Sometimes a pre-prepared, content-set seminar, complete with perfectly stated objectives just doesn’t cut it. Occasionally, what is needed is to spend a few hours or even a whole day delving into questions, issues, curiosities, and concerns about a specific topical area generated by the participants themselves. That’s what the potpourri session (a miscellaneous mixture of things) is all about.

In the example provided, I’ve applied this concept to the broad field of instructional systems design (ISD). However, as will soon become apparent, you can employ the same potpourri pattern with any content, set of issues, or discipline from abstract art, baseball, and calligraphy to xenogenesis, Yiddish, and zither music. Basically, the purpose of the potpourri session is to share ideas, explore themes, and acquire new insights about a range of topics related to a general area of interest. It is an opportunity for participants to explore, with the help of a subject-matter expert, themes that are of specific interest to them.

Some of the solid characteristics of this type of session are it: quickly engages participants who are pre-sensitized; offers opportunities to delve into topics that are often ignored; and allows the leader-facilitator to provide a broad assortment of documentation that, because of the session, acquires heightened significance for the participants.

How does it work? Let’s use ISD as our theme. Prior to the potpourri session, the leader sends out a list of topics from A to Z to trigger suggestions (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Sample List of ISD Related Topics

A—affect analysis; attitude learning and testing; assessment tools and methods, action learning, architectures for learning

B—boredom in instruction; behavior change; behavior modeling

C—computers and learning; concept analysis; change management and instruction; criterion-referenced instruction/testing; cognitive strategies; competency vs. performance-based training

D—designing effective learning; delivery systems; developmental testing, directive learning, discovery learning

E—evaluation; ethics; effectiveness vs. efficiency in instructional design; esthetics in materials development; e-learning, exploratory learning

F—feedback; formative evaluation; friendly learning programs

G—graphics principles; game design, guided discovery methods

H—handling difficult and demanding clients/SMEs; HRD vs. ISD; hierarchical task analysis; human performance improvement/technology

I—interactive teaching-learning; innovative instructional design strategies; instructor-led learning

J—job aids; journals for instructional designers

K—“kindred spirits,” a terrific ice-breaking activity; knowledge management

L—learning types and hierarchies; learner controlled instruction; learning management systems; learning content management systems; learning organization; learning vs. training

M—managing learning; managing the training function; media impact and selection; motivation; metacognition

N—new technologies for learning; networking

O—odd ways to design instruction; overt and covert procedures

P—performance support tools and systems; print rules and materials; peer learning; performance technology; performance objectives, project management

Q—quiz construction; questioning strategies

R—readability; resources for instructional designers; recycling instruction; reciprocal learning, resource management formats for exploiting existing materials

S—simulation; system approach; systemic thinking; self-instruction (self-learning); strategies to increase learning and retention

T—trainer training; teaching vs. learning; time management in instructional design; task analysis

U—unlecturing methods; uniform standards

V—visual design (visuals vs. visibles); variation of stimuli and methods and its impact on learning

W—workshop design; war stories about instructional design; worries of instructional designers

X—“Xs” and “Os”—a simple lecture or quiz format

Y—you and your professional development

Z—zero-sum gaming and learning

The list is only an opener—a teaser menu—to stimulate questions and provoke reflection. Participants can either select from the menu offerings or generate their own items. Once these are chosen—and every participant must select or request at least one item—they are sent back to the leader, who sorts them, pulls themes together and, if necessary, sends out the list of choices for rank ordering. This is done when too many items are requested for the time allotted. Incidentally, having designed and delivered this type of session numerous times, I have rarely had to initiate a second round. The reason: Often I’m able to discover some brief, useful materials or resources dealing with proposed outlying items and have simply included them for rapid treatment in the potpourri package of materials.

Now, for the major work. Once the potpourri list of items has been created, the leader has two main tasks. The first is to research and pull together a collage of information and materials, based on the items, to share with the group. The second is to design an activity dealing with each item or theme. Figure 2 shows three items and activities for a potpourri on ISD.

Figure 2. Sample Selected Items and Activities for an ISD-Related Potpourri

Selected Items*


Competency vs. performance-based training

  • Rapid concept analysis of “competency” and “performance.” Presentation of definitions and examples.
  • Selection of participant proposed training topics.
  • Demonstration of the difference in approaches using participant topics.
  • Participant teams apply the two approaches to a proposed training topic.
  • Debriefing and discussion.

Knowledge management (KM)

  • Interactive lecture on key concepts and KM definition.
  • Demonstration of a systematic approach to KM.
  • Presentation of two “real-world” examples.
  • Examination of a handout on “How to create a KM system.”
  • Group discussion on requirements, necessary organizational maturity level, readiness level, what is needed to implement, and pitfalls.

Interactivity and learning

  • Interactive lecture on four models of interactive teaching-learning.
  • Participants practice and model each.
  • Debriefing and discussion drawing out key principles.

* There is a package of materials covering all items, some from existing sources, others specifically prepared for this session.

Running the session is a lot of fun since it is created based on what the participants have selected. You start the session with the establishment of an agenda and the setting of priorities. Then, in a fast-paced and interactive mode, everyone becomes involved.

Participants leave with a plethora of materials, resources, new knowledge, and often some newly acquired skills. You can build into the potpourri session mini and micro workshops, team activities, spontaneous testing of concepts, principles and procedures and, of course, plenty of lively discussion. Participants leave with a better understanding of many aspects of a topic or field about which they were initially unaware.

