Posts Categorized: Performance Improvement

Analysis for Informal Learning

This is a follow-up to Informal Learning and Performance Technology. I’ve created this diagram to show a rather simplistic representation of how you would conduct an analysis to determine where informal learning might fit in to your organisation. This process is designed for larger organsisations, and there is much missing from this diagram that space… Read more »

My PKM System

Note: Latest version: PKM in a Nutshell (2010). In response to a post I made on Personal Knowledge Management (PKM), Tony Karrer recommended that I look at his post on Personal Learning for Learning Professionals. This had me review my posts on PKM and reflect on how I go through my process of triage. As… Read more »

Army Knowledge Management

Federal Computer Week (FCW) reports how the US Army is implementing knowledge management at the operational and tactical level. Here is a prime example: In this particular case, Iraqi insurgents placed an IED [improvised explosive device] behind a poster with anti-American slogans. A soldier noticed that the poster looked different from others he had observed,… Read more »

Estimating the Performance Situation

Last week I mentioned a few communication tools that I learned how to use in the Army. One of these is the Estimate, which is a problem-solving tool. As young officers, we were constantly told to “estimate the situation and never situate the estimate”. In many cases, when training is prescribed for a work performance… Read more »

Communication Tools from the Army

During my Army service I learned many things that I have already forgotten, such as the composition of a Soviet Motor Rifle Regiment, and a few things that I could never forget. Three tools that I used extensively during my military career were 1) the Estimate, 2) Battle Procedure, and 3) the Orders Format. All… Read more »

Training: A Solution Looking for a Problem

In listening to the radio the other day, the person being interviewed spoke about the need for training for those responsible for ensuring clean water in many remote Canadian communities. Now, I’m not going to say that training is not required, but making the leap from a performance issue (lack of skills, abilities, knowledge; lack of access to appropriate data and resources; etc) directly to training as the only solution, is the wrong approach and the most costly. As a taxpayer, I don’t want government to slap training bandaids on any problem that involves work performance. Some barriers to performance that are often overlooked when prescribing training include:

  • Unclear expectations (such as policies & guidelines);
  • Inadequate resources;
  • Unclear performance measures;
  • Rewards and consequences not directly linked to the desired performance.

In some cases, these barriers could be addressed and there would be no further requirement for training. Where there is a genuine lack of skills and knowledge, training may be required, but it should only be in cases where the other barriers to performance have been addressed. A trained worker, without the right resources and with unclear expectations, will still not perform up to the desired standard, and the drinking water supply may still be in danger.
I have noticed that many large organisations have this tendency to slap on the training bandaid once any issue has been labelled a human performance issue. Training that is not directly related to performance wastes time, bores workers and costs money. Here is a general diagram of the high level process of performance analysis, and here is another showing several of the barriers to performance. These posts, and the diagrams, are Creative Commons licensed, so go ahead and use them. You might even save some money.

Tactics, Strategy & Humanity

The opening session at the CSTD Knowledge Exchange in Toronto this week was by Dana Gaines Robinson on the subject of Strategic Business Partnering. This is a new term for me and at the end of the session my impression was that SBP is a new buzz-word for human performance technology, but with an emphasis on strategy. The words strategy and tactics were liberally sprinkled through her session. This  reminded me of my +20 years in the military when strategy and tactics were my main work disciplines and got me to wondering why many in the learning field use military terms to describe their work. Gaines Robinson used another term that did not sit well with me – it is that one should "own the client relationship". When I think of a relationship, the last thing that comes to mind is ownership. Does this kind of terminology frame the discussion in a certain way? Does it influence how we think about our profession? Anyway, it was good for me to listen to a presentation that raised these issues.
The strategic, or high level, theme was a thread throughout the conference. Larry Murphy, an attendee and past colleague, described our field as having two kinds of people, forest people and tree people. Some can see the forest and some have to focus on each individual tree. In Strategic Business Partnering I think that we’re focusing on too small of a forest. In SBD, the performance consultant is supposed to partner with the client and look at the next 1-5 years from the client’s perspective.
I prefer Roger Kaufman’s organisational elements model where he urges us to look at the Mega (societal) the Macro (organisational) and Micro (individual & group) levels in strategic planning. A focus on the Mega means taking an ethical, moral and value-based stand. This is the really big picture, not just the business microcosm. A Mega perspective to me means that you don’t try to maximize value for your clients’ profits if they are acting like Enron execs. This thought stayed in my mind through the day, but by Tuesday evening there were some answers, and more questions.
Stephen Lewis, UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, presented the post-dinner speech. In his articulate and enagaging way he laid out the enormous humanitarian disaster that is attacking 70 million people today. He described in case after case the spread of the disease and its effects, especially on women. After moving many in the audience to tears, Mr Lewis described what we could do. With his global  vision, he proposed that individuals and groups of learning professionals in Canada could go to Africa and help to retrain a population that has almost no teachers or trainers. The need is great and even one person training a small group on basic skills, that we take for granted, would have an impact. When the head of a household is only 8 years old (because all of the adults are dead) there are a lot of skills and knowledge that he or she will need to succeed in life. The suggestion was that the training & development community here could start a real knowledge transfer to Africa.
The next morning, the CSTD board created a committee to begin a process of working with the Stephen Lewis Foundation in order to determine how CSTD can help an orphaned generation in Africa to learn essential skills. Stephen Lewis has shown how the strategic and the tactical levels can be aligned, but within a much larger humanitarian (mega) vision. More information on this initiative will be made available on the CSTD website.

Search Tips

Yesterday, Eliiott Masie stated that Google was one of the best learning tools around (anyway, that’s what he says he told Bill Gates). Following his presentation, Ben Watson said that Google search results are information overload and that he doesn’t find it a useful way to get just-in-time information. I use Google a lot (it’s how I’ve developed my limited skills with HTML) but I think that there are many people who do not know how to maximize the full potential of a search engine.
Marshall Kirkpatrick has just republished ten tips for searching the web, so now there is a ready performance support tool for anyone who wants to improve their search skills. That’s the power of networked communities. I Furled it too!
You can also go to Google’s advanced search tips.

Bureaucracy = Death

Seth Godin’s quotable Bureaucracy = Death raises a number of issues on why preventive actions are seldom taken by bureaucratic organisations. Seth talks about the effects of bureaucracy on marketing, but it also results in inertia in healthcare, education, et al. I doubt that his idea of a Chief No Officer would be embraced by many companies or institutions.
My belief is that it is the basic nature of managerial organisations that is the prime contributor to a reactive versus a preventive mindset. Why were the levees around New Orleans not maintained? Why is there no funding for programmes such as Canada’s Participaction, but we continue to add more expensive acute care machinery to our hospitals? Why is early childhood education ignored when it is a prime contributor to healthy, contributing citizens? And finally, what can we do to change this?