Solving performance problems in meaningful and relevant ways

exchange-of-ideas-222788_1280Every day I read a post or article that talks about how to make e-learning compelling or engaging. Advice ranges from using different typefaces, sizes or colours to the use of gamification or the latest training trend or technology.  But as I’ve mentioned before, in most cases I believe this is simply putting lipstick on the pig.  Because despite all the cosmetics, underneath there’s still a pig – that is,  a “solution” that has been imposed upon a group of individuals.

This problem usually occurs because the course is designed top-down around learning objectives with very little reference to the individuals involved themselves (or at the very least assumptions being made about them). This often means that the resulting e-learning is ineffective in addressing the actual underlying business problems, and leads to dissatisfaction from the individuals concerned, as it doesn’t suit their working life or preferences – so they do whatever they can to avoid it!

However, in my work with organisations around the world, I am now  seeing a new design approach that is focused on creating relevant and meaningful solutions to performance problems; one that uses an inclusive, collaborative process with the target audience (or representative sample thereof) to (a) identify the actual performance problems being experienced, together with measurable performance outcomes (rather than learning outcomes), and then (b) agree a range of solutions that best suit the problem and people concerned – which may involve instructional (e.g. e-learning) elements, but could also involve informational resources, social collaboration activities,  or even just changes in current procedures or practices.

I call this process Synergistic Performance Design (SPD), where synergistic is defined as ..

 “acting together / working together in a creative innovative and productive manner) done with or working with others for a common purpose or benefit; “a cooperative effort”

In other words SPD is about working together in a creative innovative and productive manner to solve performance problems. Where this process has been used, solutions have been far more successful as they are both relevant for the performance problem concerned and meaningful to the users, and therefore adopted far more willingly.

Want to find out more, and how to use SPD in your organisation? Join my next public online workshop: Modern Workplace Learning: Moving Beyond E-Learning runnign 2 March to 3 April.


  1. Janeann

    Not sure I see anything new here. A basic performance analysis and formative evaluation should give you the data needed to determine what needs to be done. I agree too many people jump right to training, but the process is in place to make these determination.

    1. Janeann, the BIG difference is that this is a collaborative design approach with the team/group itself – they help to decide what solutions(s) will work for them. In other words, the solution is not designed and imposed top-down. Maybe you have been working collaboratively with teams in this way, but this will be a new approach for many people.

  2. On top of collaboration, I would highlight the importance of vocabulary. Nobody wants to be sent to a training anymore: not measurable, not always relevant, one size fits all syndrom… But tell me about a performance accelerator program, and suddenly I find some space in my agenda, and the same for my manager who will support the initiative. A” real-life issues oriented program” is not one more training, it’s a program with concrete outcomes, and not one of those action plans that nobody puts in place. You learn through the process, not as a fixed outcome. We are doing that with many corporations, it’s incredibly efficient and cost-conscious, and digital is a huge accelerator of success in these cases.

  3. Pingback: Workplace Learning is not the same as Education | Learning in the Social Workplace

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