Instructional designers are always hunting for stimulating strategies that help learner-participants acquire a lot of knowledge and skill in a short time frame. The potpourri session is definitely an instructional framework that mixes high effectiveness with efficiency. It is fun and not too difficult to create. It requires all participants to make an investment up front. It focuses on participant driven items. Best of all, it works!

Harold D. Stolovitch, PhD, CPT, is a past president of ISPI and recipient of numerous awards for his contributions to learning and performance. His two recent books, co-authored with Erica J. Keeps, Telling Ain’t Training and Training Ain’t Performance, are bestsellers. Harold will be the keynote speaker at ISPI’s Performance-Based ISD Conference and may be reached at


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  To learn more of Tips, Tools, Techniques, and Other Tantalizing Tidbits, attend ISPI’s 2004 Performance-Based ISD Conference from Sept. 30-Oct. 2, in Chicago, IL.

by Carol Haig, CPT and Roger Addison, EdD, CPT

Marc Rosenberg, PhD, CPT,
and a past president of ISPI, shares his views of the future with us this month. Marc, who may be reached at, is an independent consultant specializing in performance improvement, e-learning solutions, and knowledge management. In our conversation, Marc focused on the economy and the needs of the workplace.

Top Three Predictions
First, Marc foresees an increase in work-based learning in the next two to three years. Organizational decision makers want learning to take place in the context of the job to maintain the work focus and save time. This will challenge learning professionals to design and perhaps deliver differently.

Second, stakeholders will exhibit a renewed interest in evaluation and certification in their organizations to show evidence of the effectiveness of performance improvement interventions, to justify the investment in them, and to demonstrate improved performance through business results. Performance consultants will have to respond with increased skills and abilities in these areas.

Third, there will be a significant shift from formal learning experiences to information provided at point of need. Workers will be able to access information when they need it through updated databases. Training will become experiential and providers will have to make the distinction between information and training. In addition, we will need increased skills in information design and writing for readability.

Reasons for Predictions
Workers must focus on productivity and keep up their skills to continually improve their performance. How do we address this? What we do is integrate the learning into the work, rather than pulling workers off the job to learn. Effectively, this will raise the operating level for many performance improvement practitioners from an emphasis on people to an emphasis on the processes that engage them—the work.

The recent Internet boom encouraged huge expenditures in all parts of the performance improvement business. After the crash back to reality, executives re-thought their strategies and tightened their purse strings. Most of us have first-hand experience with the difficulties associated with getting funding for performance improvement these days. The good news is that computer technology really works. The challenge, not necessarily the bad news, for performance consultants is to establish and prove the business case to use technology to deliver better learning and information.

We are living in the midst of an information explosion. This means we must learn to select and separate what is important and useful, especially if we wish to remain sane. What will help everyone is reliable access to good information on the job. Today, we have the tools to assess how workers access and use information. We have the ability to connect the people who are using the same information in identified communities of practice, effectively enhancing the quality of both the data selected and the experience of locating it. (For more information on professional communities, read Don Tosti’s “From the Board” article in this issue.)

How Organizations Will be Different
We in HPT have unique strengths in diagnostics (front-end work) and evaluation (on the back-end). Marc sees these skills becoming increasingly important as stakeholders focus on the results of performance improvement interventions targeted to solve business problems.

While there is much play in the media about the outsourcing of business, Marc reminds us that all organizations are not equally suited or equipped to competently perform all business tasks. For many, particularly the growing small business sector, it makes good sense to outsource HR or training, for example, to qualified providers. This means we, in performance improvement, will be managing a wider array of resources from outside suppliers and carefully selected partners. We will need to become more skilled at selecting and managing these partnerships. (Partnering ties directly into ISPI’s fourth Standard of Performance Technology.)

We will use more project management and leadership skills, and our creativity will be called into play more frequently. We will also develop increased diligence and selectivity about purchased products and services.

Implications for Marc Rosenberg & Associates
Marc expects to see senior management clients demonstrate an increased interest in strategy and the bigger picture of where their organizations need to go. These folks see that they need a broader context for performance improvement. Today, it is becoming more common for a senior manager to say, “We want to improve performance,” rather than offering solutions to be implemented. The performance improvement conversation continues to get easier.

Economically, changes in resource allocation are opening doors to new ways to improve performance. Many organizations no longer support huge arrays of trainers. However, with skill, luck, and being in the right place at the right time, Marc is finding more open ears among stakeholders at client organizations. It will continue to become easier to sell results rather than activities, and executives will continue to become more discerning about their investments in learning.

Related Websites
American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC):         

KM World:

Knowledge Management Resource Center:

Knowledge Management for Training Professionals:

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 or Roger Addison, EdD, CPT, at



Wouldn’t it be nice if our users:

  • came to us because they wanted to, not because they had to?
  • asked for input on early project decisions, rather than after they had already been made?
  • awaited our initiatives with the same anticipatory “buzz” that accompanies the newest Victoria’s Secret catalog?

Actually, this vision is definitely better than nice—it’s marvelous! And all we really needed to know about achieving this vision, we learned from Victoria’s Secret. We are completely serious about this, any jokes linking the cancellation of this year’s televised fashion show to Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl exposure notwithstanding. Remember, Fortune magazine ranked Victoria’s parent company, Limited Brands, as its third most-admired specialty retailer.

We all knew what lingerie was before Victoria’s Secret opened its doors. The difference is, Victoria’s Secret targets, brands, and markets quality products to multiple audiences, at multiple price points. Consequently, people sign up for email offers, visit local stores, or shop online. Some even watch the fashion shows on television or the Internet.

