If you ask 100 instructional designers for a definition of instructional design (ID), you won’t get one; you’ll get several.

Some see ID as procedural, rigorous, characterized by one box each for analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation, with arrows linking the boxes and dependable steps directing what to do and in what order. Others see it differently. They emphasize what goes on within the boxes, leaning toward a more heuristic approach, with rules of thumb considered as the process moves forward.

Here’s what makes ID ID:

  • Theory drives practice: There are reasons for the decisions that are made, and those decisions are based on literature and best practices regarding learning, communications, technology, and culture. Years ago, when working on a sales training program, we included thinkalouds from expert sales professionals, an approach inspired by cognitive perspectives for learning and performance.
  • Data direct decisions: Instructional designers make decisions based on data from many sources, including clients, job incumbents, literature, work products, and error rates. When a client says, “Train them about performance appraisals,” instructional designers look to narrow the problem by turning to data, such as existing appraisals, help desk logs, and lawsuits.
  • Causes count: Once the mission is targeted, instructional designers want to know why? Why are appraisal forms flawed? Why is line 7 filled out inconsistently? Why are lines 2, 3, 5, and 6 on point? Is it that they don’t know how or that they don’t think it’s worth doing or that doing it is a hassle? Why does the group in Belgium do it, when the group in Boston doesn’t?
  • Instruction is good, but not sufficient: Wise instructional designers ask questions about cause in order to use instructional resources when possible do the most good. Back to the appraisal challenge. Are the flaws in line 7 caused by not knowing how to write it up? Have they forgotten? Do supervisors doubt the value of line 7, or fear that honest and detailed entries could lead to unhappy employees or even lawsuits? When they’ve punted on line 7 in the past, has it made any difference?
  • Teams add value: Cross-disciplinary teams consisting of content experts, programmers, artists, clients, and instructional designers add value. A recent project for a federal agency involved dozens of content experts, two senior instructional designers, a programmer, a graphic artist, and two graduate student interns. Deliverables were established on the basis of analysis, outcomes articulated, and roles and approaches defined and subsequently honored.

While idiosyncrasy typifies the larger educational establishment, planning, regulation, direction, and data are more common when products and services are inspired by ID. At least that’s the idea. It’s also why the military, government, and industry signed up for ID soon after World War II.

Still Dissatisfaction Abounds
The dissatisfaction with ID revolves around speed, results, and performance. ID, when practiced by neophytes or those more committed to the steps than the results, can indeed take a very long time. Do the worksheets, checklists, and reports contribute to a better end product, to better outcomes for participants?

Kraig Robson, leader of a web development company, IsoDynamic.com, doesn’t think so: “We have only recently added people with formal ID training, so I believe very strongly that some of the best stuff I’ve seen has come from people lacking this background. I think my ‘non-ID’ developers [programmers, graphic artists, project managers] really know the possibilities and capabilities of the medium. They know what’s fun, interesting, and interactive, and they know what works. I’ve also found that some of the ID people I’ve spoken with and interviewed get boxed in by what is instructionally ‘sound.’ Sometimes they seem to have trouble thinking out of the box.”

The fact that Robson leads a new media company is not a coincidence. Criticism about ID has paralleled the emergence of e-learning. In the past, instructional designers’ deliverables were tweaked by instructors, as they rolled out classes and programs in front of live learners. Now, programs are posted online, where learners make it or don’t, on their own. When they don’t, the people who created them, some of whom are instructional designers, got it wrong.

Nail the Coffin on ID?
Marc Rosenberg, a former president of ISPI and respected author and consultant, likened the situation to the definition of democracy that describes it as “the worst form of government, except for all the others.” Motorola’s Marguerite Foxon agrees. She sees the problem in the practice, not in the instructional design process. With robust enthusiasm for instructional design possibilities, she acknowledges the overly proceduralized ways some novices implement it. Foxon was more interested in talking about the strengths of ISD. “You sometimes meet people who are naturally good at building instruction. When they receive some exposure to instructional design, their reactions are very positive. They see it as right and interestingly, as familiar. They have been doing some of it already.”

What Next?
Read ISD Revisited. Jeanne Strayer and ISPI make a strong statement about the vigor of instructional design in a book about instructional design.

Read the resources listed below and the additional ones cited along with my full article in ISD Revisited. These are books, articles, and websites with much to say about ID. Every case and example in the ASTD E-Learning Handbook, for example, is inspired in some small or large way by ID.

Recently, the phone rang. An executive wanted help in taking a fresh look at the way his company was meeting the learning needs of its global, technical employees. How should they commence? What efforts would offer the most value as they attempted to answer a vast, strategic question in an efficient way?

If it were not for ID, the size and murkiness of that mandate would have floored me. It is ID that structured my musings, educated my questions, guided my requests for extant data, and gave hope that I could, in fact, be of assistance. Nothing was certain, of course. But it was better than snatching a solution out of thin air or history or habit.

Circuits, http://www.learningcircuits.org/2003/jul2003/rossett.htm.

Rossett, A. (1999). First things fast: A handbook for performance analysis. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.

Rossett, A., & Sheldon, K. (2001). Beyond the podium: Delivering training and performance to a digital world. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Zemke, R., & Rossett, A. (2002). A hard look at ISD.

