By James Morrison, CPT

Designation as a Certified Performance Technologist (CPT) has been one of most worthwhile things that I have ever done.

As a U.S. Coast Guard officer, I was continuously involved in training. Shipboard emergency drills and exercises had to be developed, scheduled, observed, and critiqued. Crews had to work constantly on their shipboard qualifications and professional development. Junior officers had to be coached and mentored, not only in the hard skills of navigation and engineering but also in the soft skills of leadership and ship handling. Later, I led small training teams that, over a period of two years, accomplished the “hot” transfers of decommissioned USCG ships to 14 developing nations. Although I got pretty good at it, I now consider myself a reformed trainer.

I learned of the Coast Guard’s commitment to continuous improvement when I was assigned as project officer for the Buoy Tender System Study. The study was a human performance technology (HPT) based analysis of the staffing, training, and operational safety of a new fleet of high-tech aids to navigation ships. With the help of fellow officers Chris Calhoun and Russ Davidson, I quickly learned about HPT and its contribution to the effectiveness and efficiency of our service. To be a performance technologist, you have to be skilled in instructional system design and the application of the ADDIE (analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation) model, but apply traditional training only when required. Traditional classroom training in brick-and-mortar settings is very expensive and often not that effective. By regulation, a USCG program should not spend a dime on training until a full analysis of alternative performance improvement solutions has been accomplished and all the alternatives are explored.

Getting involved in HPT via this project, I met and worked with some of the finest officers I have ever known. Guys like Dave Hartt, Tim Quiram, Mark Ruckstuhl, Jay Allen, Erin Brogan, and Don Triner. Most of these sailors had taken advantage of the service’s master’s degree programs in instructional design (really human performance) at San Diego State University and Florida State University. The USCG Acquisitions Branch and Performance Technology Center, focused on performance improvement, offered up experts like Glenda Feldt and Bill Yeager.

Getting involved in ISPI, I met some of the smartest and finest people I have ever known. People like Carol Panza, Jim Hill, Andrea Moore, Lila Sparks-Daniels, Bill Daniels, Judy Hale, Allison Rossett, Ed Schneider, Bob Carlton, Gene Drumm, Jeff Parks, and The Three Fantastic Rogers (Addison, Chevalier, and Kaufman). At ISPI conferences, I had the opportunity to learn from Jim Hill, Klaus Wittkuhn, Geary Rummler, Mari Novak, Stephen Kelly, Thiagi, Carol Panza, and Roger Kaufman. At some stage, each and every one of these folks has dropped everything to provide a little guidance or to answer a dumb question.

Getting involved in ISPI Europe, I met the fantastic Europeans: Camille Ferond, Chris Voelkl, Elke Koll, Christine Marsh, Arnoud Vermei, and about a dozen others. Their multicultural approaches and insights are priceless.

Somewhere during this saga of enlightenment, I decided to apply for certification. When all those that you admire have it, don’t you want it too? The CPT designation indicates that you understand training but know that it has its place in a spectrum of potential human performance solutions. If there is such a thing as “guilt by association,” then Hill, Triner, Panza, Schneider, Drumm, Feldt, and Kaufman are all repeat offenders in this saga.

After retirement, when I got the opportunity to meet and collaborate with CPTs Dick Cole and Tony Muschara, my CPT designation set the stage for a common understanding of goals and principles.

I think that ISPI can do a better job of marketing the organization and the CPT designation. Not many potential clients or employers are familiar with either ISPI or the CPT certification. This, however, can be an opportunity to explain the reformed trainer aspect of my professional journey, the principles behind performance improvement, and the potential that the principles and practices have to improve their organizational situation.

In short, the CPT designation has been a valuable professional achievement, but the real value is in the camaraderie, friendship, and professional growth I have experienced with ISPI in general and with the other CPTs in particular.

About the Author
James Morrison, CPT, is an internationally respected practitioner of HPT and accomplishment-based instructional design. He is a results-oriented professional with proven training, performance consulting, operations, acquisition, and program management expertise across increasingly complex projects.