What accounts for this “pull”? Victoria’s customer-centered focus is not accidental. It is engineered, systematic, and systemic. Founder, chairman, and CEO Les Wexner launched a major initiative in 1995 to “…build brands that require a thorough understanding of our customers’ needs. A great brand is like a great movie. It has a ‘wow!’ It elicits an emotional response from each person that sees…[it].”

That “wow” factor involves creating a “pull” for Victoria’s products—offering customers what they can use and feel good about, closing gaps between what they have and desire.

In HPT, creating “pull” means meeting user needs in ways that create a demand. Maybe getting the “wow” and creating a “pull” for lingerie is sexier than doing the same for performance improvement. But, how much expertise and effort has your organization really put into trying? As HPT practitioners, we are often guilty of trying to “push” unwanted e-learning to the masses we serve.

We suggest that HPT practitioners consider creating a Victoria’s-style “pull” for what we do. Doing this takes time, as users naturally resist solutions that will bring changes to their roles and jobs. We learned that achieving this goal requires:

  • collaborative methodologies like Rapid Application Development (RAD) that ensure interventions meet end user needs while obtaining buy-in and support
  • designing solutions that make users want to adopt them
  • winning hearts and minds by addressing users’ levels of concern and stages of use
  • marketing and branding solutions to create user demand

We cannot afford to assume that “if you build it, they will come.” With few exceptions, this notion falls short when it is used to justify a push-based approach.

Contrary to linear models of ISD and HPT, implementation needs to begin on Day 1 of a development effort—if not before. If we want to be as successful as Victoria’s, we need to collaborate with users to create a pull for our e-learning and performance improvement solutions.

Deborah L. Stone, CPT, is the President and CEO of DLS Group, Inc. She has received more than 20 professional awards, including Microsoft’s Award of Excellence for outstanding PSS and several ISPI awards. Deborah has delivered more than 75 presentations and three Masters Series and co-wrote the chapter on EPSS appearing in the second edition of the Handbook of Human Performance Technology. She may be reached at

Steven W. Villachica, PhD, CPT is Chief Learning Officer for DLS Group. His job is to ensure performance improvement by leveraging cutting-edge technologies based on proven research, theory, and best practices. He co-authored the chapter on EPSS appearing in the second edition of the Handbook of Human Performance Technology, has written numerous publications on e-learning, and is a frequent conference presenter. Steve is a two-time winner of ISPI’s Outstanding Systematic Approach award and may be reached at


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  For a more in-depth look at the Lessons Learned, attend ISPI’s 2004 Performance-Based ISD Conference from Sept. 30-Oct. 2.

In our recent “Best of the Best”
online activity, we asked this question: How can ISPI Chapters and the International Organization (our headquarters) collaborate with each other more effectively? Thirteen different responses we received. We used a convoluted scoring system to select the best response within three nominal groups and then to select the best of the best.

The winner, who received a score of 73 points, is Michelle Halprin. Here’s her response:

Local Chapters are one of the best and most cost-effective ways of recruiting new members into ISPI. To sustain and grow local Chapters (or in some cases restore Chapters that have folded), ISPI International needs to commit resources in the following ways:

  • Appoint volunteer consultants, such as the Regional Consultants that used to exist
  • Provide services, such as offering free web pages on the site, creating performance support tools to help Chapters run leadership/succession planning programs, promotion of HPT certification, and so on
  • Give more recognition to Chapter activities through ISPI publications (PerformanceXpress, and programs (conferences, institutes, awards)

Our Society’s future depends on the vitality of local Chapters.

Second place goes to Robert Bodine who scored 50 points. Here’s his response:

I have three points:

  • At least one Board member who is responsible for Chapter health.
  • An active, robust, and funded Chapter Partnership Committee.
  • True partnering between Chapters and the Society via dual memberships, shared administrative support, marketing tools, and leadership training.

We have all of these except the dual membership. I support an ISPI membership that includes automatic membership in both International and Chapter affiliations. A modest addition to the International dues ($50.00?) would bring an automatic membership in the closest Chapter (or the one of your choice). This automatic dual membership would eliminate the “we-they” syndrome and change the basis of the relationship to one of shared membership, shared agenda, and shared purpose.

Third place goes to our frequent contestant, Elsa Glassman. She responds:

We must be knowledgeable of, and promote, the membership benefits of joining each, and encourage members to join both by offering a discounted “JOINT membership.”

The other responses also contained valuable ideas. Rest assured that these suggestions will be carefully reviewed by various decision makers and stakeholders—and appropriately acted upon.



The general response to the creation of the seven professional communities has been very positive. People see them as a way of learning more about specific applications of the technology and a way to increase their personal participation in the field and in the Society. This was always one of the major purposes for the creation of the professional communities. The second objective was to enable people from outside of ISPI, who have common interests, to share technical expertise with us.

We are taking steps to continually develop the professional communities to make sure they’re viable and can make a significant contribution to the field.

