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Decision-making in the workflow: how on-demand support optimises performance

What is decision-making in the workflow and where does digital performance support fit in? Here we make the case for a bold new approach to learning – and making informed decisions – on the job, at the point of need.  

Governments around the world are putting wind power at the centre of their plans for post-Covid economic recovery. Global wind capacity trebled to 651GW in the last decade, and the Global Wind Energy Council predicts that offshore capacity alone will surge from 29.1GW at the end of 2019 to 234GW by 2030. In Europe, the EU Strategy on Offshore Renewable Energy aims to increase offshore wind capacity from today’s 12GW to 300GW by 2050, a 25-fold increase.

These figures are staggering. But such unparalleled expansion, allied with ongoing skills shortages, brings significant challenges. To keep up with pace of change, investment in learning and development will be at the forefront of the race to improve performance, control costs and ensure a safe and healthy working environment.

Conventional approaches to learning can no longer satisfy the needs of the sector’s professionals – those who design, install, manage and maintain offshore assets – as they operate in ever more challenging, fast-paced, digital environments. This recognition has been further reinforced by the pandemic. Businesses across all sectors have started to rethink their learning strategies to embrace new modes of virtual and other digital learning.

Personal, business and safety performance all rely on informed decision-making to manage risk, solve problems and seize opportunities for improvement. So, what is informed decision-making and why is it important? What learning tools do professionals need to support their decisions and how can they access them digitally, within the workflow, as and when required?

Every decision counts

Effective decision-making depends on good, accurate information. Professionals working in hazardous environments need to make informed decisions based on reliable data, so that they know not only what could go wrong, but how to make sure it goes right. They also need to develop the confidence to be able to do that.

ARMSA’s two decades of experience of embedding a culture of informed decision-making in the wind power sector has repeatedly shown how such an approach delivers safer, more productive projects. During all forms work – whether contracting a supplier, negotiating prices, hiring staff or planning work – every decision somehow affects operational control, either by enabling or disabling performance.

If managers are under pressure, responding quickly and making decisions on the fly, they’re going to base their decisions on the information they have to hand at that point – whether that is statistical data, templates or databases. And our experience is that they usually have very little. If they have more time, they may do some in-depth research, but if this is not easily accessible or not well presented, they may misinterpret or even ignore it.

What we want to see is people thinking: “I’m about to take this decision: what are the potential or likely impacts on the ground, what are the issues I need to consider, what are the options available, and which should I choose?”

A decision-making partner

The next question is where does performance support fit into this and how can technology help deliver effective support just as people are taking these critical decisions? Learning on the job, as part of everyday tasks, has long been recognised as a means of developing professionally: look no further than apprenticeships and graduate training schemes. But new technologies and evolving workforce demands now provide a different dimension, allowing “in-workflow” performance support to be delivered in innovative ways at the point of decision-making.

The most effective tools are built using design thinking – taking a user-centred approach that combines people’s practical, daily needs with what’s technologically and economically achievable. They ideally allow decision-makers to access independent, accurate and role-specific information within the workflow at critical points as they go about their daily work.  

If informed decision-making is the goal, digital performance support in the workflow must contain content focused on individual roles, whether that is a project manager or lead technician. It should also help to break down functional silos by mapping out where decision points involve others.

In this way, different roles and departments can develop a common understanding and vocabulary to assist in cross-cutting and collaborative decisions. It’s not just about the individual’s development but the context of the organisation within which they’re operating.

Pull versus push

Traditional face-to-face training will always offer a way of effectively delivering general content in certain contexts. But it is clearly neither a suitable nor practical method for providing tailored, role-specific content on demand, at the point of need. This is not our claim, it is a market expectation. Read our market report

Conventional training methods also tend to be limited by their “push” approach to developing staff. Learners typically receive large volumes of information all at once, and are left to take what they need back to the workplace. If they’re keen, they may implement perhaps 20% of what of they’ve learned.

Rather than focusing on “push-development”, digital performance support is based on “pull-development”. Because people choose to call upon it when they need specific help or have a difficult problem to solve, the content becomes very live, real and relevant to them.

Learners are therefore more likely to be attentive and receptive, and to use what they are learning to make the critical decisions that affect performance on the ground. In this way, the “digital in-workflow” approach makes learning an inherent component of improving performance.

By informing their decision-making and enabling wind power professionals to appreciate and understand the foreseeable outcomes of their day-to-day decisions, digital support accessed within the workflow helps minimise risk, and optimise personal and organisational performance.

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