HPIS Means Human Performance Improvement Solutions

Welcome to the “official” HPIS C. Blogspot.  

Back in March of 2008, I was completing my second course in the ATD Human Performance Improvement Certificate series in Alexandria, VA.  ATD 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 on 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. 

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 ATD HPI Model adapted these categories 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. See reference at the end.

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 HPISC’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


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.

Who is Vivian Bringslimark?

(c) HPIS Consulting, Inc.

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
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