Effective evaluation improves the quality of what we do, increases the efficiency of how we do it, determines the degree to which we can consistently achieve what we set out to do, and measures the strategic value of it all. Performance support (PS) plays a vital role in enabling all of this.

In every facet of life, the quality of what we do and produce is shaped and made better through evaluation. Think about how you work to deliver high-quality results and you will find the process of ongoing self-evaluation. In addition, those in genuine pursuit of quality also boldly seek feedback from credible sources. Of course, they systematically check its validity before incorporating the best feedback. Everywhere you turn for quality improvement you meet self-evaluation corroborated by feedback.

Timing is everything

There is no better moment to pursue quality improvement than at the moment of apply–when we’re actually doing our work. This is what “quick-checks” are all about. Quick-checks are tools performers can instantly access to assess how they have just performed and what they have just accomplished. PS technology also allows access to the specific resources needed to immediately close any performance or knowledge gap identified by a quick-check.

Without evaluation, an organization runs blind to how it does its work. The same holds true at a project level. Effective evaluation fuels efficiency by making possible discovery and elimination of wasted effort and expense. The rigor of performance-support design requires a precise understanding of the tasks people perform and how they work collaboratively to complete them. PS can track process compliance and the usage patterns of learning and performance resources. And the combined wisdom of the crowd can be manifested through a performance support infrastructure that makes it possible to continuously identify inefficacies. One reality of performance support is that if a resource isn’t helpful, then performers won’t use it. PS rapidly unveils ineffective elements of performance and facilitates continuous improvement in how people perform together and independently.

Making a difference

Evaluation provides the information we need to consistently achieve whatever we set out to accomplish. We employ evaluation methods to identify, clarify, and justify learning and performance outcomes and to prescribe the appropriate means for achieving them. At each stage of the development process, evaluation provides assurance that we are indeed creating what we intend to create. Without it we can’t expect to create and maintain consistently effective learning and performance solutions.

Many years ago, when eLearning was the glittering star on the learning stage, people made ridiculous promises regarding its capacity to replace trainers. At that time the reality was that hypertext linking was the only instructional power eLearning had under its hood. Sadly, even when eLearning increased in instructional capability, sloppy methodology too often continued to limit its learning impact. Still, eLearning venders certified that every course they offered was equally effective. In response we developed a tool for evaluating the instructional integrity of eLearning courseware. Through it, we discovered an additional benefit of evaluation. As our eLearning evaluators used this tool to assess the instructional integrity of courseware, they became more effective in their ability to design and develop effective eLearning. This principle has consistently held true. Evaluation cultivates the skill of design.

How to learn faster than change

The work we do for organizations can impact their well-being for better or worse, depending on how we do the work we are charged to do. Today’s organizations must be able to learn at or above the speed of change. An organization’s survival may very well depend upon its ability to continuously undergo new skill cycles to prepare for new competitive cycles—constantly re-tooling in order to maintain its competitiveness. There is no way an organization can do this without a performance support infrastructure in place that can enable effective performance and at the same time continuously measure its business impact. This is one of the great gifts of performance support. It provides us real-time data that connects the work we do to the bottom line. When we make that connection, the floodgates of opportunity open for us because we are able to demonstrate our strategic and financial value.

Without an effective performance support infrastructure in place, evaluation is too often lip service rather than reality. Without performance support, the kind of evaluation described here takes time, effort, and resources we seldom have. PS not only makes evaluation more feasible, it empowers it to improve quality, increase efficiency, deliver consistency, and measure strategic value. These are gifts worth pursuing.

Want to learn more?

The Performance Support Symposium 2013, September 9 – 10 in Boston, Massachusetts, offers you an exceptional opportunity to discover how you can optimize investments in training, eLearning, and mLearning by integrating performance support across your organization. You are invited to join other senior learning professionals for this deep exploration of strategies, case studies, best practices, and technologies for performance support. It’s time to transform performance across your enterprise. You will find more information, a video overview, a downloadable brochure on the symposium, and registration information here.