A special presidential task force made a series of recommendations on how ISPI can further develop and set up the professional communities. In the design, the task force used the methodology of HPT. In other words, it started with results and worked backward to determine what could be done to achieve those results and what kind of structure we must have to get it going. Here is the tentative list of desired results:

Outcomes/Results for Individual Community Members

  1. Stories about real issues
  2. Opportunities to work together on a real problem (problem solving)
  3. Opportunities to plan to apply new learnings
  4. New way of looking at what you are doing today
  5. Networking for professional advancement
  6. Building a professional reputation
  7. Opportunities to work on different issues (not in current work portfolio)
  8. Providing a logical argument for what does and does not work

Outcomes for ISPI

  1. Attract and retain members
  2. Provide a framework for awards, conferences, publications, etc.
  3. Provide a place to link/partner with other societies and universities
  4. Increased opportunity for membership involvement
  5. State-of-the-art practices repository builds our professional reputation
  6. Broader base of interest extends application areas and draws in contributions
  7. Increased revenue
  8. Establish ISPI as the authority for HPT

Outcomes for the field of HPT

  1. Clarify for the world what you are buying when you buy HPT services
  2. Broaden the knowledge base for practitioners/performance consultants
  3. Provide a list of key questions
  4. Differentiate HPT from other disciplines
  5. Accelerate HPT applications
  6. More educated consumers of HPT services
  7. Improved quality and validity of publications and presentations
  8. Make the literature more visible
  9. Annual HPT review
  10. Map of the HPT landscape and its interaction with other fields

Processes and Practices to Achieve the Individual Outcomes
The task force then brainstormed some ways the communities might achieve these outcomes as follows:


Process and Practices

1. Stories about real issues

  • Journal articles
  • Presentations
  • Workshops
  • Cracker barrel
  • Roundtables
  • Capture the stories (mechanism)

2. Work on real problems

  • Pre-conference workshops
  • Roundtable on pre-set problems
  • Conference experimental sessions
  • Onsite issues (e.g., five days on an organization problem)
  • Series of articles
  • Email

3. Opportunity to plan to apply new learnings

  • Outcome of a workshop
  • Planning roundtable
  • Offer services through the network
  • Network critique

4. New way of looking at what you are doing

  • Through leader critique
  • Ask the network
  • Find people who have done “X”
  • Ask for who has done the research and who has a different view

5. Networking for professional advancement

  • Participate in the network
  • Internships

6. Build a professional reputation

  • Journal articles
  • Newsletters
  • Presentations
  • Website contributions
  • Listserv
  • Serve on committee

7. Opportunities to work on different issues (outside regular work)

  • Onsite issues
  • (See Outcome #2 Work on real problems)

8. Find out what works and what doesn’t work

  • (See Outcome #2 Work on real problems)
  • Produce hits and myths
  • Research directory (literature, people, schools of thought, and schools)
  • Suggested request topics

Initial Structure
There will be seven community founding directors, appointed for one year, who will establish and oversee each community. In addition, a panel of thought leaders will be assembled for each community to provide definition and scope. We are actively looking for volunteers. Are you interested?

Jeannie Farrington was named as the overall Community Advisor to work with the communities for the next year. We are always eager to get more ideas. So, feel free to add any suggestions for more outcomes or ideas for other means that the communities can use.

As you can see, the launching of the professional communities is both challenging and exciting. Fasten your seat belts.



For more than 40 years,
ISPI’s Annual Conference has been an important gathering place for performance improvement professionals, and 2005 is no exception! Whether your goal is to learn more about the process of human performance technology, extend your list of professional contacts, or learn new tools and technologies, you’ll find what you’re looking for in Vancouver. Here are the Top 10 reasons to attend the premier performance improvement event of 2005:

10. Gateway to Adventure: After your six days of unparalleled performance education, Vancouver offers quick and easy access to world-class ski resorts like Whistler and the Canadian Rockies, as well as Victoria and Vancouver Islands, and Alaska.

9. Passports and Visas are not Required for Travel from the U.S. to Canada: Although travel with a valid passport is encouraged, U.S. citizens may travel to Canada with proof of U.S. citizenship such as a certified copy of your birth certificate issued by the city, county, or state in the U.S. where you were born, and a current, valid drivers license. (For tips on travel to Canada, click here, or for information on obtaining a U.S. Passport, click here.)

8. Closing Banquet speaker, Harold Stolovitch humorously embarks on a lifetime of performance pursuits that remind us of Pink Panther escapades: You’ll be amused and enlightened as we travel through a series of Alice-in-Wonderland adventures, questing for performance in all the wrong places…desperately seeking to discover that prized performance treasure trove.

7. Great Value: Vancouver offers a world-class experience and excellent value for your money.

6. Explore Canada’s West Coast in 180 minutes: Journey with ISPI as we explore Canada’s West Coast. The experience begins the moment you enter a surreal world through fresh evergreen trees surrounded by the aroma of a British Columbia Rainforest. Wander into Okanagan Wine Country, visit Little Italy for delectable pasta, and grab a bite of sushi in Pan Asian Square. Sample seafood and listen to crashing waves as you watch a beautiful sunset off the shores of Vancouver Island. Whatever path you follow, plan to enjoy food, drink, camaraderie, and an energetic, electric ambiance that will enrapture you for hours at this new mid-conference social event.

5. Your HPT Colleagues from all over the world will be in attendance: Network with colleagues from more than 20 countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Israel, Japan, and Australia.

4. Spectacular Setting: Nestled between majestic mountains and sparkling ocean, Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and offers an unforgettable meeting experience.

3. The CPT Forum: The Certified Performance Technologist Forum, a new feature introduced at last year’s Annual Conference, returns to Vancouver. The specialized program for CPTs will be finalized this month and information will be available online.

2. Affordable Airfares: Roundtrip airfares from major U.S. cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle) ranging from $240-$370 over the dates of conference. For additional savings, United and Continental Airlines are offering special rates for conference attendees. Click here for additional information.

1. The Premier HPT Event of the Year: The 43rd Annual International Performance Improvement Conference—Process, Practice, & Productivity—spans six days, starting with award-winning, three-day Human Performance Technology Institutes, a premier line-up of pre-conference workshops, more than 150 concurrent sessions, and a Keynote presentation by Chip Bell, senior partner with Performance Research Associates, Inc.



