Performing on the Pace of Change: Workflow Studying in a Pandemic
In this current pandemic, we are finally forced to face learning from organizations. In 1990 Peter Senge asked companies to become learning organizations. In his book The Fifth Discipline, he quoted Arie De Geus, who was then Head of Planning for Royal Dutch / Shell. De Geus suggested that “the ability to learn faster than [an organization’s] Competitors can be the only sustainable competitive advantage. “Senge made a compelling case for changing the way organizations learn, but the movement hissed.
In the shadow of the looming financial crisis of 2008, the Harvard Business Review tried to explain why. Their answer was that there had not been enough market forces to force organizations to persevere …[all the] Obstacles. Amazingly, even the 2008 global recession failed to force learning to break away from its deeply ingrained traditions.
However, today we are facing tsunami forces that are beyond our control. They leave us no choice but to change. We now know that our world can be turned upside down without warning. It is also clear that once this crisis has ended, there is no guarantee that the forces of social and political instability, market upheaval, technological change and demographic migration will cease. It is absolutely clear that organizations must develop their ability to respond to radical disruptions that can attack at any time with relentless combinations of speed and complexity.
What role do we play in this? Organizations cannot tailor the collective and individual performance of their workforce without the learning and development team. We are the only ones who can and must help them develop the organizational ability to work effectively at the rate of change. Performance agility is the ability of a company to respond to adaptive challenges – whether opportunities, threats or crises – through the acquisition and application of knowledge and skills.
The first step in getting there is to expand our reach to the performance zone we refer to as the workflow, where knowledge and skills are actually applied and where experience is gained. We cannot risk not doing this now! This is where we have to go for our organizations. Your long-term survival depends on us doing this. Without this there can be no development of adaptability.
What exactly is workflow learning? It learns in the 5 moments of need while working. Traditional approaches to learning require learners to pause or pause their work in order to learn, and then apply that learning to their performance in their workflow. To the extent that you develop knowledge-rich skills and integrate them with your existing skills as you carry out your work, you will experience workflow learning.
Why learn workflow?
Why is workflow learning key to developing a company’s performance at the speed of change? Here are six reasons:
Reason 1: Only in the workflow can an organization intentionally develop the adaptability of its workforce. Why? Because an object or situation that a person experiences in the workflow is unlikely to recur in exactly the same form and context. When workers respond effectively to a recurring but changing situation, they develop their adaptability.
Reason 2: During the continuous execution of the work (in the workflow) a real competence development takes place. Interrupting learning without advanced learning support for the workflow is costly, risky and extremely ineffective.
Reason 3: Performance improvements only occur in the workflow. The most efficient environment for developing experience and judgment is the workflow.
Reason 4: Successful workflow performance increases self-efficacy and thus promotes engagement. This, in turn, leads to more effective performance. Albert Bandura demonstrated this reality over 40 years ago. His findings have not been turned upside down since then. Here are his supporting research results:
“The stronger the perceived self-efficacy, the more active the coping efforts. Those who continue to engage in subjectively threatening activities will ultimately remove their inhibitions through corrective experiences, while those who avoid what they fear or who stop coping prematurely maintain their self-debilitating expectations and defensive behavior. … Performance successes provide the most influential information on effectiveness, as they are based on personal championship experience. “
Reason 5: The intrinsic motivators for learning– –Attention, relevance, and Need– –are at the highest level in the workflow.
Reason 6: Effective learning happens over time – real learning usually doesn’t happen in a one-off event. Research teaches us that spatial repetition (distributed practice) is particularly beneficial when long-term retention is the goal. Over 800 experiments showed that spatial repetition increased long-term retention in individuals by 200 percent. The best time to review information is just before the forgetting phase, which generally occurs in the workflow.
We have a unique opportunity to rise up and contribute strategically at a level that we have not been privileged to achieve before. This strategic partnership with the company requires that we extend the reach of learning to the workflow. I am not advocating that all learning should take place in the workflow. On the contrary, a 5 Moments of Need solution takes into account all learning modalities, including the workflow. What I am advocating is that we need to expand our reach to this most remarkable learning environment as the agility of organizational performance occurs in the workflow.
The good news is that we actually know how to do this. Over the past 15 years, many Streetwise learner professionals have followed a coherent organizational learning and performance support strategy that encompasses a critical set of strategic skills (including workflow learning), tactical skills (such as performance-based design), and technical skills (e.g.). the ability to track, measure and report impacts). We have collected important benchmarking data in each of these skill areas. This data, along with best practices and lessons learned, has driven the development of a comprehensive maturity model that can help organizations develop a bespoke path that enables agility in business performance. More on this. For now, all you know is that acquiring this agility absolutely requires our guidance and help. We can tell the difference between profit and loss. Success and failure; survive or not survive. In these most difficult times it can and must be a silver lining
Albert Bandura and Nancy E. Adams, Stanford University, Cognitive Therapy and Research, Vol. 1, No. 4, 1977, pp. 287-310.