By Roger Chevalier, PhD, CPT

Definition of Insanity: Doing the same things we did yesterday expecting a different result.

It has been three and a half years since I gave the Closing Session for THE Performance Improvement Conference 2008 when I called for a new vision that would bring our performance improvement message to managers and supervisors. ISPI has unfortunately remained, for the most part, a Society of internal and external consultants teaching other internal and external consultants. While other professional organizations have grown, we have contracted primarily because we have defined our target audience too narrowly.

While many see this as commendable, preferring to be the big fish in a small, self-defined pond, other professional organizations have usurped our performance improvement message and are doing a better job of bringing it to the masses. While we may survive, we will not grow unless we take a more aggressive stand in bringing our message to management. The true power of performance improvement is not in doing the work for managers and supervisors but in teaching them how to do it themselves.

Every day, line managers come to work and look at a present level of performance and compare it to a desired level of performance or goal. Unfortunately, they immediately focus on solutions rather than take time to identify underlying causes. Imagine an organization where every level of the chain of command knew and used the performance improvement techniques we have developed.

One of the greatest barriers in bringing our message to managers is the phrase, human performance technology. Managers do not speak in these terms and it is not our job to teach them what we mean. Instead they use the phrase, performance improvement, which is our brand. It is the name of our Society; it is the name of our annual conference; and it is the name of our two journals. Further, we say that we focus on results. Human performance technology is the means; performance improvement is the result.

So here we are, three and half years later, and little has changed. If you go to the “About ISPI” page of the website, you are still greeted with the following:

What Is HPT?
Human Performance Technology (HPT), a systematic approach to improving productivity and competence, uses a set of methods and procedures–and a strategy for solving problems–for realizing opportunities related to the performance of people. More specific, it is a process of selection, analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation of programs to most cost-effectively influence human behavior and accomplishment. It is a systematic combination of three fundamental processes: performance analysis, cause analysis, and intervention selection, and can be applied to individuals, small groups, and large organizations.

How Does HPT Work?
Human performance technology is a set of methods and procedures, and a strategy for solving problems, for realizing opportunities related to the performance of people. It can be applied to individuals, small groups, and large organizations. It is, in reality, a systematic combination of three fundamental processes: performance analysis, cause analysis, and intervention selection.

HPT uses a wide range of interventions that are drawn from many other disciplines including, behavioral psychology, instructional systems design, organizational development, and human resources management. As such, it stresses a rigorous analysis of present and desired levels of performance, identifies the causes for the performance gap, offers a wide range of interventions with which to improve performance, guides the change management process, and evaluates the results. Taken one word at a time, a description of this performance improvement strategy emerges.

  • Human: the individuals and groups that make up our organizations
  • Performance: activities and measurable outcomes
  • Technology: a systematic and systemic approach to solve practical problems

And if you go to the “Mission, Vision and Goals” page, it doesn’t get any better:

Vision, Mission & Goals

  • Vision: ISPI’s vision is that members have the proficiency and insight to customize Human Performance Technology to meet the needs and goals of their organizations and clients, so that the members are recognized as valued assets.
  • Mission: ISPI’s mission is to develop and recognize the proficiency of its members and advocate the use of Human Performance Technology.

And our certification of performance improvement professionals remains Certified Performance Technologists even though most CPTs see themselves as generalists rather than technologists.

Is it finally time for our Society to embrace our own brand and remove the greatest barrier to marketing our ideas, models, and tools to management? Is it time we broaden our scope to focus on those who are actually responsible for improving workplace performance?

About the Author
Roger Chevalier, CPT, PhD, is the author of the 2008 ISPI Award of Excellence recipient, A Manager’s Guide to Improving Workplace Performance (AMACOM Books, 2007). He is an independent consultant who specializes in imbedding training into comprehensive performance improvement solutions. Roger has personally trained more than 30,000 managers, supervisors, and salespeople in performance improvement, leadership, coaching, change management, and sales programs in hundreds of workshops. He may be reached at Roger@aboutiwp.com. You may visit his website at www.aboutiwp.com.