Why Organizations Should Test Employees

I met Joe a dozen years ago when I was working at ASTD and he was on the ASTD Board and a frequent ASTD contributer/presenter.  We collaborated on ASTD’s venture into the world of HPI when as the staff person responsible for developing the HPI Certificate Program I asked Joe to work with me on the capstone course and become one of our facilitators.  Over the years we have touched base a couple of times a year and I have always enjoyed talking with him about performance improvement stuff.  I am sure Joe will tell you that I enjoy pushing the envelope – I have even gone as far as to tell students involved in my old ISD graduate program that they are wasting their time if all they want to do is learn how to develop a better training course.  So when Joe asked me if I would be interested in writing for his blog my first question was “are you sure you really want to give me a venue for expressing my ideas?”  He said he was…so here we go.

I am going to start this blog entry off with what I hope is a thought provoking story. Continue reading

Explaining What Performance Consulting is to Clients

When I was initially starting out as a performance consultant, clients used to ask what that title meant—what is a performance consultant? And I’d stumble into a definition of what human performance improvement is and what distinguishes it from other approaches only to discover that after about the second sentence my client’s eyes had usually glazed over. Typically we, as performance consultants do a lousy job trying to explain to clients what it is we do and why it works. And the biggest reason why this happens repeatedly is that we fail to see (or hear) things from a client’s perspective.

An accurate definition of HPT or HPI may be fine and good but frankly, most clients don’t care about the academics or the theory. Their focus is more likely to be on: “what can you do for me?” Now if a client wants to know how my approach differs from that of someone in another field, I’m more than happy to provide a performance consulting model or explain particular aspects of the process. But now, when talking with clients, my explanation usually is about the payoff to the clients—the business result. Most of the time I tell clients (especially executives) that I’m a “business consultant.” Because, frankly, the process I use (performance consulting) is of secondary interest to my clients—what they want are results. Continue reading

Natural Talent? I Think Not.

We’ve probably all heard a reference to someone as having “natural talent” or being “particularly gifted in an area” or even being a prodigy.  Such claims are often made about athletes or musicians but you will hear them about just about any kind of profession.  And they’re complete bunk.

Professor Anders Ericsson at Florida State is the leading researcher into what has now become known as “Genius Research”.  Ericsson and others look at what it takes for someone to become an outstanding performer in their field.  What they’ve found out is that raw talent, even physical ability (like size in football or height in basketball) make very little difference in determining whether or not someone becomes great or not.  Instead, it’s primarily about two different factors:

  • How much you practice
  • How well you practice

Let’s take a look at each of these factors. Continue reading

Day One Problems

Jim Fuller is a great performance consultant with a couple of fine books to his credit.  He also played a key role in getting performance consulting functioning within Hewlett-Packard.  It was also Jim who introduced me to the concept of a “Day One Problem.”

A “Day One Problem” is a situation where things have never worked from day one.  It’s an engine that never ran, the customer fulfillment process that was mixed up from the start, the sales department that never met quota, or the team that was always substandard with their work products.  Why do we care about whether or not a problem is a “Day One Problem” or not?

Continue reading