Posted by: drewdice | January 11, 2011

Performance Makeover

New Year’s resolutions. End of the year car sales. End of the month retail sales. Quarterly “close-out”. I’ve long been fascinated by these events, or even phenomena. People and businesses have conditioned themselves that in order to drive successful results (weight loss, monetary savings discipline, better sales), there must be a compelling event or effort that occurs.

Why is it that a person needs to wait until January 1st to improve quality of life in some way(s)?

Why does it make a difference if a consumer makes a purchase on the 1st, 10th or 31st of a month? Consumer has a need – business can fill that need – consumer sees more value in one provider than others and makes a purchase. It all seems pretty simple in concept, but doesn’t seem to go down that way.

What I’m equally fascinated about is how this same concept applies to enabling higher levels of production and achievement in front line performers.

Think about it – most organizations do not have a systematic and consistent approach to learning and performance. Before you refute this and tell me how you do it perfectly (and you very well may), take a few moments to consider the following points:

Learning and performance support is an all the time, always thing, not event driven: an organization with an ideal learning ecosystem views the world through the eyes of the front line performers, seeing things as these folks see the world. This vantage point affords the understanding of the various types of enablement -what, how, how often – a performer needs to excel in her particular role, not just today, but over time. This means that while there may be spikes in interventions when there are new system launches or product releases, these events alone are not when learning occurs

It isn’t about training: Training is only one subset of a high powered learning and performance ecosystem. Again, training is typically event driven, the impact is short lived – think about the last training event you attended. How much of the information and lessons learned to you apply to your role – and, how much have you shared with others to help them perform better? Organizations need ways to provide consistent performance support (information that is not stored in one’s head, but rather stored in places that are quickly and easily accessible so performers can find what they need at the time of need). Additionally, in today’s fast moving business environment, collaboration and communities of practice is where “it” is at. Massive power lies in the wisdom of crowds and organizations should have formal and informal collaborative channels in place to help individuals and organizations perform better

Sustainability: This is a buzzword in many contexts today, and sustainability is also critical in learning and performance. Being that developing the skills, competencies, capabilities and performance of individuals, teams and organizations is an “always” kind of thing, businesses (and people) need to consider how they approach learning and performance for the people and the organization as it exists today, and with the flexibility and agility built in to grow and change as new performers join the team, as individuals advance through the organization, as the company’s needs change, as markets shift, as people leave the firm……you get the point. Often times, companies take the approach of “training” for today – get people competent now, without an eye on the longer term picture

Competencies are only part of the picture: Often, I meet leaders who talk about how they have done extensive competency mapping of roles to understand what types of people to hire, and how to hold those performers accountable. This approach is a great start, but not the full picutre. Without an understanding the key outcomes that perfomers need to produce, the competencies will not consistently move performance forward. For example, an airline pilot needs the competency to be able to think and act quickly under pressure. However, if that pilot does not know how to produce the outcome of landing a plane safely during engine failure, well, you get the picture, right?

Reflect objectively on your approach to learning and performance. Does your organization need a performance makeover?

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