I’ve been revisiting performance support in preparation for the Guild’s Performance Support Symposium next month, and I’m seeing a connection between two models that really excite me. It’s about how social and performance support are a natural connection.
So, let’s start with a performance model. This model came from a look at how people act in the world and I was reminded of it during a conversation on informal learning. Most of the time, we’re acting in well-understood ways (e.g. driving), and we can keep our minds free for other things. However, there may be times when we can’t rely on that well-practiced approach (say, for instance, if our usual route home is blocked for some reason). Then we have a breakdown, and need to consciously problem-solve. Ideally, if we find the solution, we reflect on it and make it part of our well-practiced repertoire.
So what I wanted to do was use this understanding to think about how we might support performance. What support do we need at these different stages? I propose that when we have a breakdown, ideally we find the answer, either as an information resource, or from a person with the answer. Some of the time, we might identify a real skill shift we need, and then we might actually take a course, but it’s a small part of the picture.
If we find the answer, we can go back into action, but if we can’t find the answer, we have to go into problem-solving mode. Here, the support we need differs. We may need data to look for patterns that can explain what’s going on, or models to help find a solution, or even people. Note, however, that the people here are different than the people we would access for the answer. If there were a person with the answer, we would’ve found them in the first step. Here it’s likely to be good collaborators, people with complementary skills and a willingness to help.
If and when we find the answer, then we should share that so that others don’t have to do the same problem-solving, but can access the resource (or you) in the first step. This step is often skipped, because it’s not safe to share, or there’s just not a focus on such contributions and it’s too easy to just get back to work without recognizing the bigger picture. This is one of the components of what Harold Jarche means by ‘narrating your work‘, and I mean in ‘learning out loud’. If it’s habitual, it’s beneficial.
The connection that I see, however, is that there’s a very strong relationship between this model, and the coherent organization model. At the first step, finding the answer, likely comes from your community of practice or even the broader network (internal or external). This is cooperation, where they’re willing to share the answer.
At the second step, if you get to problem-solving, this is collaboration. It may not just be in a work group (though, implicitly, it is a work group), but could be folks from anywhere. The bigger the problem, the more it’s a formal work group.
The point is that while the L&D group can be providing some of the support, in terms of courses and fixed resources, at other times the solution is going to require ‘the network’. That is, folks are going to play a part in meeting the increasing needs for working. The resources themselves are increasingly likely to be collaboratively developed, the answer is more likely ‘out there’ than necessarily codified in house.
There’s going to of necessity be a greater shift to more flexible solutions across resources and people, to support organizational performance. The performance support model will increasingly require an infrastructure to support the coherent organization. Are you ready?