Improving Performance Doesn’t Mean You Do Performance Improvement

Okay, I’ve got a pet peeve—something that really pushes my buttons.  The data from a host of sources has continually shown that organizations and executives are placing more emphasis on “performance.”  Leave aside the reality that many of them (organizations and execs) don’t really know what performance is in this case (below the organization level of profits or sales or end results).  But almost everyone in the HR field therefore knows there is more emphasis on “performance.”

So part of what we see is for people (internally as well as external consultants) to tack the word “performance” on to what they do.   We see “performance-based training” or “performance-enhancing facilitation” or “performance-driven HR” or some other variation.  To me, this reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the performance improvement field. Continue reading “Improving Performance Doesn’t Mean You Do Performance Improvement”

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 “Day One Problems”

The Power of Workplace Learning! (Seven Tips for Professionals)

Use the power of workplace learning!
Despite their massive participation in various forms of formal education or training, most professionals confirm that they have had most of their learning experiences on the job. When asked where they had their most impressive learning experience, ninety percent of all respondents answered “at the work place”. Nevertheless, research shows that most organizations are showing a bigger interest in formal learning and training than in informal learning in practice.

Informal learning
Many managers and professionals learn informally on the job, without any intervention of school, university or training company. Sometimes learning experiences can be a result of executing challenging tasks under pressure. In other occasions informal learning takes place by observing, role modeling or copying best practices from coworkers. Informal learning is not structured, planned or managed. It does include purposeful activities like reflection, practicing, organizing feedback etc. however. Continue reading “The Power of Workplace Learning! (Seven Tips for Professionals)”

Cause Analysis and Systems Thinking

It’s been traditional within performance consulting to talk about cause analysis or even root cause analysis.  This implies a mentality that we can get to the cause or primary factor responsible for the performance gap.  This also seems to imply a linear “start-stop” relationship of sorts.

Klaus Wittkuhn has written about this issue.   His point is that a systems approach (and a good performance analysis requires a systems approach) would reject the idea of a linear scheme with a clean start and end.  If we’re truly taking a systems perspective to performance, than we have to honestly admit that issues are circular.  That means that the concept of “a cause” is probably flawed. Continue reading “Cause Analysis and Systems Thinking”