Last month I shared V10 of the Performance Improvement Process Model or PIPM. While I had started writing earlier about the differences between problems and opportunities in “Opportunities vs. Good Ideas“and needs vs. wants in “Putting the NEED in Needs Assessment,” V10 has had some significant changes! Rather than write a long post – it seemed like a better idea to share the recording of a webinar I did last week that covers the changes and includes some stories relating to the main steps. Hope you enjoy it! If you would like copies of the handouts/articles mentioned in the webinar, drop me a line and I will send them to you!
The statistician George Box (1976) coined the phrase “All models are wrong, but some are useful.” I have used this quote many times… in workshops, as content in lessons for clients on modeling and simulation and at cocktail hour. Okay not at cocktail hour!!
If you are one of the seven avid followers of this blog, you have seen the continual efforts to make the Performance Improvement Process Model, (PIPM) now in it’s tenth iteration, useful. Every time I post an update or use it in an article, I get more feedback that moves me and the model closer to that goal.
Recently I received a comment from my friend and colleague Dr. Jim Hill, the CEO of Organizational Performance Systems, regarding the PIPM on LinkedIn. Jim reminded me that part of the value consultants bring to their clients is the adaptation of “our” models (there are soooo many) to fit their processes and language. So very true!
Another good friend and colleague of mine, Lieutenant Commander Janice Kirk, is doing exactly what Jim described, using the PIPM and a host of other models to inform the creation of a process model for the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Materiel Division (the folks that buy the big equipment aka tanks, planes and submarines) to clearly explain to project stakeholders what the differences are between Needs Assessment/Analysis and Training Needs Analysis. With her permission, I am sharing it below.
I know… hard to read in this form! If you right click the image and select “open in a new tab” you can see a larger image that’s much easier to read. (You’re welcome!) If you are a “keener” and compare this model to the PIPM, you will see that the major steps are the same… it’s the bits in between that:
1. Drill down more,
2. Address the ADM Mat specific requirements, and
3. Link to the military guidance (Canadian Forces Individual Training and Education System (CFITES) policies and processes.
It’s a great example to underscore Dr. Hill’s advice that we need to work within and adjust to the client’s processes and just as importantly, speak their language. If you did open up Janice’s diagram in a new tab, you have seen it is rife with “CAF” TLA’s (Three Letter Acronyms) and more! Just for fun, I have included them below under TLA’s in case you are REALLY interested 🙂
Box, G.P. (1976). Science and statistics. Journal of the American Statistical Association 71(356) pages 791-799.
ICT: Initial Cadre Training – training which enables CAF members to perform the tasks associated with new equipment, systems or directives upon their fielding, delivery or initiation. The responsibility for this training rests with the Project Management Office/Contractor for new equipment and systems, unless specified otherwise in the statement of requirements.
JBS: Job Based Specification – the document that describes the tasks, medical requirements etc for specific jobs.
MES: Military Employment Structure – The arrangement of CF [Canadian Forces] jobs into structural elements, consisting of military career fields, occupations and sub-occupations that collectively provide the necessary management framework for the personnel life cycle of activities across all components of the CF and throughout the spectrum of conflict.
MOS: Military Occupation Structure- The arrangement of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) jobs into structural elements, consisting of military career fields, occupations and sub-occupations that collectively provide the necessary management framework for the personnel life cycle of activities across all components of the CAF and throughout the spectrum of conflict. It is a structural arrangement of the work performed by members of the CAF.
MOS ID: Military Occupation Specification Identification Code – Equivalent to a National Occupation Code.
QS: Qualification Standard – Describes how well the job should be done using Performance Objectives (POs).
QSP: A combined QS and TP. Far more efficient.
RQ: Rank Qualification – A qualification, obtained via formal training, that enables a member to perform one or more entry level occupational jobs, where required to attain a new substantive rank (RQs replace former occupation qualification levels, such as QL3, QL5, etc.)
SST: Steady State Training – training identified in the QS/RQ for normal career progression.
TP: Training Plan – describes the instructional programme which will enable the learner to achieve, at optimum cost, the performance objectives from the QS.
Author’s note: The names have been changed, faces blurred and voices altered to protect the innocent in this post.
