Why Do CAPAs Fail Their Effectiveness Checks?

When we start talking about deviations and CAPAs, we can’t help having a sidebar discussion about root causes and more specifically the rant about finding the true root cause.  I intentionally skipped that content in the previous blog.  It was my intention to kick off the new Deviation and CAPAs blog series by first looking at deviations by themselves.  And the learning opportunities deviations can provide us about the state of control for our quality systems.  From those deviations and ensuing CAPA investigations, I ask you this: are we improving anything for the long term (aka prevention).  Are we making any progress towards sustaining those improvements?

Corrective Actions Preventive Actions (CAPA) Steps

Let’s step back a moment and quickly review typical steps for CAPAs:

CAPA Components

The purpose of an Effectiveness Check (EC) is for verifying or validating that actions taken were effective and do not adversely affect product, device or process.  It goes beyond the statement in the investigation form to include a follow-up activity that closes the loop on the specific CAPA.  If an effectiveness check fails meaning the CA/PA was not effective or another deviation /nonconforming incident has occurred, we go back to the beginning and either start again or in most cases, we re-open the investigation.  The pressing question is why did the EC fail?  Almost instinctively, we believe that we did not find the true root cause.  Perhaps.  Was there a rush to close the investigation?  Probably.  Did the investigation team grab the first probable cause as the root cause because the “problem” felt familiar?  Maybe. Or is it a case of a fix that backfired into unintended consequences? Possibly. I will also suggest that the CA/PA may not have been aligned properly.

Ask these 3 questions about CA/PAs

  • Is the CA/PA Appropriate? The focus of this question is about the affected people.  What is the size of this audience? Is it mainly one person or groups of people?

Can the CA/PA be executed efficiently?  Is it for one site or multiple sites?

  • Is the CA/PA Economical? What budget is available?

Is it a “cheap” fix or a 3 – 6 month project? Or an expensive solution of more than 6 months and will need capital expenditure funding?

  • Is the CA/PA Feasible? The real question is about the timeline.

            Need it fast – within 3 months or

            Have time – don’t need until more than 3 months from now.

And then there is the unspoken 4th question – is the CA/PA “political”?  I experienced first hand what happens to CAPAs that are politically oriented.  Most of them failed their ECs.  Request “Can You Stay a Little While Longer”. The best CAPAs are the ones that map back to the root cause.

Introducing the HPISC CAPA Performance Chain

On the left hand side, you will recognize the 3 traditional tasks to complete.  After the EC is written, trace upwards to ensure that the EC maps back to the CA/PA and that the CA/PA maps back to the root cause; hence, the bottom up arrow.  On the right hand side are performance improvement activities that I use as a Performance Consultant (PC) to bring another dimension to the CAPA investigation, namely, Human Performance Improvement (HPI). 

Before I can write the root cause statement, I examine the “problem” also known as a Performance Discrepancy or an incident and I conduct a Cause Analysis that forces me to take a three tiered approach (the worker, the work tasks, the workplace) for the possible causes and not get bogged down in observable symptoms only.  The Performance Solution is more appropriately matched to the identified gap. In theory, this is what the corrective action(s) is supposed to do as well. During the performance solution planning, determination of success and what forms of evidence will be used happens with key stakeholders.  So that collecting the data happens as planned, not as an after thought, and the effectiveness is evaluated as discussed.    

What can we really control?

In RCA/CAPA meetings, I often hear about what management should do to fix the working conditions or how most of the operator errors are really managements’ fault for not taking the culture factor seriously enough.  While there may be some evidence to back that up, can we really control, reduce or eliminate the human factor?  Perhaps a future blog on understanding human errors will be released.

Management Can:

  • Design work situations that are compatible with human needs, capabilities and limitations
  • Carefully match employees with job requirements
  • Reward positive behaviors
  • Create conditions that optimize performance
  • Create opportunities to learn and grow professionally.

