Performance improvement is a venture that consists of two components; an activity and result. The distinction of the components associated with such efforts is important because improving the activity does not necessarily mean that the results will also be improved (Pershing, 2006). One example that illustrates this point is the relationship between health and exercise. Individuals who desire to improve their health (the result) frequently increase the amount or quality of exercise that they engage in (the activity). Increasing the amount or quality of exercise that one engages in does not necessarily mean that an individual’s health will also improve. There are other factors, like diet and rest, which also impact health. It is, therefore, possible for an individual to improve their exercise activities and not realize corresponding improvements in health.
Organizations typically commission performance improvement undertakings so that positive changes in attitudes, beliefs, values, and organizational structures can be accomplished (Pershing, 2006). One approach that can be utilized to improve performance by examining the entire system is human performance technology (HPT). HPT can be leveraged to bring about positive changes in attitudes, beliefs, values, and organizational structures, while also addressing the complexities of integrated systems is human performance technology (Van Tiem, Moseley, & Dessinger, 2012).
What is HPT?
HPT is accepted as a discipline that focuses on enhancing performance outcomes at the team, individual and organizational level (Roy & Pershing, 2012). Its definition has changed several times over last 30 years; Roy and Pershing (2012) credit Gilbert with for creating the inaugural description as a function of the ratio of value and accomplishments that were bestowed on the field. The current accepted definition comes from the international society for performance improvement (ISPI) which describes it as a systematic approach to improving productivity and competence by utilizing a combination of processes, techniques and problem solving strategies to realize opportunities related to people. Pershing (2006) refers to it as the study and ethical practice of improving productivity in organizations by designing and developing effective interactions that are results-oriented, comprehensive, and systematic.
Definitions notwithstanding, HPT is accepted as an approach that assists behavior technologists in closing the distance between what performance is, and what the performance should be (Farrington, 2012). Gilbert (2007) makes the case that the primary goal of HPT is to engineer human competence, so that the performance of organizations and the people who compose them will improve. Practitioners of the methodology accomplish this by combining ideas and theories from numerous disciplines like human resources, psychology, quality control, instructional design, and change management into a comprehensive approach to solving critical business issues (Casey, 2007).
There are numerous approaches to HPT in existence today (Bobbert, Robinson, & Martin, 2012). Multiple studies have put the number of HPT models in existence at more than 46 (Bernardez, 2011). These approaches can, however, be categorized in general terms into one of three major models; diagnostic, process, or holistic.
Diagnostic models for performance improvement help performance technologists to identify where in the organization HPT can be applied (Wilmoth, Prigmore, & Bray, 2002). They have their genesis in the efforts of Gilbert, Harless, Mager, and Rummler. These scientist produced the work that formed the basis of performance evaluation and HBT framework presupposition (Wilmoth, Prigmore, & Bray, 2002). Diagnostic HPT models are beneficial and useful when the nature of the performance problem requires that the consultant simply identify where the the problem exists (Wilmoth, Prigmore, & Bray, 2002).
The Process Models
Process models of HPT address how to improve performance (Wilmoth, Prigmore, & Bray, 2002). They are typically identifiable because of five characteristics: (a) they tend to be linear and sequential, (b) they utilize a phased or group approach to activities, (c) gap analysis are typically the drivers of these models, (d) they are intervention oriented, and (e) a feedback mechanism is typically included (Watkins & Leigh, 2009). While it is not necessary for each of these traits to be present in order for an approach to be classified as a process model, they all have some of these traits in common (Watkins & Leigh, 2009). Process models of HPT are an improvement on the diagnostic models because they allow practitioners to move beyond where to look for a performance problem, and allow them to focus on how to solve the problem (Watkins & Leigh, 2009). These models are best suited when conditions require a the analyst to determine how to solve a performance problem (Watkins & Leigh, 2009). The challenge with process HPT models is that the linear approach and constant feedback mechanisms can create a problem in the business environment that exists today. Werner (2002) as an example, points out that the need for performance technology approaches to mirror evolve in a way that supports the businesses that the function serves.
The Holistic Models
Unlike the process HPT models, holistic approaches are nonlinear, and made up of domains that while separate can be fused to create an ideal operational environment (Wilmoth, Prigmore, and Bray, 2002). Holistic HPT models embrace the interconnectivity of the people, the processes, and the organization (Watkins & Leigh, 2009). A good example of a holistic HPT model is Advancia Consulting three-dimensional HPT model that is depicted by three interlocking circles that are symbolic of the base activities of the model; one for people, the second for processes, and a third representing the organization. Outside of these circles are the systems that support each of these systems including training systems, solution delivery, and business process analysis (Watkins & Leigh, 2009).
A positive attribute of holistic techniques is that that provide maximum flexibility and options for performance technicians. One drawback is that these techniques are more complicated to apply and, as a result, require a greater level of skill by the technician Tiem, Moseley & Dessinger, 2012).
All HPT models regardless of their categorization, focus on the performance gaps that exist in organizations or units (Kyle-Needs & Lindbeck, 2011). It is important, however, that technicians choose the appropriate HPT model to address the problem that they are attempting to solve. Watkins (2007) highlights the importance of selecting, designing, and developing the reliant on selecting, designing, and developing the proper performance technology. Bernardez, (2009) suggests that choosing the wrong methodology can cause problems and lead to uncoordinated and conflicting solutions.
Performance improvement is a venture that consists of two components; an activity and a result. The distinction of the components associated with such efforts is important because improving the activity does not necessarily mean that the results will also be improved (Pershing, 2006). Organizations typically commission performance improvement undertakings so that positive changes in attitudes, beliefs, values, and organizational structures can be accomplished (Pershing, 2006). One approach that can be utilized to improve performance by examining the entire system is human performance technology (HPT). HPT is accepted as a discipline that focuses on enhancing performance outcomes at the team, individual and organizational level (Roy & Pershing, 2012).
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