Organization Horsepower

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Category: Performance (page 2 of 2)

Chicken Pox and Change Management

Chicken Pox Change Management

Recently the Media 1 team went through a performance consulting refresh with Judith Hale, author of the Performance Consultants Fieldbook, and other titles related to performance centered consulting.

During one of our sessions, Judy referenced “learning by disease.” What she was referring to was the sometimes common practice of “exposing” employees to new process in hopes that they would “catch the disease” and learn the new process. This of course reminded me of my childhood when it was not an uncommon practice to expose a child to another child with chicken pox especially if that chicken pox outbreak coincided with a time that there wasn’t school or a family vacation planned. Disclaimer: I remember clearly missing school, so I do not think my mother planned my chicken pox.

This is such a clear metaphor for unmanaged and unmitigated change, not only in learning, but for any process change (and one I fear one we are all guilty of from time to time). However, I’m not so sure that all concerns come from the same place. All too often, we are so concerned that our people don’t catch the disease that we tend to forget that chicken pox – in whatever way it’s contracted – makes the person infected with it pretty miserable.

We should be less concerned about exposure to the disease and more concerned about the effects of it.  The “change by the exposure” method only addresses the environment for change, It doesn’t take into account whether the individual has the skill or capability (except in rare cases, you only can get chicken pox once, and I hear they have vaccines now), and it certainly doesn’t address the way you would want to transmit change (no school or family vacation). And most importantly, why would your employee ever want to catch it (motive)?

Unless our goal is to fail (Ebola anyone?), we need to design and use better models than the world’s worst epidemics. Hopefully this metaphor will help you recognize where this model is being used in your organization, and help you manage change with performance in mind, as opposed to hoping for successful exposure.

RelatedGood Foundations, Good Results: Principles of Performance Improvement.

Measurement, Part IV: Four Characteristics of Measurable Performance Improvement

In my last blog post, Measurement as Evidence, we looked at when it is necessary to measure training, and the dangers of creating pseudo-compliance courses that take our time and attention from actual performance. Fortunately, the vast majority of learning that happens and needs to happen in our organizations is not subject to legal requirement, nor are we legally compelled to track compliance with individual events. Since the measure of compliance doesn’t help us determine business results, we can completely alleviate trying to chase measurement based on volume of training delivered.

“What’s that? You mean, don’t to track training numbers anymore?”


So where does that leave us on measurement? How do we measure performance improvement for the organization? Before we are able measure our efforts towards improvement we need to make sure our efforts embrace these four core characteristics of measurable efforts:

  1. Aligned — We start by aligning ourselves to our business. Too many people in HR and training see what they do as a cost center that is disconnected from the day-to-day operations of the business. The Kirkpatrick model enables us to perpetuate that separation by giving us a measurement system that allows us to look at training as something disconnected when in fact it’s usually only one of the factors that leads to meaningful performance. The only measures we should use are the same measures we use to determine if the business is successful or not. That means, first and foremost, profitability. As part of an overall solution mix, learning systems can help build real performance improvement once learning objectives are linked with performance objectives that have a direct “line of site” link with business performance measures. This means we have to start with defined business metrics and make sure that we’ve provided a performance environment that maximizes each person’s ability to meet those needs. This type of total alignment helps further align our performance management and career development processes toward performance improvement.
  2. Identified Performance Improvement Factors — The role of learning in organizations is drastically changing. It’s no longer our job to simply pick out knowledge gaps and develop content that will fill those gaps. In an aligned state, we look at places we want the business to improve; we identify the performance factors and curate the solution.
  3. IntegratedContinuous, and Connected Experiences — When it becomes clear to us that training events are no longer the panacea (never were) and content context is where we add value, we create contexts that are meaningful to individuals in focused ways; we can then build environments that enable performance improvement. This includes solutions like cohort systems and portals that are about more than just learning.
  4. Agile — We need to embrace the need for constant change. Business needs continually change so our new role is to say aligned and be agile enough to change with it. The days where we have multi-month engagements to create large, formal training offerings are gone or greatly reduced.

If we are aligned with the business and can accurately identify the performance factors that contribute to business goals, our efforts to improve performance can be integrated, continuous, and connected.

If we live up to these core principles, then the evidence we need to measure those efforts are the same measurements we use to gauge the success of the business as a whole. Profitability as measured by the business is a very good and accurate measure of the relative success of integrated efforts towards performance improvement.

Proper execution and inclusion of these four characteristics also has a dramatic and positive impact on trust because it allows others in your organization to directly witness behaviors that confirm you are all paddling on the same tributary and in the same direction.

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