Clues for Failed Effectiveness Checks

One of the first activities to perform for a failed EC is to evaluate the effectiveness check statement.  I have read some pretty bizarre statements that challenge whether the EC was realistic to achieve at all. The conditions under which we expect people to perform must be the same as the conditions we evaluate them during an EC review.  So why would we set ourselves up to fail by writing ECs that don’t match normal workplace routines? What, because it looked good in the investigation report and it got the CAPA approved quicker?

Next, trace back each of the CAPA tasks to identify where to begin the re-investigation.  I also suggest that a different root cause analysis tool be used. And this is exactly what we did while I was coaching a cohort of Deviations Investigators.  Future blogs will discuss RCA tools in more detail. -VB

The Big Why for Deviations

As part of my #intentionsfor2019, I conducted a review of the past 10 years of HPIS Consulting.  Yes, HPISC turned 10 in August of 2018, and I was knee deep in PAI activities.  So there was no time for celebrations or any kind of reflections until January 2019, when I could realistically evaluate HPISC: vision, mission, and the big strategic stuff.  My best reflection exercise had me remembering the moment I created HPIS Consulting in my mind.

Human Performance Improvement (HPI) and Quality Systems

One of the phases for HPI work is a cause analysis for performance discrepancies.  The more I learned how the HPI methodology manages this phase the more I remarked on how similar it is to the Deviation /CAPA Quality System requirements.  And I found the first touch point between the two methodologies.  My formal education background and my current quality systems work finally united.  And HPIS Consulting (HPISC) became an INC.  

In my role of Performance Consultant (PC), I leverage the best techniques and tools from both methodologies.  Not just for deviations but for implementing the corrective actions sometimes known as HPI solutions.  In this new HPISC blog series about deviations, CAPAs, and HPI, I will be sharing more thoughts about HPISC touch points within the Quality Systems. For now, lets get back to Big Why for deviations.

Why are so many deviations still occurring? Have our revisions to SOPs and processes brought us farther from a “State of Control”? I don’t believe that is the intention. As a Performance Consultant, I consider deviations and the ensuing investigations rich learning opportunities to find out what’s really going on with our Quality Systems.

The 4 cross functional quality systems

At the core of the “HPISC Quality Systems Integration Triangle” is the Change Control system.  It is the heartbeat of the Quality Management System providing direction, guidance and establishing the boundaries for our processes.  The Internal Auditing System is the health check similar to our annual physicals; the read outs indicate the health of the systems.  Deviations/CAPAs are analogous to a pulse check where we check in at the current moment and determine whether we are within acceptable ranges or reaching action levels requiring corrections to bring us back into “a state of control”.  And then there is the Training Quality System, which in my opinion is the most cross-functional system of all.  It interfaces with all employees; not just the Quality Management System.  And so, it functions like food nourishing our systems and fueling sustainability for corrections and new programs.

Whether you are following 21CFR211.192 (Production Record Review) or ICHQ7 Section 2 or  820.100 (Corrective and Preventive Action), thou shall investigate any unexplained discrepancy and a written record of the investigation shall be made that includes the conclusion and the follow up. Really good investigations tell the story of what happen and include a solid root cause analysis revealing the true root cause(s) for which the corrective actions map back to nicely.  Thus, making the effectiveness checks credible. In theory, all these components flow together smoothly.  However, with the continual rise of deviations and CAPAs, the application of the Deviation /CAPA Management system is a bit more challenging for all of us.  

Remember the PA in C-A-P-A?

Are we so focused on the corrective part and the looming due dates we’ve committed to, that we are losing sight of the preventive actions? Are we rushing through the process to meet imposed time intervals and due dates that we kind of “cross our fingers and hope” that the corrective actions fix the problem without really tracing the impact of the proposed corrective solutions on the other integrated systems? Allison Rossett, author of First Things Fast: a handbook for performance analysis, explains that performance occurs within organizational systems and the ability to achieve, improve and maintain excellent performance, depends on integrated components of other systems that involve people. 

