I have been attending ISPI's Performance Improvement Conference 2012. Today was the first day of the 3-day Principles and Practice of Human Performance Technology workshop. The workshop is being facilitated by Roger Addison, EdD, CPT, and Miki Lane, PhD, CPT. Both have a great deal of experience as performance consultants, and share meaningful experiences that help make the content seem more relevant. I also met several excellent co-attendees at the conference. We have worked as teams for several exercises, and I am getting to know and appreciate the knowledge and experience of my team members. I'll write more about these team members in a later post.
We spent the morning getting an overview of the field of human performance. We then spent much of the afternoon learning important techniques for analyzing and identifying business needs and opportunities, and it sounds like a significant part of tomorrow's workshop activities will also focus on analysis.
Performance DefinitionsOne of the things I found interesting was the distinction between Performance Improvement and Performance Technology. In a previous post, I've described The Difference Between Instructional Design, Instructional Science, and Instructional Technology. I will add on what was learned in today's workshop to include similar categories. Here are the four components I think are relevant to understanding the field of human performance:
- Performance Improvement is the GOAL of the performance consultant.
- Performance Science is what we know about what works in improving human performance. These can be called "best-practices" or "evidence-based practices."
- Performance Technology is the means for reaching the goal of improving performance.
- Performance Consulting is the use of performance technology (based on performance science) to reach the goal of performance improvement. It usually involves the following major steps: (1) the diagnosis of performance problems and opportunities, (2) the implementation of research-based strategies for improving performance related to those problems and opportunities, and (3) the evaluation and follow-up to see how effective those strategies have been.
Levels of Performance NeedsWhen diagnosing performance problems and needs, it can be useful to identify the level of the performance problem, need or gap. These levels are:
- Worker (individual level)
- Work (process level)
- Workplace (organizational level)
- A fourth level can also be added: World (society level)
All About the Money?One of the most important things I learned this first day was that when we are analyzing a problem or a need, we should always link that need to how it affects the financial success of the organization. If an organization has the goal of profits, then all activity should be focused on increasing profits in sustainable ways. For some reason this seemed new to me, something I had never considered. This is possibly because I work as an academic in higher education where making a profit does not seem to be at the forefront of my (nor my peers') thinking. But the discussions and the activities in our workshop today helped me realize the importance of this kind of thinking.
Higher EducationI wonder when higher education institutions will finally realize the importance of linking performance to the bottom-line. And if/when they do, how will they deal with the potential conflict between profitability and academic freedom? It's clear that some for-profit organizations are focused on financial gains and have had some success at being very profitable, but at what point does this compromise the mission of the organization? I have a close friend who works at a for-profit university, and he describes increasing pressure to allow students to pass poorly-designed courses, even when he knows the students do not have the skills needed to move on. Even if the institution reaches its goal of profit, it abandons its goal to provide quality education to its students, thereby failing to fulfill its mission as an institution of higher education.
What About the World Level?The other consideration is the World (society) level that is now being considered by many in the HPT field. We live in a society in which there are limited natural resources, and without responsible use of these resources, we might find them damaged or totally depleted. The famous Dodo bird provided very valuable feathers centuries ago, but those in the feather-finding business did not consider the World level when following their business plan and eventually eliminated all Dodo birds, thereby halting their own performance. What if this same thing happened with ore, water, or fuel? The broader mission of an organization should (in my opinion) consider the impact of its work on the global scale, including impact on natural resources and on things like international relationships and society in general.
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So, there are my thoughts and reflections from day 1 of the Principles and Practices of HPT workshop. I will continue to write as I progress through the workshop and the conference. (Here are my thoughts on day 2).