Allison Rossett is an ISPI member for life. The long-time San Diego State University professor is also the editor of the ASTD E-Learning Handbook and the author of four books that have won ISPI awards: Beyond the Podium: Delivering Training and Performance to a Digital World, First Things Fast: A Handbook for Performance Analysis, A Handbook of Job Aids, and Training Needs Assessment. She may be reached at arossett@mail.sdsu.edu.


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It is ID that structured my musings, educated my questions, guided my requests for extant data, and gave hope that I could, in fact, be of assistance.

by Carol Haig, CPT and Roger Addison, CPT

We were privileged to talk with many knowledgeable ISPIers in 2003 and able to share with readers through this column their views of what the future (two or three years out) holds for human performance technology (HPT) and the organizations where we use it.

Now, as we enter 2004, we ask what these predictions mean to HPT practitioners, and how we might focus our work in response. Look ahead as we compile our thoughts on human performance, interventions, measurement and results, models and tools, performance consulting, and strategic planning.

Human Performance
Recent workforce statistics report that U.S. organizations are, indeed, doing more with less as fewer workers do more of the work. With a worldwide emphasis on workforce excellence and the migration of HPT principles and practices across functions within organizations, our next task is to leverage these same principles and practices to larger scale business and societal issues. Many practitioners are working in these realms and share their experiences and insights in the September 2003 issue of Performance Improvement. Click here to access the issue.

We must be rigorous in designing every intervention with our sights set on improved performance. The workplace is increasingly open to interventions with more than one component, where change is cumulative, yet interventions of any kind can be unsuccessful. One way to guard against failure is to select and design interventions that integrate both processes and practices. An intervention that includes a process view of the affected system, that is how work is accomplished, combined with careful concern for the practices, or actual tasks workers perform, stands the best chance for success.

Measurement and Results
For some time, the conversation around gaining credibility for HPT and adding value for our client organizations has emphasized the need for practitioners to speak the language of the businesses we serve and to avoid using our professional jargon with our clients. As clients focus more intently on measuring the results of performance improvement initiatives, we can extend the no-jargon guideline to include measuring results with business metrics. As we have seen, most organizations already gather data on the aspects of their operations that they want to measure. It is our responsibility to make use of this information to help them measure performance improvement.

Models and Tools
Many HPTers hold the misconception that models and tools are synonymous. Not so, as we are learning. Models are useful to us because they help organize our thinking visually. For example, the Performance Landscape is a useful model developed to show what many of our favorite models have in common. It neatly captures HPT’s basic principles:

  • Focus on results
  • Take a systems viewpoint
  • Add value and focus on the business
  • Establish partnerships and work collaboratively

The model-or-tool trap is sprung when we decide that a model can solve a problem. For that, we need a tool along with the knowledge of how to use it. When making a dress, for example, the model is the paper pattern the seamstress uses as a construction guide. To adjust the pattern to accommodate a larger waist measurement, the seamstress must use scissors, the tool, to alter the pattern, before cutting out the fabric. And to cut successfully, the seamstress needs the knowledge of how best to cut the pattern. This is the magic combination of principles and practices practitioners should be using.

Performance Consulting
A number of us now work in performance consulting departments or hold the title of performance consultant within our organizations. Our responsibilities are expanding from developing and delivering training to change or enhance worker performance, to providing performance-based interventions that address changes in the workplace and the work processes. As the critical importance of alignment among the work, worker, and workplace becomes visible to organizational leaders, HPTers should respond with interventions that encompass alignment. An aligned organization stands to reap the benefits of improved strategic relationships across functions, easier access to people and resources, increased credibility among workers, and a higher degree of trust—from both the leadership and among peers.

Strategic Planning
Can you recall a major change initiative that you helped create or implement in your own or a client’s organization in the past? Is it still live? Probably not. Unless someone had the foresight to look at the entire system affected by the change and carefully assess each potential impact, it is likely to be a dim memory. Most practitioners have learned that a perfectly designed intervention that is exactly the right solution has no chance of survival unless it is developed and launched as a systems change. We have discovered that episodic change is not sustainable. HPTers can add considerable value by ensuring that performance improvement initiatives engage all impacted organizational systems.

A Look Ahead
TrendSpotters will continue to provide you with insightful views from ISPIers in 2004. We invite you to continue along with us in the New Year.

If you have any predictions about the future of HPT that you feel would be of interest to the PerformanceXpress readership, please contact Carol Haig, CPT, at carolhaig@earthlink.net or Roger Addison, CPT, at roger@ispi.org.



Join Carol and Roger on Thursday, April 22 at the Annual Conference in Tampa, as they explore HPT trends in more depth during their presentation, TrendSpotting: An HPT View.


I am, in one sense, relatively new to this HPT thing. I only discovered ISPI and the HPT terminology for the first time about 2 years ago. In another sense, I have now found a language and some models that enable me to describe what I have known all along—performance issues are usually systemic in nature and their solutions must be systematic in their development and implementation if we’re to see worthwhile results. I suspect I represent a lot of other learning and development professionals. As a beginner, here’s how we’re starting to use HPT in our firm.