Are we likewise convincing ourselves that those fixes should also prevent re-occurrence? Well, that is until a repeat deviation occurs and we’re sitting in another root cause analysis meeting searching for the real root cause.  Thomas Gilbert, in his groundbreaking book, Human Competence: engineering worthy performance tells us, that it’s about creating valuable results without using excessive cost.  In other words, “worthy performance” happens when the value of business outcomes exceeds the cost of doing the tasks.  The ROI of a 3-tiered approach to solving the problem the first time, happens when employees achieve their assigned outcomes that produce results greater than the cost of “the fix”. 

Performance occurs within three tiers

So, donning my Performance Consulting “glasses”, I cross back over to the HPI methodology and open up the HPI solutions toolbox.  One of those tools is called a Performance Analysis (PA). This tool points us in the direction of what’s not working for the employee, the job tasks a/or the workplace. The outcome of a performance analysis produces a 3 tiered picture of what’s encouraging or blocking performance for the worker, work tasks, and/or the work environment and what must be done about it at these same three levels.  

Root cause analysis (RCA) helps us understand why the issues are occurring and provides the specific gaps that need fixing.  Hence, if PA recognizes that performance occurs within a system, then performance solutions need to be developed within those same “systems” in order to ensure sustainable performance improvement.  Otherwise, you have a fragment of the solution with high expectations for solving “the problem”.  You might achieve short-term value initially, but suffer a long-term loss when performance does not change or worsens. Confused between PA, Cause Analysis and RCA? Read the blog – analysis du jour.

Thank goodness Training is not the only tool in the HPI toolbox!   With corrective actions /HPI solutions designed with input from the 3 tiered PA approach, the focus shifts away from the need to automatically re-train the individual(s), to implementing a solution targeted for workers, the work processes and the workplace environment that will ultimately allow a successful user adoption for the changes/improvements.   What a richer learning opportunity than just re-reading the SOP! -VB

  • Allison Rossett, First Things Fast: a handbook for Performance Analysis; 2nd edition 
  • Thomas F. Gilbert, Human Competence: Engineering Worthy Performance
You might want to also read:

I’m in love with my own content!

Many QA /HR Training Managers have the responsibility for providing a train-the-trainer course for their designated trainers.  While some companies send their folks to public workshop offerings, many chose to keep the program in-house.   And then an interesting phenomenon occurs.  The course content grows with an exciting and overwhelming list of learning objectives.

The supervisors of the SMEs struggle with the loss of productivity for the 2 – 3 day duration and quickly develop a “one and done” mindset.   Given the opening to “train” newly identified SMEs as Trainers, the instructional designer gets one opportunity to teach them how to be trainers.  So s/he tends to add “a lot of really cool stuff” to the course in the genuine spirit of sharing, all justifiable in the eyes of the designer.  However, there is no hope in breaking this adversarial cycle if the Training Manager doesn’t know how to cut content.

I used to deliver a two-day (16 hour) workshop for OJT Trainers. I included all my favorite topics.  Yes, the workshop was long.  Yes, I loved teaching these concepts.  I honestly believed that knowing these “extra” learning theory concepts would make my OJT Trainers better trainers.  Yes, I was in love with own my content.  And then one day, that all changed.

 

Do they really need to know Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?

During a rapid design session I was leading, I got questioned on the need to know Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  As I began to deliver my auto-explanation, I stopped mid-sentence.  I had an epiphany.  My challenger was right.  Before I continued with my response, I feverishly racked my brain thinking about the training Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) we revised, the forms we created, and reminded myself of the overall goal of the OJT Program.  I was searching for that one moment during an OJT session when Maslow was really needed.  When would an OJT Qualified Trainer use this information back on the job, if ever I asked myself?

It belongs in the Intermediate Qualified Trainers Workshop, I said out loud.  In that moment, that one question exercise was like a laser beam cutting out all nice-to-know content.  I eventually removed up to 50% of the content from the workshop.