As performance technologists,
our charge is to identify meaningful gaps in performance related to a documented business need, then design and deliver cost-effective solutions that meet our clients’ conditions of satisfaction. Clients include sponsors and stakeholders, “the people who will be most affected by the outcome of your initiative” (Svenson, 2004, p. 29).

Often, we have conversations to clarify and (re)confirm specifications over the lifecycle of a project. Nevertheless, even when we do and certainly when they are missing or insufficient, clients may have expectations at odds with what has been discussed or even agreed on. Consider that the issues we typically address are one of two types: puzzles or problems (Lazar & Bergquist, 2003; Bergquist & Greiner, 2004).

Puzzles have simple answers and are unidimensional, quantifiable, and have an internal locus of control. An example would be determining what performance feedback to give to a subordinate. Problems are multidimensional, interdisciplinary, and complex. Here, an example would be developing a compensation system. We have noticed a client bias toward misunderstanding the performance issue in question as simpler and quicker to solve/resolve/dissolve than it actually is. In other words, our clients tend to treat complex issues (problems) as if they are simple issues (puzzles). What to do?

Having other conversations, ones to secure client engagement and ongoing commitment, can be crucial to the success of our project (Svenson, 2004). For example, project success has been linked to sponsors and stakeholders:

  • clearly approving the project and its deliverables over time;
  • being active, responsible participants rather than simply passive customers, especially in the early stages of the project; and
  • being sold and resold on the project and its benefits to the organization (Greer, 1999).

Drawing on the project planning model (ibid), there are a couple of outputs we can create that can structure the above conversations:

  • a preliminary project planning document that will both guide team members’ subsequent actions and secure sponsors’ and stakeholders’ approval for the project; and
  • an extended set of deliverables specifications for sponsors’/stakeholders’ review and approval.

Using these, we reduce the effort and expense of rework due to unclear or changing requirements and unstated assumptions. So, take the time to communicate as often as needed with clients to stay engaged and committed to the project. Listen, and then speak, to clarify and align expectations.

Bergquist, B. & Greiner, N. (2004). The ethics of coaching: Traversing and comparing the three Cs. International Journal of Coaching in Organizations, 2(3), 8-18.

Greer, M. (1999). Planning and managing human performance technology projects. In H. Stolovitch and E. Keeps (Eds.), Handbook of Human Performance Technology (2nd edition). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 96-121.

Lazar, J. & Bergquist, B. (2003). Alignment coaching: The missing element in business coaching. International Journal of Coaching in Organizations, 1(1), 14-27.

Svenson, R. (2004). Winning every time: Six ways to make large-scale performance interventions succeed. Performance Improvement, 43(3), 28-32.

John Lazar, MA, MCC has more than 20 years of experience applying performance technology and coaching practices with individuals and teams to meet needs within organizations. He is co-founder and co-executive editor of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations. John may be reached at



Our clients tend to treat complex issues (problems) as if they are simple issues (puzzles).

Alas, summer fades into fall.
September initiates a time for preparation, reflection, and education, particularly as many students and teachers return to school after summer vacation. Beyond the cooling temperatures and change of colors in the part of the world I-Spy calls home, we find that we truly enjoy this time of year. Join us this month as we find others across the Internet who are also Into the Fall. Bring along your friendly, neighborhood geomorphologist to check out the Chinese tufa!

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

It’s back-to-school time for many ISPI parents and faculty. For some lessons on how to improve performance we could have learned in school, visit the American Association of School Administrators. Performance technologists in all arenas can find value in the information and resources provided. An example is a June 2000 article by John Conyers, When Status Quo Won’t Do: A school district’s total quality initiative brings rapid performance improvement, complete with a first grader quality assurance monitor! The site also contains education-related job listings, information on their 2005 Annual Conference (with Peter Senge as a general session speaker), and an extensive set of links to additional online education improvement resources.

Now, we all know that PTers are out of this world. So, if you’re into the fall—low gravity interplanetary freefall, that is—launch your web search software and travel to the website of the Planetary Society, “the largest space interest group on Earth.” With more than 100,000 members from over 140 countries, this non-profit, non-governmental organization “was founded in 1980 to encourage the exploration of our solar system and the search for extraterrestrial life.” The site contains information on various projects, including Two Worlds One Sun, an international call to build sundials similar to the MarsDials NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity rovers. ISPIers in Saudi Arabia, Australia, and Japan (as well as other countries) take note, as they are seeking people and organizations in many nations to set up these special “earthdials.” Imagine how you would describe your performance improvement challenges as you read the day-to-day activities of scientists and engineers as they monitor performance of the Galileo mission to Jupiter. Among other educational features, on their links page, you can take’s 12-minute voyage across our solar system from the comfort and safety of your keyboard—travel millions of miles above the earth with no fear of falling!

And now, for all of us into waterfalls, an international potpourri of images: Waterfall Pictures from Gullfoss in Iceland by Icelandic Artist Harri Eliasson—including some stunning falls graced with rainbows. Next, visit Africa’s Kongou Falls, “a two-mile-wide expanse of roiling water that thunders through a chain of islands,” in the Congo River Basin, from National Geographic magazine. Glance through the Oregon (USA) Historical Society waterfalls gallery, with photos from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Our last stop is the International Association of Geomorphologists “Karst of Guilin—China” image gallery, where we learn: “Huangguoshu Falls are almost 80 m high and almost as wide. The waterfall step is partly constructional. Massive tufa accumulation takes place on the step and also on the opposite side of the valley. The ‘Curtain Cave’ is a narrow gallery that goes behind tufa-covered drop of the waterfall. In the vicinity, there are many more waterfalls of different drop and width making the area a ‘waterfall country’.” (FYI, tufa is “a soft or porous stone formed by depositions from water, usually calcareous; called also calcareous tufa”.)

