Posts Categorized: Performance Improvement

Building Alternatives

Robert Paterson said it a while back, and Brian Alger just mentioned it. I’m referring to this statement made by Rob:

I am beginning to think that this may be the great work – to build the alternatives rather than to try and reform the existing system.

I think that this is a wonderful mission statement – To build alternatives rather than to try and reform existing systems. I know that we have systemic problems in politics, academia and health care, to name a few. Instead of trying to tweak these systems, it may be more fruitful to build alternatives that can serve as examples. This does not mean destroying the existing system (as some may argue that managerial capitalist systems can do this all on their own) but creating prototypes for experimentation and learning. It’s kind of like early American democracy that showed many other people how it could work.


Performance Improvement Resources

I’ve re-posted this as a reference for the audience of the session on Human Performance Technology that I presented to NBCC. You can also follow the Performance Improvement taxonomy links for my comments on this field of practice.

If you’re in the training business, and want to broaden your horizons, take a look at performance improvement. Here are two good resources for short articles on performance improvement. PI helps you link business needs with the appropriate learning or training solution. It also provides you with tools to ensure that training does not become the "one size fits all" solution for any human performance issue.

PerformanceExpress is published monthly by ISPI. On the bottom of the navigation bar is a link to back issues.

Harold Stolovitch publishes HSA Express and Performance. I like the April 2003 article on 10 low cost performance improvement solutions, for example:

  • Clean up performance expectations.
  • Develop feedback systems.
  • Create performance support systems.
  • Design simple and effective job aids.
  • Eliminate tasks that interfere with job performance.

Typology Maps for Learning

I have referred to Don Clark’s site many times over the years, as it’s a great resource for instructional design and educational theories. I recently noticed that he has updated it with typology maps, some under construction, so you can watch them evolve. Check out Big Dog and Little Dog’s Bowl of Biscuits and see for yourself. I like the Performance Typology Map.

Now wouldn’t it be nice to have a wikipedia of typology maps that could be collaboratively developed?

Training Basics

From the T&D Blog, here is a review of some basic principles of training from a performance technology perspective:


Dr. Seth Leibler, CEO of the
CEP, says organizations should evaluate their training based on these criteria:

  1. Training is viewed as the right solution only if the cause of a problem is a lack of skill or knowledge. Training is not automatically developed as the solution for every performance problem.
  2. All training requests are analyzed to ensure the right solutions are developed and implemented. In addition to training, all the potential causes for underperformance are addressed: skill, motivational, and environmental resource and supports.
  3. Practice situations in training match the actual on-the-job conditions as closely as possible (It?��Ǩ�Ѣs why off-the-shelf training generally is ineffective.)
  4. Learners receive immediate feedback after each practice to reinforce what is done correctly and coaching on what to do differently.
  5. Skill checks ensure that learners master all essential skills needed to perform to job expectations before leaving training.
  6. On-the-job reference tools (job aids) are developed to provide essential information to performers who only need a reminder of how to do a task.

I slightly disagree with #4, as some research shows that it’s better to provide feedback just before the next practice attempt, as opposed to after the previous one. This way the learner can put into practice the correct behaviour/skill immediately after the feedback is provided.

[Some day T&D Blog may make comments and trackbacks available, but at least there is a permalink]

Strategic Planning for Educational Organisations

I like to use system models when analysing an organisation, especially for strategic planning purposes. This  system model is based on models by Geary Rummler and Roger Kaufman.

I developed this model as a means of communicating with educational institutions. It’s not comprehensive but it gets the conversation flowing. I’m always interested in finding graphical metaphors for the way we work and learn.

