According to cognitivists
, there are several components of the mind, and each is involved in the learning process in certain ways. How each component of the mind works has implications for how we design instruction. The components are:

  • perception and sensory stores
  • short-term or working memory
  • long-term memory

Perception and Sensory Stores
Perception is selective. There is more stimulation in the environment than we are capable of attending to, and then encoding (internally translating) for storage in memory. Therefore, we only attend to certain things. We attend to and see/hear what we expect to see in a given situation. We attend to those things that interest us because they are either (1) related to what we already know, or (2) so novel they force us to attend to them.

Limits of the sensory stores. Our sensory stores, also called sensory memories or “buffers,” are capable of storing almost complete records of what we attend to. The catch is they hold those records very briefly. During that very brief time before the record decays, we do one of two things: (1) we note the relationships among the elements in the record and encode it into a more permanent memory; or (2) we lose the record forever.

ID implications. The implications of the selectiveness of perception and limitations of sensory stores for instructional designers are that it is crucial to:

  • get the learner to attend to the parts of the environment you want him/her to learn (by building expectations, attention-getting, and establishing motivation and confidence)
  • help the learner note relationships among the information quickly (by organizing the information and relating the new information to existing knowledge)
Short-term or Working Memory
Controversy. There is disagreement among cognitive psychologists about whether there is a short-term memory that is “separate and different” from long-term memory—whether the two are physically different, or whether they are just conceptually different constructs.

Rehearsal. When information is passed from the sensory stores to memory, we mentally rehearse it. Simply repeating the information over and over is called passive rehearsal. It does not seem to improve memory as well as rehearsing the information in a deep and meaningful way, by doing things like creating associations.

Limited capacity. There seems to be a limit on the amount of information we can rehearse at one time. The findings of the study that showed we can remember 7 +/- 2 bits of information at most, and that to remember more we have to “chunk” (or group), still apply, with some modifications of how you define a “bit” (element) or a “chunk.”

Format. At this point in the learning process, the information being rehearsed is not yet organized and encoded as it will be when it is finally stored in memory. There is evidence that there are separate spaces in the brain for storing and rehearsing verbal information and visual/spatial information.

ID implications. The implications are that instructional designers need to:

  • help learners use meaningful ways of rehearsing the information (using analogies and relating new information to existing knowledge)
  • present the information in meaningful “chunks” of appropriate size for learners
  • present the information in multiple formats (verbal, auditory, visual, etc.)
  • present the information in a way that allows the learner to move quickly from rehearsal to encoding it in long-term memory.
Long-term Memory
In general, theorists believe that long-term memory is organized based on context and experience. That means we encode, store, and retrieve information in the way we have used knowledge in the past and expect to use it again in the future.

Memory strength. Information in memory has a characteristic called strength, which increases with practice. There is a power law of learning that governs the relationship between amount of practice and response time or error rates (Strength = Practice to power x).

Elaboration. Elaboration means adding information to the information we are trying to learn. The more we elaborate on what we learn through processing, the better we remember it, because as we tie the new information to existing information, we create more pathways to get to the new information as we try to remember it.

Chunking. Memories are stored not as individual bits or as long strings of information, but in “chunks,” with each chunk containing about seven elements.

Verbal and visual information. It seems we encode verbal and visual information differently in memory. We use a linear code for verbal information, and a spatial code for visual information. We remember visual information very well, especially if we can place a meaningful interpretation on the visuals.

Associations and hierarchy. Information is organized in memory and is grouped in a set of relationships or structures (e.g., hierarchically). Using such a structure makes it easier for us to remember because there are more related pieces of information activated when we search for information.

ID implications. The implications are that instructional designers need to:

  • build in a lot of meaningful practice into training
  • provide learners with information that elaborates on the information to be learned
  • present the information in meaningful “chunks” of appropriate size for the learners
  • present the information so it uses the abilities to remember both verbal and visual information
  • organize the information hierarchically
  • provide many associations to the information being learned
  • teach learners to organize/index their memories so they have many associations, many retrieval paths, and appropriate structures, which are crucial to effective memory
  • use authentic (real-world) contexts for explanations, examples, and practice

Note: Excerpted from Foshay, W.R., Silber, K.H., & Stelnicki, M.B. (2003). Writing Training Materials That Work: How to Train Anyone to Do Anything. San Francisco: Pfeiffer.

