Sunday, November 25, 2007

Solutions by Design; Lessons That Enable Average Performers To Excel

Improve customer satisfaction - improve safety performance - increase productivity, stream-line work processes - reduce the cost of formal training time and shorten the time to competence - produce exemplary quality in your products and services - reduce employee turnover - reduce the cost of rework - attract and retain employees by improving employee satisfaction - prepare employees for fierce global competition - accelerate time to productivity - prepare employees for technological change -improve your bottom-line - and increase long term profitability.
Exemplary business organizations focus employees on accomplishments and understand the importance of knowing how things work within their system. They understand that they need to shorten and accelerate time to global markets and promote product quality and regulatory compliance. Exemplary organizations focus on critical choices regarding:
  1. WHAT they want their employees to ACCOMPLISH and DO to achieve the business goals.

  2. The most cost-effective INFLUENCES needed to obtain and sustain the accomplishments and behaviors of their employees.

  3. Design and development of programs needed to carry out 1 and 2 above, such as training - work design - work environment engineering - and motivation-incentive programs.

  4. Implementation and evaluation of the programs selected and developed.

Exemplary organizations understand the importance of work process balance and flow. An analogy is the Yin-Yang symbol that represents ancient Chinese understanding of how things work within the universe. The outer circle represents "the total system ", while the black and white shapes within the circle represent the interaction of two energies, "yin" (black) and "yang" (white), which cause systems to perform at some level of performance. The yin and yang shapes cannot exist without one another. The shape of the yin and yang sections of the symbol, actually provide a sense of the continuous movement of these two energies causing everything in the Universe to happen. The two shapes represent two energies that create and harmonize the Universe by their interaction. These two opposite, conflicting energies are found in every action and reaction. They symbolize the two polar energies that, by their fluctuation and interaction, are responsible for our dynamic universe. Reality consists of relationships between opposite principles, Yin and Yang. Two opposites that form a whole system only in combination.

Example of Balance and Flow

Focus on operational efficiency and agility. When you implement new software systems, ensure balance between the implementation of the new software system with the the need to shorten time-to-competence for employees who need to perform new tasks required by the software implementation. It is very important to identify the most cost-effective training methods that enable employees to know how-to work with the new software. By doing so you increase the probability that employees are motivated to enter information in the new software accurately and in a timely manner. In addition it is important to provide employees with the most appropriate work environment; tools and hardware required to operate the new system.

In God We Trust, Everyone Else Bring Data

The concepts of Yin and Yang provide the intellectual framework of much of scientific thinking in fields like biology and medicine. The organs in our bodies are interrelated and are best understood by looking for correlations and correspondences. Work processes are also interrelated and are best understood by looking at correlations and correspondences as well. New performance planning analysis identifies potential sources of imbalance and accurate diagnosis of current sources of imbalance, such as skills/knowledge/information, work environment, motivation, incentives, and/or worker capabilities.

Proper Analysis on the Front-End Minimizes Re-Work on the Rear-End of New Implementations

The principle of Yin and Yang is the foundation of successful business. The Front-End Analysis (FEA) process contributes to ease of implementation of new systems by analyzing the origins of optimum work performance (the outputs and behaviors of accomplished performers). If you focus too much on new technology systems alone, without planning for changes required in human performance, then the new technology cannot possible perform at an expected level of performance.

It is important that not to rush to premature solutions of human performance issues

Exemplary businesses teach selected employees how-to produce Front-End Analysis data to ensure employees focus on valued accomplishments, and not bend their will or ambition to the achievement of empty ends. Exemplary businesses learn how-to carefully observe what exemplary performers produce and the tasks they perform and learn what accomplished performers do differently than average performers. By observing their outputs and behaviors, exemplary businesses gather knowledge about the most cost-effective solutions to work performance issues. When average or deficient behaviors are treated correctly with the appropriate blend of interventions, the danger they pose dissipate. Physicians in examining patients judge their general appearance; they feel their pulse and determine what causes the disease. When businesses choose to balance new technology software with cost-effective human performance systems, Yin and Yang are in proper harmony enabling organizations to ensure balance and flow between work processes resulting in exemplary business results.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Make a Maximum Business Impact with Job Aids & Performance Support

Moving from knowledge in the classroom to knowledge anywhere/anytime!