Our CEO, Mike, recently called me into his office to discuss “the leadership issue” in our large corporate law firm. “We’ve got some problems that we need to deal with,” he said. He went on to explain that there were certain behaviors that were not aligned to the outcomes of our recently developed values project and this was causing concern. “What sort of behaviors?” I asked. Examples included partners who were not very available for their junior staff, who billed at over 150% of target while their staff were billing below 60%, and who were rather ad hoc in their approach to conducting appraisals.

“I see,” I replied. “What sort of behaviors do you want to see instead?” The CEO outlined his views on better coaching availability for juniors, somehow getting partners to reduce personal billings and increase team billings, and appraisals that resulted in better feedback from staff. OK, so a gap begins to emerge.

As we investigated further, delving into the “why do these things happen as they do?” discussion, it became apparent that the causes stemmed principally from structure and history. Structure in that a partnership, whereby you have 40 partners who all own part of the firm, presents inherent difficulties in achieving accountability. Enterprise-wide compliance is pretty much impossible so that even if there were difficult behaviors, there’s little anyone can do about minimizing them, apart from the individual themselves. History, in that there is a strong sense of “that’s the way we’ve always done it around here so the juniors will just have to fall into line. I did!”

To fix the availability problem the whole role of partner would most likely have to be re-structured to reduce client contact work and personal billable targets per day. This would require a significant mind-shift that Mike agreed is not likely to occur in the foreseeable future.

To fix the billing issue, we will need to look at exactly what partners are remunerated for. At present they are rewarded for high personal billings and not team billings. Looking at developing a better ratio of personal to team targets will help. We should also explore whether we are prepared to discourage high personal billings and low team billings. At present we don’t, so we can’t expect significant changes there.

And finally, appraisals. These are ad hoc because partners see them as an annoying distraction away from the pressure (and reward) of maintaining high personal billings. Training will never work until the mind-set has shifted.

Our performance issues stem more from “the system” than the individuals. However, in a sense, Mike is right. Leadership is required from the very top to begin to address the issues properly. HPT, even in this rather basic form, has shown what’s going on and what we’ll need to do about it.

Rob Bialostocki is the professional development manager for a corporate law firm in New Zealand. His background includes high-quality training and development, consulting to organizations on HRD projects, and professional broadcasting. His current work combines elements of all three. Rob may be reached at Bialostocki@maxnet.co.nz.


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As announced in the December 2003 issue of PerformanceXpress, the following individuals were selected by the Nominations Committee to run for the 2004-2006 ISPI Board of Directors.

For President-elect:

  • Miki Lane
  • Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan

For Director:

  • Mariano Bernárdez
  • Jerry Haynes
  • Andrea Moore
  • Ed Schneider
  • Marilyn Spatz
  • Klaus Wittkuhn

Click here to read the Candidate Statements and learn more about their skills, qualifications, and goals for the Society.

Don’t forget that ISPI is holding the election electronically this year, and active members will vote online. Since your link to the “voting booth” will be sent via email from Campus Vote in mid-January, it is important that ISPI has your most current email address on file. To review your record, visit www.ispi.org and click on My ISPI to login. Or, you may call us at 301.587.8570.



On Thursday, April 22, 2004, attendees at ISPI’s 42nd Annual International Performance Improvement Conference & Exposition will listen as Joseph P. Sener, PE, Vice President for Business Excellence, Baxter Healthcare, leads a panel of experts in a discussion about Baldrige, Six Sigma, and Human Performance Technology. This month he sat down with ISPI President, Guy Wallace, CPT, to discuss his take on the various disciplines.

What types of performance improvement efforts have you been involved with lately at Baxter?

I’ve been working on a consolidation of the Baldrige “business model” and Six Sigma to determine what is going on in an organization and how well the strategy is aligned with the real business needs and challenges, and then using the Six Sigma DAMIC tools to close those gaps. And finally, running the projects and getting the tangible, financially verifiable results that come out of it.

What kind of returns and investment values are we talking about?

Anywhere from 100:1 to 400:1 ROI. It actually gets ridiculous when you do the ROI calculations for executives, the numbers just seem unbelievable to them. We have forecasted that an investment of $25 million over a three-year period will generate a return of over $1 billion for us.

And, you can look at other representative companies, such as Caterpillar, where an investment of $300 million over 28 months, including the salaries of their “black belts,” has a documented return of over $2 billion. When implemented well, that’s typical. It takes a systematic and systemic approach.

What is your background in improvement and related areas?

I grew up as a design engineer in the nuclear industry where tolerance for error was very low. I got involved in the quality sciences early. We had to ensure that we had mean-time-between-failure that was acceptable, when looking at reliability.

I’ve actually been doing this my entire career. In the last 15 years, I’ve been involved in leading quality science applications inside manufacturing. And, after spending five years in consulting, I am leading the improvement charge in a 51,000 person, $9 billion manufacturing firm.

Why should ISPIers pay attention to the National Malcolm Baldrige Award?

What’s evident after 15 years of the Baldrige Award is that this business model does drive tangible, financially verifiable results. Some studies have shown that the companies that have invested heavily in this as an improvement model have generated very large returns. There is a Baldrige Stock Index, maintained by the National Institute for Standards and Technology that has shown positive results compared to non-Baldrige companies. The Baldrige business model drives results. It has shown results.

What is your definition of HPT?

I see human performance technology as the skill-set designed to “close the people gaps” as I grow my business.

