Did we succeed as intended? Was the training effective?

When you think about evaluating training, what comes to mind? It’s usually a “smile sheet”/ feedback survey about the course, the instructor and what you found useful. As a presenter/instructor, I find the results from these surveys very helpful, so thank you for completing them. I can make changes to the course objectives, modify content or tweak activities based on the comments. I can even pay attention to my platform skills where noted. But does this information help us evaluate if the course was successful?

This blog has been merged with Why Knowledge Checks are Measuring the Wrong Thing.

(c) HPIS Consulting, Inc.

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 of 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?

(c) HPIS Consulting, Inc.

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.

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.

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

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.

(c) HPIS Consulting, Inc.