 

Oh, but what content do we keep?

Begin with the overall goal of the training program: a defendable and reproducible methodology for OJT.  The process is captured in the redesigned SOPs and does not need to be repeated in the workshop.  See Have you flipped your OJT TTT Classroom yet?

Seek agreement with key stakeholders on what the OJT QTs are expected to do after the workshop is completed.  If these responsibilities are not strategic or high priority, then the course will not add any business value.  Participation remains simply a means to check the compliance box.  Capture these expectations as performance objectives.

How to align purpose of a course to business goals

Once there is agreement with the stated performance objectives, align the content to match these. Yes, there is still ample room in the course for learning theory, but it is tailored for the need to know only topics.

In essence, the learning objectives become evident.  When challenged to add certain topics, the instructional designer now refers to the performance objectives and ranks the consequences of not including the content in the workshop against the objectives and business goal for the overall program.

 

What is the value of the written assessment?

With the growing demand for training effectiveness, the addition of a written test was supposed to illustrate the commitment for compliance expectations around effectiveness and evaluation.  To meet this client need, I put on my former teacher hat and created a 10 question open book written assessment.  This proved to need additional time to execute and hence, more content was cut to accommodate the classroom duration.

My second epiphany occurred during the same rapid design project, albeit a few weeks later.   What is the purpose of the classroom written assessment when back on the job the OJT QTs are expected to deliver (perform) OJT; not just know it from memory? The true measure of effectiveness for the workshop is whether they can deliver OJT according to the methodology, not whether they retained 100% of the course content!   So I removed the knowledge test and created a qualification activity for the OJT QTs to demonstrate their retained knowledge in a simulated demonstration using their newly redesigned OJT checklist.  Now the OJT QT Workshop is value added and management keeps asking for another round of the workshop to be scheduled.  -VB

Are you ready to update your OJT TTT Course?

 

 

 

I’ve fired my [TTT] Vendor!  

Sustaining Qualified Trainer’s Momentum Post Launch

The Silver Bullet for Performance Problems Doesn’t Exist

Oh but if it did, life for a supervisor would be easier, right? Let’s face it, “people” problems are a big deal for management. Working with humans does present its challenges, such as miscommunications between staff, data entry errors, or rushing verification checks. Sometimes, the task at hand is so repetitive that the result is assumed to be okay and gets “a pass”.  Add constant interruptions to the list and it becomes even harder not to get distracted and lose focus or attention to the detail.

Actual behavior vs. performing as expected

In their book, Performance Consulting: Moving Beyond Training, Dana Gaines Robinson and James C. Robinson describe performance as what the performer should be able to do. A performance problem occurs when the actual behavior does not meet expectation (as in should have been able to do).   Why don’t employees perform as expected? Root cause analysis helps problem solvers and investigators uncover a myriad of possible reasons.   For Life Sciences companies, correcting mistakes and preventing them from occurring again is at the heart of CAPA systems (Corrective Actions Preventive Actions).

A closer look at performance gaps

Dana and James Robinson conducted research regarding performer actions and sorted their results into three categories of obstacles:

  • Conditions of performers
  • Conditions of the immediate managers
  • Conditions of the organization

A checklist for common Performance Causes  – scroll down for the Tool.

But, weren’t they trained and qualified?

Hopefully, employees are trained using an approved OJT (On the Job Training) Methodology in which they are shown how to execute the task and then given opportunities to practice multiple times to become proficient. During these sessions, they are coached by Qualified Trainers and given feedback on what’s right (as expected) and given specific instructions to correct what’s not right with suggestions for tweaking their performance so that their final performance demonstration is on par with their peer group. At the conclusion of the qualification event, employees must accept that they now own their deviations (mistakes) from this point forward. So what gets in the way of performing “as they should” or in compliance speak – according to the procedure?

Is it a lack of knowledge, skill or is it something else?

