Networking Power

Social media is under fire right now and this article in NOT about THAT! I have always been pretty open in the digisphere (buzzword bingo!) because I believe the benefits far outweigh the risks. A couple days ago, I experienced some great examples of why.

I was in Seattle for the International Society of Performance Improvement’s (ISPI) 2018 conference. To kick off day 2, Dr. Will Thalheimer, founder of the debunker club sent out a tweet inviting fellow debunkers to join him at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery for a coffee prior to the opening session for day two. Lo and behold, there we all were, meeting other folks that all shared the same desire to bust performance and learning myths!


But wait! One of these things is not like the other. Who was this twenty-something sitting here with us!? Will asked, “are you a member of ISPI?”

“No…” she responded.

“How did you learn about this meeting!?” We asked. Turns out, our new friend and debunker Mel (@MelMilloway) saw a re-tweet from a colleague about the planned meet-up and thought “Hey, I walk right by there on my way to work. I’ll just stop in and see what this is all about.”

A new member of the over 600 member debunker club – with her own following of over 11,500 Twitter users! A significant influencer in the Learning and Performance field by her own right and I hope a future member of ISPI. Our chance encounter became part of the closing story for the conference and a lead in to next year’s conference in New Orleans where the theme will be storytelling. Apropos!

Another example was my online encounter with @TriciaRansom on Twitter who was following #ISPI2018 for the two days of the conference. She wasn’t able to join us, so she was watching what the conference delegates were sharing online and learning! Tricia has almost 3,000 followers!

For my last example, we are leaving Twitter and jumping over to Facebook. A good friend and colleague of mine who is currently serving with NATO in the US was also tracking what was going on. I have my Twitter account set up to re-post all my tweets on my Facebook personal and business pages. My retweet on “Learning Analysis of a Technology Supported Learning Environment” by Angela Low from the ISPI Potomac Chapter caught his eye on Facebook and he asked if I could get that paper for him. More sharing!

I haven’t been much of a Tweeter up to this point and only started using Twitter seriously at last year’s ISPI conference in Montreal as a bit of a personal experiment. My desire to spread the word about ISPI and all the amazing learning that happens at the annual conference had me tweeting away again this year. Seeing the above examples first hand has me more convinced than ever that we need to continue to embrace social media in order to grow professionally – and make great new friends along the way!


Mentors, Managers and Metrics

I recently learned that one of my mentors and good friend, Dr. Roger Chevalier, is going to become the latest Honourary Life Member of the International Society for Performance

roger and brett (2)
Roger and I at the 2012 ISPI Conference in Toronto

Improvement or ISPI. That has had me thinking about mentors, managers and metrics.

I met Roger through the Armed Forces Chapter of ISPI where he took me under his wing and I ended up following him into a leadership role in the Chapter. There is no better way of learning than by doing! Roger was a student of Ken Blanshard, Paul Hersey and Marshall Goldsmith – all leadership and management gurus in their own rights, so I feel very fortunate that we crossed paths and have remained in touch over the years.So that is the mentor in this story. My warmest congratulations to a tireless promoter of our craft!

The vast majority of books that I have read regarding performance improvement are very “text-booky” (my term) and/or aimed at consultants in the field. Roger has long believed that ISPI needs to focus more attention on managers – the folks on the front lines who have to make performance happen. This is a view I share! Roger published a book called A Manager’s Guide to Improving Workplace Performance in 2007 to help that management group understand how to apply performance improvement methods in their workplace. In 200 pages – he lays out a pretty straightforward prescription for helping work teams succeed. Now this is NOT an ad for Roger’s book, but I DO strongly recommend it for anyone in a managerial position. Don’t tell him – but I am hoping that his book sales will skyrocket and he will fly me out to Cali and take me for a ride in his ’64 Corvette convertible!

So where do metrics fit in? I recently did a project for a government organization [who shall remain nameless but you know who you are]. The aim of the project was to examine the training system and make recommendations on how it could be improved.

To give you some context, performance improvement is pretty straight forward. It kinda goes like this:

  • There is a problem (or someone thinks there is a problem)
  • You do some analysis… the organization, the environment it exists within etc to help understand the context
  • You ask the boss “If your problem was fixed, what would the world look like?” This is referred to as “The Desired Performance Statement.” Some folks call it the “To-Be” state
  • Then you ask “What is actually happening right now?” This is the “As-Is” state or the “Current Performance Statement”
  • Comparing the As-Is to the To-Be is called the “Gap Analysis”
  • Then you look for the reasons why you are stuck in the As-Is when you really want to get to To-Be. This is called “Cause Analysis”
  • Once you know the cause(s) [There is normally more than one] you can look at all the potential ways to reduce or remove those causes… the “interventions”
  • Then you select the intervention(s) that will give you the biggest bang for the buck, figure out how to best implement them and do it!
  • All throughout this process you should be evaluating what you have done so far and consider change management requirements

Click HERE to see ISPI’s Performance Improvement Model

Easy peasy right? What if there aren’t any metrics or the wrong things are being measured? Roger’s book has a great quote at the start of Chapter 6 “Defining the Performance Gap” that has always stuck with me (and been repeated in different forms by many people.)

“I can’t improve it if I can’t measure it”
~William Thompson, Lord Kelvin

So – back to that project I was doing. There are metrics, but they are all about the output of the training system ~ graduates. That’s a good metric but it doesn’t tell the whole story! There is nothing in place to measure the work going on within the system itself! For example… how long does it take to define the job, write the performance standards, design and develop the training? No idea. If they did the training this way or that way – what is the cost difference? What are the resource implications? There is some data, but not enough to see how the system is working. Now in fairness, they are developing those metrics and hopefully someday soon they will have that figured out.

Metrics then, are tied to organizational goals and the expectations of your workforce. If you are missing any of these three factors, chances are that your organization is underperforming.

That’s it! Stay tuned for next time… expectations of the workforce is in the batter’s box!