Okay, Iâ€™ve got a pet peeveâ€”something that really pushes my buttons. Â The data from a host of sources has continually shown that organizations and executives are placing more emphasis on â€œperformance.â€ Â Leave aside the reality that many of them (organizations and execs) donâ€™t really know what performance is in this case (below the organization level of profits or sales or end results). Â But almost everyone in the HR field therefore knows there is more emphasis on â€œperformance.â€
So part of what we see is for people (internally as well as external consultants) to tack the word â€œperformanceâ€ on to what they do. Â We see â€œperformance-based trainingâ€ or â€œperformance-enhancing facilitationâ€ or â€œperformance-driven HRâ€ or some other variation. Â To me, this reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the performance improvement field.
Now, for those of you reading this without a strong performance background, what Iâ€™m about to write may seem like Iâ€™m engaging in sophistry. Â Butâ€¦.performance improvement is not about whether or not you improved performance. Â Let me explain. Â I run into people all the time who say â€œI do performance-based training because my training improves performanceâ€ or â€œIâ€™m a performance consultant because the team building I do improves performance.â€ Â Nah. Â Thatâ€™s not how it works. Â I donâ€™t deny that some training or team building or facilitation or instructional design (or any other approach) can, in some circumstances, improve performance. Â But saying that you do â€œperformance improvementâ€ is really about saying â€œI follow a particular process that does not lock into a specific tool or intervention and this process focuses on business results, measures performance by accomplishments, does a cause analysis and evaluates progress.â€ Â Okay, thatâ€™s a mouthful so to paraphrase in a more condenses version… â€œperformance improvementâ€ is about the process you use to try to improve performance. Â Sometimes you fail to improve performance and it may simply be because it wasnâ€™t possible to improve things in that specific situation. Â But if you followed the appropriate process, youâ€™re still doing performance improvement or being a performance consultant.
The flip side, if your training improves performance that does not mean you do â€œperformance-based trainingâ€. Â It just means that youâ€™re a good trainer or in that situation the training worked (and I guarantee that in many other situations it wonâ€™tâ€”because most performance problems arenâ€™t caused by issues solvable by training).
So, being a performance consultant is not a statement about the effectiveness of your work but rather the process you use in addressing performance gaps. Â To use an analogy (always dangerous given how easily analogies are misused), if I accidently discover a new element that does not make me a scientist. Â A scientist is defined by their use of the scientific method of study and relying on inquiry to test assumptions and gather data. Â Discovering something by accident or dogma (in defiance of the scientific method) does not render me a scientist.