Where is the Performance Issue?

An old shipmate of mine shared this video on Facebook due to the “wow factor.” So after I watched it – my first thought was “boy are those two in troouubblle!” Then I caught myself. That’s my OLD thinking. Take 90 seconds and watch the video (just click the image) and then lets consider a different way of viewing the issue!


The firefighters were fortunate that the car didn’t go through the guardrail or hit something else (car, house, person) and create even more damage!

As I alluded to above, the old Navy Chief and Father in me immediately thought “what were they thinking? Why didn’t they secure the scene first??” It’s hard to re-wire your brain to approach everything in a systematic fashion, but I keep trying!

When I am being analytical (vice emotional) I generally start with Chevalier’s (2003) Updated Behavior Engineering Model in Table 1 below to consider a problem.

Without having access to the performers or their organization it is still reasonable to look at the model below and consider environmental and individual factors to start looking at. This analysis often leads to other interesting things!

As noted in Expectations of the Workforce… 75-80 percent of the factors that influence performance are environmentally rather than individually based. So that is where we start and after watching the video I wondered what the National Fire Protection Association standards say about this type of situation. Given the extensive list of NFPA standards, I think I would need some help from a subject matter expert to narrow it down! That covers the Environment: Information column.

If there is a standard, next up is to check and see if it has been translated into the fire department’s procedures and there are directions to the firefighters to secure a burning vehicle before putting out the fire. Let’s assume that so far we are all good and the standards and procedures are in place.


Table 1: The Updated BEM (Chevalier, 2003). Reprinted with Permission

Now I would be asking to see the truck and have one of the firefighters show me where the equipment is that could be used to secure that car. There should be a few different options. Two that spring to mind are steel chocks or a steel cable with a “come-along” that could be attached to the truck and the car. Maybe attaching a burning car to a fire truck is bad juju… I’m not sure – but the experts would be quick to tell me if I am thinking crazy!

That takes care of the Environment: Resources column. If we are still ticking the YES Box at this point and have discovered nothing else in the workers environment, it is time to start looking at the firefighters.

The first place to look is at the training program. If the training program has the required procedure included, then we want to see if the firefighters on scene actually received that training. That is the Individual: Knowledge/Skills column. Really – this is still an organizational factor as it is up to the organization to provide the training and assign qualified people to work in certain positions. If this is all still correct – it might be time for someone to put the “Chief” hat on and kick some heiny!

Okay – not really. It has also been proven that generally – heiny kicking isn’t helpful. At this point we need to look at the capacity and motives of the individuals involved.

It is more than likely (75-80% chance?) that there is an information or resource issue at the root of this video. Rectifying that would probably lead to some changes to standards, policies, procedures, equipment fit on the trucks and maybe even some training.

Learning Organizations have a process for capturing these types of scenarios so that they don’t happen again… sounds like a great topic for down the road!


Chevalier, R. (2003). Updating the behavior engineering model. Performance Improvement, 42(5). Silver Spring, MD: International Society for Performance Improvement.


Learning Anytime Anywhere

ADHDA while back I said that my next musings would be around Dr. Tom Gilbert and the Behaviour Engineering Model (B.E.M). but I keep running into other things that catch my attention! I will  tie the BEM into the story at the end.

Last weekend we hosted a friend of my daughter’s who recently arrived at CFB Kingston to start his training as an Intelligence Operator (INT OP) in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). One of my first two projects as a Training Development Officer (TDO) was to convert the first forty hours of training for this course from Face-to-Face (F2F) to self-directed online learning. That was ten years ago… wow time flies!

2006 was “the year of the social network” (R. Macnus, 2006). Phones were getting smarter and the 3G network was here! Important to the CAF was the increased stability of its Learning Management System (LMS) “DNDLearn” which at the time was provided by Desire2Learn or D2L. Since then, the CAF has moved onto SABA and D2L created Brightspace. My point here is that with respect to Distance Learning (DL), the CAF was really at the beginning of a major shift when I was assigned the project.

When I took over the DL project, the school had already thought through a lot of the logistics and access issues. There was real (valid) concern that the learners might not have a computer, reliable Internet access or the support of their supervisors to commit the time required to complete the DL portion of the training. To address these issues, laptops, headsets and hard shipping cases were purchased to send to each student so everyone started at the same level with respect to technology. An instructor was available every day to support the learners. Learning contracts were developed that the instructor, the learner and the learner’s supervisor at the “home unit” had to sign.

This learning contract is really key to the story. The CAF is – understanding its culture – pretty particular about where it’s people are and what they are doing. The more junior you are, the more this applies! The staff at CFSMI were not about to let these new INT OPs run willy nilly all over the country unsupervised while they did this training! The instructional staff and I had some passionate debates about learner centricity and giving the learner responsibility. A tall order for an organization that is so control oriented.