May you have a safe and pleasant end of summer. See you in October for more cyber-harvesting!

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



Take part in a compelling full-day,
interactive workshop on Tuesday, September 14, 2004, at The Washington Club in Washington, DC. During this event, “A Focus on Results: Learn What Works Best and How to Use It,” you’ll discover an array of effective tools for improving performance in the area of global health, and see how various projects have applied the performance improvement approach successfully. For more information, click here. To register to attend, contact Denise McNeill at or call 202.661.8021. The Public Health Institute/Population Leadership Program for USAID is hosting this event with support from ISPI.


I’m always harping about the dangers of percent, something I learned about from Ogden Lindsley. In fact, the second installment of this column back in April of 2002 was devoted to the topic. I’ve returned to it often, suggesting how misleading percentages can be when measuring results or setting goals—without the original numbers from which those percentages are derived. For example, an accounting report that only lists percent of profit or percent of growth over quarters, but not the actual dollar values, isn’t much use for managers or executives.

Here’s an example we see so often that I’d pretty much forgotten how strange it is. It’s the practice of setting goals or measuring and reporting percentage of an employee’s time devoted to a certain activity. I see this often in sales organizations where managers get the idea that if sales people only spent a larger portion of their time calling on customers, or following up, or contacting old customers, etc.—then everything would be better. There are multiple problems with this approach.

First, it is not accomplishment-based. In terms I discussed last month in this column, the “unit of analysis” is wrong. One can spend an infinite amount of time in any activity (behavior), but if that behavior does not produce the desired outputs or accomplishments, it is costly without delivering value. I’ll never forget a consulting assignment I had at a Fortune 50 company where telesales people who had ongoing relationships with middle-managers who were their repeat customers in companies were being encouraged to spend a greater percentage of their time on the phone with customers. It was called “talk time.” I observed these sales people learning and using the names of their customers’ grandchildren, talking about their weekend boating trips, and using all kinds of ploys to keep these people on the line talking about largely irrelevant topics (but pleasing their call center managers by increasing “talk time”). After shifting the focus and measurement from percent of time spent on activities to achieving various milestones with customers, it was possible to significantly improve productivity. The message, as Timm Esque pointed out in his article last month, is that we need to focus on the results of behavior when possible, not on the behavior itself.

The second problem is with the percent score itself. A percentage is a dimensionless quantity (Johnston & Pennypacker, 1980) that has no standard units of measurement because they “cancel out” in the division calculation that produces a percentage. So, we can’t tell how many hours that a sales person is actually devoting to the activity from a­ percentage. Some very successful field sales people work more than 40 hours per week—and some spend less—so, we can’t assume a standard number of hours in most cases. If we insist on targeting and quantifying activity (rather than accomplishments), we should actually record and report number of hours devoted to types of activities. For example, the sales person might try to spend at least six hours per week calling prospective customers, figuring an average duration per call. Or, she might try to reduce sales reporting time to one hour per week, and so on. These actual numbers of hours can be calculated into an overall schedule of priorities and estimated workloads. They can be fit into various slots in the day or week and generally better managed.

So, the key points are that it’s better to measure outputs or accomplishments (sometimes called “milestones” in ongoing processes such sales); and it’s better to target and report actual numbers of things rather than percentages alone. When reporting results, it’s sometimes helpful to include ratios or percentages. Just don’t leave out the actual numbers!

Johnston, J.M. & Pennypacker, H.S. (1980). Strategies and tactics of human behavioral research. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates.


Dr. Carl Binder is a Senior Partner at Binder Riha Associates, a consulting firm that teaches clients the FluencyBuilding® performance improvement methodology, practical measurement strategies and tactics, and Six Boxes® performance management. 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.



In the August 2004 issue of PerformanceXpress, you read about a bank in a rocky situation, all blamed on bad training. This time, let’s find out how the bank began to recover after a “bad training experience.” Join Willy, the consulting training manager, and the branch managers as they work toward performance improvement.

Willy: “Can you tell me how things are going at the east and west (E-W) branches now?”

E-W Managers: “Things are busy, but customers are being satisfactorily waited on. Tellers are working at a steady pace. We balanced and were out of the branches by 5:30 last evening.”

Willy: “I’m happy to hear you’re doing so well. Can you tell me how things are going at the south and north (N-S) branches now?”

N-S Managers: “It’s a d-i-s-a-s-t-e-rrr! Tellers are crying, customers are angry, lines are long, and no one has been able to balance so far.”

Willy: “I truly regret that is happening. Since all the branch managers went through the same training, we may be wise in exploring what differences we can uncover in other areas, if we hope to improve performance in the north and south. May we proceed by finding out what else is going on? How are the computer systems themselves working in the north and south branches?”

N-S Managers: “Oh, my! Our connectivity has been up and down all day. A truck hit a utility pole nearby, and we lost our electricity for half an hour. Our phones were down, too, causing more customers to come in.”

Willy: “Thank you for that feedback—it’s absolutely important to hear. I’ll assign two vendor technicians to your branches, until your technical issues are resolved. Just to pursue a bit more research…can you tell me about how you prepared tellers for a busy post-conversion day?”

E-W Managers: “Well, at the east and west branches, we let them dress business casual this week, and there was free lunch Monday. We held a pep rally with them Saturday afternoon, stressing the importance of satisfying customers, even with a new system. We gave everyone new bank T-shirts to wear this week. They’re pretty excited!”

