By Brett D. Christensen, MSc, CPT, CTDP, ISPI Board Director, with special guest contributor Marci Paino, CPT

In January 2012, an ISPI work group was assembled to collect a number of HPT glossaries that have been created in the past with the aim of publishing them in the Society’s new online community “ISPI Collaborate“.

Why does ISPI need a glossary?
In mid-2011, some human performance technology (HPT) practitioners were working on an organization’s policy for training, and a debate ensued regarding the difference between needs analysis and front end analysis (FEA). A thorough search of all the books available to the practitioners could not turn up a definition for FEA. Turning to the ISPI network, the practitioners were connected with Joe Harless, who shared his definition from the 1970 book An Ounce of Analysis as follows: “The process of gathering and analyzing data in order to describe desired performance, determining deficiencies in performance, determining the causes of those deficiencies, and selecting cost-effective solutions.” (Harless 1975) If the group had not had the connections to reach out to Harless, the question would have gone unanswered. While this is a testament to how ISPI members are always there for each other, it also underscores the importance of codifying our language and making it accessible to the Society as a whole.

The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (Stumpf and Firser, 2003) in his early works offered “… the limits of my language… are the limits of my mind. All I know is what I have words for.” Words by themselves, however, do not communicate meaning. The aim of the Glossary Work Group was to move the Society toward establishing a baseline of defined terms that will help clearly communicate meaning between each other and those we serve.

A total of nine different glossaries from luminaries in our field including Rummler and Brache, Brethower, Wallace, Harless, Kaufman, and Watkins were collected and compiled into one database. The result was approximately 1,000 performance improvement–related terms and their definitions!

The Glossary Work Group has three goals to achieve for this initiative:

  1. Populate the glossary in ISPI Collaborate with the terms and definitions collected after the team completes a quality assurance check
  2. Communicate the location of the glossary, how to use it, and contribute to it
  3. Develop the long-term strategy for governance and maintaining the glossary, including editorial and research guidelines that will be included on the glossary site

ISPI Collaborate, powered by Higher Logic, includes a glossary that is available from the main page or here. More than a spreadsheet or a database, this glossary allows the community to come together to develop our professional language in a collaborative fashion. The work group has completed the input of the first 1,000 terms. ISPI members can now go into the glossary and discuss the definitions, propose changes, rate the definitions, and even relate terms to other entries. Similar to Wikipedia, users can make revisions, which are tracked by the system, allowing the wisdom of our community to be capitalized.

The glossary was launched as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of THE Performance Improvement Conference in Toronto this year where it was on display in the community center. At the May 2012 ISPI Director’s meeting, a motion was approved to establish a Glossary Task Force that will complete the writing of the governance and add any additional glossaries provided by ISPI members in the short term. It was also moved and approved that when the task force’s work is concluded that a volunteer position will be established for the ongoing maintenance of the glossary, much like the editor of PIJ. If you are interested in volunteering to work with the task force on the next phase, contact Brett or Marci.

Thank You
The co-chairs would like to thank Guy Wallace for setting the stage for such an important initiative by organizing the Glossary Work Group leadership and establishing the initial strategic direction for the team. We would also like to thank the authors who contributed glossaries created in the past, including: Guy, Roger Kaufman, Paul Harmon, Ryan Watkins, Dale Brethower, Joe Harless, Geary Rummler, Eileen Banchoff. Finally, we would like to thank the Glossary Work Group members: Jeanne Strayer, Eileen Banchoff, Scott Rooke, Pam Holtz, Jim Marken, Kim Bahr, and Ria Roy who, together, took on the lion’s share of the quality assurance role and moving the terms from our working document into ISPI Collaborate. Thank you!

Stumpf, S.E., and Firser, J. 2003. Philosophy history and problems. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Harless, J.H. (1975). An ounce of analysis (is worth a pound of objectives). Newnan, GA: Harless Performance Guild.