gets you performance support.

Jay tells us the early definition of Performance Support was:
Performance Support empowered novice employees to get up to speed rapidly, to perform with a minimum of outside coaching or training, and to do the job as well or even better than experienced workers. Gloria’s goal for EPSS was to enable people who didn’t know what they were doing to function as if they did.
He later asks:
Overall, what are corporate blogs, feeds, aggregators, wikis, mash-ups, locator systems, collaboration environments, and widgets, if not performance support?
I don't think that having these things constitutes performance support - or at least not performance support as originally defined. I would say that they come closer to knowledge management than performance support. Or maybe this is all definitional and we are talking about the next generation of what I called ePerformance back in 2003. These resources are rich information bases, expertise locators, learning enablers, etc. But, not really performance support - at least not as Gloria defined it. There will need to be another layer to make these things performance support.

In fact, I would claim that because of general lack of skills around the use of these things - as we discuss at work literacy - that they are far away from being performance support. Instead, they enable new kinds of solutions, but they don't make a novice proficient.

All that said, I agree with Jay's most important point -
Today, the greatest leverage in corporate learning comes from building on-going, largely self-sustaining learning processes. This process orientation focuses on the organization’s architecture for learning, a platform a level above its training programs and regulated events. The learnscape is a foundation for learning that is self-service, spontaneous, serendipitous, drip-fed, and mentored as well as the formal training that will always be with us.
I completely agree that we should be looking for ways to reduce the amount of training we develop and deliver and enable people to have the skills to be able to do it from there. Put most of your material in a reference solution (Wiki).

I don't think that the Gloria Gery style performance support is going to come back anytime soon, but I completely agree with Jay that these tools make up a new kind of learning landscape and that they represent the true responsibility of a learning organization.

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