A client of mine recently asked me how-to improve retention of training and increase transfer-of-training to-the-job. The stimulus for his question was that follow-up training evaluation data revealed that there was often a rapid and dramatic loss of retention of the skills/knowledge after his organization's training courses had ended. His training team had determined that no matter how great the learning gains during training, and no matter which media and teaching strategies they used, they still were realizing a dramatic loss in retention and transfer-of-learning to the job. I shared with him that retention of training is a primarily a function of time and frequency of exercise. Classic studies show that we lose what we don't use, and the loss is significant very soon after learning. The common method of solving skills/knowledge deficits (including instruction-for-recall) is expensive and doesn't work most of the time.

We completed a Front-End Analysis to determine the best course of action to improve their training performance. Front-end analysis data revealed that the most appropriate intervention was blending job aids into their training curriculum.

The result of implementing the recommendation continues to be profound. One significant organization output has been the cost-effective duplication of the performance of the organization's best employees. The training manager's team learned how-to develop well designed performance support job aids. Employees now use job aids to perform some of their job tasks by first reading a step, then performing the step. Job aids don't forget. Organization's around the world, large and small, are learning that well designed job aids are simple and cost-effective to design and use.

Most of us are familiar with gaining knowledge from classrooms and on-the-job through co-workers. This type of knowledge is difficult to retain and transfer to-the-job. Now performance support through job aids provides anywhere/anytime knowledge.

What is a job aid? A job aid is a tool to guide job performance in real time. Job aid formats include; checklists, decision tables, flow charts (algorithms), worksheets and cookbooks. Job aids are a repository for information, processes, and perspectives that inform and guide planning and action on-the-job. Job aids for performance are storage places for information other than in the memory. They should provide stimuli and responses and reduce the quantity of information needed to be recalled by the performer.

Job aids provide a detailed description of exemplary performance. Therefore it is critical that job aids are developed by observing and documenting how exemplary performers perform their work. Job aids should capture both the overt behavior (Actions that can be directly observed) and covert behavior (Actions that must be inferred from overt behaviors) of exemplary performers. Job aids need to be tested by target audience performers to ensure they are very easy to follow.

Job aids save time and money. Job aids are less expensive to develop than instruction-for-recall. Job aids often serve to dramatically reduce formal training time. Job aids often yield more accurate and reliable job performance. Job aids force the developer, subject matter experts and accomplished performers to define desired performance. The time it takes to develop a job aid is three to five times shorter than with traditional instruction. Implementation time is three times shorter. Job aids reduce formal training time, minimize the need for experience and are easier and less expensive to change than formal training.

Most importantly job aids focus attention on what performers are expected to do and produce.

Job aids solve retention problems and result in more accurate performance. Job aids are more reliable than memory and quicker to develop than formal training. Job Aids provide clear and easy-to-follow instructions for employees to use on-the-job.

Learn how-to take complex information and make it simple for employees to follow. Learn how-to design cost-effective job aids to use immediately upon returning to the organization after training. Organizations that use job aids are achieving optimum performance from their workforce. Job aids are cost-effective, have short cycle times, and make a maximum business impact. Job Aids can be low or high tech. There is a lot of fresh thinking on how-to format job aids. They can be electronic, hard copy a wizard, reference card, poster, or a laminated job aid for use outdoors for people who work outdoors exposed to the elements. There are some good books available that explaining more about job aids.

There is also a workshop available that can be delivered in-house and provides hands-on-learning to help transfer job aid development skills to-the-job. Learn more at:

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Human Performance Technology; Improving Results, Enhancing Knowledge and Producing Know-How

For the first time in history, scientists are uncovering astounding evidence about improving human performance. Performance Technology is about improving how we put our knowledge to work and increase our ability to produce valued results. Performance improvement continues to shape the future of many individuals and organizations around the world through learning, sharing, working together, and networking.

Human Performance Technology (HPT) , with all its potential, has so much to offer, including business, government, military, health care, universities, non-profits, and other large, medium and small organizations. This blog is about sharing information to help move the field forward and helping others improve their performance and achieve or exceed their goals. The knowledge available in our field is dynamic and growing. Our thought leaders are constantly adding to the foundation of that knowledge. There is an annual Performance Improvement conference being held April 5-8,2008, in New York City. During the conference, participants will come together to learn and share so that we can build on what we know already, improve our skills at applying that knowledge; and facilitate the creation of valued results for ourselves, our clients, our organizations, and society in general.

Learn more about the field of Performance Improvement and the Performance Improvement Conference at the International Society for Performance Improvement; and at