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The Performance Improvement Mindset

Someone told me once that her training department was “doing” human performance technology (HPT—now often called performance improvement) because they sometimes included job aids with their training.

Pausing here for you to say, “No, that’s not it.”

07-10 Through a Window Dimly

Finding a Way to Look at the Whole System

Becoming a performance consultant does not happen overnight. Reading a great book about it or attending a conference where old-timers talk about remarkable projects they’ve done—not sufficient.

Avoid the Same Old Thing. However, with some effort, a person can develop an approach that differs from, “Oh, X is not going well, so let’s provide training (team building, change management, organization development, new compensation plans, or a similar specialty designed to make things better).”

So, what would it mean to have a different approach for new opportunities or challenges? To have a performance improvement mindset?

Getting Started. The simplest form for starting down that road would be to table our inclinations to jump toward a specific solution. Instead we would take a breath and look for more information instead.

Here’s the basic formula for that different approach in question form:

  • Where do we want to be? (Over There)
  • What’s happening instead? (Here, Now)
  • What’s the difference? (Define the gap.)
  • If we fixed this gap, what would we accept as evidence that we were successful?
  • What barriers are in our way? (What’s keeping us from traveling from Point A to Point B?) [This is the root cause question, answered by looking at the system and figuring out what’s not working or where we have to grow.]
  • What must we do to remove these barriers? [Only now do we decide on solutions.]

Answering any of these questions can be challenging. For the performance consultant, there’s a fair amount of composed expertise supporting the ability to follow this approach.

Still, it’s worth thinking about opportunities and challenges in this way, even if, looking at these questions in light of a particular situation persuades you to stop and ask for help.

It’s much better to take a little time to find the right solution.
Otherwise, we may throw a familiar fix at a situation
And we may find out, many days and dollars later,
That it wasn’t the answer to a challenge
That we still haven’t properly identified.

For training professionals, or for anybody with specialized expertise in a particular area, developing this mindset can be elusive. But it’s worth it.

Starting with a data-driven, solution-agnostic approach can save us from going down the wrong road and push us toward making things better as we consciously travel to where we want to go.


Article | A Rose by This or Any Other Name (pdf)

Book | From Training to Performance Improvement: Navigating the Transition

Organization | International Society for Performance Improvement

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