What’s the difference between Trainers and Performance Consultants: Aren’t they one and the same?

After 10 years of HPI consulting, I’m still being asked this question a lot.  In the blog, “Isn’t this still training”, I shared why it still looks like training.  Alas, this blog brings us to the beginning of another series within the Human Performance Improvement (HPI) arena.  I’m calling it “HPI: Making it Work for Compliance Trainers”. So, in this blog, I will expand upon 6 elements of comparison to illustrate the difference between the two and the depth of impact one has over the other. 

FOCUS

Training addresses the learning needs of employees.  Various definitions include closing the knowledge and skill gap of what they know now and what they know afterwards.  It’s built on the assumption that the cause of the gap is a lack of knowledge and skill.  Performance Consulting addresses business goals and performance needs of the affected employees.  Training is just one of the possible solutions that can be used; not the only one.

OUTPUTS

A training solution delivers a structured learning event.  Whether it is a classroom or virtual or self -led, the event itself is the end goal.  Performance Consulting or HPI projects are implemented to improve performance.  The end goal is not about the solution such as the specific HPI Project, but rather a positive change in performance that leads to the achievement of the business goal.  The endpoint is “further down the road”.  So it takes longer to produce the results.

ACCOUNTABILITY

With training, the Trainer is held accountable for the event.  In a lot of organizations, there is an implied but not spoken accountability for the results back on the job.  But without the proper systems and support mechanisms in place, many Trainers get “blamed” for training transfer failure.  Here’s the big difference for me.  Performance Consultants (PCs) partner with their internal customers, system owners and business leaders in support of the business goals.  The accountability for improved performance becomes shared across the relationships.

ASSESSMENTS

Trainers typically conduct a needs analysis to design the best learning “program” or course possible.  PCs conduct performance analyses gaps assessments to identify causes that can go beyond knowledge and skills.  See the blog, “Analyses du jour”.

MEASURES
Trainers
very often use course evaluation sheets as a form of measurement.  In the Compliance Training arena, knowledge checks and quizzes have also become the norm.  PCs measure the effect on performance improvement and achievement of business objectives.

ORGANIZATIONAL GOALS

This is another key differentiator.  Training is viewed as a cost typically.  Compliance Trainers are all too familiar with the phrase, “GMP Training is a necessary evil”.  PCs become business partners in solving performance gaps and accomplishing organizational goals.

For a visual graphic and expanded description of these 6 elements, you can request HPISC white paper, Why They Still Want Training?

I also recommend that you request the HPISC white paper, Performance Analysis: lean approach for performance problems.  

 

With a little help from my Validation Colleagues – The Training Protocol

In the 17 June 2014 issue: http://hpiscblog.hpisconsulting.com/2014/06/learning-on-the-fly/ I blogged about an urgent learning need requiring instructor led classroom delivery that needed to be facilitated among a group of talented SMEs.  During the needs assessment portion, I hit a huge barrier.

“I teach GMP Basics and conduct Annual GMP Refreshers several times a year and preach to audiences that you must follow the procedure otherwise it’s a deviation.  And in less than two weeks, I am expected to teach a process that is changing daily!   Yet on the other hand, how could I teach a work instruction that is known to be broken; is being re-designed and not yet finalized?”

My dilemma challenged the essence of my “learned” compliance belief system about following the 1st basic GMP principle – “thou shall follow written procedures”!  The instructional designer side of me screamed – how can you teach flawed content?  That’s wasted training that results in scrap learning. How is that training going to be effective beyond a check in the box?

And then it hit me – validation engineers use protocols to capture their “change in process” work.  Whether it’s experimental batches, 3 batches for process validation or *IQ-OQ-PQ protocols for equipment qualifications.  They are validating the procedure or the new process before it can become the standard operating procedure by developing the plan, developing acceptance criteria, managing the unexpected deviations and capturing the results.  So why couldn’t I borrow the concept and adapt it to my situation?

While it was the intention of the business unit leader to deviate from the approved set of work instructions, a planned deviation would not be appropriate in this case.  The purpose of the training sessions was to test the new sequence of steps and confirm the robustness of the criteria to make correct decisions where needed.  The learners would still be in compliance with the quality policy document and would still meet the intention of the quality system regulation.  They were essentially testing the future “how-to steps” for the proposed new work instructions.

Now before you fire off a rant of emails to me, I did not copy and paste the validation protocol template.  I did however, include a “please pardon our appearance while we are under construction” paragraph in the training plan to document the departure from the current set of work instructions.  This protocol like section also included our intentions for the outcomes of the sessions and stipulated required SOP training of all affected users once the finalized set of work instructions were approved and went into effect.