Rob Foshay, PhD, CPT is Vice President of Instructional Design and Quality Assurance for PLATO Learning, Inc. He is a former ISPI Board member and recipient of the Distinguished Service and Honorary Life Member awards. He may be reached at

Ken Silber, PhD, CPT is Associate Professor, Educational Technology, Research, and Assessment at Northern Illinois University, and President of Silber Performance Consulting, where he specializes in Performance and Needs Analysis, Intervention Design, and Evaluation. He may be reached at



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To learn more from Foshay and Silber, attend ISPI’s 2004 Performance-based ISD Conference. See details in this issue.

by Carol Haig, CPT and Roger Addison, CPT

Among the many benefits of attending ISPI’s Annual Conference is the opportunity to get together with our professional friends from other countries and hear their experiences and views in person. This year, we asked Monique Mueller of Zurich, Switzerland, to share her perspectives on trends and opportunities in the performance improvement arena in Western Europe.

Monique,, heads La Volta Consulting, a firm focused on performance improvement and culture change. She comes from a Spanish family, has lived and worked in Europe and the United States, specializes in translating and interpreting a number of languages, and holds an MBA and a postgraduate degree in organizational development. Monique credits Klaus Wittkuhn with introducing her to human performance technology (HPT). She is highly involved in the ISPI Europe chapter and chaired the popular and successful Europe conferences of 2002 and 2003.

Critical Opportunities
Monique highlighted three critical and interrelated opportunities for HPT in Europe at this time. First, performance improvement must be explained more effectively to suit the Western European business climate and workplace cultures. It is challenging to explain why and how performance improvement adds value to organizations in ways that resonate with the business and societal leaders whose organizations could benefit from HPT tools and techniques.

Second, small and medium-sized organizations make up the vast majority of businesses in Europe and the HPT word is not reaching them. Unfortunately, most examples of HPT successes come from large U.S. companies where the circumstances do not translate well for this potential client audience.

Third, there is a real need to expand HPT to include the non-North American voice in the literature and on the European business scene. Monique observes many opportunities for European public entities to use HPT to address the issues they face.

Reasons for These Opportunities
While awareness of HPT has risen in Western Europe, Monique explains, it is a slow process and lacks the impact needed to interest decision makers and launch the widespread use of ISPI’s principles and practices. There is also the unfortunate stigma attached to HPT of yet “another thing coming from the U.S.” Europeans require an explanation that will enable rapid understanding, acceptance, and enthusiasm for performance improvement.

To raise awareness among the many untapped small and medium-sized companies, practitioners should publish and present successes to raise awareness and facilitate entry into these organizations. We must be creative and approach trade groups, guilds, and unions to demonstrate the value of performance improvement and enable organizational leaders to embrace it.

Finally, Europeans must see and hear non-Americans on the subject of performance improvement. Of particular value are examples from public service organizations, government, and education where the introduction of performance improvement concepts can make such a visible and measurable difference. It is our responsibility to showcase these results.

How Organizations Will Be Different
Monique points out that the European Union is growing from 15 to 25 countries. This represents a huge opportunity to deploy our tools. For example, the coordination of transportation services and utilities across Europe raises exciting opportunities for practitioners to provide support and guidance through complex transitions, and we are uniquely qualified to do this work.

Western Europe is not untouched by the recent issues of business ethics in the news, or the practices of “pirate capitalism” we have observed among CEOs in large U.S.-based companies. Monique suggests that there is a unique opportunity, right now, to unite disciplines under the HPT umbrella to help organizations discover how they can work together using tools to improve performance and impact business results with all stakeholders in mind.

The key to making change, of course, is to begin by changing ourselves and the way we source and approach opportunities to practice our craft.

Implications for La Volta Consulting
Monique has begun to alter her firm’s marketing plans to align with target organizations and their needs as described above. She envisions adapting many of our standard HPT models to serve these new markets and promises a new focus on demonstrating bottom-line results.