The business model expects me to listen to the needs of the marketplace and translate that into action in my company through strategic planning, and for every one of my strategic actions, there should be a requisite human resources plan that gets me from the current state to the future state.

The human performance technology organization must have the skills to close those gaps, from a human resources point of view. All the best business systems and strategies in the world are inert, until you put people in them.

The second part of this interview with Joseph Sener will appear in the March issue of PerformanceXpress. For more information on his presentation in Tampa, click here.



Did you know that ISPI’s Annual Conference features a variety of session types? ISPI’s “games guy” has created an interactive game designed to help you explore the different types of sessions offered during the 2004 Tampa conference.

This game requires you to match session types with information about them. It’s a timed game to keep you on your toes. And, it’s an addictive game you can play again and again (each time with new items and new arrangements) to increase your fluency and improve your score. Click here to start playing and test your knowledge.



It’s that time of year…again. Most folks pause and reflect on the past 365 days with a full range of emotions. Pride of successes. Appreciation of challenges. Realization of trials and tribulations. Hope of promises. Regret of shortcomings. As a “soon-to-be outgoing Director,” it is only fitting that I ruminate about my experiences serving on the Board of Directors.

Keeping with the theme of the New Year, I thought it appropriate to consider my Board tenure in terms of the five most common resolutions. (Go ahead admit it...82% of the population makes at least one resolution each January, and it’s probably one of these listed below.)

Lose Weight.
Well, maybe I didn’t personally succeed in this regard but the Society did. Due to the arduous economic times, the Board was diligent in its pursuit to “trim the fat.” We considered creative ways to reduce costs and tighten budget lines. Committee and Task Force Chairs complied in our frugal quest and streamlined their own budget requests. Many Board and Committee members provided time and services without request for reimbursement. Our strategies reflected the Board’s commitment to maintain value while reducing costs.

Get Fit.
Don’t be fooled, our long meeting agendas did not include aerobic exercise (regrettably). However, there was a concerted effort to use resources wisely and to ensure a healthy, self-sustaining ISPI. Guy Wallace led our focus on the “value proposition” of the Society and was relentless in our drafting of the Strategic and Operational Plan. The extensive document is a legacy to the fact that what gets documented gets done. Our Society is healthier than many other professional organizations, in large thanks to the business acumen of our Executive Director, Richard Battaglia.

Be Organized.
This one is a “no-brainer”…because of the ISPI staff. They keep us sane and on track. These dedicated people work collaboratively and collectively for the benefit of us all. Often, their efforts go unnoticed because they are such professional, behind-the-scenes players. They work tirelessly to ensure the rest of us succeed. In addition, we have hundreds of volunteers working in committees and on special projects. The Board may be the head of ISPI, but the volunteers are the heart of the organization.

Listen More.
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. The Board worked diligently to listen to each other’s perspectives (and there are many) as well as to the Society’s membership and staff. One of the more novel tools created for this endeavor was our collective effort in generating the Board “placemat.” The laminated reference identifies our norms and processes and serves as a helpful reminder and a gentle antidote to potential toxic group dynamics.

The Board continues to recognize the importance of attending to the needs and interests of our members and profession. It isn’t easy. We are challenged with balancing special interests with fiscal constraints and with valuing diversity while ensuring the Society’s growth. Of all our New Year’s resolutions, I am confident that listening will remain for all future Boards.

Act Smarter.
Last, but not least is the resolution to apply what we know—to stop pontificating and to take action. In other words, practice what we preach and focus on results. ISPI members and time will decide, if indeed, we, the 2003 Board, did succeed. At times I wondered if we served the Society as well as we could, yet I am confident that we made decisions based on current data and realistic projections. Some choices were easy. Many were hard. However, members may be assured of the selfless interests and the genuine dedication of the Board and staff.

My tenure has been more than rewarding. If nothing else, I have observed ISPI’s integrity. Although our profession of HPT evolved from multiple disciplines, it accommodates myriad perspectives. Once we expose our core, we reach universal agreement: HPT can make a difference and ISPI does!

Blessings of the season…and may 2004 bring success in everyone’s performance resolutions!


Regular, formal benchmarking
of your organization against top performers can significantly improve your organization’s operational performance. One way to objectively benchmark your organization is through PowerMARQ™, the metrics offering from the American Productivity & Quality Center (APQC). The PowerMARQ program can assist you in identifying important benchmarks and metrics. Additionally, a gap analysis will provide you with industry averages for those benchmarks and metrics. ISPI members who submit surveys before the January 31, 2004 deadline will gain access to the PowerMARQ database, allowing ongoing benchmarks.

To access APQC’s PowerMARQ database, visit www.apqc.org/powermarq, select option two on the login page, and proceed through the simple registration process. Please be sure to list your organization name in the requested field and enter ISPI in the affiliation field. Once you have registered, you will be able to complete any of the 15 PowerMARQ surveys and access more than 200 individual benchmarks and commonly used measures in: accounting, facilities management, human resources, information technology, and knowledge management.

Jumpstart your organization in 2004. Start using PowerMARQ to measure operational performance, establish performance targets, set budgets, identify key performance drivers, and assess operational progress.



Best wishes for a successful and happy new year!
Through our “I-Spy” column, we hope to offer leisure-time reading for our readership through relevant, interesting, and useful websites for performance technologists. Each month, we take readers to off-the-beaten-path sites that help them find similar thinkers, resources, work, new ideas, and sometimes just plain old fun.