N-S Managers: “At the north and south branches, we told everyone to be prepared to work late this week, but instead of overtime pay, they could take comp time off in a few months….”

Willy: “Good feedback. Hmmmm. It seems that incentives could help the north and south branches. Let me offer this: I’ll send over a catered lunch every day this week to all the branches, free software vendor T-shirts for everyone, and free sodas all week, too. Plus, I’ll send two trainers over to help with the need for overtime. How does that sound?”

N-S Managers: “Gee, those incentives sound pretty good…maybe we could have thought about that at the north and south branches…. I didn’t know we had a budget for stuff like lunch….”

Willy: “Yes, I agree—incentives can be a big part of our performance picture. Now, another question—what kind of training and follow-up did you do with your tellers? And, what kind of motivational efforts did you plan?”

E-W Managers: “Well, at the east and west branches, we read an article in a banking industry newsletter about best practices during a bank conversion. I also called the president of your software user group for her ideas. So, we held practice sessions with each teller when the branch traffic was light, during the last two weeks. We gave each teller a daily set of ‘real-world’ customer transactions and real balancing to perform on a practice system PC. We then checked their work, providing feedback and opportunities for questions and additional practice. We gave them a laminated cheat sheet with common transaction steps. We also kicked off a contest, where every time the tellers balanced in the practice sessions, they received a free movie coupon. The article recommended all that….

And, Your Highness, as you know, we invited you out last week to speak to our tellers about how important this effort was to our bank, and how much you value their work and are confident in their success. They were really thrilled to be able to chat with you. Then, when the tellers were in last Saturday afternoon, we asked them to sign on to the new system and post all the night deposit work. That got them past their jitters, we think.”

N-S Managers: “Well, at the north and south branches—well, uh—we trained people the best we could—we’re not trainers! We finished training a month ago—they should have remembered it! That’s what we pay them for! They’re adults! And as far as motivation, isn’t their paycheck enough? Nobody told us to do anything but train them….”

[You could have heard a pin drop.]

“You know,” said Shilly, who decided this was her defining moment, “I think there’s something important we’ve learned here—in addition to training, effective leadership, motivation, incentives, systems, communication, and processes affect performance. Let’s brainstorm to find ways we can help the north and south branches get back on track, and reward the east and west branches for great performance.”

Conclusion: As It Should Have Been
The flawed roll-out and subsequent complaints about Starr’s re-training were catalysts to conversations, analyses, and solution systems. With an opportunity to do this project again, it would be important for King Rufus to embrace the following important precepts about human performance technology:

  • Focusing on outcomes
  • Taking a systems view
  • Seeking to add value
  • Establishing partnerships
  • Being systematic

In this fable, all the king’s staff partially implemented these principles very late in the game, as part of damage control. The sad part is, the King could have had a successful conversion—with a commitment to analysis for effective performance—instead of looking to training as a silver bullet.

Charlotte Donaldson has spent her entire career involved in all phases of training and performance improvement for adults in the workplace. Formerly with EDS and Bank of America, Charlotte is currently a Learning Manager at Booz Allen Hamilton, Center for Performance Excellence. She completes her master’s in Distance Education from the University of Maryland University College in December 2004. Charlotte may be reached at



Hollywood has the Oscar, television has the Emmy, theatre has the Tony, athletics has the Olympics, and human performance improvement has the ISPI Awards of Excellence! Each year, ISPI recognizes the people, products, innovations, and organizations that represent excellence in our field. Those who receive this honor take their place among the leaders in our field and bask in the glory of international recognition! Renata Schmidt, part of the Carney, Inc. team that received an Outstanding Instructional Product or Intervention Award in 2004, says,

Receiving the Award of Excellence has brought us additional status and recognition in the eyes of current and potential Carney clients. Among awards, this one has a special stature, coming from an international organization known for its rigor in human performance improvement. As such, it serves to validate our professional efforts. It also brought a special—and important—benefit to our client team, who received recognition from throughout their organization.”

Tremendous human performance improvement work goes on inside organizations across the world every day. People like you are making a difference, getting results, and blazing a trail. Lucky for you, the ISPI Award of Excellence program is not like other awards programs. You do not have to wait for others to recognize your genius and nominate you. You can nominate yourself!

Simply download the submission packet from the ISPI website, send it in by October 15, 2004, and you could be on your way to receiving the respect and recognition that is appropriate for “Best in Class” performance! You might be wondering how the ISPI Award of Excellence program selects the best of the best. True to the Society’s roots and principles, awards are bestowed on all who meet the rigorous criteria, rather than pitting one excellent submission against another.

Whether you are part of a corporate human performance team or an independent consultant, receiving an ISPI Award of Excellence can have a great impact. Kendall Ence, CIT of the WellPoint, Inc. team that also won an award for Outstanding Instructional Product or Intervention in 2004, raves:

“Exhilarating! An amazing interaction with the Masters of HPT. The experience has helped place our department high on the company’s ‘performance radar’. This, and many other HPT successes, has other departments within the company beating a path to our door for the services we offer!”

What greater satisfaction is there in the human performance improvement industry than people learning about, appreciating, and seeking out the benefits of our work! ISPI’s Award of Excellence program is one way to shine a spotlight on your efforts. The award recipients of 2004 are passing you the torch. Run with it. Go for ISPI Gold in 2005!