There is a small but growing body of performance improvement-based work published by European practitioners. Monique challenges ISPIers to add to it. By publishing success stories from organizations with profiles similar to those in Western Europe in the European business press, we can help to raise HPT awareness. For example, the two ISPI Europe conferences attracted excellent papers that could be expanded and submitted to local business publications. Monique encourages non-U.S. practitioners to publish in their own countries and in their native languages in publications that are read by their target clients.

If you are interested in publishing in Europe and would like help and guidance, please contact Monique directly. All of us in the performance improvement business stand to benefit from outreach worldwide.

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 or Roger Addison, CPT, at


In the May issue of PerformanceXpress Roger Kaufman rightly asks, “Do we really want to help people to just add to the bottom line?”

Good question. But nothing in business (or anywhere else) is really that simple. There are more stakeholders than just the owner, or even the customer. Effective business decisions must balance the requirements of a number of disparate stakeholders whose requirements may be in conflict with each other. Here is a model with eight stakeholder categories.

The Government represents the laws and regulations that guard the interests of the public and business and provide the rules for conducting business. Government requirements will take precedence, under the penalty of law, for noncompliance.

Shareholders are the owners of the business. Their goals are typically financial, long-term growth in equity or short-term income through dividends, but can be related to other things such as greater societal enhancement, environmental protection, and so on. If the executive management group does not achieve shareholder goals, they will either be replaced or the investors will withdraw their capital and invest it elsewhere. An entity without a sound capital base will eventually be crippled.

The Executive Management stakeholders are those responsible for the operations and results of the entity. They include an elected board of directors responsible to all the owners, and the executive management team in charge of overseeing daily business operations. They must always balance the (conflicting) interests of various stakeholder groups when determining the course of action for the organization.

Customers are typically a non-homogenous group. The enterprise needs to listen to customers to understand their requirements fully and consider those in light of what the competition is doing in the marketplace to allow them to determine responsibly what customer requirements to pursue, that also meet the requirements of other critical stakeholders.

The Employee stakeholder group includes all ranks of employees below the executive management level. At the heart of all employee requirements are a safe workplace and financial security, but other needs exist among the groups. Global assumptions such as “everyone wants to be a team player” will only lead to a population of dissatisfied employees.

Suppliers are also a key stakeholder group. As a business entity themselves, they need to achieve a profit margin that will allow them to remain in business. The objective should not be to drive prices for their materials/components so far down that they become unprofitable.

The Community stakeholders, although a less formal group, remain important through the influence they can have on our businesses. They may ultimately have a voice in public policy and laws, thus completing a cycle from grassroots demands to the laws of the lands.

It would seem, given the extent of stakeholders and their requirements, that there are really three challenges. The first is: identifying specifically who the primary stakeholders are for any given situation. The second is: understanding their requirements and the priorities that ought to be placed on those requirements. The third is the most difficult: balancing those requirements that are in conflict.

This means making the tough tradeoffs on whose requirements will take precedence when conflict arises. What stakeholder requirements should not be met now, or later, and why? Questions such as these can only be answered after all requirements are uncovered and judged in relation to one another to understand the full implications of any decision. It is inherently complex and takes time and effort.

For simple decisions, you may find that the general default Stakeholder Requirements Hierarchy model is sufficient. Otherwise, careful analysis is called for. Good luck, and may the balance of requirements be in your favor!

Guy W. Wallace, CPT, has been a consultant to government and industry since 1982, and has served 29 of the current Fortune 500. He is the author of three books, and more than 50 articles. He has served on numerous ISPI Committees and Tasks Forces since joining NSPI in 1979, and also served on the 1999-2001 ISPI Board and as President-Elect and President 2002-2004. His professional biography was listed in Marquis Who’s Who in America in 2001. Guy may be reached at



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At the Opening Session of the recent ISPI Annual Conference in Tampa, incoming president Don Tosti introduced an important outcome of the recent Presidential Initiative. Using an interactive strategy, Don invited hundreds of participants to react to ISPI’s new Communities of Practice. (Descriptions of the seven professional communities are at the end of this article.)

If you were not able to interact with other ISPI members and provide feedback on these communities at the ISPI Conference, don’t worry! We have used the Open Questions (OQ) interactive strategy to create a forum for you to give us your feedback. Even if you had a chance to interact with others at the conference, this is an opportunity to continue the dialogue.