Quick recap: Every month, three sites, one theme. While far from comprehensive, hopefully these sites will spark readers to look further and expand views about human performance technology (HPT). Please keep in mind that any listing is for informational purposes only and does not indicate an endorsement either by the International Society for Performance Improvement or me.


These are the general categories I use for the sites featured:

  1. E-Klatch: Links to professional associations, research, and resources that can help refine and expand our views of HPT through connections with other professionals and current trends
  2. HPT@work: Links to job listings, career development, volunteer opportunities, and other resources for applying your individual skills
  3. I-Candy: Links to sites that are thought provoking, enjoyable, and refreshing to help manage the stresses and identify new ideas for HPT

The theme for this month’s column is Clusters. As we at I-Spy prepare for another year of gathering Internet resources for HPT professionals, we observe the snow falling outside the window and reflect on the patterns of clustering that occur throughout our workplaces and our world (technically, not daydreaming...really). We encounter groups—of ideas, of people, of organizations—that affiliate together through some common element or interest. Like ISPI. This month we bunch together some electronic resources that demonstrate different types of clusters. Join us. Orpiment optional.

Skills cluster. Savvy “e-PT’s” Judy Hale and Jim Schulz alerted us to the detailed clusters of job skill standards developed by the Illinois Office of Educational Services. Click on the Product Index button to access the extensive list of more than 150 competencies (addressing skills used in agriculture, retail, healthcare, information technology, manufacturing, and other industries). From Accounting Services to Welding, these competencies are in the public domain and are endorsed by businesses, professionals, and labor unions. A great resource for developing curriculum, assessment tools, and job descriptions. An intriguing challenge: If your ideal job isn’t listed here, how would you design a cluster for it?

Sites cluster. If you would like a new way to see how your Internet research results connect, try Kartoo. This “metasearch engine with visual display interfaces” gathers sites related to your query and displays them “in a series of interactive maps through a proprietary algorithm.” In other words, you get a picture similar to a topographical map that indicates connections between search results. You have the option to search only on UK pages or on the entire world wide web. Give it a try!

Clusters...well...even cluster. Having problems seeing a “crystal clear” solution to the bunch of challenges you face improving performance? Cyber-spelunk on over to the Minerological Society. Based in the United Kingdom, this “Society, instituted in 1876, has the general objective of advancing the knowledge of the science of mineralogy and its application to other subjects including crystallography, geochemistry, petrology, environmental science, and economic geology.” But don’t let the hard science aspect give you the impression this isn’t a fun group. Click on Education, and then on The Dragon’s Cave for an interactive hunt for minerals! Finally, check out the archive of Minerals of the Month by clicking on the Gallery. You can view the Orpiment crystal cluster here.

May success, happiness, and performance technology cluster for you in the New Year. See you in February!

When he is not Internet trawling for ISPI, Todd Packer can be found improving business, non-profit, and individual performance through research, training, and innovation coaching as Principal Consultant of Todd Packer and Associates based in Cleveland, Ohio. He may be reached at toddpacker@usa.net.



Personal Behavior and Accomplishments

Counting one’s own behavior or accomplishments can be a powerful tool for change. Either as an ongoing source of feedback, or as an “intervention” when we want to change something about our own performance, we can collect ongoing counts of our own behavior—both inner (thoughts and feelings) and outer (overt actions)—and of the products or accomplishments of that behavior.

One of the more famous examples of counting accomplishments is B.F. Skinner’s career-long monitoring of published words completed per day. He used cumulative graphs of words produced to manage his schedule and environment to maximize good-quality written output. His legacy of more than 20 books and nearly 200 other publications is an inspiring testament to the power of this self-management approach.

(Graphic from website of the B.F. Skinner Foundation)

Ogden Lindsley, the founder of Precision Teaching, has long encouraged his colleagues and students to count their own behavior and accomplishments, including thoughts and feelings. For decades, his students at Kansas University were required to collect and chart daily counts of their own behavior. At the Ben Bronz Academy, in West Hartford, CT, youngsters share self-monitoring charts with each other and their teachers, showing behavior and accomplishments they’d like to accelerate and/or decelerate and developing an extraordinary degree of self-awareness and self-management skill. Many individual consultants count and graph dollars earned in their consulting practices, often extracting these data from time and billing software systems. Many other counts of personal and professional behavior and accomplishments are possible.

Self-Management for Managers
I can attest to the power of self-counting for changing one’s own management practices, as well as in personal relationships. An old guideline for managing both adults and children says that it’s good to keep the ratio between instances of positive feedback and corrective or negative feedback at 4:1 or better. In other words, if you can find 4 or more things “right” with someone’s (or a group’s) performance for every one thing that’s “wrong” or in need of correction, then there’s a very good chance that people will feel good being around you, will seek out your feedback, and will exhibit more of the “positive” behavior you want to encourage.

Like many managers, when I led a Boston-area consulting firm during the 90s, I sometimes found myself being more critical than laudatory of our employees and contractors. (It’s a common experience of managers, as well as of parents, that “finding the performer doing well” can sometimes be difficult.) On several occasions when my “negativism” started to became a chronic pattern, I began daily counting and graphing instances of:

  • positive thoughts/feelings about others
  • negative thoughts/feelings about others
  • positive comments/feedback to others, and
  • negative or corrective comments/feedback to others.