Sometimes the very solution can be found around the next cubicle.  –VB

*Installation Qualification, Operational Qualification, Performance Qualification

“Learning on the fly” or is this what they meant by the Agile Learning Model?

When Rapid Design for E Learning found its way into my vocabulary, I loved it and all the derivatives like rapid prototyping.  And soon, I starting seeing Agile this and Agile that.  It seemed that Agile was everywhere I looked.  When Michael Allen published his book, LEAVING ADDIE for SAM, I was intrigued and participated in an ATD (formerly known as ASTD) sponsored webinar.  It made a lot of sense to me and “I bought into the concept”.  Or so I thought …

 

A few weeks back, I joined a project that was already in-progress and had to “hit the ground running to get caught up to speed”.  The element of urgency was the anticipation of a post FDA visit following a consent decree.   If you’ve experienced this “scene” before, you can relate to the notion of expedited time.   As part of remediation efforts, training events needed to be conducted.  I learned during a meeting sometime my first week, I was to be the trainer.  Okay, given my background and experience, that made sense.  Sure, in a few weeks when we have the new procedure in place, I’d be happy to put the training materials together, is what I was thinking.  Wait – in two weeks?  Are you kidding me?  I’m not the SME and I don’t even have the software loaded on my laptop yet.  Well, some cleaned up version of those words was my response.

 

But what about all that buzz for rapid design and prototyping I’ve been reading about?  In theory, I totally bought it.  But, this is different I argued with myself.  This is compliance with a quality system for a company who is undergoing transformative change as a result of a consent decree!  I teach GMP Basics and conduct Annual GMP Refreshers several times a year and preach to audiences that you must follow the procedure otherwise it’s a deviation.  And in less than two weeks, I am expected to teach a process that is changing daily!   Yet on the other hand, how could I teach a work instruction that is known to be broken; is being re-designed and not yet finalized?  Stay tuned for a future blog about how I overcame this dilemma.

 

My bigger issue was to get out of my own design way.  I’m classically schooled in *ADDIE and with 25+ years as an instructional designer, very comfortable with how to design, develop and deliver training.  All I needed was more time and it hit me!  I was so focused on what I needed, that I was missing the urgency of the learners’ needs.  It was time to put theory into practice and take the agile plunge into the domain of the unknown.

 

By shifting the prioritization away from perfectly designed classes with pristine training materials, I was able to diagnose that the need was to get the learners into a live classroom.   They needed to see the database software in action and “play in the sandbox”; the training materials could follow afterwards.  I shifted my role to facilitator and found the true SMEs to navigate the software screens and explain how to complete field transactions.  To my surprise and delight, trainer-wannabes volunteered to paste screen shots into participant worksheets so they could take notes.  I became a scribe and worked on sequencing these pages for the next round of attendees.  Together, we all collaborated to meet the urgent need of the learners.   And we documented it!  Once they had the tour and sand-box time, the learners were paired up with a buddy for guided instruction of real entry into the live system.  The following week, the department was able to go live with a project plan that focused on a series of interim roles, changed roles and transitioning responsibilities within established roles.  The project launched on time to meet commitments promised to the agency.

 

It was energizing and empowering for the learners. A truly collaborative experience for the SMEs and the biggest surprise of all was that they thanked me.  Me?  I did not deliver the training; I was not the SME nor did I provide perfect training materials.   If I had pursued my classically trained ADDIE technique, we’d still be waiting to deliver those sessions.  However, I’m not ready to throw ADDIE over board yet.  She has served me well and continues to be an appropriate technique in most of my training needed situations.

 

My lesson learned was this: when the need is for speed and the design is not the key focus, I need to give up control to the SMEs and Learners and focus on facilitating the best learning experience given the daily change challenges and system constraints.   Is this “learning on the fly” or agile learning in practice?  You decide.

 

*NOTE: ADDIE = Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, Deliver – classic phases of Instructional Systems Design (ISD) Technique.

If training isn’t the answer, what is the right fix?

In the blog, Isn’t this still training?, I shared some thoughts on closing performance gaps with the right solutions.  Ideally, the right solution is one that closes the performance gap AND makes a worthy impact on business objectives.

So, what is worthy performance?

Thomas Gilbert described it as engineering worthy performance in his groundbreaking book, Human Competence: engineering worthy performance.   It’s when the cost of doing the task is less than the value of the results generated.  When they are the same or greater, we have a performance gap.  See  eBook, “Triggering the Shift to Performance Improvement”.

