Performance Support and Social Unite

I read a great article recently from Clark Quinn called “Coherent Performance” which discusses how social and performance support are a natural connection.

Clark expands on the links between an individual encountering a roadblock to ‘normal’ operations and the different levels of support that may be required to help overcome the roadblock. At the first level, solutions may be found through other people we work with. Our immediate network of colleagues provide a way through, we learn and continue. It’s informal and unstructured performance support. At the next level, we may realise there is actually a deeper problem to be solved and this may require us going out to the broader community – the network – for help. Support at this level may require more structure and planning. A new community could be formed to address the specific issue and share the solution with the whole network.

There is an implied correlation, though not tightly coupled, that the more complex the problem, the more people may be required in the collaboration to find a solution.

What I like about the model is the inclusion of social as another tool in the performance support armoury. If we look at the key characteristics of social we can see why this is so. Some of the main features we associate with social are:

  • Conversational
  • Collaborative
  • Connected

I see social as something like a Help Desk on steroids – the collective wisdom of specialists, experts and experienced employees on tap, anywhere, anytime. Its conversational nature makes it accessible to anyone – regardless of experience within an organisation. Imagine novices able to converse with experts from Day One? Even more enticing, imagine novices being able to recognise and connect with experts from Day One?? And there is value in experts gaining fresh insights from new employees as well.

If we add additional social attributes like – Immediate, Visible and Involving  – then we can see incredibly powerful opportunities to support people in real time. And social has that additional benefit of sharing new knowledge and learning quickly. With a more traditional performance support tool like online Help, the same problem may be encountered and overcome many times by many employees in separate instances. The individual learning may rarely if ever be shared and so the ‘organisational learning’ happens at a more piece-meal rate. With social we have the capability for individuals to share solutions rapidly with everyone. In fact individual learning can be discussed and built on through conversation and collaboration. What started as a small solution can snow-ball into something much larger and more profitable for the entire organisation.

Perhaps what we’re starting to see is some real capability around developing the “learning organisation” that has been talked about for so many years. Putting learning into the context of the workplace and hand in hand with the ability to support performance via socially connected employees creates a powerful model for organisations to learn and grow from the everyday experiences of people at work.

Performance Support and Social Unite


  1. Thank you, Peter. I’ve recently discovered some groups on LinkedIn that operate in just the way you describe, but I hadn’t thought about the implications you draw out here. It could be a real game changer.

  2. You never know John. It will take changes in mindset around what we consider performance support or learning to support work. I never ceease to be amazed at how my own sons learn about nearly anything via their social networks on Facebook and chat. Whether its organising a night out, getting groups together to help someone move house or the spread of something in the news, information disseminates so quickly and action follows soon after.

    This to me is where we’re heading as their generation take their place in the workforce. They will demand and won’t accept anything less in how they communicate and work.

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