It’s amazing how rapidly this simple intervention can produce change. First, one becomes more aware of the triggers for both positive and negative thoughts. This is instructive and can clarify what was previously a fuzzy emotional response, enabling us to change our behavior in specific situations. Daily counts of positive and negative/corrective feedback provides a reality check on just exactly how well you’re managing others, as well as a powerful encouragement to prompt and find more instances of positive behavior or accomplishments in those whom one is managing. Usually within a few days, or at most a couple of weeks, self-counting can make a big difference in both personal and professional lives.

Try Self-Counting and Teach it to Others
Self-counting is such a simple and powerful tool that anyone can try it. One question that people sometimes raise is how best to define what we count. The general answer is not to worry too much in the beginning about precision, define your countable types of behavior and outputs broadly rather than narrowly, and use the experience of counting itself to calibrate and become more discriminating about what you count. Summarize and graph your counts each day.

Because of its immense power, one can even recommend the practice of self-counting as a core skill for managers, supervisors, teachers, and anyone else interested in improving their own performance. Try including it in management and supervisory training (as well as in parent and family interventions). For each of us, creativity in identifying and setting goals for behavior and accomplishments is the only limit on what we can achieve using simple a self-monitoring and data-based decision-making approach.

Calkin, A.B. (2000). A minute a day makes good feelings grow. The Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies.

Haughton, E.C. (1974). Myriad counter (or, beads that aren’t for worrying). Teaching Exceptional Children, 6, 203-209.

Lindsley, O.R. (1968) A reliable wrist counter for recording behavior rates. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1, 77-78.

Dr. Carl Binder is a Senior Partner at Binder Riha Associates, a consulting firm that helps clients improve processes, performance, and behavior to deliver measurable results. He may be reached at CarlBinder@aol.com. For additional articles, visit http://www.binder-riha.com/publications.htm.


Self-counting is such a simple and powerful tool that anyone can try it.

Francis George joined the International Society for Performance Improvement in December as Director of Membership. In his new role, Francis is responsible for membership development, including recruiting and retention of members; enhancement of member services including ISPI’s Job Bank; collection of membership data for analysis and strategic/tactical decision-making; membership correspondence and marketing; and acting as the liaison with Sustaining and Patron members.

Formerly the assistant director of membership at the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) and recipient of the Council’s highest honor, The Meritorious Service Award, Francis brings with him 15 years of association experience and leadership.



Donna Vaught joined ISPI in October. In her role as Director of Meetings, she is responsible for timeline development, contract negotiations, logistics, and on-site management of ISPI conferences. She also manages the Awards of Excellence program and serves as the staff liaison for the Conference Program and Award of Excellence committees.

Prior to accepting the position with ISPI, Donna served as manager of conferences and exposition for the National Community Pharmacists and director of conferences and events for the International Downtown Association. She has also held various positions with the American Bankers Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. With more than eight years of experience in meeting planning and management, she hopes to continue to improve the content and production value of ISPI conferences and the awards program.



It’s not too late to register with a colleague or client to attend ISPI’s 42nd Annual International Performance Improvement Conference & Exposition, April 18-23 in Tampa, Florida. When you register for the full conference at the member or delegate rate, you may also register a colleague for only $350—provided your colleague has not attended an ISPI Annual Conference in the past three years (2001-2003).


When you register, think of a colleague at your organization, a client organization, your ISPI or ASTD chapter, or an acquaintance in the field who has not experienced a recent ISPI conference. Offer that person an opportunity to save hundreds of dollars while benefiting from the premier educational event in workplace performance improvement.

If you have not attended an ISPI Annual Conference in the past three years, you will want to register with a colleague. Find someone you know who plans to attend, register together, and one of you will register for only $350. The deadline is February 13, 2004. Click here to register today!  



On October 6-10 2003, the ISPI South African chapter hosted a Conference and HPT Institute. This was a first for the chapter and a first for the continent of Africa. Local chapter committee members shared their excitement with about 80 delegates, for most this was their first introduction to ISPI. Chapter president Belia Nel said, “this is the ‘start of HPT history’ in South Africa.”

The conference—titled Human Performance Today—offered attendees an introduction to the principles of Human Performance Technology. The response from delegates to a new perspective on their organizational systems and the performance improvement opportunities presented at a private sector, government, and small enterprise level was extremely positive. The proceedings were characterized by productive interaction between performance improvement professionals—many who were not aware of the extent of interest in HPT in South Africa. This demonstrates the impact that ISPI SA is having within the country and also Southern Africa, opening communication channels and establishing a foundation for performance technology practices with real value to business. During the breaks and an informal cheese and wine cracker barrel, a number of friendships were made. And furthermore, a couple of the attendees were inspired to take on active roles within the ISPI local committee.

Presentations were given by five international speakers from the United States and the United Kingdom including past ISPI presidents and Board members. In addition, performance improvement practitioners from various industries in South Africa provided a balance of local speakers.

The conference was preceded by a three-day HPT Institute—Principles and Practices for Performance Improvement. It was enthusiastically received by all who attended.