HPI Solutions is like opening up Pandora’s Box

One component of the HPI methodology includes a Performance Analysis.  Performance Analysis recognizes that performance occurs within organizational systems.  Very often the recommended HPI solution(s) involves the integration of linkages outside of the initiating department but within those same “organizational and quality systems” in order to ensure sustainable performance improvement.  Otherwise, you have a fragment of the solution with high expectations for solving “the problem”.

This requires the cooperation of others.  How solid are these relationships?  Would a request to fix someone else’s system go over well?   Or would you be accused of starting a turf battle?  HPI projects have the potential of opening up unsettling issues similar to Pandora’s Box.  Image, perception, pending promotions, can all be impacted by what the Performance Analysis reveals; including the fear of losing one’s job.  And yet, this very opportunity to engineer worthy performance is what makes these projects so valuable for impactful results.

When borrowing a best practice from another department can backfire

If having one department of qualified operators is good, then why not duplicate the best practice?  Hmm, sounds reasonable enough, right?  This is exactly what one manager thought after a department reorganization.  So, she set out to cut-n-paste curricula from manufacturing operators and use for her staff of technicians.  But after months of reminding, little progress was made towards completion of the “cross-training requirements”.  A performance cause analysis was conducted and revealed a few surprises.  In an effort to expedite the cross-training program and hit the ground running, decisions about what to include in the cross-training curriculum were done without the input of the technicians.

In the  HPIS C. impact story, “I’ve Been Re-org’d.  What’s in it for me?” learn more about those surprises and how this HPI Project was refocused on wellness and motivation as the right fix instead of completing borrowed training curricula.

Isn’t this just another way of saying training needs analysis?

No, the emphasis during a PA is on recognizing the drivers and barriers to performance first.   The method gathers multiple perspectives on the problem.   What’s included? Request  “Performance analysis: the lean approach to solving performance problems”.   – VB.

Click on the eBook cover page to learn more about the table of contents.
ShiftPerformance_eBook
eBook from HPISC.

Isn’t this still training?

To the newly minted and seasoned performance consultant, the answer is NO.  But for your client, internal customer or the VP of Quality, or whomever is your requestor, it still may look like “a training solution”, so don’t argue with them.  You do however, want to be able to explain why it is more than a classroom instructor led session or a quick and dirty PPT slide with audio recording.

 

If it looks like, smells like, tastes like training …

Then it must be training, right? Not exactly, but nod your head anyway; at least they are still engaged with you!  Any one of the elements of a Robust Training System is “training related”.  So for the less informed, this connection makes sense to them.  If your client/sponsor/requestor is more comfortable with calling it training, let them do so.  Don’t push the HPI label at this point.  First we work on raising their awareness with our early projects and successes.  Understanding and hopefully appreciation will come later.

 

What’s your company’s definition of training, anyway?

Most folks will envision instruction either classroom based, virtual instructor led or even formal eLearning course.  Their reasoning is that the gap must be a lack of knowledge and training is used to close that gap.  Is closing a skill based gap also considered training?  Most companies would define that as OJT.  What about “awareness training” and communication “training” sessions; are these considered training?  It is a form of closing a knowledge gap, the depth of the gap and the degree of required proficiency is the differentiator.  Again, what’s your company’s definition of training?

 

Closing Performance Gaps with the Right Solutions

The essence of HPI methodology is all about the right solution based on the data (evidence) and making an impact on the bottom line when the performance gap closes.  Is this training, you tell me?  How would you explain it to your sponsor?

 Not all HPI Solutions are Classroom Based

HPI Solutions

 

Talk about using knowledge to improve KPIs for a business unit

A team of site leaders met to discuss (problem solve) what to do about lagging metrics for a business unit.  The idea of studying SMEs (aka key performers) to learn what they needed to do to meet or beat the numbers was brought up.  I applaud them.  In fact, conducting Key Performer Analyses is part of the HPI methodology and is an excellent way to gather real data from experts.  However, the outcome was already biased with a set of “knowledge based” assumptions unbeknownst to the Performance Consultant (PC).  During the Key Performer Interviews, it turned out that those assumptions were brutally flawed and put this HPI project and another highly visible project in serious jeopardy.    The PC was able to uncover the right knowledge from the SMEs and successfully deliver a solution.  However, it was far from a traditional classroom training session.  Yet, it had everything to do with capturing secret sauce learned on the job.

Is this still training?  You tell me after you read the impact story.  -VB

 

NOTE: A more detailed version of this case –“Capturing Secret Sauce of Senior Equipment Operators?” is available. 