Let Us Know What You Think
The task is simple. Click here to get to the OQ page. Type your inputs, questions, reactions, comments, implementation ideas, sarcastic remarks, and anything else you want to say. Get it all off your chest. It will make you feel better. If you wish, include your name, or pseudonym, or initials in parentheses after your response. Then click the “send” button. Snoop around the web pages to see what other participants have said about these professional communities.

WARNING: We truly value your feedback. The planning and implementation group will analyze and incorporate your comments. However, we do not guarantee that all your suggestions will be immediately implemented (because of logistic, financial, and legal constraints). So, please don’t get upset if we don’t follow up on everything you say.

HPT Communities of Practice
Management of Organizational Performance: To impact organizational results by looking at the whole system to determine where the major sources of variance are, and then addressing them with appropriate organizational change processes and techniques. (Examples: Change Management, Management & Leadership Initiatives, Administrative Systems Analysis, Program & Project Management, Strategic Planning, etc.)

Instructional Systems: Determining when learning should occur and the best way to achieve learning through manipulation of display, response demand, and instructional management. (Examples: Instructional Systems Design, Knowledge Management, Job Aids, Performance Support Systems, e-Learning, Expert Systems, Fluency Transfer, etc.)

Process Improvement: Increasing the efficiency and/or effectiveness of the sequence of activities in the value chain that produces outcomes and results. (Examples: Statistical Process Improvement, Business Process Re-engineering, Six Sigma, Operations Research, Lean, etc.)

Organizational Design/Alignment: To examine the allocation of decision-making authority, business processes, values, business practices, and conduct of people in the organization and their performance to ensure they are aligned to produce the desired results. (Examples: Culture Change, Group Collaboration, Team Building, Organization Design, Company Values & Practices, Executive Coaching, Organizational Integration, etc.)

Motivation, Incentives, and Feedback: Examining data about performance and providing the most effective way of delivering that information to modify the form of behavior or to increase or decrease the likelihood of the performance. (Examples: Corrective Feedback, Incentives & Motivation, Coaching, Performance Management, Mentoring, Performance Appraisal, etc.)

Analysis, Evaluation, Measurement: The process of assessment, decision, and action relevant to the maintenance and adaptation of the system. (Examples: Human Factors Analysis, Balanced Scorecard & Dashboard, Needs Assessment, Statistical Process Controls, Performance Measurement, Evaluation, ROI, Benchmarking, etc.)

Science of HPT—Foundations: The intellectual pursuit of basic principles and conditions of applications that impact human performance. (Examples: Behavior Analysis, Educational Research, Learning Theory, Systems Theory, Motivation, Cognitive Science, etc.)


Are you a provider of training? Are you responsible for purchasing or contracting for training? Are you charged with reporting on the results of training delivered to your organization or individual clients?

It is estimated that $54 billion is spent annually on training activities in the United States. It is predicted that this year, e-learning alone will be a $14 billion business. Clearly, learning is BIG business. With costs of this size, it is no surprise that organizations want to know what results they are getting for their considerable investments. Attend the International Society for Performance Improvement’s 2004 Performance-Based Instructional Systems Design Conference: Focusing on Results, September 27-October 2, 2004 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago in Chicago, IL, to discover the latest on reporting Instructional Systems Design results.

Who Should Attend?
Instructional systems designers and other managers and professionals involved in design, development, delivery, and evaluation of training and performance improvement should attend this conference and pre-conference workshops. The case studies, presentations, and discussions will be equally valuable to professionals involved in classroom, distance, and electronic learning. All sectors, including academia, business, consulting, government, military, and not-for-profit, will benefit.

Keynote Address

Tips, Tools, Techniques, and Other Tantalizing Tidbits
Dr. Harold D. Stolovitch, CPT, Emeritus Professor, Universite de Montreal, Clinical Professor, University of Southern California, and Principal, HSA Learning & Performance Solutions LLC


Masters Series Presentations

The Easiest Thing Is to Build the Wrong Simulation
Dr. Rob Foshay, CPT, Vice President for Instructional Design and Quality Assurance, PLATO Learning, Inc.


Lessons Learned from Victoria’s Secret: Ensuring the “Pull” in Performance-Based E-Learning
Deborah Stone, CPT, President and CEO, DLS Group, Inc.