The Robinson’s explain that performance is more than the training event. It’s combination of the overall learning experience and the workplace environment that yields performance results. Breaking that down into a formula per se, they suggest the following: learning experience x workplace environment = performance results.

The root cause investigation will include a review of training and the qualification event as well as a discussion with the performer.

  • Is it a lack of frequency; not a task often performed?
  • Is it a lack of feedback or delayed feedback in which the deviation occurred without their awareness?
  • Is it task interference?

The work environment includes organizational systems and business unit processes that together enable the performer to produce the outcomes as “expected”.   These workplace factors don’t always work in perfect harmony resulting in obstacles that get in the way of “expected” performance:

  • Lack of authority – unclear roles, confusing responsibilities?
  • Lack of time – schedule conflicts; multi-tasking faux pas?
  • Lack of tools – reduced budgets?
  • Lack of poorly stored equipment/tools – lost time searching?

Isn’t it just human nature?

Once the root cause investigation takes on a human element attention, it’s easy to focus on the performer and stop there.   If it’s the first time for the performer or first instance related to the task, it’s tempting to label the event as an isolated incident. But when it comes back around again, it becomes apparent there was a “failure to conduct an in-depth investigation” to correct and prevent. Not surprisingly, a push back of “Operator Error as Root Cause” has forced organizations to look deeper into the root causes involving Humans.

Who’s human nature?

Recall that one of the categories of the researched obstacles was “conditions of the immediate managers”. This makes managers uncomfortable. With so much on their plates, managing a people performance problem is not what they want to see. A silver bullet like a re-training event is a nice activity that gets a big red check mark on their to-do list. However, Robert Mager and Peter Pipe, in their book, Analyzing Performance Problems, provide insights to managing direct reports that may lead to unintended consequences. A brief list can be found here – scroll to Tool: Performance Causes.  (It’s not always the performer’s fault.)

It takes all three to correct a performance problem

soln-people-performance-problemThe third category of researched obstacles clustered around “conditions of the organization”.  I’ve already discussed task interference above. To suggest that organizations are setting up their employees to fail is pushing it just a bit too far.   So I won’t go there, but it is painful for some leaders to come to terms with the implication. In order to prevent issues from reoccurring, an examination of the incidents and quite possibly a restructuring of systems have to occur, because automatic re-training is not the only solution to a “people performance problem”. –VB

Robinson DG, Robinson JC. Performance Consulting: Moving beyond training. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler; 1995.

Mager R, Pipe P. Analyzing performance problems. Belmont: Lake Publishing; 1984.

What will it take to gain access to HPI/HPT Projects?

It’s more than a name change.
Adding Performance Consulting to your department name or position title sounds like a good idea at first. You know, help get the word out and ease into Performance Consulting projects, right? Well not exactly. Adding it on is exactly what happens; possible projects get added on to your workload and the “regular” training requests keep coming. It becomes a non-event. Dana Gaines Robinson and James C. Robinson, authors of Performance Consulting, strongly recommend that you create a strategic plan for your transition. And that’s exactly what I did in 1997.

Technical Training is now known as Performance Enhancement Dept.
But not without first discussing my plan with my boss and then pitching it to his staff at his weekly meeting. My plan included the need for the change and a comparison of the traditional training model and the performance model. In this comparison, I listed the percentages of training to consulting ratios and where the shift would occur. Training was never going away, but that we would do less and pick up more performance consulting work instead. I used the now familiar line – training is not always the answer. (Back then it was a very edgy statement.)

And I included in my pitch, the recommended pieces from the Robinsons’ seminal book: mission, vision, guiding principles, services, responsibilities and even who are customers were by percentages. Key to this plan and acceptance, was that we never said no to a training request, but re-framed it into why and how will we measure success. If we couldn’t design a measurement strategy from the beginning, we were obligated to turn the project down. And the General Manager agreed with that guiding principle.