Next blog: “If it’s not training, then what is the right fix?”

 

Who is Vivian Bringslimark?

Reframing a Training Request

Analyzing Performance Problems

The title of today’s post reminds me of the subtitle for R. Mager and P. Pipe’s book – “Or You Really Oughta Wanna”.  Yet, it is by far most the opportune time a Performance Consultant (PC) has to get a HPI (Human Performance Improvement) project going.  But a word of caution is in order.  Please don’t launch into a 15 minute dissertation on the HPI methodology if all they want is a training fix.

Say Yes and …

Never say no to a training request until you know more.  The key is to get more time.  You do this by conducting a performance cause analysis to determine the nature of the discrepancy.  Evidence can be collected from document review examples, deviations, audit observations and follow up “interviews”.   Even if a solution begins to form in your mind, stay on the HPI methodology path and let the data show you the proper answer.  It’s this data that grants a PC a little bit more time.

A Typical Training Request

Begins with an assumption that a lack of knowledge is somehow missing and that “training” is the right solution.  Next, the requestor launches into a list of “required content” and without taking a breath, asks when you can complete the classroom training!  Rather than attempting to explain when training is the right answer, stay calm and in your best professional tone use the following phrases:

  • Okay, have they been trained before?
  • What was that like?
  • I see.  So more of the “same” training will change the results? In what way?

If they continue to insist, then use my favorite one: Okay, but what will they be doing differently as a result of this training session? 

I Need Training for 800 Employees ASAP

A corporate auditor discovered a lack of training records for newly developed Job Aids during a Mock Inspection.  So, the easy fix would be to re-train everyone and then produce the records, right? Notice; however, that the solution is biased towards retraining without discovering why the training was missed in the first place. 

Reframing the request allowed the Performance Consultant to not only find the root cause but to provide both immediate resolution and long term prevention.  The PC never said no to the training request, only that they “wanted to provide the most effective training possible”.   The PC’s part was to expedite a Training Root Cause Analysis and solution recommendations as quickly as possible.  In the end, the HPI approach delivered the solution far quicker than the traditional training approach was originally planned for and the audit observation was closed before the due date!

 NOTE: A more detailed version of this case –“Just Get the Audit Observation Closed Already, Will You?” is now available.

Short Term Value vs. Bottom Line Impact

This situation presented a very real dilemma for the PC.  Provide short term value for the VP of Quality (Requestor) and satisfy the goal to close out the audit observation or find the real root cause to determine what the appropriate solution SHOULD be. In theory, there is no dilemma. The choice is obvious. But in practice, for organizations under intense pressure to take immediate action, short term value can be quite attractive. This is exactly where performance analysis provides a balanced approach.  Isn’t this what HPI is all about – impacting the bottom line? – VB

Recommended blog: “But isn’t this still training?”

Announcing the HPIS C. eBook for Trainers!  

ebook_trng cause analysis
A new HPISC. eBook

Analyses du jour: Isn’t it really all the same thing?

So there’s root cause analysis and gap analysis and now performance cause analysis?  Is there a difference? Do they use different tools?  It can be overwhelming to decipher through the jargon, no doubt!  I think it depends on which industry you come from and whether your focus is a regulatory / quality system point of view or performance consulting perspective.  To me, it doesn’t change the outcome.  I still want to know why the deviation occurred, how the mistake that was made and /or what allowed the discrepancy to happen.  Mix and matching the tools allows me to leverage the best techniques from all.

Why we love root cause analysis

For starters, it’s GMP and we get to document our compliance with CAPA requirements.  It allows us to use tools and feel confident that our “data doesn’t lie”.  This bodes well for our credibility with management.  And it provides the strategic connection between our training solution (as a corrective action) and site quality initiatives thus elevating the importance and quite possibly the priority for completing the corrective action on time.

Asking the right questions

Root cause analysis and problem solving steps dove tail nicely.  See sidebar below.  It requires us to slow down and ask questions methodically and sequentially.  More than one question is asked, for sure.  When you rush the process, it’s easy to grab what appears to be obvious.  And that’s one of the early mistakes that can be made with an over reliance on the tools.  The consequence?  Jumping to the wrong conclusion that automatic re-training or refresher training is the needed solution.  Done, checkmark.  On to the next problem that needs a root cause analysis. But when the problem repeats or returns with a more serious consequence, we question why the training did not transfer or we wonder what’s wrong with the employee – why is s/he not getting this yet?

Side Bar -Double Click to Enlarge.
Side Bar -Double Click to Enlarge.

No time to do it right, but time to do it twice!

