Lynn Kearny, CPT, has headed a performance consulting firm in Oakland, California, for over 30 years. She has wide experience assessing organizational needs and designing and developing performance improvement interventions. She also partners with clients to plan and graphically facilitate meetings and think tanks. She specializes in graphics to communicate complex and abstract ideas in a clear, memorable way. She has worked in North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Clients include financial, manufacturing, retail, high tech, governmental, and nonprofit organizations. She has received numerous honors and awards from ISPI, including the Outstanding Instructional Product and Outstanding Communications awards. Lynn served on ISPI’s international board of directors and past faculty for both of ISPI’s HPT Institutes. She has contributed chapters and articles and published five books, all related to performance improvement.

How long have you been a member of ISPI and what chapter are you a part of?
I’ve been a member since 1981. I have been a member of the Bay Area and the Chicago Chapters, but am not currently affiliated with one.

What was your first performance improvement related job?
As a Peace Corps volunteer in Sierra Leone, West Africa, from 1967-1971.

Which college(s) did you attend and which program(s)?
I didn’t. I never applied to go to college; didn’t think it offered value for the time and money. I did get a certificate in Training and Development from UCLA Extension when I was a corporate employee and it looked prudent to have.

What company are you currently associated with and what is your title?
Lynn Kearny and Associates;

What is on your performance improvement bookshelf?
Lordy! What isn’t? It is too long a list to provide here. An unusual book from the collection: A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction, (1977, by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Sliverstein, et al.; Oxford University Press). I have used it, among other things, to design a successful conference and meeting layout.

List one hobby or passion.
Pastel landscape painting.

How did you get into the performance improvement field?
I am there by instinct. As a Peace Corps volunteer in 1967, I offered to teach adult literacy. A chiefdom village 5 miles away responded. When I bicycled down there, I was met by 5 workers from the local agricultural station and 12 farmers. I asked the farmers what they wanted to learn. They wanted to be able to sign their own names; they were ashamed of having to sign with a thumbprint and an X. We went immediately to name signing and practice, skipping the alphabet. After all, if your name is Foday Lahai, how many letters do you need? After two classes, they were all signing their names fluently, so the farmers left and the five who wanted to learn how to read agricultural pamphlets and ingredients on packages stayed on. We started with the alphabet.

What is your favorite performance improvement–related project and why?
That was one of them. A great moment was when the agricultural officer stopped by our house on the way home from the station for a cold beer. As he took the first swallow he said, “You know, I’ve been paying off the lads at Kpuabu Station for 5 years now, and they always signed with a thumbprint and an X. Today, every one of those buggers signed his own name!” Another great moment was when one of the agricultural workers came to see me during the first Saturday market after the rainy season (the roads are impassible mud during the rains). He said in a Krio dialect, “I come for greet you, Ma. I want for tell you dem been promote me.” He was now able to read weekly work orders, and prepare fertilizers and sprays by reading the instructions on packages. He had been promoted to foreman of the station.
This is the kind of evaluation that matters to me.

How would you explain human performance technology (HPT) to someone unfamiliar with the term or concept?
“HPT is just common sense applied to organizations. For example, what’s a problem that your organization has to solve over and over? Tell me about it.” It mostly consists of questions, which the other person answers.

Is there any advice you would give to a student or recently graduated student?
Learn about any organization you work with from a business standpoint. You don’t need an MBA, but do learn how the organization’s decision makers think. A useful tool for this is the book Organizational Intelligence: A Guide to Understanding the Business of Your Organization (2010, by Ken Silber and Lynn Kearny; Wiley & Sons). It’s full of job aids, practical examples, and illustrations. Another good one is Financial Intelligence: A Manager’s Guide to Knowing What the Numbers Really Mean (2006, by Karen Berman and Joe Knight; Harvard Business School Press). It tells you both the sources and the limitations of the numbers. Both are highly readable.