Steven Kelly, CPT, involved in performance improvement efforts for 35 years, has applied his craft in both commercial and government arenas (military, national, regional and state, municipal levels). Illustrative clients include Accenture, World Bank, GM/Opel, KPMG, Shell, McDonalds, USAID, Kimberly-Clark, Citibank, and the European Union. Since relocating his operational focus to Central Europe in 1990, he has applied human performance technology (HPT) methods to projects in 27 countries as diverse as Kazakhstan, Palestine, Nicaragua, Albania, Cyprus, and Nepal. He has traveled to over 90 countries in both professional and personal pursuits. Steven first joined the Society during the early years of program instruction focus. Steven was a Board member of ISPI Europe (Treasurer) 2004-2008, and chaired the 2006 European conference in Prague. He has presented at numerous professional conferences over the years and has co-authored articles in the Performance Improvement journal, regional economic magazines, and newspapers. Steven is the founding partner of KNO Worldwide, with offices in Prague and Bratislava. His academic credentials include an AA in Business, a BS in Political Science, an MA in Management/Human Relations, and completed coursework for a PhD in International Relations. He has been a CPT since 2003.
How long have you been a member of ISPI and what chapter are you a part of?
I first joined ISPI (or perhaps it was NSPI) in the mid-1980s. I was primarily a consumer of the publications and reader of books. During the 1990s, after I relocated to then Czechoslovakia to support the reform from communism, I was absent for some years. My partner, Mari Novak, and I then rejoined again just before the turn of the century. I have been most active in the Europe Chapter (which is more of a network) and KNO hosted the 2006 conference in Prague. I have served on the ISPI Board as an international director from 2008-2010, and more recently as an at-large director since April 2011.
What was your first performance improvement–related job?
Coming out of university off a four-year ROTC scholarship, I spent some years in the military as an officer. During my first year, at age 22, my major focus was on training infantry and armor units in electronic warfare defense measures. Just after the end of Vietnam, this training mostly took place in field locations and included unit evaluations in simulated combat conditions.
Which college(s) did you attend and which program(s)?
I graduated with a BS in Political Science from the University of Houston in 1975, received an MA in Management/Counseling from Pacific Lutheran University in 1978, added an AA in Business from Ft. Steilacoom College in 1980. From 1988-1990, I completed all my coursework for a PhD in International Relations from University of Nevada, however my plans to finish my dissertation in Czechoslovakia were interrupted by reorganizations of the university. Currently, I am again a candidate for a PhD in Business Management with Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia.
What company are you currently associated with and what is your title?
I founded my firm KNO Worldwide upon leaving the military in 1979, and relocated the HQ to Prague in 1991, later to Bratislava in 2007. The website is www.kno.cz/EN and http://www.kno-notes-from-the-field.com/.
What is on your performance improvement bookshelf?
Looking up on the bookshelf above my desk here in Glandore, Ireland (where I recently moved), I note about 20 volumes–the HPT Handbook, Performance Consulting, First Things Fast, Return on Investment, and Serious Performance Consulting, to name a few.
List one hobby or passion.
I really enjoy commodity investing, and the occasional motorcycle ride in the Irish countryside.
How did you get into the performance improvement field?
I feel I’ve always been in it. But, more formally from my military experience, and later six years working in the nuclear plant construction sector.
What is your favorite performance improvement–related project and why?
Usually it is the one I am working on now. I love the challenge of an evidence-based assessment process such as one I am currently leading with the Ministry of Economy in Kyrgyzstan.
Why did you choose to become a member of ISPI? What do you think sets ISPI apart from other organizations?
I personally think that ISPI is a group that people join as they mature and find that all the popular one-off solutions (training, technical advisory, automation, etc.) do not work alone. Usually it seems to take about 15-20 years out in a solution provider environment before the frustration grows enough to look for systematic and total results focus. Of course, young professionals can discover this early with good coaching and academic programs … but, I did not have this in my career path.
How would you explain human performance technology (HPT) to someone unfamiliar with the term or concept?
I always tell people I work together with them to improve their (and their team’s) ability to achieve their goals.
Is there any advice you would give to a student or recently graduated student?