NOW OPEN FOR BUSINESS!
While we waited for feedback and project requests, I invited myself to a quality meeting about a GMP concern from a Line Trainer. When no one volunteered to complete a suggested task, I raised my hand and took the assignment. Cheers, we had our first project and we were now open for business. The task was then assigned to a direct report who thought I was crazy or evil, but I described how this assignment could catapult us into the limelight and showcase exactly the kind of performance work we were capable of doing. Intrigued but still doubtful, he took on the research task and I took on the rest of the project since I had the vision and could connect the dots. We got 3 more requests after we went public with our first project.

One of my best requests that first year was a request for Peer Mentoring. Oh did I want this project. I met with the requester and listened to his case. I researched the topic (remember this was 1997) and got some ideas about a possible solution. When I pressed on about measuring the success, he was vague and said, you know, as part of organizational awareness. I was in love with the topic and what it could mean for the operators and for the new PE department, but I could not find enough support to measure the success nor justify the time and resources to make it happen. We had to scrap the project request. This was the Evaluator Role coming out loud and clear. And this news got around fast. The PE department was not a dumping ground for someone else’s yearly objectives.

Okay, that’s great, but who does GMP Training?
During our success, we still managed the Compliance Training requirements as part of our agreement. Folks got so used to us and how we managed both the compliance side and performance enhancement requests, that we no longer had to explain what PE was and who we were. So upon biennial inspection from FDA, the inspector asked, “Well then, who does GMP Training”? So, I was asked to put Training back into our department name and become known as TPE: Training and Performance Enhancement which felt like we were back to square one. But the requests kept coming and the projects got much better.

My favorite project was the “Checking Policy”. It had everything going for it. Unfortunately for the company, a very expensive error was made by an operator and site leadership wanted him terminated. The GM who was our unofficial sponsor knew there was a better way to manage this and he needed to find the true root cause of the performance discrepancy, so he reached out to me. The rest of the story is long, so I’ll spare you the details, but three additional projects resulted from this request and all three included operators as my SME Team. This was unheard of at the time and really highlighted what an asset they were to the company despite the costly mistake. Turns out it wasn’t his fault, what a surprise!

Alas, the time came for me to leave that company and take on external consulting full time. When given the opportunity to reinvent myself once again years later, I reflected on the times when I was most engaged and excited about going to work. It was those Performance Enhancement projects that gave me such powerful examples of successfully aligning improvement projects with the business needs. But rather than do it again for one single company, I created HPIS Consulting instead so I could share the approach with more than one company.

So as this “Gaining Management Support” series concludes, I summarize all the related blogs with this final question and provide an overview as the answer.

What will it take?
Developing trust with business partners for starters. Ongoing skill development as an Analyst, a Change Manager, an Evaluator and of course, a Performance Solutions Specialist to build credibility. A good transition plan with vision for 1-3 years and tentative plans for year 4 and 5. And the courage to take projects no one else wants if you want to become a Performance Consultant bad enough. We did it and I’ve never been happier! -V

Gaining Management Series includes the following blog posts:

If the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer …
Are you worthy of your line partner’s trust?
Wanted: Seeking a business partner who has performance needs
First, make “friends” with line management

Are you worthy of your line partner’s trust?

In this current series of gaining management support we’ve been exploring how credibility, trust and access impact or influence relationships with our business partners. In Stephen Covey’s, The 8th Habit: From effectiveness to greatness, he informs us that you cannot have trust without being trustworthy.  As Performance Consultants (PCs) continue to demonstrate their character and competence, their line leaders begin to trust them more and more.

From those initial getting-to-you-know-you chats (see previous blog)  to requests for help discussions, the give trust and return trust has been reciprocated and continues to strengthen the relationship. With each request / opportunity, PCs are demonstrating their character traits and further developing their Human Performance Improvement (HPI) technical competence and experience.

Following the HPI/HPT model gives the PC the ability to articulate the big picture of how this request, this performance gap, this project, relates to organizational goals thus illustrating a strategic mindset. And by following the related methodology, PCs demonstrate strong project management skills while implementing changes systematically; not just a quick course to fix a perceived knowledge gap or motivation problem.