Fast forward to last weekend. Matt and I were talking about his upcoming training and given my history with the initial attempt, I was naturally curious about what had changed! I wasn’t disappointed. The DL curriculum has expanded from 40 to 72 hours (9 training days) which is a pretty solid demonstration of success, but the change that really got me was that Matt has already headed back to Victoria while he completes his DL phase of training. The Chief Instructor’s directions were (in Matt’s words) “I don’t care where you do it, as long as you get it done on time and you don’t get hurt.” Quite a different contract from 2006.

Of course, logistics and access have changed quite a bit in the past ten years and the Defence Learning Network (DLN) has matured. More importantly, connectivity is not the issue it was and we are almost all connected. Internet access by individuals jumped from 67.9% in 2005 to 80.3% in 2009 (Statistics Canada, 2010). I couldn’t find more recent stats, but I think it is safe to say that access has surpassed 2009 levels and mobile technology keeps getting better.

So how does this story about learning relate to workplace performance? As  noted in Expectations of the Workforce, there is a consensus amongst  research and experts in the field of performance improvement that around 75-80 percent of the factors that influence performance are environmentally rather than individually based. The top row of Chevalier’s Improved Behaviour Engineering Model in Table 1 below helps focus the analyst’s attention here first.



Table 1: Updated BEM (Chevalier, 2003). Reprinted with permission.

The expectations “I don’t care where you do it, as long as you get it done on time and you don’t get hurt” are pretty clear! The maturity of the DNDLearn system ensures that guides, materials and tools are in place and support performance. The biggest change to me in this environment is the level of trust displayed by the leadership in allowing young Matt to really learn anywhere anytime, within the allotted timeframe of course. A truly incentivized environment!

My hat is off to the School of Military Intelligence and I trust Matt is enjoying being at home with friends and family while taking this first step in his journey to becoming an Intelligence Operator.


Macnus, R. (2006). 2006 Web Technology Trends. readwrite. Retrieved from http://readwrite.com/2006/12/11/2006_web_technology_trends, 09 Mar 2016.

Statistics Canada (2010). Internet use by individuals, by location of access, by province. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/comm36a-eng.htm 09 Mar 2016.

Chevalier, R. (2003). Updating the Behavior Engineering Model, Performance Improvement, 42(4), 8-13. Retrieved from www.aboutiwp.com

Expectations of the Workforce…

Expectations of the Workforce or “What do you really want me to do!?”

Have you ever started a new job or moved into a new position and thought “I don’t have a clue what I am supposed to be doing!?” How about the frazzled manager who gets the new hire and says “Here’s your desk… don’t worry – you’ll pick it up as you go.”

More than once in my career I have been transferred into a position where my “job Capture
description” consisted of a file folder full of printed e-mails, post-it notes and hand scratches on the back of a beer coaster. Frustrating when there are Human Resource (HR) policies and procedures that clearly outline requirements for job descriptions and performance reviews leading up to the annual performance assessment.

After becoming exposed to Performance Improvement and understanding the importance of the job description for setting expectations and the performance reviews as a feedback loop – in each successive position where I wasn’t provided a job description – I wrote my own – and presented it to my supervisor and asked “Is that what you want me to do?” It worked as a way to at least start a dialogue about expectations.

Feedback is the breakfast of champions.
~Ken Blanchard

In my most recent position where I had to manage others, I had one fella who had been bounced from job to job in the unit and didn’t seem to be getting a fair shake. When I took up the job, we sat down and reviewed my first attempt at his job description and made some tweaks, added some of his professional aspirations and away we went. We sat down twice in the year reviewing his progress, as well as at other intervals when more immediate feedback was needed. At the end of the year, I was able to base his performance assessment on all this and substantiate his higher than average rating amongst his peers. Easy when you use the system as it was designed.

A lot of people seemed to have “written off” this young man as needing too much care and supervision. I wondered – as we often do in our field – is it the performer or the work environment (which is the responsibility of management)?

Back in 2012, Guy Wallace (another one of my mentors and friends) and I wrote an article for eLearn Magazine that attempted to answer the question:

Where did the statement “80% of performance gaps are caused by other than Knowledge/skill deficits” come from?

To make a long story short, there was a consensus amongst the research and experts in the field that around 75-80 percent of the factors that influence performance are environmentally rather than individually based.

Now there are many (many many) environmental factors that can negatively impact performance. Some we can influence, some we can’t. In this case, simply setting clear expectations and providing regular feedback to show him how he was progressing created a real turn around.

One of the foundational models in Performance Improvement is Tom Gilbert’s Behaviour Engineering Model. Gilbert helps us see performance from both environmental and individual perspectives. A good topic to delve into next…