Real learning is a part of the work, not apart from it.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

ConTextured Performance Support

This morning disaster struck at work. Productivity will suffer as frustrations rise. Why?  Because last night, before leaving the office, someone opened the dishwasher mid-cycle resulting in the dishwasher stopping.  This action resulted in all coffee cups failing to be cleaned! No coffee cups = no coffee!

Our office manager, who arrives as early as I do, (and before anyone else) alerted me to the travesty. She pointed out that instructions, clearly written on a bright sticky note, were adhered to the dishwasher and completely ignored.  See Exhibit A below

Exhibit A

Upon further investigation I made the observation that the note, though simple in it's directive; "Running, Please Don't Open" was in smaller print and in cursive.  However I don't think those two points were the cause of the failure.  The problem was that the note was stuck to the indented front panel - far below the the sightline of the average employee who would likely, unconsciously, reach for the handle.  Raising the visual aid to eye level is an option but that would then take it out of context and only serve as white noise after sometime. So that's not a good solution. Finally, it's probably important to note that many dishwashers, like mine, do in fact resume there cycle after being opened and closed. So people come to the situation with prior knowledge and therefore maybe a brief orientation is warranted during on boarding? However thats likely to be forgotten amid more important things like where to find the coffee cups!

Independent performance support is often limited in belief and practice to things like this; text-based job aids, checklists, images, video demos, etc. Many times this can suffice of course but sometimes we can modify the environment in such a manner that causes one a physical not just mental reaction... behold, Exhibit B.

Exhibit B
 The slight adjustment I made makes the sticky note serve as a speed bump.  The potential offender is stopped cold in their tracks when their fingertips are jarred by a foreign sensation; the unexpected feeling and crinkling sound gives them pause. Reaching to investigate, they are clearly informed and avoid an incorrect action.  Organizational disaster averted... well, time will tell.

How many times have you heard, "well, we posted a job aid and they didn't bother to use it!" We continue to blame the person, which could be due to a lack of motivation (care). Or we forget to focus on the doer and the doing when possible.  However the reality is that our performance support may actually just be missing the mark


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