Cape Town proved to be a wonderful venue for the event—the weather played along and the beautiful Table Mountain bowed to a warm welcome for our international guests. We all agree this event contributed in branding ISPI as an international Society of tremendous value, professionalism, and sharing of knowledge.



We all agree this event contributed in branding ISPI as an international Society of tremendous value, professionalism, and sharing of knowledge.

Participate in groundbreaking research by sharing your experiences concerning how your instructional design preparation matched up with the ID position you eventually acquired! A brief, 15-minute, online survey asks you to identify your career environment (for example, higher education, business and industry, K-12 education, and more), whether you were prepared specifically to practice design in that environment, and if so, how you were prepared. Results of this survey will identify programs that do a particularly good job of preparing instructional designers for specific career environments. To share your experiences, please access the survey by clicking here (no identifying information will be collected as a result of your participation).

This study, available online from January 12 through February 12, 2004, is being conducted by the Center for Instructional Technology Solutions in Industry and Education (CITSIE) at Virginia Tech University. If you have questions about the study, please contact Miriam Larson at milarso1@vt.edu.



The goals for this phase in the four phase initiative are to: Clarify the non-instructional technologies of human performance technology (HPT), identify the underlying science of those technologies, and establish a mechanism to continue the work started and maintain it. The history and reasons for conducting this effort are available by clicking here.

We need to more clearly define what HPT is, and identify “the diverse technologies” of HPT. Then, we can better ensure that the content of our many forums and publications reflect those technologies and truly help our members become more aware, more knowledgeable, or more skillful in one or many of those technologies. And, as their situation requires or allows, they can become specialists or generalists in HPT.

We’ll also clarify the underlying Science/Areas of Research of HPT. We can then clearly link each technology back to its scientific roots and rationale. We can help define the conditions under which an application (a set of technologies) works, and also when it does not work. We can clearly label “snake oil” and even link those claims back to the research.

We can then better enable Society members to organize themselves into one or more of the many subset groups representing opportunity/problem areas, technology areas, and research areas. We can improve our members’ returns for their time and efforts for learning and networking.

But, what I really like about this effort is that it should allow us to better see our overlaps/commonalities with other improvement approaches. And this allows us to see our differences. In the end, this will enable us to better clarify our value add and our value proposition to the overall improvement effort of the organization, and allow us to better collaborate with each other.

The 4 Phases
The four phases of stage one will lead to additional downstream efforts that begin on Don Tosti’s watch in April when this Presidential Initiative becomes his Presidential Initiative.

Phase 1: Geary Rummler agreed to give it the old college try, again, and allowed me to re-publish his 1983 Performance and Instruction article titled Technology Domains and NSPI: A Proposed Framework for Organizing the Professional Content of NSPI.

Phase 2: Roger Kaufman and I co-edited the February 2003 issue of PI that focused on: Clarifying HPT. Click here to access the issue.

Phase 3: In this phase, all who cared to participate took time to write their own 2-page responses on HPT. These are posted on the same webpage as the February special issue.

Phase 4: This is the planned culmination of the first stage. Here a Think Tank of 28 invited members, including old and new guard and rising stars, well balanced by gender, consultant/academic/enterprise roles, and geography, came together to wrestle with the goals of identifying the technologies and the areas of research of HPT, and determining how to continue the effort and then maintain it.

3-Day Think Tank
The Think Tank was held in Las Vegas and was intended to bring together a diverse group of active members and begin the process to identify the various non-instructional technologies of HPT and their underlying areas of research/science, and to also identify a system for continuing and evolving the work begun during this meeting, and keeping it evergreen over time.

All attendees paid their own travel and living expenses. The 28 members selected originally for this meeting represented the diversity sought. The final team of 20 attendees lost some of the sought-after diversity, but I think it will be okay.

I wish to acknowledge that there are many other long-term, active ISPI members who could have been there, and maybe should have been there…but it would have been impossible to assemble and then work with a group that large. This is why I deliberately asked the Core Team members to choose a mix, versus all old guard.

The Think Tank produced initial, rough drafts of the following:

  • A set of criteria for assessing HPT “technologies” and “projects”
  • Three-level framework of variables affecting performance
  • A list of the Technology Domains of HPT
  • A list of the Science Domains of HPT
  • A Governance System for organizing the HPT Domains

A lot of excitement was generated around the establishment of criteria for an HPT “technology” and “project.” The rough draft statements for HPT respected practices and sound tuition, include:

  • It must focus on valued, measured results
  • It must deal with the performance of people
  • It must take a systemic view of the performance and its context
  • It must be reliable (replicable, consistent)

For the HPT technology to be able to claim that it is proven:

  • It must be valid (construct and predictive validity)

It was an aggressive agenda, and we didn’t accomplish everything we might have, but it was a great start.

Post-Think Tank Sub-Group Activities
The Task Force team’s feedback will be reflected in a report to the ISPI Board of Directors that will be reviewed at the Board meeting this month. Reactions will be discussed, feedback gathered, and the final report will be updated and made available to the new Board and to the Society at the Tampa conference.

This is just the start of a multi-year effort. If succeeding Boards support the direction to clarify the technologies of HPT that lead to “measured results that add value,” then we should soon see that reflected in a more balanced manner in the content of all of our conferences, institutes, and publications.

