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Dennison Consulting

Dennison Consulting

Website URL: http://dennison.com

When I speak about performance improvement, I don't mean shaving a tenth of a second off the 0-60MPH acceleration time of your car, I'm speaking about getting people to perform their jobs better.  By better, I mean in less time and/or with less errors, both of which mean more efficiency in the human resources of a business, which should translate into more profit for the business.

I have a strong Instructional Systems Design (ISD) background, as well as a computer systems engineer background, which explains why I like models.  In particular, I like the Human Performance Technology (HPT) Model.  I have incorporated this into my own ISD process.  In talks that I have given about my process, I start off with "If you have not defined what success looks like, don't be surprised with unsuccessful results." 

The first part of the HPT model is Performance Analysis.  In order to conduct a Gap Analysis (i.e, the gap between the desired workforce performance and the actual state of workforce performance), an organization needs to have a good description of the desired performance.  I find that many organizations do either a poor job of describing desired performance or, in a lot of cases, they have no usable description period. 

In order for a description of desired workforce performance to be useful, it needs to break jobs down into tasks, and each task needs to be described in enough detail that the description can be used to measure against actual performance when conducting a Gap Analysis.  I like having processes and procedures documented with procedure tables and diagramed using flow charts to show how work processes are supposed to happen.  The level of detail should be down to the task level, but flowcharts should include the macro-level too; depicting what's upstream and what's downstream from a given task in an overall workflow helps in understanding a given task. 

Many people get confused between the words job, process, procedure, and task.  Here are my definitions for these:

• Job - a position within a company typically requiring a combination of education, knowledge, skill, and experience.

• Process - a workflow with more than one step.

• Procedure - a process broken down into discrete tasks, in sequential order.  Note:  some processes have separate procedures that run in parallel with the work being done by different people.  At some point in the workflow, these sub-workflows merge back into one work element that can continue through the workflow.  Hence, the importance of the macro-view of the workflow as well as the detailed view of tasks and sub-tasks.

• Task - a discrete unit of work that is typically performed by an individual.  Some tasks, for documentation/diagraming purposes, can be broken down into sub-tasks, but each of these sub-tasks would be performed by the same individual sequentially.  Upon completion of a task, the same individual can perform the next task in the workflow, or the workflow can move to another individual or individuals to perform the next task.

Now, my questions to you are:

1.  Does your company have detailed job descriptions for all positions?

2.  Are your company's key workflows and processes/procedures thoroughly documented and diagramed?

If the answer to either is no, then the first step in Performance Improvement that your company can engage in is getting their performance-related documentation straight.  Like I said in the start of this blog entry, "If you have not defined what success looks like, don't be surprised with unsuccessful results."

Most people in the Learning & Development field are familiar with the ADDIE model.  For those of you who are not, this is an acronym for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation.

In my opinion, a lot of training organizations either skip entirely or do a poor job of three out of these five steps; i.e., they don't do good upfront analysis, they don't do good design before they begin development, and their evaluation metrics leave a lot to be desired.

To me, analysis is the key.  If you have not defined what success looks like, don't expect favorable results with your training intervention.  Training should address performance gaps, or be designed to prevent them from occurring in the first place, such as with new hire training or new product rollout training for sales professionals and support engineers.  For those who are well-versed in the ISD (Instructional Systems Design) process, you should know what a gap analysis is and how to conduct one.  However, most ISD professionals work in organizations where a gap analysis is not performed.  What is a gap analysis?  This is the gap between desired performance and actual performance.  A good gap analysis is the first step in creating terminal performance objectives.

When it comes to design, I am a firm believer in having a detailed design specification that is reviewed and accepted by the stake holders prior to the beginning of development.  A good design specification has to have the following:  terminal performance objectives (what the trainee should be able to do) as well as supporting enabling objectives, both knowledge objectives (what the trainees needs to know) and performance objectives (the steps broken down to accomplish the terminal performance objectives).  I think of a TPO as a task, and the EOs as the knowledge and steps necessary to accomplish the task.

What does a well written objective look like?  All final objectives should have the following components:

    •    a Condition;
    •    the Performance (using a verb with an agreed upon definition)
    •    a Reference; and,
    •    the Criterion.

Here is an example:

Given a car with a flat tire, a spare, jack, and lug wrench (the CONDITION), change the tire (the PERFORMANCE), in accordance with the Owner’s Manual (the REFERENCE), with no errors (the CRITERION).

If the design specification, or design spec for short, lists all enabling objectives in this format, then the development team will be able to develop a training intervention--regardless of delivery method--that will address the performance gap(s) identified in the analysis stage.

The last part of the ADDIE process, which most organizations do a poor job on, is evaluation.  In order to be able to state definitively whether a particular training intervention has had a positive impact on the workforce, you need to look back to the initial gap analysis and measure the effectiveness of those who have been trained in closing the gap(s).  "Smile sheets" handed out at the end of instructor-led training don't do this, yet this is what most organizations use as their "evaluation."

Good ISD is a process that requires discipline.  When undisciplined "professionals" skip steps, jump right into development, and don't do any real evaluation, it's little wonder that their training is ineffective.  I will repeat myself, "If you have not defined what success looks like, don't expect favorable results with your training intervention." 

If there is a problem that needs to be fixed and you think training is the solution, then have the discipline to analyze the problem, spec out what success looks like (put the effort into preparing a comprehensive design spec) before beginning your development.  And last, but certainly not least, measure the performance in the field of those who have attended the training to see if what they learned has had a positive impact on their ability to do the job.  It it doesn't, go back and adjust your design spec, redevelop the training, implement, and reevaluate.  Remember, ADDIE is an iterative process.


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