It’s a story I have heard many times. The boss wants training, the Instructional designer – performance technologist – analyst KNOWS that training isn’t going to fix the problem but is told to “gimme the training.”
A client told me awhile back that they needed a course. That’s always the first red flag right!?
I asked “Why? What’s the problem?” Turned out that my client was told that a group in another part of the organization wasn’t performing as needed when requesting and using my client’s services to get their job done. Their boss wanted my client to train his people. Classic example of picking the solution before understanding the problem.
To make the story easier to understand, let’s call the group that is experiencing the performance issue the “Jocks.” We’ll call my client – the one told to fix the problem, the “Wizards.” The Wizards are responsible for producing some pretty cool magic that helps the Jocks prepare for their games. The problem is that the Jocks don’t understand exactly what type of magic the Wizards can provide, how to ask for or use the magic once they do get it and as you can imagine – Jocks and Wizards don’t exactly speak the same language, so they don’t even know how to interact with each other at this stage.
As a good performance technologist or CPT, I asked for more information from the Wizards and the Jocks – starting at the end – the outcome – the desired level of performance. In this case, that would be the Jocks being ready for the game. Two other key pieces of the puzzle were the Jock’s “playbook” and the Wizard’s “spells book.” Much to my surprise, the playbook used by the jocks to get ready for games had much the same process as used by the Wizards. It may look familiar:
- Define the objective
- Analyse/Evaluate results
Yes… at a deeper level of fidelity, there are some differences, but overall, the Jocks and the Wizards are using the same process, with the same goal. So after carefully reviewing the plays and the spells, it was pretty apparent to me that if we added the information that the jocks had to give to the Wizards at each step above, training really wasn’t necessary. All we had to do was update the playbook!
A meeting was held! After showing the Jocks and the Wizards that what they are doing is similar enough that the time and effort required to build a course might be better spent on improving the playbook, I was not at all surprised to be told, “just gimme the training.”
It might be because the direction given to my client was for a training solution. It might be because the Jocks don’t know what they don’t know at this point and they want to have the training first, work through the process a couple time first and THEN update the playbook. It might be because the Wizards don’t want to pay me to update the Jock’s playbook. I’m not sure at this point. I noted in a previous post that you may just end up getting a training solution when you really need a performance solution. It’s killing me that we are going to spend a lot of time and energy developing this course, knowing that the solution is an updated process.
In 2007 I attended the International Society of Performance Improvement’s (ISPI) “Principles and Practices of Performance Technology Workshop.” Geary Rummler and Roger Addison were my teachers. To this day I remember our discussion about this very situation and Roger’s advice that no matter how much training you develop – always leave them a job-aid.
In 2012, my good friend and mentor Dr. Roger Kaufman – a legend in the field of performance technology (far right), introduced me to another legend, Dr. Joe Harless (middle). I had read many of Joe’s articles which all hold true today. As Guy Wallace explains at the linked article about Joe, you never say no to training. Harless (1985) is also credited with coining the term “Inside every fat course there’s a thin Job Aid crying to get out.”
So I am bashing ahead with designing and developing the course. I’m going to add in a “Student Manual” that will contain one page that explains the whole process. Thanks Geary, Roger A., Roger K. and Joe.
Harless, J. (1985). Performance technology and other popular myths. Performance & Instruction Journal, July 1985.
As a professional in the field of performance and learning, it is important for me to continually learn and to give back. To do that – in part – I have been a long time member of the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) and the Institute for Performance and Learning (I4PL) – previously the Canadian Society for Training and Development (CSTD).
I give back a lot more to ISPI as I have always been aligned with its’ larger view of organizational performance. I was really excited when CSTD re-branded to I4PL in 2015, believing that a shift was on the way and the then Society, now Institute, was going to broaden its’ horizons and move beyond training to look at organizational performance from the holistic perspective that is required.
I passed on their last annual conference (which is always in Toronto) after reviewing the program and seeing much of the same old training training training topics, with all the new spins like micro-learning. Not worth my time or money.
Today, I received in my e-mail, an invitation to a webinar that would introduce me to the competencies for “Performance and Learning Professionals.” It had this very colourful graphic included.