So PCs become worthy of receiving their partners’ trust.  Line partners in exchange merit their trust by giving it. Are you trustworthy as a Performance Consultant? Do you have the necessary competencies to tackle the additional performance solutions? Stay tuned for more blogs on what those competencies are and why they are so helpful for PCs. In the meantime, check out the sidebar “Ten Steps for Building Trust” from Alan Weiss in Organizational Consulting.  -VB

How to Build More Trust

References:
Covey,SR. The 8th Habit: From effectiveness to greatness, USA, Free Press, 2004.

Weiss, A. Organizational Consulting: How to be an effective internal change agent, USA, Wiley, 2003.

First, make “friends” with line management

In this new series – Gaining Management Support – I will be blogging about credibility, trust, and access and how these 3 concepts impact relationship management.  One of the best ways to establish a working relationship is to start with line management while you are waiting for your first HPI (Human Performance Improvement) project or during project down times.  Spend some time getting to know the folks you are most likely to be engaging with for a future project.

Alan Weiss in his book, Organizational Consulting: How to be an effective internal change agent, recommends that internal consultants avoid what he calls the IRS syndrome – “I’m from the IRS and I’m here to help you”.  Just because you may be an expert in training and “schooled” in HPI/HPT (Human Performance Technology); you don’t need to alienate your internal customers.  You want to gain credibility in order to be accepted as a peer and then earn their trust.  So it’s easy to play it safe and agree with the current point of view when seeking acceptance with a new internal customer.  Contrary to how to win and keep friends, you may need to take an unpopular viewpoint on an issue you feel strongly about.  But don’t just show up only when there is a problem and declare “gotcha” or “I told you so”.  Work on proactively providing ideas for improvement.  Be mindful of finding the right balance between suggesting ideas and showcasing your “brilliant” concepts.

Ideally, the best time to initiate a relationship is during a current project especially when the shared project is going well.   A “project client” is no less important, the difference is in intensity during the life of the project.  A project client is the one who is ultimately accountable for the project results, and may not be the one who initiates the project discussion, explains Dana Gaines Robinson and James C. Robinson in their book, Strategic Business Partner: Aligning people strategies with business goals.  Before you can get access to strategic work, a Performance Consultant has to prove s/he can deliver on tactical projects that are solution oriented.  Gaining access starts with cultivating a relationship with project clients.

 

The secret is not to ignore or by-pass the project contact person but to work with him/her to gain access to the project client.  Suggest that he attends meeting with you regarding issues that need to be resolved at the higher level or collaborate on joint update briefings to the leadership team.  Dana and James Robinson assert that by establishing good relations with the contact, access to the project client is less adversarial and demonstrates an authentic approach to getting answers/ direction that was not previously available.  Project clients can become true clients; one that provides access to strategic initiatives.  Or they can provide introductions to true clients.  If possible, volunteer for activities that will give you visibility with this person while supporting him/her on the assigned project.  They will begin to learn more about your “other” capabilities and your ability to handle more than “assignment at a time” will be confirmed.  And in all your interactions, ensure that they are truly value added conversations; else you be perceived as wasting a busy executive’s time. -VB

Tired of repeat errors – ask a Performance Consultant to help you design a better corrective action

In this last “Making HPI Work for Compliance Trainers” series, I blog about one of the biggest complaints I hear over and over again from Compliance Trainers – management doesn’t really support training.  It’s hard to ask for “more of the same” even though you know your programs are now different.  In previous blogs, I shared why management hasn’t totally bought into the HPI methodology yet. See the blog Isn’t this still training?

 

Given the constant pressure to shrink budgets and improve the bottom line, managers don’t usually allow themselves the luxury of being proactive especially when it comes to training.  So they tend to fall back on quick fix solutions that give them a check mark and “clears their desk” momentarily.  For the few times this strategy works, there are twice as many times when those fixes back fire and the unintended consequences are worse.