Full-Day Workshops
Workshops are in-depth, full-day classes that encourage you to broaden your knowledge base in a specific topic relating to performance improvement. Workshops are limited in size ensuring that you will receive individual attention from expert presenters. Workshops will be conducted on Wednesday, September 29, 2004. Topics include:

  • Front-End Analysis & Return on Investment
    Dr. Harold D. Stolovitch, CPT, HSA Learning & Performance Solutions LLC
  • The Instructional Design Workshop: Faster/Better/Easier Ways to Design Instruction
    Dr. Darryl Sink, Darryl L. Sink & Associates, Inc.
  • Leveraging Performance and Business Impact from Training Initiatives
    Dr. Robert Brinkerhoff, Western Michigan University and Dennis Dressler, The Learning Alliance
  • Training That Works: Developing Training Using The Cognitive Approach to ID
    Dr. Kenneth H. Silber, CPT, Northern Illinois University - ETRA

ISPI Membership
Join ISPI today and register for ISPI’s 2004 Performance-Based Instructional Systems Design Conference: Focusing on Results at the member rate. Take advantage of all that ISPI membership has to offer!

This conference is limited to 250 attendees, so make your plans now. Click here to register, or visit, for more information.


Safety first.
Safe to say, here at I-Spy we seek first of all to explore how the Internet can be a powerful tool to improve our work together.

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 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 Safe and Sound. When lives are at stake, performance improvement takes on new importance. Organizations recognize that safety is a critical factor for success. We need to protect the human in HPT. This month, put on your seatbelt, adjust your cybergoggles, and join us as we explore safe ways to do what we do everyday, whether it’s planning systems at work, driving home, or just whistling about bovine spongiform encephalitis in Spanish. Trust me, you may do this everyday soon…

There is safety in numbers, and numbers in safety! A number of professional associations focus on safety issues in workplace performance. One of particular note is the Systems Safety Society. Since 1962, this association has remained “dedicated to the advancement of the arts, sciences, and technology of system safety in pertinent areas of endeavor for the benefit of all mankind.” Reminiscent of HPT, we learn: “The science of system safety is created through systematic and continuous pursuit of scientific knowledge and understanding of technology and its application in engineered devices, and of biotechnology (the study of the human/machine interface) in both expected and unexpected circumstances.” You can submit articles to and access the Journal of System Safety electronically, and their Annual Conference is August 2-6, 2004, in Providence, Rhode Island. While some links are still “under construction,” this site, and organization, can be a valuable addition to the PT conceptual toolbox.

June is National Safety Month! Per the National Safety Council (NSC), this year’s theme is “Crash-Free June” (no wisecracks towards the IT department, please!). Seriously, the focus is on preventing motor vehicle accidents, which in 2002 resulted in about 120 deaths per day. With information and resources to distribute to employers and your community, the NSC hopes to make June, and every month, safe for all drivers. Now that would be some serious performance improvement. The NSC site also offers general resources on safety and occupational health, job listings, links to local chapters, and statistics, including a sobering cost analysis of the negative economic impact of workplace injuries and deaths. An extensive library of information can help you with all types of performance improvement, from a free course on Creating a Safety Culture: Strategies for Small Business to a fact sheet on setting up your child’s swing set.

How about some toe tapping tunes about toxicology? Decontaminate your fingertips before you click over to the Food Safety Music website of Dr. Carl Winter, food toxicologist, faculty member at the University of California, and Director of the FoodSafe Program. With free downloads of clever song spoofs (like “I Sprayed it on the Grapevine”), you too can sing and dance safely. My personal favorite? The unsettlingly catchy Beware La Vaca Loca, a tune about mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalitis (BSE), sung to “Livin’ la Vida Loca” by Ricky Martin.

Until July, surf safe.

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 Shaker Heights, Ohio. He may be reached at



Many organizations are doomed to implementing the latest performance improvement fad as an ongoing strategy of “management by best seller.” It was George Santayana (1863-1952) who said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We owe a tremendous debt to those who came before us. We should all take the time to periodically return to the original works that form the basis for what we do now in our field of performance technology.