From Classroom to Boardroom

Jay Bahlis, President of BNH Expert Software in Montreal, has produced a free, online booklet, From Classroom to Boardroom, that will be a good job aid for performance improvement professionals. It covers step-by-step actions and six strategies for aligning training with business goals. Though not new in its concepts, this booklet is an additional resource that may be helpful, especially for internal initiatives. Some of Jay’s cited references may be of use as well:

  • Ford and Weissbein estimated that less than 10% of training expenditures actually result in transfer
    to the job. By focusing on the most important initiatives, you can reduce waste and maximize the
    impact of training.
  • Broad and Newstrom observed that most of the knowledge and skills gained in training (well over
    80% by some estimates) is not fully applied by employees on the job. And more recently, Robinson
    reported that on average, less than 30% of what people learn (in training) actually gets used on the
    job. By focusing on solutions that resolve clearly identified performance deficiencies you can
    minimize waste and maximize performance.
  • Lance Dublin observed that over 90% of training is conducted through informal means such as web
    searches, chats, reference materials and mentoring. Providing the right information to the right
    individuals at the right time ?��Ǩ?�learning at the speed of work?��Ǩ�� can significantly increase the competitive
    advantage of the organization ?��Ǩ��� allowing individuals to do things they have not been able to before.

Many thanks to Jay for making this available to the community.

Human Performance Improvement

BPTrends‘ latest e-mail advisor (PDF) discusses the relationship of human performance improvement with other business process improvement methodologies.

Those involved in business process change within organizations need to draw on and integrate a wide variety of approaches and technologies, ranging from strategy change systems and process analysis tools, to ABC, BPMS, a wide variety of software automation systems, Six Sigma, and job design. ISPI represents a well-developed source of theory and practice designed to help improve human performance within organizations. It’s a rare process improvement project that doesn’t require changes in management and the jobs performed, or that wouldn’t benefit from better feedback or an improved incentive system. The ISPI is a resource that business process change practitioners ought to be familiar with.

Keep It Simple

Jay Cross talks about focusing performance improvement efforts on "worker effectiveness improvement, not KM" [knowledge management]. More and more people are disillusioned with large-scale KM, document management and ERP efforts, that force workers to comply with an imposed structure. I remember delaying the use of Goldmine in my last job, because I had my own system, and really did not want to realign my processes with an imposed one.

Perhaps the reason that blogs are popular, in spite of their limitations, is that they are easy to use, and there is no imposed structure. Many of us believe that our way is the best way, and need proof that doing otherwise would be beneficial. I find that blogging is becoming more and more about building my personal knowledge repository, while staying connected to wide-ranging conversation. As Jay states in his post:

KM should leverage natural processes, not try to change the basic ways things are accomplished.

An organisation’s entire KM effort could start with simple technologies. It could provide a blog to everyone, letting workers blog as they wanted. RSS aggregators could keep an eye on blogs of interest, and maybe even a blog rating system could included in the performance management system. Yes, the better writers would get better rankings, but so would those who solve problems. A bottom-up approach to KM, at a minimal cost, makes a lot more sense than betting that some centralized system, with a huge training bill, will solve all of our problems.

More on ASTD 2004

The best coverage so far on ASTD 2004 is from e-Clippings. These posts include an overview of Harold Stolovitch’s session, quoting Harold on the definition of "technology":

Technology is the application of organized and scientific knowledge to solve practical problems.

This is the correct definition of technology when applied to Human Performance Technology [my field] – which is NOT about information technology, but solving problems in an applied way.

Performance versus Learning

Sometimes learning professionals (trainers, educators, instructional designers) get caught up in their own world. Here’s another reminder about what’s really important – performance. From e-clipping’s interview on collaborative technologies with Jay Cross:

I made up the word elearning because I wanted to highlight learning, but I don’t think learning is at the head of the train.
It is performance that is at the head of the train and only a fool would expect to get results from the technology alone.
It is the technology in support of key organizational goals that is key, and that involves incentives, leadership, innovation, esprit de corps….and this is all mixed in together.
As a matter of fact I’d be somewhat sceptical of any company that would highlight their intense [use] of collaboration technologies if they left out "What is important to us is to serve our customers and this is how we go about it".