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

As the world moves into the rhythm of a New Year, here at TrendSpotters Central we continue to revisit established models and tools that practitioners have relied on over time to learn how their originators have adapted them to the changing workplace. Accordingly, we welcome back Roger Chevalier, CPT, PhD (, an independent consultant who specializes in imbedding training into comprehensive performance improvement solutions. He is the author of A Manager’s Guide to Improving Workplace Performance and numerous articles for ISPI publications. Roger contributes his Updated Behavioral Engineering Model to the TrendSpotters Open Toolkit (TOT).

Genesis of the Updated Behavioral Engineering Model
Most performance improvement professionals have probably made the acquaintance of Tom Gilbert’s Behavioral Engineering Model (BEM) in one of its many forms. A few years ago, based on his experience using the model and from teaching participants to use it in ISPI’s Principles and Practices Institute, Roger revised the BEM to make it easier to understand and work with in today’s workplace.

Roger’s revision keeps the original six cells and their intent intact but updates the language to make the model more accessible to practitioners today. The cells have clearer labels, and the descriptions within each cell are easier to interpret. Roger credits the Principle & Practice students for many of the changes that he introduced. He tells us that he shared his revised version of the BEM with Tom’s wife, Marilyn, who supported the changes.

The Updated BEM Today
Like the original model, Roger’s Updated BEM is a useful tool for identifying the probable causes of performance problems and opportunities. By looking at both the Environment and the Individual/Work Team, the Updated BEM helps users narrow the focus of their investigation and determine where to dig deeper for information. We investigate the Environment first, across the top level of cells, because struggling people or teams are often up against organizational barriers that impede their ability to work to performance standards.

How to Use the Updated BEM
To use the Updated BEM, begin in the upper Environment section with the Information cell. Turn each of the three statements there into questions about the individuals or work group you are investigating. As you gather information and answer each question, you will begin to create a snapshot of possible causes for the performance issue you are analyzing. Continue to work clockwise, through the model, asking questions and collecting answers. You may find it helpful to further refine the language of the Updated BEM to reflect the terminology used in your client organization or in its particular industry.

For a detailed picture of the causes of the performance issue, Roger recommends that users combine the Updated BEM with the force field analysis approach used in the Cause Analysis Worksheet or the more comprehensive Performance Analysis Worksheet.

Success Story
The Institute for Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) has adapted the Updated BEM as a tool they use to identify the causes of performance issues within their organization. They edited the language to reflect terminology specific to the nuclear power industry. INPO published the customized Updated BEM and recommended its use for performance improvement projects. See their version of the model and learn more about the details, here.

Advice to Users
Introduce the Updated BEM to clients and show them how this generic version can help them identify the causes of performance issues. When they understand how the model works, invite them to customize it for their organization or industry with terms that are meaningful to them.

Roger reminds us that the Updated BEM provides a comprehensive view of performance and is most effective at the Worker/Team level or at the Work/Process level. It will not scale effectively for performance issues at the Workplace/Organization level.

Links to the Performance Technology Landscape
The Updated BEM includes these principles of performance technology:

R Focus on Results: Identifies the causes of performance issues that then point to further analysis and ultimately solutions that produce improved results
S Take a System view: Guides the user through an analysis of individual or team performance in the context of the work environment
V Add Value: Narrows the focus of a performance improvement analysis to quickly pinpoint the most likely causes
P Establish Partnerships: Encourages open discussions between practitioner and supervisor to address performance issues

Application Exercise
Begin with the Updated BEM. Choose either your own or a client’s organization and consider how you can customize the model’s language to more accurately reflect terminology used in the organization or applicable industry. Then use your customized Updated BEM for your next performance improvement project. Let us know how it works for you.

ISPI in Five Years?
In this 50th anniversary year, Roger reflects on the larger purpose of ISPI. He says we must move from being an organization that favors consultants and academics to one that truly engages managers and supervisors. He believes this shift is necessary for ISPI’s growth and probably its survival. For more on Roger’s thinking, please see his recent article, “A New Performance Vision for ISPI”.

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Contact Roger Addison at