By Michael Noble, PhD & Michael Hassett, PhD, 2011 Conference Presenters

Woman with Magnifying Glass PhotoRemember the 1970 song by Stephen Stills? “And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with.” Folksy wisdom? The refrain may or may not be useful when it comes to love, but we think it may be very useful when it comes to work, particularly the type of performance initiatives on which most of us spend our time. Loving our work often means making a few concessions. Ever been asked to recommend solutions or approaches without the time, access, or information you really need? Of course you have. We think that being able to love our work in spite of such circumstances (or maybe even because we love a challenge) comes from knowing how to take what we want to do or what we would do in an ideal situation, and then scale it to the particular constraints of our context.

Marketing professionals have long relied on Albert Humphrey’s SWOT analysis when time and cost prohibit a more in-depth evaluation. The model has gained so much traction because it is so very practical–it meets a utility criterion. As experts in performance improvement, we must be nimble enough to scale our approaches, particularly our approaches to upfront analysis, without forgoing a systematic process to align solutions to desired results. For the past several years, we have been working with several large organizations to develop a rapid performance and needs analysis tool, called an ANSWER Analysis, for identifying and discussing needs-related data before beginning a large initiative. This model prompts the facilitator to gather data related to the audience (A), individual and business needs (N), previous successes (S), known weaknesses (W), existing expertise (E), and expected results (R). Using all or part of this analysis tool can increase our ability to add value to our organizations and to develop solutions suited to the needs and opportunities within their unique environments. In this way, we build credibility for our roles as internal performance consultants and help stakeholders understand exactly how performance improvement fits within the larger business objectives of the organization.

In our upcoming session at the ISPI conference, “Rapid Analysis? Get the ANSWER,” we will look at case studies of the utility of this methodology at several large organizations–including a direct-selling organization, a food manufacturer, and an automobile manufacturer. Additionally, we will survey the literature that underlies and supports our field testing of the approach. Rather than pining for the ideal project and the ideal process that may never come along, we all need to learn resourceful strategies for scaling and enriching our approach. Love the one you’re with, honey.

Michael and Michael are two of the 100+ presenters sharing their knowledge and expertise at THE Performance Improvement Conference 2011, April 10-13, in Orlando, Florida. If you would like to learn more, you may attend their 60-minute presentation, “Rapid Analysis? Get the ANSWER.”

About the Authors

Michael Noble Bio PhotoMichael Noble, PhD, became Allen’s CLO in 2005. Michael consults with major accounts and strategic partners–identifying enterprise-wide targets and objectives, conducting various types of analyses, and recommending new technologies. He has presented at conferences for ISPI, ASTD, and the eLearning Guild. He currently teaches at the University of Utah. He may be contacted at

Michael Hassett Bio PhotoMichael Hassett, PhD, brought 20 years of experience in education, technical communication, and project management with him when he joined Allen in 2006. He received his PhD in Rhetoric and Professional Communication from Iowa State and has been a professor at two major western universities. With Charles Kostelnick, he published Shaping Information: The Rhetoric of Visual Conventions (2003). He may be contacted at