I’ve had a couple of opportunities to look at where performance improvement is headed and how I think it may play out in the future (see T+D, August 2004, “The Future of Performance”). I know there are a lot of HPI/HPT thought leaders who argue that the future is bright for those in the performance field—that this is a growth industry. I don’t think it’s that simple.
It is absolutely true that in a more competitive world (and the more global we are, the more competitive things become) and one where outcomes and results matter more, the performance consulting field has more opportunities to show value and impress. That said, there is also increasing pressure to do something “yesterday”. Quite simply, time pressure for action grows and there is less tolerance for someone saying “it will take us two years to fix this” or “I’ll get on it next month.”
And in a world where there is more pressure to do something right away, HPI/HPT is at a disadvantage. Conceptually, performance work appears to take longer. Realistically (how we practice it), it would seem to take longer. For instance—just the difference between cranking out a generic open-enrollment class for some poor performing managers versus taking the time to do a serious front-end analysis shows this problem. Irrelevant of the fact that the generic open-enrollment class will almost certainly fail, it appears to be faster. We live in a world where there is simply less patience, shorter deadlines and more of a need to “do something.” And all of those work against the attractiveness of a performance approach.
Increasingly, I believe that for performance consulting to really takeoff and exploit the opportunities presented by a world demanding performance in a more competitive world, we’ve got to master this “speed” issue.
Specifically that means:
•We’ve got to develop conceptual models that don’t make HPI/HPT appear to be the “slow boat to China” approach (which goes to how we explain and sell what it is we do).
•We need to find methods and tools and speed the work up (because like it or not, there are some projects that truly are on a short fuse and require a nearly immediate turnaround). Work with exemplars is a good example of short-circuiting a front-end analysis.
•We need to do a better job identifying performance solutions (job aids are a great example) that are usually faster to develop and deploy than more traditional “fast” answers (like…company-wide training).
•We’ve got to work on developing analytical tools and methods that speed up the performance consulting process.