We are a technology-driven professional Society, and one of our key goals is to disseminate these technologies and enable their competent practice. We will soon add clarity to the profession and clearly identify what works and what doesn’t, and under which conditions those claims are true.

If your current practice of HPT focuses on helping the humans of an organization perform better in business processes, then I think you are in the HPT tent we are defining.

But, if you help build bridges in the developing world, help crops to grow more effectively, or improve efficiency of rotating mechanical equipment on gas pipelines, that is not HPT in my opinion. But that’s just “my” opinion. What is and isn’t valid HPT is not my decision. It’s ours. Your current and future elected Boards will take us somewhere over the next few years as a profession. You should let them know how you feel!



The 4th International Conference on Performance Measurement and Management will take place in Edinburgh, UK, July 28-30, 2004. The conference theme is Performance Measurement and Management: Public and Private, and as with the previous conferences there will be a mix of delegates and papers from the academic and practitioner communities. If you are interested in submitting a proposal, the full call for papers can be found by clicking here. The deadline to submit a proposal abstract is January 16, 2004.



Performance Marketplace is a convenient way  to exchange information of interest to the performance improvement community. Take a few moments each month to scan the listings for important new events, publications, services, and employment opportunities. To post information for our readers, contact ISPI Director of Marketing, Keith Pew at keithp@ispi.org or 301.587.8570.

Books and Reports
High Impact Learning by Robert O. Brinkerhoff and Anne M. Apking provides the conceptual framework for the HILS® approach and is complete with integrated tools and methods that training practitioners can use to help their organizations achieve increased business results from learning investments.

EPSS Revisited is an essential reader for students and practitioners of performance-centered design (PCD). From job aids and “bolt on” EPSS to ground-up enterprise performance-centered systems, you will find gems in terms of methodology, industry trends, and a plethora of real-world examples.

ISD Revisited is a select collection of 56 articles from ISPI’s Performance Improvement journal focused ISD as practiced in the 21st Century. This compendium, with an introduction by Allison Rossett, provides a fresh perspective on ISD, presenting current thinking and best practices.

Conferences, Seminars, and Workshops
Darryl L. Sink & Associates, Inc. is offering the following workshops in 2004: The Course Developer Workshop, February 2-3; Designing Instruction for Web-Based Training, San Francisco, February 9-11; The Instructional Developer Workshop, Chicago, March1-3. Visit www.dsink.com for details and to register!

Faster, Cheaper, Better. Let Thiagi and his team design your web-based training and live e-learning sessions. True interactivity is in the mind—not in the mouse. Exciting activities require and reward higher-level thinking and application. For more details, visit www.thiagi.com.

2004 Measuring & Benchmarking Training Conference, February 23-25, 2004, Las Vegas. Learn proven methods to OPTIMIZE the ROI of your training program. Attend unique and informative workshops presented by training leaders such as Intel, Home Depot, Pfizer and United Airlines. 10% Discount for ISPI Members!



Consulting Services
So you want to be a CPT? If you have the experience, but don’t have the time, ProofPoint Systems has your solution. You provide the information, and ProofPoint does the rest. Not sure what’s involved? Call 650.559.9029, or email: info@proofpoint.net to get started.

Job and Career Resources
ISPI Online CareerSite is your source for performance improvement employment. Search listings and manage your resume and job applications online.

Magazines, Newsletters, and Journals
Performance Improvement Quarterly, co-published by ISPI and FSU, is a peer-reviewed journal created to stimulate professional discussion in the field and to advance the discipline of Human Performance Technology through literature reviews, experimental studies with a scholarly base, and case studies. Subscribe today!

Resource Directories
ISPI Online Buyers Guide offers resources for your performance improvement, training, instructional design and organizational development initiatives.

Training Services
The Power to Get Results. Martin Training Associates provides workshops, services, and products that focus on developing hard and soft skills in project management. Our methodology is universally applicable to any project and project team type. Visit
www.Martintraining.net for details.



Are you working to improve workplace performance? Then, ISPI membership is your key to professional development through education, certification, networking, and professional affinity programs.

If you are already a member, we thank you for your support. If you have been considering membership or are about to renew, there is no better time to join ISPI. To apply for membership or renew, visit www.ispi.org, or simply click here.



ISPI is looking for Human Performance Technology (HPT) articles (approximately 500 words and not previously published) for PerformanceXpress that bridge the gap from research to practice (please, no product or service promotion is permitted). Below are a few examples of the article formats that can be used:

  • Short “I wish I had thought of that” Articles
  • Practical Application Articles
  • The Application of HPT
  • Success Stories

In addition to the article, please include a short bio (2-3 lines) and a contact email address. All submissions should be sent to april@ispi.org. Each article will be reviewed by one of ISPI’s on-staff HPT experts, and the author will be contacted if it is accepted for publication. If you have any further questions, please contact april@ispi.org.



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Feel free to forward ISPI’s PerformanceXpress newsletter to your colleagues or anyone you think may benefit from the information. If you are reading someone else’s PerformanceXpress, send your complete contact information to april@ispi.org, and you will be added to the PerformanceXpress emailing list.

PerformanceXpress is an ISPI member benefit designed to build community, stimulate discussion, and keep you informed of the Society’s activities and events. This newsletter is published monthly and will be emailed to you at the beginning of each month.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact April Davis, ISPI’s Senior Director of Publications, at april@ispi.org.

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