While there were earlier books that laid the foundations for our profession, three books stand out as providing the structure for the way in which we do business today: Joe Harless’s An Ounce of Analysis (Is Worth a Pound of Objectives) in 1970, Tom Gilbert’s Human Competence in 1978, and Bob Mager and Peter Pipe’s Analyzing Performance Problems in 1984. I remain amazed at the number of authors who borrow extensively from these authors (without giving them the credit they deserve) for their “latest and greatest ideas” on performance improvement.

More recently, three additional books changed the way in which we view organizations and shaped the role of the performance consultant in the 1990s: Geary Rummler and Alan Brache’s first and second edition of Improving Performance: How to Manage the White Space on the Organization Chart in 1991 and 1995, Dana and Jim Robinson’s Performance Consulting: Moving Beyond Training in 1996, and Judy Hale’s The Performance Consultant’s Fieldbook: Tools and Techniques for Improving Organizations and People in 1998.

But perhaps the greatest impact on formalizing the body of knowledge for our profession was the publication of the first and second editions of the Handbook of Human Performance Technology in 1992 and 1999, masterfully edited by Harold Stolovitch and Erica Keeps. These two books are still the best references that we have on our bookshelves, instantly making available the work of many experts in the field of HPT.

More recently, Darlene Van Tiem, Jim Moseley, and Joan Dessinger published the first and second editions of Fundamentals of Performance Technology in 2000 and 2004, which provide a model of the performance technology process (derived from earlier work by Bill Deterline and Marc Rosenberg), with text that someone new to our field or a line manager can read and understand.

And now, three new books have appeared that will further shape the way in which we understand and apply performance technology. Serious Performance Consulting According to Rummler by Geary Rummler, and Training Ain’t Performance by Harold Stolovitch and Erica Keeps, are by three of our most respected practitioners and authors. The third book, Human Performance Technology Revisited, collects more than 50 Performance Improvement articles from many of the best authors in our field.

While it is important that we keep up with the latest books in our field, it is just as important that we return to the original works that have shaped our profession. Reading the books that are the foundation of our profession is similar to enjoying classic movies, such as The Lion in Winter or Twelve Angry Men, to see the cinematic roots of the current movies that we see.


Make your library complete, visit ISPI’s Bookstore at

Discussions in my measurement-related sessions at ISPI’s Annual Conference in Tampa made me realize that many of our colleagues and clients have not thought much about how the frequency with which we measure results can determine how often we make decisions. This simple, but very important issue deserves some consideration.

Some Assumptions
If you’re a regular reader of this column, you’ll be aware of several key points about how and why we measure:

First, the most important reason to measure is to enable good decisions. Measurement should serve a decision-making or navigational function, supporting our roles as managers or performance improvement specialists. Among other things, we decide if our programs, systems, strategies, processes, or interventions are producing the results we want or not, whether they should be continued or changed, and if they are worth the cost.

Timm Esque describes two conditions that must be in place for us to say that a process or organization is being managed: 1) that there are measurable expectations for results, and 2) that results are being measured in such a way that the performers can make decisions based on the data.

An additional point is that, for us to understand how results are changing, it is essential that we measure repeatedly over time. For example, to distinguish between a genuine jump-up in results after a specific intervention and an exceptional high point (outlier) or a continuing up-trend, either of which might deceive us into thinking that results have changed dramatically, we must be able to see each data point in the context of what came before and after it.

Research using the Standard Celeration Chart to project straight-line trends into the future revealed that it takes around 7 to 10 data points to project the same number of points accurately into the future. Simply comparing one or two “before points” with one or two “after points” is not a reliable way to see if results have actually changed. If we want to know whether a given result—whether performance on a learning exercise or results on the job—is actually an improvement over what has been occurring prior to our intervention, we need to measure regularly and frequently.

Measurement Frequency Determines Possible Decision Frequency
We all know that the final test score in a classroom program comes too late to help the student. If we want to help that student before it’s too late, we must have daily measures of performance for monitoring reduction in errors and/or acceleration of correct performance toward a performance criterion. In fluency-based programs for call center reps, for example, daily measures repeated over several weeks allow both coaches and trainees to see if and when they need help, and whether specific coaching suggestions or changes in procedure made a difference.