Solving the problem quickly and rapidly closing the CAPA allows us to get back to our other pressing tasks.  Unfortunately, “band-aids” fall off.  The symptom was only covered up and temporarily put out of sight, but the original problem wasn’t solved.  So now, we must investigate again (spend more time) and dig a little deeper.  We have no time to do it right, but find the time to do it twice.  Madness!

Which tool to use?

My favorite human performance cause tool is the fish bone diagram, albeit the “ 5 Whys Technique” is a close second.  Both tools force you to dig a little deeper into the causes.  Yes, the end result often reveals something is amiss with “the training”, but is it man, machine, method or materials? Ah-hah, that is very different than repeat training on the procedure!  Alas, when we have asked enough right questions, we are led to the true cause(s).  That is the ultimate outcome I seek no matter what you call the process or which tool is used. -VB

HPIS C. has articles, impact stories and white papers.
Published article – Why the Band Aids Keep Falling Off

 

Request this Job Aid from HPIS C. Website.

HPIS C. actually means Human Performance Improvement Solutions

Welcome to the first “official” HPIS C. blog piece.   I say “Official” because Theory vs. Practice got its start from the last page of the quarterly newsletter – Toolbox.  It is now time to find its true home on the website.

Back in March of 2008, I was completing my second course in the ASTD Human Performance Improvement Certificate series in Alexandria, VA.  ASTD had recently moved into their new HQ home and the building was filled with a lot of excitement, energy and promise.  Having been a national member since 1990, I was kind of in awe with being at the center of such a publicly accredited resource center.

 The course did not disappoint.  Somewhere in the morning of the 1st day, I had an epiphany that changed the path of my career.  Actually, it was when we were knee-deep into cause analysis of performance problems that I declared that I wanted to do this full time.  It took some time but by August of 2008, I got a set of business cards printed and then my home computer was struck by lightning!  I am not kidding.  It even fried the brand new printer and the garage door opener.  Not the grand opening I expected and with ZERO support and 100% sole commission, I was off to Best Buy to purchase the emergency laptop since the real one was on order.

The HPI approach is much more than a fancy training fix, or an excuse to buy more time.  Yes, it’s true that often the solution has a training component to it, but often the focus has evolved into something much more appropriate.  What appeals to me with Human Performance Improvement, is that a trainer’s toolbox of solutions is so much bigger.  The old expression, “when the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see everything as a nail” couldn’t be truer for trainers who deliver only courses.  The cause analysis step in the HPI Methodology gives credence to conducting a root cause analysis specifically for humans and their work environment.   The results of the analysis then provide insight as to how to resolve the gap(s).  Notice I didn’t say that it provides the learning objectives for the course that management wants delivered.  It is solution-agnostic until the end of the analysis period.

The HPI toolbox has 6 categories from which learning solutions typically are derived from.  Not to be confused with Carl Binder’s 6 boxes, the ASTD HPI methodology adapted these from the 1996 work of Dean, Dean, and Rebalsky; albeit, both have strong origins to the father of human performance improvement, Thomas Gilbert who first captured the concept as Engineering Worthy Behavior.  I highly recommend reading his work.

The *1996 study focused on analyzing employee perceptions about which workplace factors would most improve their performance.  They categorized these factors into 6 key areas:

1.) PHYSICAL RESOURCES (the tangible tools and resources)

2.) STRUCTURE & PROCESS (Workflow factors of who and how)

3.) INFORMATION (effectiveness of data exchange between people a/o machines)

4.) KNOWLEDGE (skill related)

5.) MOTIVES (intrinsic to the performer; may or may not affect performance)

6.) WELLNESS (physical or emotional factors affecting performance)

HPIS Consulting was created on the basis of the HPI methodology.  Using a structured process to uncover what gets in the way of employees performing their jobs, a true “training” root cause analysis can be conducted.   The solutions are then project managed to fruition and evaluated for impact results.

So how does Vivian’s Robust Training Systems and HPI mesh?

The following diagram illustrates just how expansive today’s Performance Consultants toolbox can be.  It was this vision back in March 2008 that got me so excited about where the Learning and Performance field can go.  I say bring it on!  -VB

HPIS C uses 6 boxes of solutions
HPIS C uses 6 boxes of solutions

References:

Dean, PJ,Dean,MR,Rebalsky,RM. (1996) Performance Improvement Quarterly, 9(2), 75-89.

Gilbert, T.  Engineering Worthy Behavior,

Wilmoth, Prigmore, Bray “HPT Models”, Performance improvement 41(8), 16-23.

www.sixboxes.com