Experian is a global leader
in providing information solutions to organizations and consumers. It helps organizations find, develop, and manage profitable customer relationships by providing information, decision-making solutions, and processing services. It empowers consumers to understand, manage, and protect their personal information and assets. Experian works with more than 40,000 clients across diverse industries, including financial services, telecommunications, health care, insurance, retail and catalog, automotive, manufacturing, leisure, utilities, property, e-commerce, and government. Experian is a subsidiary of GUS plc and has headquarters in Nottingham, UK, and Costa Mesa, Calif. Its 13,000 people support clients in more than 60 countries, and annual sales exceed $2.2 billion.

Under the leadership of Steve Hellman, Vice President of Learning & Organizational Effectiveness, Experian brings together human performance technology (HPT) professionals with expertise of all business units across North America. Experian’s Learning and Organizational Effectiveness department is committed to assisting internal business partners achieve their business priorities through the HPT solutions provided to their organization. Fourteen of Experian’s Learning & Organizational Effectiveness staff have earned their Certified Performance Technologist (CPT) designation.



Cathleen Smith Hutchison, (aka Cathie), died August 17, 2004 after a four and a half year battle with breast cancer. Cathleen received a BA in Art History from the University of Michigan, and a Masters in Instructional Technology from Wayne State University. As a performance technologist, she created training and non-training interventions for employees of Chrysler Auto Company, Botsford Hospital in Detroit, General Motors Corporation, Sandia National Labs, British Airways, and Honeywell Manufacturing Company. She started her own consulting business, Conifer Consulting, while in Colorado, and changed the name to Metamorphosis when she moved to New Mexico. Cathie served on the executive boards of the International Board of Standards for Training, Performance, and Instruction (IBSTPI) and the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI). In addition, she contributed many articles to professional journals (such as “A Whole New World of Interventions: The Performance Technologist as Integrating Generalist”, “Concept Reading: A Process for Re-engineering”, and “Potential Strategies and Tactics for Organizational Performance Improvement” for Performance and Instruction), as well as chapters in numerous books (such as the Competency series produced by IBSTPI, the Handbook of Human Performance Technology edited by H. Stolovitch & E. Keeps, and several Toolkits & Sourcebooks edited by M. Silberman) currently being used in trainer certification programs at major universities and corporations. After moving to New Mexico, Cathie became an award-winning quilter, and had recently started a company called Scene Through the Needle’s Eye. Memorial contributions can be made to Susan B. Koman Breast Cancer Foundation or to the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias.



Ronald E. Zemke, a well-known business writer and consultant, died August 17, 2004 after a long illness. Ron was president of Performance Research Associates, a Minneapolis consulting company he founded in 1972 to conduct organizational effectiveness and productivity improvement studies for business and industry. He was a consultant to many Fortune 500 companies, including Wachovia Bank and Trust, Citibank, and American Express Financial Advisors. He was author or co-author of 38 books, senior editor of Minneapolis-based Training Magazine, and a syndicated columnist with the American City Business journals. Ron’s best-selling 1985 book Service America! Doing Business in the New Economy is widely credited with starting the American customer service revolution. His Knock Your Socks Off Service series of 11 customer service books spread his service gospel to millions of readers. His wit and wisdom—and passion for sharing them—led to a four-decade career as an author and public speaker. He was an astute observer of business trends, and his vivid prose and distinctive style earned him recognition throughout the management world. In 1994, he received the Mobius award from the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals and was named one of America’s “new quality gurus” by Quality Digest Magazine. In 1999, he was given the Thomas F. Gilbert Distinguished Professional Achievement Award by the International Society for Performance Improvement. He graduated from Cornell College in Mount Vernon, IA, in 1960 and completed graduate work at the University of Minnesota. He served on the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Orchestra and was a vice president of the Board of Directors of Theatre de la Jeune Lune. Ron’s diverse interests made him a memorable teacher, colleague, and friend. Memorial donations may be made to the American Cancer Society or Mt. Olivet Lutheran Church West, Victoria, MN.



Thanks to The MASIE Center’s TRENDS readers and e-Learning Consortium Members, more than 1,000 e-Learning tips were received, analyzed, and categorized. From the information, the MASIE Center edited and compiled a book containing 141 pages and 14 chapters of tips covering the ABC’s of getting started to global implementation strategies. To download the entire book (13 megabytes) for FREE, click here. You can print it out, share it with colleagues, or read the PDF file on your computer screen.



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
This second edition of Fundamentals of Performance Technology contains two new appendices that describe the ISPI developed Standards of Performance of Technology and map the content of Fundamentals of Performance Technology and Performance Improvement Interventions to those Standards.

Serious Performance Consulting According to Rummler uses an extensive case study to illustrate what a serious performance consulting engagement looks like, and what a serious performance consultant does. Do you have what it takes to be a SPC?

Training Ain’t Performance is a whimsical, entertaining, and solidly written book that addresses human performance. From beginning to end, readers are guided toward an understanding of human performance improvement and how to use it for real organizational value.

Conferences, Seminars, and Workshops
Add performance and pizzazz to your training. Whether it’s a 45-minute presentation or a week-long workshop, Thiagi can make your training come alive with interactive experiential activities. Nobody does instructional design faster, cheaper, and better than Thiagi.

Darryl L. Sink & Associates, Inc. is offering these workshops for Fall 2004: Designing Instruction for Web-Based Training, Atlanta, September 14-16; The Instructional Developer Workshop, Los Angeles, September 21-23; The Criterion Referenced Testing Workshop, Oak Brook, IL, October 5-6. Visit to register!



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
The International Journal of Coaching in Organizations (IJCO) is a professional journal, published quarterly to provide reflection and critical analysis of coaching in organizations. The journal offers research and experiential learning from experienced practitioners representing various coaching schools and methodologies.

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!



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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