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.

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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!  

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A new HPISC. eBook