Similarly, quarterly measures of sales performance don’t help managers or sales representatives make good decisions about how to improve sales performance. Indeed, managers in some aggressive sales organizations use the rule that one bad quarter is a red flag and two bad quarters can lead to termination—a very expensive approach, given the cost of hiring new people. Only more frequent measures of results, or intermediate outcomes (e.g., sales milestones) allow managers to diagnose and improve specific performance problems before it’s too late.

Here is general set of rules about measurement frequency and decision-making. In learning or front-line productivity environments, daily measures (i.e., five data points per week) allow good weekly decisions. For supervisory or mid-level decision-making, weekly measures of performance can support good decisions every six weeks or so. Monthly measures (e.g., samples of customer satisfaction) allow good decisions to occur every 6 months or so. And for executive level strategic decisions, quarterly measures can support decisions every 18 months to two years (e.g., 6 to 8 data points).

You might choose to make exceptions to these general rules. But if you seriously consider the significance of your decisions and look at the data you are using to support them, I think you will recognize these guidelines as being at least in the general ballpark of what is prudent and reliable. As usual, I welcome your comments, disagreement, examples, and feedback.

Binder, C. (2001). Measurement: A few important ideas. Performance Improvement, 40(3), 20-28.

Esque, T.J. (2002). Making an impact: Building a top-performing organization from the bottom up. Atlanta, GA: CEP Press.

Pennypacker, H.S., Gutierrez Jr., A., & Lindsley, O.R. (2003). Handbook of the standard celeration chart. Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies.

Dr. Carl Binder is a Senior Partner at Binder Riha Associates, a consulting firm that helps clients improve processes, performance, behavior and the measurement of results. His easy-to-remember email address is and you can read other articles by him at See past issues of this column by clicking on the “Back Issues” link at the bottom of the blue navigation bar to the left.



The Certified Performance Technologist
(CPT) designation is awarded by ISPI to experienced practitioners in the field of performance improvement and related fields such as instructional design and organizational development whose work meets the 10 Standards of Performance Technology and other application requirements.

Your application to become a CPT must be received at ISPI headquarters by June 15, 2004, or it will be held until the next processing deadline of November 15, 2004. For more information on becoming a CPT, or to download the application, visit


The International Society for Performance Improvement’s 43rd Annual International Performance Improvement Conference & Exposition in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, April 10-15, 2005 will feature several opportunities for you to develop your professional skills, learn new HPT tools and techniques, and hear the latest research findings in our field.

How can you participate? Attend! Present! Volunteer! It is not too early to mark these dates on your calendar:

  • July 30, 2004: Deadline to submit workshop proposal
  • August 31, 2004: Deadline to submit session proposal and early speaker registration for conference
  • April 10-12, 2005: Attend an HPT Institute prior to the conference
  • April 11-12, 2005: Attend a pre-conference workshop
  • April 12-15, 2005: Attend ISPI’s 43rd Annual Conference & Exposition

Here are some suggestions to help you prepare a successful conference proposal submission, especially if you are a novice speaking at ISPI:

  • Review the 2005 Call for Proposals, which outlines the review criteria for session proposals. Then, download the Session Proposal Template.
  • Review the Sample Session Proposal. This is an example of an accepted session proposal, updated to include all of the required information for 2005.
  • Download and review the Sample Handout and Sample Performance Tool as these will provide guidance as you are preparing your session proposal.
  • Consider a coach! Review the 2004 Conference Program, and see if you recognize anyone you might contact to provide feedback on your proposal.

If you have any questions or would like additional information, please contact ISPI at 301.587.8570 or by email at



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 or 301.587.8570.

Books and Reports
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 these workshops in 2004: The Criterion Referenced Testing Workshop, Atlanta, October 5-6; Designing Instruction for Web-Based Training, Atlanta, September 14-16; and The Instructional Developer Workshop, Washington, DC, June 14-16. Visit for details, and to register!

Public Workshop by Thiagi. Learn Thiagi’s radical approach to instructional design. Faster, cheaper, better (and fun at no extra charge). Secrets of training design based on 30 years of fieldwork that challenges the traditional ISD model. Palo Alto, CA: June 17-18. More Information.





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.




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, 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 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



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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.

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