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Human Performance Technology (HPT) is a set of principles and methods for identifying and solving problems that cannot be solved through instructional programs alone. Also known as Performance Consulting, this strategic, systematic approach produces business results by maximizing the performance of people and organizations, by using performance improvement models and technologies to match and align client, SME, team and learner needs to the best, optimal solution that can help reduce the performance gap. Through working on a real-world project, I was able to apply human performance technologies and consulting methodologies in a case where training had failed to yield the desired performance. In doing so, I experienced the process of creating a performance needs assessment to carry out a cause-conscious diagnosis of the gap between desired and current performance, and all the factors affecting the gap, then proposing a high-level design of nine interventions, and finally, designing two non-instructional interventions in detail.

The beauty of Human Performance Technology is not only its rich variety of tools and frameworks such as Gilbert’s 6-Boxes, Rummler and Brash’s 9-Boxes or the Worker-Work-Workplace-World model, but also the possibility of combining them to identify the interconnections in systems and apply Systems Thinking to uncover the root causes of performance problems. This paves the way for the selection, design and development of effective performance interventions that lead to stronger organizations, more effective policies and better performers, all functioning at their full potential. However, analysis and solutions need to be as cost-effective as possible for the client, so it's wise to treat performance problems from within the organization. I've learned to look at the world through HPT glasses, and to combine the tools available to identify and close performance gaps, and I hope that my HPT/ Systems vision gets a little sharper every day!

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PERFORMANCE NEEDS ANALYSIS

 

A Performance Needs Assessment (PNA) is similar to a Training Needs Assessment, but rather than determining the conditions of training, it focuses on the requirements for performance i.e., business and performance issues and objectives, the performers, context, constraints, cause analysis and evaluation.

 

Gilbert’s BEM/ 6-Box model is my favorite PNA tool as it is an easy-to-apply framework that helps me apply performance thinking to guide my questioning and problem-solving, and better conceptualize and categorize the root causes of performance problems. Root cause analysis will prevent the same problems from repeating because it can point you to real, sustainable solutions that prevent the problem from reoccurring, rather than temporary patches. Once the source(s) of the problem(s) are identified, you can easily determine what initiatives should be considered to help change behavior and improve performance.

 

It is important to keep in mind that most of the time, the main factors affecting performance are environmental (rooted in the organization) rather than individual (rooted in the employee). Hence, it's wise to treat performance problems from within the organization, not only to ensure that analysis and solutions are as cost-effective as possible for the client, but also since these environmental factors are easier to improve through the right performance interventions, and will ultimately have a greater positive impact on both individual and group performance.

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HIGH-LEVEL DESIGN

 

The High-Level Design (HLD) document describes the different interventions of a proposed Performance Improvement Campaign (PIC) intended to address the performance issues identified in the PNA, and the interrelationships among these interventions. The PIC aims to close performance gaps, reinforce desired behavior, and achieve business/ performance objectives. The HLD helps you understand that if the PNA indicates performers cannot achieve desired results because the work environment:

  • Lacks facilitating elements or presents barriers to achieving desired performance, then a non-learning environmental intervention such as provision of information, feedback and resources or process/ job redesign should be proposed.

  • Does not stimulate, encourage, or reward desired performance, then a non-learning emotional intervention to build commitment, engagement and motivation should be considered e.g., provision of incentives, job enrichment.

 

It's important not to rely on a single intervention to work, since a performance intervention is only a part of a basket of solutions to a performance problem. It is also not advisable to try to design and develop all the interventions you recommend.

Image by Balázs Kétyi

 

 

DETAILED DESIGN

 

The Detailed Design is a draft set of materials for two non-instructional performance interventions from the Performance Improvement Campaign (PIC) that will be developed and implemented to improve human performance within the organization. It includes formative and summative evaluation plans.

 

The Detail Design document poses a challenge due to its comprehensive contents and high level of detail. It is for this reason that it is not advisable to try to design and develop all the interventions you recommend in the High-Level Design (HLD). The two most viable and promising non-instructional performance interventions from the Performance Improvement Campaign (PIC) are described (the users, the performance objectives addressed, genre, communication medium and design) and the materials for each intervention are developed (prototype online interface and detailed drafts)

 

It's important to always take a few steps back, put on your systems thinking lens on and look at things from a bird's eye view, so as not to lose sight of the big picture presented at the very beginning of the process, in the Performance Needs Analysis (PNA). This ensures that each section of the Performance Improvement Campaign (PIC) is consistent and aligned with the next (PNA --> HLD --> DD) and that the final selected performance interventions actually help close performance gaps and achieve the business and performance objectives established in the PNA.

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