I was SO disappointed. After piece of pie number one “Assessing performance needs” the rest of the pie is ALL LEARNING. YES – I AM YELLING THROUGH MY KEYBOARD. These are competencies of LEARNING PROFESSIONALS NOT Performance Professionals.
Here’s why. When you assess the performance needs, using a methodology, such as needs assessment, you are identifying gaps between current and desired levels of performance at the levels of the worker, the work, the workplace and the world.
I4PL’s competency model goes straight from the needs assessment to designing curriculum. Performance Technologists take a few extra steps before jumping to training as a solution (not the solution). What if training doesn’t address the problem?
If you look at the Performance Improvement Process Model (PIPM) above, you will see a cause analysis step to determine WHY those performance problems are occurring. From there we write a business requirement to describe the accomplishment that the solution must deliver. The business requirement is “intended to stimulate innovation and creativity that ultimately results in more tangible solution options” (Honebein, 2018).
How often have you seen a problem that simply needed some clear direction from management to be fixed? Instead, because no one wants to tell management the true cause of the problem (or worse, no one knows how to determine the true cause), a training program is implemented. Gadzooks! (As my Grandmother Christensen would have said.) What a waste of resources.
I4PL is selling some snake oil by including the “performance” in it’s competency model. It’s not there. If you end up getting a training solution – don’t be surprised.
Christensen, B.D. (2018). Needs assessment to needs analysis. Performance Improvement, 57(7). doi: 10.1002/pfi.21785
Honebein, P. (2018). Business Requirements. Performance Improvement, 57(7). doi: 10.1002/pfi.21785
Words are important. I hate to admit it – but they are. There are some folks who love to sit and debate from dawn until dusk about the best verb to use in a performance objective statement. I am 180 degrees opposite and want to get the verb that the majority agree on and move on! In my experience, the subject matter experts are pretty good at choosing a verb that works.
There are two terms that continue to get used interchangeably, Needs Assessment and Needs Analysis. Even worse is the fact that both can get shortened to “NA” by practitioners which can lead to even more confusion. Want to get crazy? Add in Training Needs Analysis (TNA) which is also often described as the “NA.”
If you want to find “the” explanation of NA and NA, be prepared for an arduous search through the Internet and many many texts where authors have put their own spin, tweak, massage and a coat of rust-o-leum paint on the definitions. I say “the” because there is no single definitive explanation.
While analyzing a previous client’s training system, the NA and NA terms were being used in very interesting but not necessarily accurate ways. To help clarify how the terms are related (but different) I headed to NeedsAssessment.org to do my own research. Watkins, Meiers and Visser’s (2012) FREE book A guide to assessing needs: Essential tools for collecting information, making decisions and achieving development results is an exceptional resource which helped me to develop the first version of this diagram:
With some feedback from my colleagues John Egan and Julie Maiilé (merci mes amis), the diagram was tweaked, spun and massaged into the picture above which tells this story:
A performance problem or new opportunity starts with a Needs Assessment. When you do a Needs Assessment you will (should?) use both needs analysis and performance analysis. The results of the Needs Assessment works to improve results through the implementation of non-training and/or training interventions.
If a training intervention is required, then you will have to do a Training Needs Analysis. The TNA uses task analysis to determine what has to be trained and what doesn’t.
One of the big ah-hah’s in this client’s situation was that the Needs Assessment function resides within the training system and was being done by training specialists. How many non-training interventions do you think get recommended?
This is a very macro view of Needs Assessment aimed at making us all a little wiser about when we should use NA or NA… or maybe never use the acronym at all? If you want to learn more, go get that book! Did I mention it’s free!?
May 2018 Update: This is by FAR the most popular post I have made and still gets looked at most every day. I have updated the concept map to a full process model and it is available in the Performance Improvement Journal, doi: 10.1002/pfi.21785. If you would like a FREE copy – just drop me a line at email@example.com and I will be happy to send it to you! Something for free… ‘magine!
Watkins, R., Meiers, M.W., & Visser, Y.L. (2012). A guide to assessing needs: Essential tools for collecting information, making decisions and achieving development results. Washington, DC: The World Bank.