 

In the article, “Why the Band Aids Keep Falling Off”, I provide an alternate strategy that emphasizes moving away from events-only focus to exploring the three levels of interaction that influence performance: individual performer, task/process, organizational quality systems.  These same three levels are where performance consultants carry out their best work when supported by their internal customers.  The good news is that the first step is the same; it begins with a cause analysis.  See the blog Analysis du jour  for more thoughts on why these are essentially the same approach.

 

The difference is that the corrective action is not a reactive quick fix but a systems approach to correcting the issue and preventing it from showing up again.  System based solutions are the foundation of many HPI/HPT projects that require cross functional support and collaborative participation across the site / organization.  And this is where a PC needs support from senior leaders.

 

We wrap up this series here and introduce the next series – Gaining Management Support – where I blog about credibility, trust, and access and how these 3 concepts impact relationship management.

From a pair of hands to trusted business partner

In this second blog from the “HPI: Making it Work for Compliance Trainers” series, I continue the business partner exploration.  Need the first one?  Get caught up: What’s the difference between Trainers and Performance Consultants?

Three Consulting Styles Let’s start with the Pair of Hands.  This style of consulting resembles more or less the contractor for hire or long term temporary employee; sometimes referred to as the permanent temp much to the chagrin of those who hold those positions.  Here the client (or internal customer) retains control of the project from problem identification to solution deployment.  The consultant implements those decisions as if s/he were an extension of the client’s staff.  Hence the expression, an extra pair of hands to delegate the work to.

There’s the Expert.  Here the consultant assumes most of the control for the project.  The client can still make suggestions while the consultant makes recommendations for the best solution selection.  Ultimately, the expert-consultant decides on the course of action and tells the client what’s the best path forward.  In this type of consulting relationship, the client wants the expertise of the consultant.

The third is Collaborator.  This is where the consultant utilizes his/her specialized knowledge and field experience and leverages the client’s knowledge of the operations, including processes and procedures, and the cultural factors.  In this relationship style,  1 + 1 = 3, representing a more synergistic approach to problem solving.  Decisions and implementation plans become shared responsibilities.  This style is often referred to as a business partnership and it is really the only one the changes performance.

Internal vs. External Consultant I’ve been both and have had success in implementing HPI projects in both environments.  There are pros and cons and tradeoffs.  Whether you are internal to the organization or external (an outsider), Compliance Trainers need to expand their skills sets if they are going to move from a “pair of hands” to expert and eventually to trusted business partner.  The new competencies to be developed are:

  • Analysis (both Training Needs and Performance Needs) – See If Training Isn’t the Right Answer
  • Implementing Performance Solutions (not just training solutions) – See Isn’t This Still Training?
  • Change Management (not just Change Control/Doc Control but how to manage what I call the “People Side of Change”
  • Measurement and Evaluation (recognizing that these are not the same thing)

Learn more about how to assess yourself against these competencies.

Take ACTion Now! In their 2005 book, Strategic Business Partners, Dana Gaines Robinson and Jim Robinson, recommend that transitioning trainers take ACTion now.  ACT stands for Access, Credibility and Trust.  However, from my experience, the steps don’t necessarily follow in that order.  It’s more like establishing your Credibility first, earning their Trust next, and then you’ll be granted Access to strategic opportunities.

Oh, but where to start? A good place is to show your performance worth.  Recall earlier I listed developing performance solutions as a new competency? A training solution closes a knowledge and skill gap, wonderful.  A performance solution may include a training piece, but it also closes a gap in Job Performance which in turn can close a gap in a Process Performance and resolve a gap in Business Results.   That’s what a HPI project/solution does differently than a training solution and it certainly illustrates why those new competencies are needed.  Being able to show this kind of impact on the business as a result of the work a Performance Consultant does goes a long way to earning business leaders trust.  –VB